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Best Soy Sauce for Sushi (Just the Facts and No Affiliate Links)

The sheer amount of bloggers and influencers producing content for all the wrong reasons is pathetic. All for the likes, attention, or a paycheck by trying to cash in as an Amazon affiliate is just ridiculous. It is so dumb that I will not have any affiliate links in this post (absolutely none. No monetization, and just the facts because I give a chit, bro).

Sushi is Japanese, yet self-serving bloggers, influencers, and even the mainstream media will try to sell you on Chinese soy sauce to whisky barrel-aged and black garlic soy sauce (anything and everything on Amazon). No lie, they all sound great tasting, but how are they “the best for sushi?” What I do know, it is the best for their bank account.

I am not trying to sell you on anything, and I just want you to be able to try/use the best soy sauce (shoyu) for your application. Plus, go look at who is writing those articles, they have no clue that Chinese are different from Japanese, they are like “like, as if, they are all ching chongs to me.”
Photo Description: an Americanized sushi roll of tuna, tempura, avocado, and garlic flakes sprinkled on top. Beneath the roll is a drizzle of sushi sauce.
This sushi roll is waiting to dip into a tub of soy sauce like a retired couple in speedo and one-piece in a hot tub.

So Let Us Get This Out of the Way

If you are a soy sauce noob, this is what you need to know to help you find a soy sauce:

A Japanese soy sauce (a product of Japan) does not taste the same as a Hawaiian, Filipino, Thai, or a Chinese soy sauce because they are different from one country to another country (Nationality), and by region.

Aside from the taste, ingredients and the processing techniques can vary greatly.
  • Japanese soy sauce is not the same as other ethnic soy sauces (all us Asians are not the same): Chinese (La Choy to Lee Kum Kee), Hawaiian (Aloha Shoyu), Thai (Golden Mountain), or Korean (Sempio Yangjo) soy sauce, and the countless other regional brands from around the world. All of which give these dishes a distinctive/authentic taste.

Here are the differences between Chinese and Japanese soy sauces which have had its fair share of controversy, but based on the ingredients below, you judge which seems natural.

Japanese vs. Chinese Soy Sauce Ingredients

The same goes for BBQ sauce in the United States because they will vary from State to State and regional styles.,.

COUNTRY OF
ORIGIN
POPULAR BRAND/INGREDIENTSPROCESSING
JapaneseKikkoman (koikuchi/all-purpose): water, soybeans, wheat, salt.Non-GMO and naturally brewed in Walworth, WI
ChineseLa Choy (all-purpose): water, salt, hydrolyzed soy protein, corn syrup, caramel color, potassium sorbate (preservative). La Choy is chemically made and is not naturally brewed or fermented.
The ingredients label for La Choy is a pop-up window in the second tab.

Are You a Japanese or Americanized Sushi Fan

For us Americans, there are two categories of sushi, like with Mexican food because there is the real stuff, and then there is Taco Bell:

  • Americanized Sushi: If you are into Americanized sushi, your focus is on rolls, so you do not need a fancy soy sauce because you will not be able to taste a discernible difference (too many competing flavors). Also, a fancy soy sauce will not illicit the feels for ancient times in Edo (Tokyo) while you look out across Tokyo Bay. All while reminiscing of the time you spent with your significant other as you serenade one another with a shamisen/banjo.
  • Japanese Sushi: If you are doing nigiri sushi, the type of soy sauce will matter because subtle flavors will impact the overall taste of your ingredients. Although, if you are preparing sushi at home (nigiri to temaki), a general-purpose shoyu ought to do. Except putting in the little details will illicit the feels for ancient times in Edo (Tokyo) while you look out across Tokyo Bay. All while enjoying your time with your significant other as you two serenade one another with the shamisen and get freaky like in shunga.

Other details that you do not have to learn can be found here: the top/biggest Japanese soy sauce brands, along with the 5-types of Japanese soy sauce.

The 5 types are all variations of the ratios of wheat to soy bean and the most common used for sushi is a 50/50 of wheat and soybeans (in Japan, they don’t not have an aversion for wheat or gluten).

What Matters When Choosing a Soy Sauce for Americanized Sushi

I will not try to sell you on anything, and I will direct/point you in a direction. So, all links will be to the manufacturer/producer for additional product information.

If you are looking to switch it up from the usual “general purpose” (koikuchi) soy sauce, try these types of Japanese soy sauces: 1. nama-shoyu (unpasteurized raw soy sauce) and 2. saishikomi (double-brewed) soy sauce.

Japan was a vegetarian/vegan country for upwards of 1,200 years, so there are a lot of dishes and foods that rely on dashi, miso, and soy sauce.
  • Try using a Japanese brand for sushi: Japanese soy sauce has a distinctive taste over Chinese, Thai to Hawaiian soy sauces, and a Japanese soy sauce best complements Japanese dishes. The major Japanese soy sauce brands are Kikkoman, Yamasa, and Marukin.
  • “General purpose” soy sauce (aka koikuchi): from a Kikkoman to Yamasa although a nama-shoyu (unpasteurized raw soy sauce) and a saishikomi soy sauce (double-brewed) is worth the try.
  • Low sodium (genen): If you are trying to watch your blood pressure, buy a low-sodium (genen) soy sauce.
  • Gluten-free: If you want to avoid gluten, buy a tamari type of soy sauce by San-J which contains no wheat like the Chinese soy sauce, La Choy (hydrolyzed soy protein).
Photo Description: a sushi chef in Japan, applying a nikiri sauce to 6 servings of uni (sea urchin) gunkan sushi. The use of soy sauce, mirin, to sake is the best soy sauce for sushi.
Brushing on the soy sauce-based mixture (nikiri) atop uni (sea urchin). Image courtesy of City Foodsters.

Nikiri and Dipping Soy Sauce for Japanese Sushi/Sashimi

Going to a Japanese sushi bar in Japan, a specially formulated soy sauce mixture will be brushed on, as marinade, or used as a dipping sauce.

  • No Soy Sauce: Not all sushi utilizes soy sauce and sometimes nothing at all to shio (salt) and lemon is more than enough. I especially like it this way with amaebi (sweet shrimp), engawa (the fin of a flatfish), to hotate (scallops).
  • Koikuchi: the most common types of soy sauce are koikuchi (general purpose) to using tamari (100% soybean with no wheat and lots of umami). Tamari by itself is only 1% of sales in Japan, but is mixed with other types of Japanese soy sauces.
  • Nikiri (brushed on to sushi): a soy sauce-based mixture used in Japanese sushi is a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, and sake. Additional ingredients can include katsuobushi (simmered, smoked, and fermented skipjack tuna) to konbu (kelp) to add additional umami meant to accentuate all and any subtle nuance to your ingredients.
  • Shoyuzuke (soy sauce marinade): to switch things up, I will often request akamizuke (marinated tuna in a soy sauce mixture) although I have had fatty tuna prepared this way too.

If you are feeling lazy to prepare your own nikiri sushi mixture yourself, the 2nd to 3rd best thing may be Yamasa Hokkaido Kelp Soy Sauce, which consists of soy sauce, fructose glucose liquid sugar, seaweed extract, sugar, kelp/seasoning (such as amino acids), alcohol, sweeteners (stevia). 

You can also make your own if you have the 4 basic Japanese ingredients: soy sauce, mirin, konbu, and sake.

YouTube Resources to Prepare a Soy Sauce (Mixture) for Sushi

I would never pretend to know (unlike several online food experts), and I am constantly learning because I am also constantly forgetting, especially on nights that I drink. Except unlike the online food experts, I have grown up with these products, worked BOH in a Japanese restaurant, or have been avidly learning about these products, so I think I can say that these resources below are also legit resources:

Craft to “premium” soy sauce can be found listed here (all the brands are in the featured image), and they are amazing for all sorts of food such as a BBQ marinade, basting for grilling, to a soup dashi (stock).

In Peru, soy sauce is used in chifa (Chinese) cuisine such as lomo saltado.
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