Tamari: The Japanese Soy Sauce You Should Know About

Most everyone is familiar with soy sauce, a lovely sharp and tangy condiment used in many of our East Asian dishes. Soy sauce is made of equal parts soybeans and roasted wheat, which are then fermented to create the delicious sauce we all use to dip our dumplings, mix into our stir fries, or drizzle over some leftover rice. Unfortunately, for those with celiac disease, the wheat in soy sauce makes it inaccessible to them (via National Institutes of Health).

Fortunately, there is a gluten-free alternative sauce out there called Tamari. According to the Tamari producer, San-J, this recipe originated in Japan and dates all the way back to the seventh century AD. Tamari is traditionally made with no wheat — just soybeans –, and when it comes down to flavor, it tastes smoother and heavier than soy sauce but still has a dash of that cherished saltiness to it.

The power of umami

Although Tamari is not as popular as soy sauce, it is almost always on hand at sushi and Asian restaurants as an alternative. Pressed out of a miso paste, its umami flavor pairs remarkably well with savory or earth dishes (via HealthLine). Umami may not be a familiar term for the casual food lover so let's break it down. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, umami refers to rich and meaty flavors created by amino acids. That is why Tamari is preferred on tofu and rice; it gives those neutral foods further flavor and heartiness. Soy sauce and Tamari are considered interchangeable for the most part, but there's a considerable difference in sodium levels between the two. Tamari only has 233 mg per tablespoon to soy sauce's 900 mg, making the Japanese soy sauce the obvious choice for gluten-intolerant people and those watching their sodium intake (via MasterClass).

Overall, Tamari tends to have a deeper, darker palate when compared to soy sauce which is comparatively lighter and saltier. If you haven't had the Japanese soy sauce before, next time you're out for dinner, ask for some to dip into. Maybe you'll like it even better!