What is Tamari (vs. Soy Sauce)?

What is tamari? | Eat Life Whole

Ingredient 101

Stephanie Kanoeola Megumi Wong

Do you cook with soy sauce? I did, but now I use something called tamari instead. It’s one of those natural food pantry staples that I never grew up with, but now keep as a constant in my fridge for easy stir fries, marinades, big bowls of noodle soup, my favorite teriyaki sauce, and the most bad-a$$ kale chips (with toasted coconut) that you’ll ever have!

What the heck is tamari?

First off, tamari is NOT the same as soy sauce, however my non-fancy cooking style uses them interchangeably because that’s just me. And I’m not fancy;)

Tamari is traditionally tied to the Japanese (vs. the more common Chinese soy sauce). It is a thicker, less salty, fermented soy sauce that contains less wheat (if not any depending on the brand, aka “gluten-free”). It can be used in asian and non-asian cooking to add a full, savory, umami flavor to your dishes.

How is it made differently than regular soy sauce?

While regular soy sauce and tamari are both derived from fermented soybeans, the process in which it is made AND the byproduct is much different.

Regular soy sauce is essentially made by cooking soybeans with roasted wheat and other grains (almost a 50/50 ratio) and adding it to a salty brine to brew, then sit for a period of time to ferment. This mixture is then pressed to extract the dark, brown liquid.

Tamari on the other hand, is made a bit different. It is known to be the liquid byproduct that forms when making miso paste – like the liquid sweat that forms on cheese (unlike the pressed version in regular soy sauce). When the soybeans are cooked down to ferment, little to zero wheat is added to the mixture, which makes it a great alternative for those that have gluten intolerances.

(SIDE NOTE: miso is a Japanese paste-like seasoning derived from fermented soybeans and used in various dishes to add flavor.)

What is tamari? | Eat Life Whole

How do they compare?

more salty
made with a higher wheat ratio
not gluten-free
a byproduct of fermented soybeans

less salty
made with less or zero wheat
can be gluten-free (read the bottle)
a byproduct of fermented soybeans

Is tamari gluten-free?

As mentioned above, tamari can be gluten-free, but you MUST read the package because some brands do use a small percentage of wheat during the fermentation process. Look for packages that say “gluten-free” if you suffer from any gluten allergies or intolerances.

Where can you find it?

You can find tamari in most asian-sections of big shop grocery stores, health food stores, or even asian markets. If all else fails, it’s on Amazon.com!

When we wrote our latest Eat Real Essentials eBook, we knew that STOCKING your pantry was a necessary chapter to making healthy cooking possible on busy days. A small bottle of tamari goes a LONG way, in addition to other essential favorites we highly recommend.

Curious about eating healthy to feel great? Learn how to restock your pantry, shop for clean foods, and cook healthy daily by clicking here.

Does organic matter?

Yes! In this case it does. Soybeans are one of the most common GMO (genetically modified organisms) that are sprouting up in our lovely U.S. farms. Whenever you buy anything soy, please make an effort to look for organic options. And if you’re not sure what GMO’s are, check this article out.

My latest favorite recipe using tamari

Now for the fun stuff! Inspired by my recent trip back home to Seattle (the “teriyaki capital” of the the west coast), I concocted a fresh teriyaki sauce that is super simple and OH SO DELICIOUS on grilled chicken or veggies. Serve this up for dinner this week. From start to finish, it only takes about 30 minutes!

Healthy Teriyaki Sauce (made with tamari) 

What is tamari? | Eat Life Whole


Get MORE healthy tips!

Sound familiar?

  • “I have very little time.”
  • “I’m a hard-a$$ working person and know I need to eat healthier.”
  • “I don’t  know what or how to cook healthy.”
  • “I’m just plain, ol’ tired at the end of the day to even try.”
  • “I think I need to re-stock my pantry…and maybe rethink my trips to the store”

Eat Real Essentials - Available Now!

If you like this tip, checkout more nutritious and healthy living ideas in our Eat Real Essentials eBook, enhanced and interactive for the iPad or in a digital-friendly PDF. It’s filled with inspirational stories, grocery shopping and pantry stocking tips, a 3-week meal plan with a whole foods detox, and over 100 RECIPES designed just for the busy person! Check it out here.





Thanks for reading! My name is Stephanie Wong and I am a certified holistic health & nutrition coach, home-grown natural food cook, lover of all things ginger, and a strong believer that strength is beauty. [read more...]


  1. [...] This teriyaki sauce recipe comes from Eat Life Whole. It uses tamari instead of soy sauce. If you’re unsure about tamari check out this article: Tamari vs. Soy Sauce. [...]

  2. [...] So this is my latest creation – a butternut squash and chorizo soup that can be served either with grated Parmesan or a comforting dollop of homemade yoghurt or topped up with crushed walnuts and a couple of drops of Tamari. [...]

Tell us what you think...


nine × 5 =