If you’re deeply engulfed in the world of condiments, you must have come across the famous sauce “tamari”, and wondered why the difference in name when it looks and somehow even tastes like soy sauce?
Well, you’re not completely wrong to wonder so, and it’s a question that actually deserves an answer — a well-informed one for that matter.
So in this article, you’ll learn exactly what tamari is, the origins of its name and whether or not it is a type of dark soy sauce.
What Is Tamari Sauce?
Tamari is a unique type of dark soy sauce mainly produced in the Chūbu region of Japan.
It is obtained like most other types of dark soy sauces, i.e from the long fermentation of soaked and boiled soybeans, but usually without the addition of wheat in any shape of form.
This subtle difference not only affects flavor but also makes it an appealing option for those avoiding gluten.
The etymology of the word “tamari” provides further insight into its roots.
The word is derived from the Japanese verb tamaru (溜る), which means ‘to accumulate.
Tamari has historical ties to miso production, being the liquid by-product of the fermentation process that accumulates into a special container kept under the fermenting miso paste — thus the name.
How Is Tamari Made?
Creating tamari starts much like any other soy sauce process, with the essential ingredients being soybeans and koji.
But, unlike traditional soy sauce that incorporates wheat, tamari mostly excludes it – making it a fantastic gluten-free option.
First things first: soybeans are rinsed and soaked overnight before being cooked to make them edible (by both you and cultures it will be introduced to).
Steaming is often preferred over boiling as it prevents excessive water absorption and helps maintain the protein content in the resulting paste.
Once cooked, the beans are mashed while still retaining some texture. Meanwhile, koji (a stable mixture of cultivated mold and rice, yes, mold!) which typically comes in blocks is blended into a more manageable consistency.
Next comes the marriage of mashed soybeans and koji. Natural salt; not refined, (approximately 12-14% of the overall weight of the whole mash) joins this mix to create a paste with a mashed potato-like consistency.
The salt serves two purposes: deterring harmful organisms’ growth while encouraging beneficial ones that aid protein breakdown into complex compounds that yield flavor, texture and color.
Now for some patience!
The paste finds its new home inside fermentation jars or containers where air bubbles are eliminated to prevent mold growth.
Topped with additional salt and covered by breathable cloth, this mixture is allowed to ferment for six to twelve months.
Finally, liquid gold emerges! The liquid from the mash gets pressed out, pasteurized, bottled up – et voilà – we have that dark-colored culinary treasure known as tamari!
If you’re wondering what the secret is behind its rich hue and complex flavors? It’s Time.
Longer fermentation periods result in a darker appearance and more pronounced taste, while shorter durations yield lighter-colored, less flavorful tamari – although this variation is rarely marketed.
Here’s a video below showing you how to make miso paste where tamari is derived from.
Is Tamari a Substitute For Soy Sauce?
Yes, tamari is a direct 1:1 substitute for soy sauce (or even Worcestershire sauce), particularly when it comes to dark soy sauce.
It’s essential to be aware, though, that tamari is slightly less salty than regulat soy sauce due to the use of a lesser amount of salt.
If your recipe relies heavily on saltiness, you might need to adjust the amount of tamari used or even combine it with additional salt.
Is Tamari Sauce Spicy?
While Tamari might pack a punch in terms of umami taste, the sauce itself isn’t inherently spicy because there are typically no spice components added during production nor are there ones developed during fermentation.
Just like with any condiment or seasoning however, you can always opt to spice up your tamari by adding ingredients like chili flakes or hot sauce to create a spicier version tailored to your palate.
Tamari can also be incorporated into spicy dishes without overwhelming the flavors at play – for example stir-fries or marinades that call for an extra kick of heat.
What Is Tamari Used For?
Tamari is used in almost all cooking applications that regular soy sauce is used in, because of their similarity.
Tamari, just like soy sauce, adds that perfect umami and salt balance to your dishes that makes them taste better, anyday!
Here are some popular ways you can incorporate tamari into your meals
Make Tantalizing Tofu
Give your tofu a serious flavor boost by marinating it in tamari before grilling or baking – you’ll be amazed at the transformation!
Amp up your chicken curry salad (or any other salad) game by whisking in some tamari to create an Asian-inspired dressing that will have everyone asking for seconds.
Roasted vegetables just got better! A drizzle of tamari before roasting elevates their natural boring taste to new heights.
Want to make your fish dish truly memorable? Incorporate tamari into your marinade or glaze for an unforgettable umami experience.
Swap out traditional soy sauce with tamari in chicken recipes for an enhanced flavor profile that will leave guests craving more.
From stir-fries to stews, adding a splash of tamari can elevate beef dishes and provide that extra “oomph” you’ve been looking for. Enough of all those boring beef dishes!
A touch of tamari in soup offers complexity and depth without overpowering its delicate flavors – perfect for cozy nights in!
Delicious Dipping Sauce
Whip up a dipping sauce featuring tamari as the star ingredient; ideal for dumplings or even boiled eggs – simply irresistible!
Fried Rice Reinvented
Tamper with tradition and add some pizzazz to fried rice by experimenting with none other than the hero of sauces — tamari!
Cook up your favorite noodles and toss them in a delectable tamari-based sauce for an instant trip to taste bud paradise.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Tamari the Same as Coconut Aminos?
While both tamari and coconut aminos serve as soy sauce alternatives, because of their somewhat similarities in taste, they are not the same product.
Tamari is a byproduct of fermenting soybeans, while coconut aminos is the by-product of fermenting the sap of coconut.
Both bring saltiness to dishes because they are made with salts, but tamari has a deeper and richer taste compared to the slightly sweeter profile of coconut aminos.
Is Tamari Gluten-Free?
Yes, tamari is typically gluten-free!
Unlike traditional soy sauce that often contains roasted wheat as an ingredient, tamari uses little to no wheat in its production process.
Even so, it’s still important to check labels carefully and choose brands that specifically state their products are gluten-free to ensure you’re making the right choice for your dietary needs.
Is Tamari Vegan?
Tamari is indeed vegan-friendly since it’s made from fermented soybeans and doesn’t contain any animal-derived ingredients.
In fact, many vegans and vegetarians turn to tamari as a delicious alternative for adding savory depth in their plant-based dishes.
How Much Sodium Is in Tamari?
The sodium content in tamari obviously depends on the processing methods as well as brand.
On average however, one tablespoon (15ml) of regular-strength tamari can contain around 710 – 980 mg of sodium which provides about 30 to 40% of the daily recommended intake; slightly lower than traditional soy sauce.
For those looking for healthier options or aiming for reduced sodium intake, look out for reduced-sodium versions that offer around 50% less sodium than their regular counterparts.