Why You Should Replace Half Of Your Salt With Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is an ancient fermentation preparation of soybeans that yields a salty, savory, and slightly sweet sauce. While it is commonly found in pan-Asian stir-fries, rice dishes, and soups, soy sauce can also be an ultra-flavorful stand-in for table salt in numerous cuisines and dishes.

Chef Andrew Hunter, Corporate Executive Chef at Kikkoman Sales, USA, shared some of his soy sauce tips and tricks with Food Republic. He says that subbing out about half of the salt you typically use with soy sauce can "unleash the power of umami." What is umami? Hunter explains that umami — a flavor profile like sour or sweet — is developed through how soy sauce is created and describes it as "the extra boost of savory, mouthwatering flavor known as the 'fifth taste,' something salt can't deliver alone."

Therefore, using a pantry ingredient you probably already have on hand as a simple substitute can increase the depth of flavor and add intriguing complexity to otherwise simple dishes. Hunter suggests melting together butter and soy sauce to make a pan sauce for salmon or steak, using it to season your ground beef mixture for burgers, or even adding soy sauce to your Thanksgiving turkey marinade.

Is soy sauce better for you than salt?

If you taste soy sauce on its own, it will taste very salty — but in reality, it contains less sodium than table salt. Chef Andrew Hunter notes that not only does soy sauce switch things up in a tasty way, but "substituting half the amount of table salt in a recipe with the equivalent amount of soy sauce can reduce sodium while enhancing the flavor of the overall dish."

Part of why you can reduce sodium but still have food that tastes perfectly seasoned is because of the presence of glutamate, a form of natural flavor enhancer otherwise known as MSG (monosodium glutamate). The Mayo Clinic says that MSG is "generally recognized as safe." Additionally, research published in the Food Science & Nutrition journal has demonstrated how glutamate in its various forms can be used to reduce overall sodium intake. 

A tablespoon of table salt has about 6,900 milligrams of sodium, while a tablespoon of soy sauce has about 878 milligrams of sodium. When playing with these substitutions, remember: Different types of salt and styles of soy sauce will vary in perceived saltiness and sodium content.