Is Soy Sauce Fermented? (How It Works + Alternatives)

Soy sauce has rich and distinct flavors making it excellent for seasoning dishes or as a condiment.

You may be wondering what process this pantry staple goes through to achieve this. In particular, you’re asking whether soy sauce is fermented. Here is what I found out about it!

Is Soy Sauce Fermented?

All traditional soy sauces are made by fermenting soybeans. Fermentation helps soy sauce achieve its distinct flavor while retaining its freshness. There are non-brewed soy sauces that do not get fermented, but they do not taste the same as traditionally fermented soy sauce.

Are you still curious about why soy sauce gets fermented, how it gets fermented, and other interesting facts? Keep reading to learn more!

How Is Soy Sauce Made and Fermented?

The process of making soy sauce begins with brushing and blending wheat and soy sauce together. Water is then added and this mixture is boiled until the contents are soft mash.

The mash is cooled and a proprietary seed mold that aids in the fermentation process is added. The mash then rests for three days.

After three days, the mash is moved into fermentation tanks to start the fermentation process, mixing the mash with salt and water. Yeasts and lactic acid bacteria are added to increase further fermentation.

This mixture is allowed to ferment for about 6 months to create hundreds of flavor compounds. During this time, the mash will turn a reddish-brown semi-liquid.

After 6 months of fermenting, the raw soy sauce gets pressed through filtration cloths to separate the soy residue from the wheat.

The liquid that gets passed through the cloth will get pasteurized to add more flavors and further increase the shelf life before bottling and shipping the finished product.

Why Does Soy Sauce Need To Be Fermented?

Fermentation is an essential part of creating traditional soy sauce because it creates the flavors that we know today.

Soy sauce gets fermented with proprietary seed molds, yeast, and bacteria which add unique flavors.

Moreover, the fermentation process helps preserve soy sauce which is why most soy sauces can last for 2-3 years.

How Does Fermentation Make Soy Sauce Last Longer?

Manufacturers add yeast and bacteria to the soy sauce-making process to aid in the fermentation.

Bacteria and yeast break down starches and sugars from the mixture to turn them into acids and alcohol which extend the shelf life of soy sauce.

Moreover, additional ingredients like salt further act as preservatives.

Is There Soy Sauce That Is Not Fermented?

Is Soy Sauce Fermented?

Non-brewed soy sauce is not fermented because it goes through a chemical process instead of a fermentation process.

An artificial method of breaking down the soybeans, hydrolysis, removes the amino acids from soybeans.

Making non-brewed soy sauce is much faster than brewing it traditionally because it only takes a few days to complete the process.

Additional ingredients like corn syrup and caramel color are added to non-brewed soy sauce to adjust the color and flavor.

However, non-brewed soy sauce does not have the same flavor as regular soy sauce because it tastes much harsher.

Is Non-Fermented Soy Sauce Real Soy Sauce?

Non-fermented soy sauce is not considered real soy sauce in Japan and it cannot be labeled as such.

However, other countries may label non-fermented soy sauce as real soy sauce and it is commonly found in soy sauce packets from restaurants.

Moreover, non-fermented soy sauce may get mixed with traditional soy sauce to save money.

Is There Partially Fermented Soy Sauce?

There is partially fermented soy sauce available and it is created by using the semi-brewed method.

In the semi-brewed method, hydrolyzed soybeans get partially fermented with wheat mixtures, making it a combination of the traditionally brewed process and the non-brewed process.

Semi-brewed soy sauce tastes significantly better than non-brewed soy sauce due to partial fermentation.

Is Light Soy Sauce Fermented?

Light soy sauce is fermented and is created from the first pressing of the fermented soybeans, resulting in a milder flavor.

Is Dark Soy Sauce Fermented?

Dark soy sauce is fermented and the flavor heavily relies on the fermentation process. Its deep, richer flavors come from fermentation and aging.

Is Kikkoman Soy Sauce Fermented?

Kikkoman soy sauce is fermented through the traditional Japanese brewing process. This brewing process does not require any additives and results in the signature flavor Kikkoman is known for.

Is Tamari Soy Sauce Fermented?

Tamari soy sauce still gets fermented as part of the traditional brewing process. It does not contain wheat but it is still possible to ferment soybeans without wheat.

Is Low Sodium Soy Sauce Fermented?

Low sodium soy sauce is fermented if it uses the traditional brewing method. It only differs from other soy sauces because 40% of sodium gets removed after the fermentation process.

Is Gluten-Free Soy Sauce Fermented?

Gluten-free soy sauce is still fermented because it is created by fermenting soybeans. While there is no wheat present in the mixture, it is not crucial in the fermentation process.

Alternatives to Fermented Soy Sauce

If you want to try non-fermented soy sauce, here are some alternatives you can opt for:

1. Liquid Aminos

Liquid aminos is similar to soy sauce because it contains soybeans but it is not fermented. It tastes a bit sweeter and milder than traditional soy sauce.

2. Salt

Salt can replace soy sauce because one of the main flavors of soy sauce is salt, making it an easy substitute in certain dishes.

However, salt does not have the complete flavor of soy sauce, particularly umami.

If you want to learn more about soy sauce, you can see our related posts on whether soy sauce expires, if soy sauce packets go bad, and if soy sauce is vinegar.


Traditional soy sauce gets fermented because it adds crucial flavor compounds and preserves the shelf life of the product.

There are non-brewed and semi-brewed soy sauces available but they will not have the same taste and consistency as brewed and fermented soy sauce.

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