What Is Tamari?

Learn about this Japanese condiment and the difference between tamari and soy sauce.

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Wandering along the condiments section, you may notice a product that looks surprisingly similar to soy sauce. Tamari, a salty condiment, has slowly but surely gained popularity across America, despite already being a staple in Japan. Learn more about tamari, how it's made, the difference between tamari and soy sauce, and when to use tamari.

How is tamari different from soy sauce?

Tamari and soy sauce may look similar, but there are many differences between these two condiments. Soy sauce is common throughout all of Asia, but tamari is wholly Japanese. Tamari is the liquid that is pressed from fermenting miso paste, however soy sauce is made from fermenting in tanks with grains, in a method that's similar to beer making.

What's in tamari? What does tamari taste Like?

While both use soy as a main ingredient, tamari is typically made without wheat (meaning it's popular with gluten-free consumers, though always double check the ingredients list) while soy sauce can be created with up to half of its volume being made up of wheat. The taste differences between tamari and soy sauce are that the former has a slightly thicker consistency, darker color, and a more robust flavor without the overly sharp bite that soy sauce sometimes possesses.

Is tamari healthier than soy sauce?

Although you cannot say one is inherently healthier than the other, most varieties of tamari are gluten-free (always check the label to be sure) and therefore can be a good choice for those who must follow a gluten-free diet. Tamari also contains less sodium than soy sauce.

Chopsticks and tamari in a white dish on a wooden background
Mykola Sosiukin / Getty Images

How to use tamari

You can substitute soy sauce for tamari, but when swapping you'll be able to tell the difference the most for dishes where the sauce is enjoyed straight, such as dipping sushi. Use tamari to season stir-fries, add depth to marinades, enliven gluten-free grain bowls, or dress up noodles.

Where to buy tamari

Tamari can be found at most well-stocked grocery stores and any Asian markets. It's available in regular and low-sodium options, often with multiple brands being sold. If you're purchasing tamari for its gluten-free status, be sure to double check the ingredients list to ensure it's safe for consuming. As with other specialty ingredients, tamari can also be easily bought online, such as San-J Tamari Premium Soy Sauce, which retails on Amazon for a mere $4.

San-J Tamari Premium Soy Sauce

San-J Tamari Premium Soy Sauce on a white background

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