3 Best Sweet Soy Sauce Substitutes

Sweet soy sauce or kecap manis originated in Indonesia and has a syrup-like consistency, a dark color, and a molasses-like flavor. “Kecap” is a word that encompasses all of the fermented sauces of Indonesia, and “manis” means sweet, so the phrase translates to “sweet sauce.” In Indonesia, sweet soy sauce is a more common ingredient than regular soy sauce, making up more than 90% of the country’s overall soy sauce production.

Sweet soy sauce is made from a fermented paste of boiled black soybeans, wheat, salt, water aspergillus, and palm sugar. Some varieties include added spices like cinnamon, black pepper, coriander, star anise, and clove.

What is the Difference Between Sweet Soy Sauce and Regular Soy Sauce

Sweet soy sauce is often compared to a sweeter, reduced soy sauce, as it has a much more viscous consistency and a more sugary taste. The sauce contains a generous amount of palm sugar, so consider this if you watch your sugar intake.

Sweet soy sauce is said to have a slightly salty caramel flavor with a smoky undertone and is used most commonly in marinades and dipping sauces. Unless you cook Indonesian recipes regularly, you likely do not have a jar of sweet soy sauce in your pantry, and substitution will be necessary.

Sweet Soy Sauce Substitutes

[1] Coconut Aminos

While you may not have coconut aminos in your pantry, this is a perfect substitute for sweet soy sauce if you have a soy or gluten allergy. Coconut aminos have a distinct umami flavor and similar color and texture to sweet soy sauce.

The sauce is made from fermented coconut plant sap but tastes nothing like coconut. Coconut aminos contain less salt than traditional soy sauce at only 90 milligrams of sodium per teaspoon compared to 290 milligrams in regular soy sauce. Coconut aminos keep for three years in a sealed package and one year when opened.

Keep your open coconut aminos in a cool, dry place when sealed, and refrigerate after opening. Use coconut aminos as a 1:1 substitute for sweet soy sauce, but you may need to add salt and honey or maple syrup to create a more viscous consistency and achieve the sweet and salty flavor of sweet soy sauce.

coconut aminos

[2] Hoisin Sauce

When using hoisin sauce as a substitute for sweet soy sauce, you want to check the ingredients as ingredients tend to differ by brand. However, the most common ingredients in hoisin sauce include fermented soybeans, sesame oil, garlic, vinegar, some sweetener, and a Chinese five-spice powder.

While the hoisin sauce will mimic the umami flavor and thick consistency of sweet soy sauce, it is typically less sweet, so you will need to add honey, maple syrup, or sugar to the sauce to give it the desired sweetness.

hoisin sauce

[3] Low Sodium Soy Sauce + Sweetener

Regular soy sauce can transform into sweet soy sauce by adding a sweetener. The most common sweeteners used with soy sauce are brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, and molasses. The most authentic sweetener is palm sugar, but most people don’t have this ingredient. Use a low-sodium soy sauce as you must cook it down to thicken it, which can result in an overwhelming salty flavor if you use regular soy sauce.

low sodium soy sauce

Start by combining both ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a low boil over medium-high heat. Stir to combine and dissolve the sugar. Once the combination is at a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until the liquid thickens into a viscous-like substance, which should take 10-15 minutes. Continue to stir until the sauce sticks to your stirring spoon and drizzles when you hold it over the pan. Remove from heat and allow to cool before using.

Sweet Soy Sauce Recipes to Try

Sweet Soy Chicken

Sweet soy chicken or Ayam Kecap Manis is a famous Indonesian dish. The dish is easy to make and contains only eight ingredients: chicken, sweet soy sauce, salt, onions, garlic, tamarin, fresh chilies, and cooking oil. Washing your meat in Indonesia is very important, so if you want to make the dish as authentic as possible, wash your chicken before starting this recipe.

Marinate your chicken in tamarind juice and salt for at least thirty minutes. Next, steam or deep fry your chicken, so it’s cooked through. While the chicken is cooking, make your sauce. Slice and fry your onions, add garlic and chilies and cook until aromatic. Next, mix in your sweet soy sauce or substitute and add the chicken. Let the dish cook for five more minutes, allowing the chicken to absorb the sauce fully.

Sweet Soy Sauce Stir Fry

If you are looking for a vegetarian option incorporating sweet soy sauce, try a stir fry featuring a sweet soy sauce. Adding sweet soy sauce to a stir-fry recipe rather than regular soy sauce makes the dish sweeter and makes the rice, veggies, and protein stick together better. Using sweet soy sauce typically makes the dish more kid-friendly, so consider this if you have picky eaters on your hands.

Try drizzling sweet soy sauce over vanilla ice cream for dessert, and enjoy!

sweet soy sauce substitutes


What is a Substitute for Sweet Soy Sauce?

Sauces such as hoisin sauce are an excellent substitute for sweet soy sauce. You can also make your own by combining low-sodium soy sauce and honey or maple syrup. If you want a healthier option, consider using coconut aminos rather than sweet soy sauce.

Can I use Sweet Soy Sauce instead of Soy Sauce?

Sweet soy sauce and regular soy sauce are interchangeable, but their flavors and consistencies are slightly different. Sweet soy sauce has a sweeter taste and thicker texture, so if you use sweet soy sauce, it will thicken your dish and add a sweet taste.

Is Sweet Soy Sauce the Same as Teriyaki Sauce?

Soy sauce is one of the main ingredients in teriyaki sauce, along with garlic, ginger, and brown sugar. Therefore, you shouldn’t use teriyaki sauce instead of sweet soy sauce, but you can add the ingredients mentioned above to sweet soy sauce to make your own teriyaki sauce.

About Rachelle

Hi, I'm Rachel! I love cooking and finding new recipes but was always missing one of the ingredients in my kitchen. I created Can I Substitute? for people like me who are one substitute away from a great meal. If you're looking for great ingredient substitutes you've come to the right place. Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.