Soy-Free Soy Sauce Recipe, Top 9 Allergen Free

Soy-Free Soy Sauce Recipe compared with regular soy sauce drizzled over bowls of rice
Soy-Free Soy Sauce (left) vs Soy Sauce (right)

One of the key goals that I have for my Nut Free Wok blog is enable you to make your own Allergy Aware Asian Fare at home and that starts with ingredients that are allergy safe. One of the biggest questions was how do I make Asian food without using soy sauce if I have a soy allergy or intolerance? That is a huge challenge since soy based products are such a huge part of Asian cuisine and I responded with with a collection of possible alternatives which I intend to update with additional ideas and suggestions at a later time, but for now, how about a Do It Yourself Soy-Free Soy Sauce Recipe?

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Jump to Recipe

What Is Soy Sauce and How Is It Made?

Soy Sauce is the liquid by product of boiled soy beans, roasted and crushed wheat, and brine that are fermented with a mixture of mold and yeast for 6-12 months. Then the mixture is pressed and the resulting liquid is pasteurized and packaged as soy sauce. Brewed soy sauce has a unique umami flavor, it tastes savory, salty, sour, and sweet all at once. How do we imitate the flavor, color, and cooking properties of the real stuff in a soy-free soy sauce?

The Quest for A Tasty Soy-Free Soy Sauce

I had heard that some of the soy-free soy sauce recipes can be disappointing so I was mentally prepared to modify and adjust the recipes. I looked at a number of different recipes, including recipes from Cybele Pascal,,,, and others. I wrote out the ingredients and analyzed them. They all called for beef stock, broth, or bouillon, a bit of vinegar (cider, red, and/or balsamic), unsulphured molasses, a bit of ginger, garlic, and pepper. Cybele’s recipe calls for kelp which is a brilliant way to add umami flavor and trace minerals, except I don’t usually use kelp and couldn’t justify purchasing a package. Stephanie’s recipe was the only one that called for salt. Then the ingredients are boiled until the sauce is reduced by 20-50%. I also noticed that the ratio of molasses to vinegar varied significantly, some recipes use more molasses, some use more vinegar, and others use nearly equal amounts.

Ingredients used for Soy-Free Soy Sauce Recipe
Ingredients used for Soy-Free Soy Sauce Recipe

I wrote out a draft of my recipe, measured the ingredients, and boiled it for 15 minutes on medium heat. I sprinkled a small amount of sauce over a small amount of rice and it tasted delicious, the best beef broth over rice ever, but nothing like soy sauce. I did a little math and realized that the sodium content of  the soy-free soy sauce recipes were no where close to the nearly 900 mg of sodium per tablespoon of commercial soy sauce, more salt was needed. The sauce also didn’t taste sour enough and I liked the taste of nearly equal amounts of vinegar and molasses better. I boiled the sauce for another 5 minutes until 50% reduced (I poured it into a glass measuring cup to check). It tasted better but didn’t look right, it looked pale and watery, so I poured it back into the pot and reduced some more until I had 1/4 cups, a 75% reduction was perfect!

And the Best Tasting Sauce Is…

Just to be sure, my kids and I did some taste tests with 1/4 tsp of soy sauce vs 1/4 tsp of soy-free sauce (pictured on the left above) on 1/4 cup of rice. My younger son just didn’t like either on rice, which is understandable because that is not how we normally use soy sauce or eat rice. My older son thought the soy-free sauce tasted very good but not as sweet as regular soy sauce. I think the soy-free soy sauce is an acceptable substitute in terms of color and taste (definitely savory, salty, sweet, and sour!) and would function well as a condiment. If I had a piece of kelp (sometimes packaged as kombu), I would definitely add it for additional flavor and trace minerals by soaking a 3-4 inch piece of kelp in the sauce ingredients for 30 minutes before boiling and reducing.

Additional Substitutions!

Given that there are many ways to make soy-free soy sauce, I hope that this recipe gives you an idea on how to make this condiment free of the top 8 allergens and how to adapt the recipe further, as needed. If one were allergic to any of the ingredients in this recipe, such as beef, one can use a vegetable base or dried mushrooms instead. If one were allergic to garlic, then try dried onions. Just as food allergies can seem frustratingly endless, your creativity and resourcefulness are even greater!

Update Regarding Beef Bouillon

One reader commented that they don’t trust beef bouillon products and would rather use their own homemade beef stock, which is a good idea as well as using allergy friendly Kitchen Basics products (instead of water and beef base). I did some more research about Better than Bouillon and while I’m very confident their products are peanut and tree nut free (with the exception of coconut, which would be labeled), if you have any concerns about other allergens I highly advise reading the FAQ on their website and following up with a phone call (1-800-300-4210).

The ingredients on my jar of Better than Bouillon Reduced Sodium Beef Base contains the following: roasted beef and natural juices*, maltodextrin*, salt, cane sugar*, beef stock*, beef fat*, yeast extract, potato starch*, celery concentrate*, dried garlic*, dried onion*, caramel color*, natural flavor (*organic, certified organic by QAI). FAQ indicates that maltodextrin is derived from corn, caramel color is derived from sugar.

Soy-Free Soy Sauce 2.0 Recipe

Updated 2/18/19: Because of the concerns listed above, I have been thinking about what we can do to make this recipe even more allergen free, without using any prepared beef products. I made beef tongue the tradtional way with soy sauce (so yummy) and decided to make it again using the soy-free soy sauce recipe ingredients but with the beef tongue supplying all of the beefy umami flavor. Both the beef tongue and resulting sauce were amazing. I made it again in the Instant Pot and it was delicous, tender, and faster than using a stovetop method. Instant Pot Beef Tongue and Soy-Free Soy Sauce are so yummy, enjoy!

4.67 from 6 votes

Soy-Free Soy Sauce Recipe

This soy-free soy sauce recipe is free of the top 9 allergens and a wonderful way to add a little bit of color and flavor to your Asian dishes when you can't have soy-sauce.

Course Breakfast, dinner, lunch, Snack
Cuisine Asian
Keyword soy-free soy sauce
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Author Sharon Wong @Nut Free Wok


  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon Organic Reduced Sodium Beef Base
  • 1 tablespoon Grandma’s Original Molasses Unsulphured
  • 1 tablespoon Eden organic apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic granulated powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger powder Spicely
  • a pinch of black pepper or 1 turn of a black pepper grinder
  • 1 to 1.5 teaspoon salt adjust to taste


  1. Combine water, beef base, molasses, apple cider vinegar, garlic, ginger, and black pepper in a small pot, bring to a boil, and boil on medium heat for 15 minutes.
  2. Continue to boil and check frequently until the amount is about 1/4 cup (another 5 minutes or so).
  3. Remove from heat, add salt (adjusting amount according to taste and dietary needs), and stir to dissolve.
  4. Transfer to a glass container and refrigerate up to one week.

Recipe Notes

Cooking tip: before starting, pour 1/4 cup of water into your pan so you can easily estimate how much is 1/4 cup and know when your reduction is ready. You can also double this recipe if you need more than 1/4 cup of soy-free soy sauce. 

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About Sharon Wong 282 Articles
Welcome to Nut Free Wok, a blog about Allergy Aware Asian Fare. I hope that you will find my food allergy mom experiences helpful and enjoyable to read as I write about recipes, cooking techniques, Asian ingredients, and food allergy related awareness and advocacy issues. My professional experiences include education, teaching, and a little bit of science and computers. Thank you for visiting! ~Sharon Wong, M.Ed.


  1. I can’t wait to try this recipe! My son is allergic to soy and I’ve never been able to make him many of my grandmother’s recipes… but maybe now I can make it with this soy sauce alternative! Thanks 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    Sharon, thank you so much for this recipe! My boyfriend and I made the sauce, cooked chicken and vegetables in it and ate it over brown rice. We both thought it was delicious. He said the sauce didn’t taste quite like soy sauce but was closer than some substitutes we’ve tried. It also reminded him a little bit of peanut sauce. Since I haven’t been able to eat soy sauce for several years now I couldn’t compare the taste myself, but I’m impressed by how well this one hung together – I’ve had some trouble with substitutions that separate out when stored in the fridge. We will definitely keep cooking with this one!

    I see you got another note about Better than Bouillon – I noticed that the full salt version contains hydrolyzed soy protein. The reduced sodium one you used doesn’t mention it, but I ended up using a cup of Nature’s Promise Beef Broth instead of Better than Bouillon and water.

    Thank you again! We look forward to trying more of your recipes. 😀

  3. I can’t wait to try this my son is turning 5 this month and is allergic to soy so I miss out on trying a lot recipes. Thank you!

  4. This recipe is fantastic! I avoid natural flavors and onion & garlic — so instead of beef buillion, I used chicken bone broth and we omitted garlic.
    We love love this recipe – thank you!

  5. Thank you. My 3 1/2 year old son is allergic to soy, and I usually use coconut aminos instead, but it’s not quite right and sometimes too sweet. I am really looking forward to trying this. We homeschool and are currently studying ancient Japan for history. I wanted to cook a Japanese meal but the younger’s soy allergy and our wheat allergies have made it hard. I will try this, and even if it’s not exactly soy, it looks like it will be great.

    • I have dairy and soy protein intolerances. Finding a soy-free Chinese soy sauce is impossible. So I might give this recipe a try.
      I have tried a commercially produced organic “Soy-free soy sauce substitute” which is made from coconut and sea salt. It is on the sweet side and in my opinion, it is closer to a Japanese soy sauce.
      So I added some real fish sauce (ie: a good Asian brand) to the “Soy-free soy sauce substitute” and it gets pretty close to a real Chinese soy sauce. Much closer than all the other soy sauce substitutes out there.

  6. Hi! My daughter is allergic to soy and unfortunately ginger. Can I eliminate the ginger is this recipe? Do you have any substitute suggestions for ginger for other recipes?

    • You can definitely eliminate ginger in this recipe for allergy reasons. I looked online for ginger substitute ideas for you and if you are baking, you can add or increase the amount of all spice or cinnamon slightly for extra flavor. Do not increase amounts of nutmeg (vaguely remember that it’s toxic in amounts greater than 1/4 tsp/recipe). If you are using ginger for a stir fry or something like, try adding white pepper, it’s very different from black pepper and adds an authentic Chinese food taste. Or try a little bit of lemon zest for a fresh flavor at the end, that’s totally different from typical Asian flavors. Along those lines, dried mandarin orange peels is a great ingredient. You can make them yourself by washing organic mandarin oranges, score, and peel them so that the entire peel is one piece and then dry them in the sun. When you need to use them, just rinse and gently scrape away the soft pith, and you can julienne it and use it in recipes that require steaming or braising. Ginger is sometimes not only added for flavor but for specific health benefits, but leaving it out for allergy reasons is 100% legitimate.

  7. 4 stars
    Hi Sharon! Thank you so much for this recipe! My son has a soy allergy AND a coconut allergy, so this has opened up a whole myriad of recipes we can make now. My question is: How do you get yours to reduce so quickly? My sauce takes at least 45 mins to reduce down to the correct amount. We have a gas stovetop and I’m boiling at Med to Med high heat. Do you have any suggestions on how to make this sauce more quickly?

  8. I just found out that I should not have been eating SOY due to the FACT that it turns to Estrogen in our bodies…and I CANNOT use ANY estrogen due to Thyroid Cancer! Thank you sooooo much for this SAFE substitute for Soy Sauce! I can’t wait to try it!

  9. There is a commercial version available in the UK (it’s produced in the USA) called Ocean’s Halo No Soy Soy-Free Sauce, ingredients are very similar- Water, Sea Salt, Organic Molasses, Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, Organic Lime Juice, Natural Flavour, Organic Kelp*, Organic Mushrooms*, Fruit and Vegetable Juice (Colour), *Dried

    I tried it as my wife has an overactive thyroid and shouldn’t eat soy products, seemed ok. Have you used it before?

    • I haven’t tried this specific product yet because one of my sons is allergic to one of the ingredients, so I can’t cook with it. But I do love the Ocean’s Halo brand and the founders are very nice. Just looking at the ingredient list, it might taste a little bit sour compared with regular soy sauce. Hopefully the umami taste from the mushrooms will help balance out the flavor.

  10. 4 stars
    Thank you!! This was a great starting point. I must admit I was a bit doubtful, but it gave me a major head-start (like 90%!) We also use the same bouillon as well as the chicken from costco. I found the beef just a tad sweet and definitely beefy tasting. The chicken has a tad less sugar, so I thought what the heck and sub’d it for the beef. Definitely closer to the tamari we used before my wife determined that soy was giving her grief. Also only added 1/2-3/4tsp kosher salt rather than 1-1.5tsp as we normally used low sodium tamari. Hope you find these comments to be useful rather than criticism (definitely not meant that way!) Thanks, again for posting this recipe!!

  11. 5 stars
    Sharon, thank you so much for this creative recipe. My husband can no longer have soy or nuts, including coconut, so commercial substitutions don’t work for us. This recipe gets me much closer to being able to use soy again! Bravo for figuring it out and coming up with a great solution!

    • Jane, big hugs my friend! I’m so sorry your husband’s diet continues to be limiting for him. If you ever end up with a tough cut of beef or find a great price on a cow tongue, I have a totally from scratch recipe for ya! <3

  12. 5 stars
    I think I liked this better than real soy sauce! It’s delicious. This is the first “fake” recipe I’ve actually loved since starting this restrictive diet overhaul. That’s a massive morale booster when meal after meal has been disappointing, with us missing all the forbidden foods. I did use organic Applewood smoked sea salt, though, that I get from my favorite Natural Grocers in the bulk aisle. It has a lot of it’s own umami. I’m addicted to that stuff.

    I have a question about the process, though. I quadrupled (x4) the recipe the second time I made it, since it makes such a small amount. It seemed really silly to add all that water just to turn around and boil it off. Do you think the boil adds anything to the flavor party and is necessary? I’m thinking of just adding 4x all the ingredients, except the water, to an 8 oz mason jar, then filling the jar with boiling water from the kettle. I’m hoping if I let it steep that way for a bit it will be just as yummy without having to reduce all that liquid.

    I’m about to go see if you have an oyster sauce sub, because that’s the other big Asian one that’s killing me. If not, pretty, pretty please work on that?

    • I’m so glad you like the recipe, I agree with you that it’s quite flavorful. I haven’t tried making it the way you suggest, I’m guessing that cooking with some heat does something to the sauce to make it delicious and that adding a little bit of water keeps it from burning. Cooking is one big experiment after another, if you try the modifications you are considering, please report back and let me know what you think. 🙂

  13. 5 stars
    Thanks for creating this recipe! I have a friend who’s allergic to soy, gluten, dairy and corn. Tricky for asian cooking. I’m determined to make her an asian cuisine and I’m surprised how well it’s turned out.
    Unfortunately I don’t have access to the bouillon you have in the US so I used a gluten and corn free stock instead (not specifically beefy flavour unfortunately). I wanted to add some serious umami flavours, so I’ve added a handful of dried shiitake mushrooms, 1/2 tsp msg and 1-2 drops of liquid smoke. Triple thumbs up 👍 👍👍

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