Is soy sauce keto friendly? What is soy sauce? How many carbs are in soy sauce? These may be the questions you're asking yourself about this super common ingredient. We'll dive into all the details below!
Is soy sauce keto friendly?
The answer is yes. Soy sauce can be included on a keto diet and has about 0.7 grams of net carbs per tablespoon. Soy sauce is used across the world as a staple ingredient in many dishes. It is also used as a marinade or dipping sauce and is incredibly common even for those following strict diets like paleo or keto. Some soy sauces can be high carb so be sure to read below for all the details on which type to choose for a low-carb diet.
How is soy sauce made?
Soy sauce is created by fermenting cooked soybeans with various forms of yeasts to create sugars. This is combined with additional starches used during fermentation to help break down the soybeans further. After the entire process is complete, salt is added which acts as a preservative - meaning fewer net carbs are present due to the slight fermentation that is already complete.
What is soy sauce made from?
Soybeans, water, wheat, and salt. This is a common formula for many different types of sauces so these ingredients may be added to create a fermented base with a lot more complex flavor profiles. You'll see that wheat is listed, so no, soy sauce is not gluten free and not an ingredient we use in our recipes. Fear not though! There are a few direct substitutions and other alternatives if you follow a gluten-free diet. We'll get to those below!
Nutritional breakdown + carb content in soy sauce
Many store-bought brands tend to have around 20% sugar content as well as maltodextrin as one of the first few ingredients on the list! The very large amount of sodium is also something to consider if you follow a lower salt diet.
Traditional soy sauce has about 0.7 grams of net carbs per tablespoon. That can add up in some recipes that use say a ¼ cup or more. Typically though, we're not using that large of amounts and even still, those carbs get divided between the entire recipe so it's often negligible in the end result.
Here's the full nutritional breakdown of regular soy sauce and tamari in one 1 tablespoon serving:
- Calories 9
- Total Fat 0.1 g
- Saturated fat 0 g
- Cholesterol 0 mg
- Sodium 879 mg
- Potassium 70 mg
- Total Carbohydrate 0.8 g
- Dietary fiber 0.1 g
- Sugar 0.1 g
- Protein 1.3 g
Types of soy sauce
sweet soy sauce
Typically less salty and has a similar taste to dark brown sugar and is slightly thicker and viscous. Not used in keto cooking due to its high sugar content.
dark soy sauce
Darker and less sweet, dark soy sauce is more like molasses in flavor. Not only used to flavor a dish, it's also used to darken the color of sauces.
light soy sauce
Lighter and used for general cooking and as a thinner consistency
Gluten-free substitutions for soy sauce
Tamari is simply traditional soy sauce with the wheat removed. This is easily found in most health food stores or any market with a large Asian section or is available online. If you are following a strict gluten-free diet, this is your best soy sauce substitute! It's sugar-free meaning it has no added sugars.
You can use this directly in place of soy sauce and you should notice very little difference depending on which brand you choose. Typically the exact ingredient ratio is kept similar - so we don't run into issues where we can taste something is missing as the wheat is no longer present.
This is what we use 100% of the time in our keto recipes.
Coconut aminos are similar to soy sauce but instead of being derived from soy, it is made from the sap of the coconut palm. This is an alternative that is also gluten-free while providing a bit more flavor than tamari. A few drops will give your recipes some additional saltiness with a touch of sweetness thanks to its fermentation process which converts some of the natural sugars in this ingredient to amino acids found in soy sauce!
A downside is the cost. Coconut aminos are about 5 times more expensive on average per tablespoon when compared to traditional soy sauce or tamari. And for a low-carb ketogenic diet, the extra sugar present means that for something like a low-carb teriyaki recipe, you are looking at almost 10 grams of net carbs added if you choose this option instead of traditional soy sauce. We don't use coconut aminos at all in our recipes but it's something to keep in mind if you can't have soy.
You may have seen Braggs liquid aminos at the market and wondered what they are. Liquid aminos are a combination of soy and water with added enzymes. We don't use liquid aminos but they are gluten-free and tolerable for a low-carb diet.
Key things to look for when choosing a soy sauce for a keto diet
- total carb content
- dietary fiber
- added sugar
- wheat in the ingredient list - remember to choose tamari if gluten-free
- preservatives - not needed in high-quality soy products and not an ingredient we use in our recipes
- artificial colorings and flavors - same as the preservatives, we always opt for natural products
To recap on "Is Soy Sauce Keto?"
Yes, you can definitely use soy sauce on a low-carb diet. We use tamari 100% of the time since it's gluten-free and exactly like regular soy sauce in taste and texture. Do you have a question about soy sauce? Drop it in the comments below!