Is Soy Sauce the Same as Teriyaki Sauce? (Full Analysis)

Short answer: No. While soy sauce and teriyaki sauce share a similar appearance and, in some cases, consistency, each brings a unique umami flavor.  Soy sauce has a predominant saltiness, and moderate umami meets subtle sweetness. Teriyaki sauce has a complex flavor profile, a mixture of sweet and umami with tangy and salty notes.  

Would you know the difference if we put an unlabeled bottle of soy sauce and teriyaki on the table?

These renowned sauces are strongly associated with Asian cuisine bringing a distinct flavor to several signature and international dishes.a

Certainly, the brown hues are similar, and depending on the type of soy sauce, the consistencies share a likeness. Even so, this is where the similarities end.  

Keep reading as we unravel their saucy culinary secrets, nutritional aspects and explore popular umami dishes.  

img of using soy sauce

What is Soy Sauce?

Soy sauce is a salty, savory liquid ingredient made using fermentation. 

It is thought to have originated in China over 3000 years ago. Japan, Korea, Indonesia, and most of South East Asia followed suit, developing sauces offering similar characteristics. 

The base ingredients include soybeans, wheat, salt, and fermenting agents such as mold or yeast. 

The expansive soy sauce selection on the market is based on production methods, regional varieties, color, and distinct flavors. 

How is Soy Sauce Made?

Manufacturers produce soy sauce using two methods-namely Traditional and Chemical.

Traditional soy sauce is a mixture of soybeans, roasted wheat, mold, and salt water, which ages from five to eight months. 

The resulting thick mash with a pungent yeast aroma. Then, the mash gets pressed, and the soy liquid is pasteurized and bottled.

This method produces a high-quality product often labeled “naturally brewed.”

On the other hand, chemical soy sauce involves hydrolyzing soy proteins with acid and heat. 

Although this method is quick and cheap, the final soy sauce product tastes inferior. Furthermore, it contains toxic compounds and may include added colorants and flavorings.  

Don’t worry; the product label will list “hydrolyzed soy protein” or “hydrolyzed vegetable protein” for chemically produced soy sauce. 

Let’s take a closer look at some familiar varieties.

Light, or “usukuchi,” has a thin consistency and a golden-brown color. It offers a medium to strong umami flavor and prominent saltiness.

Dark, or “koikuchi shoyu,” is the most popular variety sold in Japan and several countries worldwide. 

It has a thicker consistency than light soy sauce and a reddish-brown color. It offers a medium to strong umami flavor with less saltiness and a touch of sweetness.  

Thick, also known as soy paste or soy jam, has a thicker consistency than dark soy sauce and is deep brown. 

It offers a medium to strong umami flavor and prominent sweetness with salty undertones.  

Tamari, or “tamari shoyu,” is dark brown and has the thickest consistency. It offers a rich and deep umami flavor with a salty meets sweet balance. 

img of using Teriyaki Sauce

What is Teriyaki Sauce?

Teriyaki sauce is a more complex liquid ingredient that combines soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. 

It has a pleasing flavor combination of sweetness, tangy notes, and a big hit of salty umami. 

The sweetness is thanks to the mirin, a traditional Japanese low-alcohol rice wine, and the caramelized sugar.  

Less traditional teriyaki sauce often includes garlic, ginger, citrus, and sesame ingredients.

The consistency is thick and sticky and slides comfortably off a metal spoon.  

The origin of teriyaki sauce in Japanese cuisine is believed to hail from Hawaii when Japanese immigrants settled there in the 1960s.

Naturally, they brought their delicious umami flavors and cooking techniques along. And over time, teriyaki sauce has become a popular condiment across the US and the world.

Want to learn more about the fascinating history?  Have a look here!

Soy Sauce vs. Teriyaki Sauce: Similarities and Differences

Ok; we know what you are thinking. 

How do you know which sauce is the perfect saucy partner for your dish?

Let’s compare the fundamental differences and culinary applications.

For our comparison, we will focus on the most popular soy sauce, which is the Dark variety.  

That said, the uses are not limited to this variety. It all comes down to what salt level and sweetness pleases your palate.

ComparisonsSoy SauceTeriyaki Sauce
Flavor profile:Prominent saltiness, medium to strong umami with a subtly sweet undertonea robust saltiness, delightful sweetness with a tangy undertone
Use as a dipping sauce for:Sushi and sashimi
Spring rolls
Crudette platters
Spring rolls
Crudette platters
Deep-fried halloumi cheese
Deep fried tofu
Cocktail sausage dip
Use as an ingredient to enhance:DipsDressings
Rice and noodle dishes
Marinaded for meat, fish, and pork
Stir-friesBraised meat and vegetables
GravySoups and stews
Rice and noodle dishes
Marinade for meat, fish, and porkStir-fries
Glaze for meat and fish
Grilled meat, fish, and vegetables
Popular complementary combos:Dip for sushi and sashimi alongside wasabi and pickled gingerMash with butter and create a savory spreadDip for grilled chicken wingsMarinade for grilled chickenMarinade for pork tenderloinFlank steak

The application list is vast. So, have a little fun in your kitchen while adding a little Asian flair.  

Related article: Oyster sauce has similar qualities to teriyaki. If you find your teriyaki is running low, consider these suitable substitutes.  

Cooking Applications

By now, you may be wondering how much soy sauce or teriyaki sauce you should add to your dish.  

If the recipe does not specify how much to add to your dish, or you are winging it, how much should you add?

Luckily, there are no hard and fast rules. At the same time, adding too much could make your meal way too salty.  

One tablespoon (15ml) per serving is an excellent place to start. To clarify, if your meal serves four, add four tablespoons, and so on.

The beauty of soy sauce and teriyaki is the excellent condiment compatibility. Using both sparingly in a dish serves the less salty palate. 

In contrast, those loving the salty flavor can add a few dashes before diving in.

Cultural Significance in Asian Cuisine

Undoubtedly, sweet, savory, and umami play an essential role in Asian cuisine.

Let’s explore the role of soy sauce in cultural dishes and the importance of teriyaki sauce in Japanese culinary traditions. 

When you order your favorite Chinese meal, it is not likely to exclude soy sauce. Indeed, the finishing touch defines its origin and flavor and entices palates globally.  

Although teriyaki sauce was invented in the US, it is becoming increasingly popular in Japan. 

Several fast-food chains make teriyaki burgers, teriyaki hamburger steaks, and teriyaki meatballs, to name a few.

Restaurants use it in marinades to enhance beef, chicken, shrimp, and lobster. 

Of course, infamous noodle dishes such as ramen, udon, and soba satisfy local and tourist appetites with the appealing teriyaki sauce’s salty meets sweet touch.

Popular Dishes Using Soy and Teriyaki Sauce

Let’s highlight some dishes famous for their soy and teriyaki flavors.

Editor’s Favourite Recipes With Soy Sauce

  • Chow mein with fried noodles – beef, pork, vegetable, seafood, and chicken
  • Chop suey with fried rice – beef, pork, vegetable, seafood, and chicken
  • Dipping sauce for sushi and sashimi

Editor’s Favourite Recipes With Teriyaki Sauce

  • Chicken Teriyaki
  • Teriyaki salmon and other seafood dishes
  • Teriyaki Tofu

We’re not through yet!

Soy and Teriyaki in Contemporary Cooking

If you love cooking, chances are you have a bottle of soy sauce and teriyaki in your pantry. 

Avid epicures experiment with these salty sensations globally, creating temping and mouthwatering meals. 

Decidedly, soy sauce will always be associated with Asian-based cuisine, mainly Chinese signature dishes. 

Nevertheless, western cuisine, among others, has jumped on the umami train infusing favorites to uplight traditional recipes. 

Regarding teriyaki, its invention in Haiwaii has the locals creating scrumptious pineapple-based dishes, particularly Hawaiin Grilled Teriyaki Chicken.  

Sound delicious?  Check out this recipe and surprise the family! 

They say food is a journey from source to plate. 

In the case of soy sauce and teriyaki, they can take pride in fully stamped food passports.  

Nutritional Aspects and Implications

It is worth noting that soy sauce and teriyaki have incredibly high sodium and sugar levels.  

So, what does this mean for you?

Here is a side-by-side comparison to assist in making informed choices for your dietary requirements.

Nutritional Content – per 1 tablespoon (15ml/15g)Dark Soy SauceTeriyaki
Vitamin A0mcg
Vitamin C0mg
Vitamin D

As the above suggests, soy sauce and teriyaki do not fit into a highly nutritious food source.  

Don’t worry; it’s not all gloom and doom on the health front. 

Ongoing studies around soy sauce suggest it could be high in antioxidants, contributing to cell damage prevention. 

Remember consuming any food product high in sodium or sugar in moderation is vital to a healthy eating lifestyle.  

When it comes to soy sauce and teriyaki, the robust salty flavors encourage you to use less. The idea is to enhance the taste of your meal.

Keep in mind vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in the base meal nourish your body with the savory, salty, and sweet taste intact. 

If you have salt and sugar dietary restrictions, consider a low-sodium soy sauce or sugar-free teriyaki.  

Final Umami Saucy Thoughts

So, here’s the deal.

Place a little soy sauce and teriyaki in dipping bowls. Then, sample each to get a sense of what will complement your dish.

Certainly, if your meal is Asian-inspired, either will enhance the flavor and please your salty craving. For those seeking a sweet touch, reach out for teriyaki.

Which one do you keep in your pantry more regularly?  Let us know!

We would love to hear from you.

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