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What is Tamari?

Following yesterday’s post, a few of you emailed asking what tamari is, and how it is different from regular soy sauce. Tamari is one of my favorite flavor enhancers, so I’m hoping I can convince some of you to buy a bottle if you haven’t yet given it a try.

Tamari is a type of soy sauce, specifically Japanese soy sauce. When compared side by side, you’ll immediately notice that tamari is deeper brown, and slightly thicker, than ordinary soy sauce. Now dip your finger in for a taste: the dark, thick appearance translates into a deeper, richer flavor compared to regular soy sauce.

So when should you use tamari in place of soy sauce, and why? A general rule of thumb is to use tamari for seasoning in cooking, and use regular soy sauce (shoyu in Japanese) on the table (much like table salt).

As for the “why”: in addition to adding a complexity of flavor to a range of everyday foods, tamari has several unexpected health benefits. Namely, it provides niacin (vitamin B3), manganese, and protein, as well as tryptophan.

You’ve probably heard of tryptophan before now (it’s the same compound in turkey touted for making everyone sleepy following the Thanksgiving feast). But tryptophan plays an important nutritional function, too. It is an essential amino acid necessary for normal growth in children and nitrogen balance in adults. It also contributes to the production of serotonin, which is thought to aid in healthy sleep patterns and a stable mood (WebMD, Nutrition & Dietetics)

You can use tamari in many more dishes beyond Asian-inspired ones. I love adding it to soups and stews instead of salt, or to create the salty component of salad dressings, like yesterday’s post. In general, try using small amounts in a range of dishes in place of the salt. It’s really hard to go wrong. Experiment and taste for yourself!

Brands I really like:
Eden Foods Organic Tamari
This is my very favorite—it has tremendous flavor and is relatively easy to find at well-stocked supermarkets and health food stores.

San-J Organic Wheat Free Tamari

South River (Organic) Miso Tamari

Light Sesame Ginger Salad Dressing
Light Salad Dressings Part 2: Creamy Blue Cheese

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Comforting Lentil Loaf (Vegan & Gluten Free) | Alternative Dish

Wednesday 5th of August 2020

[…] tablespoons tamari or coconut […]

Jonathan Lord

Wednesday 4th of March 2009

Tamari is also an excellent sauce for marinating. It's a strong and salty flavor, but lends itself magnificently to rapid cooking. Think broiled salmon or seared lamb.


Sunday 1st of June 2008

I plan on purchasing some of this the next time I pay a visit to Whole Foods. I like coming across new, flavorful ingredients I can cook with; sometimes I just get tired of the same old ingredients :). I'll be sure to look for the ones you've recommended :D.


Wednesday 28th of May 2008


I try to grocery shop only about once a week. Like you, I like fresh produce foods. Do you have any tips how to store items such as raw broccoli, peppers, and lettuce fresh throughout the week. Mine always see to wilt after a few days. Thanks!


Tuesday 27th of May 2008

Camilla:I'll be making your dressing soon. I've got everything I need already, plus I've already got an addiction to homemade sesame ginger dressing. But, it's not low-fat, so I'm happy to swap it out for yours.

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