Difference between: soy sauce and tamari sauce

Soy sauce versus tamari sauce – what the heck is that darker cousin to our beloved go-to stir-fry sauce, anyway?

an elegant looking jar of soy sauce with a covered white saucer-type cup next to it


  • Soy sauce: a salty, fermented sauce much used on fish and other dishes in the Orient, prepared from soybeans.
  • Tamari: a rich, naturally fermented soybean sauce containing little or no wheat and thicker than soy sauce.

Soy sauce:

  • Has many forms found throughout Asia.
  • Contains wheat.
  • Has a lighter color.
  • Has a super salty flavor.
  • Is not great as a dipping sauce.

Tamari sauce:

  • Is from Japan specifically.
  • Can be, but isn’t always, gluten-free.
  • Has a darker color.
  • Has a richer, but more mellow, flavor.
  • Is good as a dipping sauce.

The Reluctant Gourmet says, “When the sauce is going to be the star of the show, as for a dipping sauce for sushi or a quick and easy sauce for noodles, I’d choose tamari. When you just need to add some salty flavor to a stir-fry, reach for the bottle of soy sauce.”

While both soy sauce and tamari sauce are byproducts of fermented soybeans, tamari is thicker, darker, and has a milder flavor than soy.

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