Growing up in an Asian household, soy sauce was a staple in our home. My grandma even had a 5-gallon bucket of the stuff to use in her everyday cooking. Soy sauce has a very special place in my heart and my kitchen. 🙂
Soy sauce is a low carbohydrate condiment that is ok to use while following a keto diet. Soy sauce is made from soybeans, wheat, salt, water, and fermenting agents with no added sugars or sweeteners. Per tablespoon, soy sauce has 1 gram of net carbs, which can begin to add up.
In this article, I’m going to cover everything you need to know about soy sauce, the best ones, the ones you should stay away from, alternatives to soy sauce, and even how to make your own.
Can You Have Soy Sauce On Keto?
Soy sauce is a low-carbohydrate condiment that you are more than welcome to enjoy while following a ketogenic diet.
Soy sauce also has the added benefit of containing sodium (and flavor), which is, in my opinion, more critical while following a ketogenic diet.
Many people complain of having no energy on keto or suffering from dehydration, and this is typically a result of an electrolyte imbalance, most notably a lack of sodium and potassium. Some dieters even experience an increased craving for salt when switching to keto.
If you’re suffering from lack of energy or the “keto flu,” then chances are you may need additional sodium and potassium in your diet.
Does Soy Sauce Have Carbs Or Sugar?Soy sauce, per tablespoon (18g), has only 1 gram of net carbs. Most soy sauce, to my knowledge, does not contain any added sugars.
The only types of soy sauce that may have added sugars are Chinese dark soy sauce, which is a bit thicker and darker in color, and sweet soy sauce. Sweet soy sauce is flavored with sugar but also has other spices and aromatics.
Our goal when following a ketogenic diet is to stay under a certain amount of carbohydrates per day, with most people falling somewhere between 20 and 50 grams of net carbs.
With each tablespoon of regular or low-sodium soy sauce having one net carb, using soy sauce in moderation is perfectly acceptable on a ketogenic diet.
Of course, if you’re drowning your food in soy sauce, then those carbohydrates add up, so be mindful of how much you’re using, and you should generally be ok.
Does Soy Sauce Have Sodium?
Soy sauce does have sodium, but relative to table salt, it has less sodium on a tablespoon vs. tablespoon comparison, as illustrated in the chart from the famous brand Kikkoman.
But again, sodium is not inherently evil, and most people following a ketogenic diet are deficient in sodium due to lowered carbohydrates and the diuretic nature of a ketogenic diet itself.Low salt intake can have adverse side effects on their own.
Studies show that reduced-salt diets could be correlated with increased levels of blood triglycerides and cholesterol, by as much as 7% 1 2
Also, contrary to what you may think, a low-salt diet can lead to low blood sodium levels (hyponatremia), which then may lead to water retention. Hyponatremia may also lead to excess heat, and symptoms like headaches, hot flashes, nausea, fatigue, and dizziness, all signs of the keto flu 3
Salt affects people differently.
For a great read on the subject of salt and the negative consequences of having too low salt intake, I would highly recommend giving the book The Salt Fix a read.
Health Benefits Of Soy Sauce
Soy sauce is a staple ingredient in almost every Asian country but has made its way around the globe and into people's kitchens everywhere.
What you may not know is the soy sauce has been linked to some potential benefits, including:
Soy sauce has been found to have a positive prebiotic effect on certain types of gut bacteria 4
In one study, a soy sauce broth given to 15 individuals resulted in increased stomach juice secretion. Increased stomach juice has been associated with improved digestion 5
Source of antioxidants
Soy sauce, especially dark soy sauce, has been found to contain several potent antioxidants 6
Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against free radicals. Free radicals are thought to play a role in diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
May reduce allergies
Soy sauce can potentially help with seasonal allergies such as allergic rhinitis 7
Allergic rhinitis is commonly known as hay fiber, which is characterized by an exaggerated immune response to things like pollen, ragweed, and cats [footnote]https://www.webmd.com/allergies/understanding-hay-fever-basics
May have anticancer effects
In rodent studies, soy sauce has shown to have cancer and tumor-inhibiting effects 8 9
May reduce blood pressure
Again, in rodeo studies, certain varieties of soy sauce have been found to decrease blood pressure.10 11
Much of the current research has only been on animals. Therefore, more human research is needed to draw any significant conclusions in terms of soy sauce's health benefits.
What Is Soy Sauce?
Soy sauce or soya sauce, the other black gold, is a salty condiment produced by fermenting soybeans.
Soy sauce is said to have originated in China over 3,000 years ago and didn’t spread to Europe until the 1600s through Japanese and Dutch trading 12
What most of us consider soy sauce today is a Japanese style soy sauce called shoyu, which is made with both soybeans and wheat.
Five essential ingredients are used in the production of soy sauce.
The five basic soy sauce ingredients are:
- Fermenting agents (mold or yeast)
Types Of Soy Sauce
There are many different types of soy sauce in both Japan and China, but more specifically, there are three main types of soy sauce. 13
Dark soy sauce
Also called koikuchi shoyu, is the most common type of soy sauce and what you may be familiar with.
Light soy sauce
Known as usukuchi, light soy sauce is made using more soybeans and less wheat, leaving a brighter appearance and aroma.
Tamari is made from mostly soybeans, is darker in color, and generally has 10% or less of wheat. Many people in the United States may be familiar with Tamari was a gluten-free version of soy sauce.
Best Soy Sauce For Keto
When it comes to choosing a soy sauce for your ketogenic diet, there is no one best soy sauce.
Almost all soy sauce varieties contain about a gram of net carbs per tablespoon unless using a sweet soy sauce.
The best soy sauce then is a matter of preference based on your taste buds. Another factor to consider is whether or not you may have a wheat allergy, in which case, opting for a Tamari soy sauce may be the best option.
Tamari soy sauce will also have a less salty taste, mainly due to its soy content being high (as much as 100%). Tamari also has a thicker consistency, making it seem like a much “bolder” version of soy sauce.
On the other hand, traditional soy sauce (dark and light) may have a slightly sweet, sharp, and almost vinegar-like flavor due to the wheat content.
Either way, dark, light, or tamari, you’ll be ingesting the same amount of calories and carbohydrates. Therefore, choose the soy sauce that you enjoy best.
Best Soy Sauce Substitute, Alternatives, Or Replacements
I don’t know what it is, but there are about a dozen substitutes for almost everything.
Don’t want dairy? Try almond milk, macadamia nut milk, flax milk, oat milk, etc…
Don’t want meat? Eat some beyond burgers or tofurkey…
We live in a world full of choices, and soy sauce is of no exception. Maybe you’re allergic to soy or don’t care for its estrogenic properties, then here are some alternatives you may want to try.
Bear in mind, some of these may have a few more carbohydrates per serving than your standard soy sauce.
This liquid condiment is made from fish; generally, anchovies or krill fermented in salt. As you might expect, though, fish sauce is much more pungent and “fishy” compared to soy sauce.
A bit higher in carbohydrates depending on the brand, coconut aminos are made from fermented coconut sap. The result is a flavor profile similar to soy sauce, but a tad sweeter and lower in sodium.
I find that Bragg's has the lowest net carbs for coconut aminos
Liquid aminos is a liquid protein concentrate but still made from soybeans, minus the fermentation. Liquid aminos is a bit milder and sweeter than your traditional soy sauce and is also gluten-free.
Worcestershire, similar to soy sauce, is a fermented sauce that contains a blend of malt vinegar, anchovies, spices, and sometimes sugar and/or molasses.
A single tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce will set you back around 3 grams of net carbs.
If following a recipe, use any of the above in a one-to-one ratio.
How To Make Soy Sauce
You may be surprised to learn that there are soy sauce connoisseurs around the world who take pleasure in creating the “best soy sauce.”
If you think all soy sauce tastes like Kikkoman’s, then think again.
Here is a simple recipe to get you started, but where you decide to go from here is entirely up to you!
How To Make Sauce courtesy of The Things Well Make.
Don’t feel like following instructions? Try this video and follow along if you’re a more visual learner.
Ways To Use Soy Sauce In Your Ketogenic Diet
Trying to think of more ways to include this delicious liquid condiment in your ketogenic diet? Here are just a few ways I like to use soy sauce.
- Cauliflower fried rice
- In place of hot sauce
- Use in place of salt, especially on vegetables or in soups
- Soy butter (soy sauce + butter)
- On eggs (for real!)
- Sushi (sashimi that is) and don't forget the keto friendly wasabi.
And here are a few keto friendly soy sauce recipes for some inspiration.
Soy Sauce Eggs
If you’re familiar with pickled eggs, this is somewhat similar. Soy sauce eggs are super easy to make and full of flavor.
Photo and recipe courtesy of Eat Be Fit Explore
Sugar-Free Teriyaki Sauce
Soy sauce is one of the main ingredients in teriyaki sauce. If you’re missing that teriyaki flavor due to all the sugar your standard teriyaki sauces and dishes have, try this recipe to make your own.
Taiwanese Crispy Pork Belly In Garlic Soy Sauce
One of the first foods that come to mind when eating soy sauce is rice, but the SECOND food that comes to mind is pork belly!
Trust me; you’ll want to give this one a try.
Photo and recipe courtesy of Low Carbing Asian
Soy sauce is a delicious and keto friendly condiment that may be enjoyed while on a ketogenic diet.
With just one gram of net carbs per tablespoon, soy sauce packs a lot of flavor with minimal impact to ketosis or your weight loss efforts.
Just remember, always be mindful when using condiments and spices since the number of carbohydrates can add up.