Is soy sauce vegan? If you've been wondering, you're not alone! It's a question many vegans ask. After all, many pantry staples have hidden ingredients that aren't suitable for a vegan diet.
If you're planning on making vegan chow mein or a big bowl of miso ramen, you'll need soy sauce to get a truly authentic flavor. This salty condiment has a deep umami flavor that's hard to replicate. But, is soy sauce vegan friendly?
Let's take a look at what soy sauce is actually made from, and how it's produced to get a better understanding of whether or not it has a place in a vegan diet.
What Is Soy Sauce?
Soy sauce is a salty condiment that was created over 2,000 years ago in China. Interestingly, it was made as a means to stretch salt , which was a precious commodity at the time.
Thousands of years ago, soy sauce was made using salted fermented fish and soybeans. Ancient texts refer to similar fish based products being produced in China, Japan, Indonesia and Korea.
However, with time the recipe was refined to a soy paste, which used soybeans at the primary ingredient. Fermented fish sauces evolved into what we now know as fish sauce.
Today, almost all brands of soy sauce are made using soybeans as the principle ingredient, meaning that....yes...soy sauce is vegan!
How Is Soy Sauce Made?
Soy sauce can be produced traditionally or chemically.
When produced traditionally (sometimes referred to a naturally brewed), soybeans are fermented with crushed wheat for several days. Salt is then added and the soy sauce is left to ferment in a tank for five to eight months. After fermentation, the liquid is pressed out through a cloth, and is then pasteurized to kill any bacteria.
Traditionally produced soy sauce will be labeled "brewed" or "traditionally brewed." The fewer the ingredients listed on the label, the more likely it is to be naturally fermented.
Chemical production is much faster and cheaper, but generally results in an inferior product. The chemical production process is know as acid hydrolysis. Soy beans are heated and mixed with wheat. A hydrochloric acid is added to break down the proteins in the soy and wheat.
The whole process of chemically producing soy sauce only takes a few days, however the resulting product is missing many of the components it would have gained during the lengthy fermentation process of the traditional method. Because of this, additives and flavors are frequently added to enhance the aroma and flavor. If the label of your soy lists "hydrolyzed protein" you'll know that it's been chemically produced. The taste is harsher and the liquid will sometimes be cloudier.
Ingredients In Soy Sauce
A quality, fermented soy sauce should only contain these four ingredients, which are all vegan:
- Fermenting agent
A chemically produced soy sauce will usually be labeled with the ingredient " hydrolyzed protein" or "hydrolyzed vegetable protein". While still vegan, these products have an inferior taste and potentially carcinogenic properties.
In addition to the hydrolyzed proteins found in chemically produced soy sauce, you might also find sugar, caramel coloring and preservatives.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, Kikkoman soy sauce is naturally fermented with four simple ingredients:soybeans, salt, wheat and water. It's a vegan friendly product.
Yes, Amoy soy sauce contains water, soy sauce extract, sugar, salt, plain caramel color, acidity regulator (lactic acid) and preservatives. All ingredients in Amoy Soy Sauce are vegan.
Yes, La Choy soy sauce contains water, salt, hydrolyzed protein, corn syrup, caramel color and potassium sorbate (preservative). All ingredients are vegan.
No, despite the slightly briny smell, soy sauce contains no animal derived ingredients. It's a plant based condiment suitable for vegans and vegetarians.