For that salty, earthy, umami, authentic flavor that is prevalent in most Asian dishes, you can’t leave out the soy sauce. What is the difference between tamari, soy sauce, and liquid aminos? They all are derived from the same ingredient… soybeans. The exception to this is coconut aminos, we will get to that a little later.
The basic structure of soy sauce and tamari is the same. Soybeans are cooked and then fermented by adding a salt brine and allowing all of the microorganisms to break down the proteins and sugars in the soybeans. Then the mixture is pressed, the liquid is extracted and pasteurized. The traditional method of making soy sauce can take 18 months to 3 years to complete. Modern practices add bacterial and fungal cultures and can create sauce from the bean within a few days.
Traditional soy sauce includes roasted wheat or other grains in order to deepen the flavor, therefore it contains gluten. Dark soy sauce has had molasses or caramel added after brewing to make a sweeter, more complex flavor. Tamari is the gluten free version. It is simply fermented soybeans. It has a smoother, deeper flavor than soy sauce.
Liquid aminos, however, is made in a different way. It is not fermented. This liquid protein concentrate is made by treating soybeans with hydrochloric acid to create free amino acids, then neutralizing the remaining acid with sodium bicarbonate, which creates sodium chloride (hence the salty taste.) Corn syrup, caramel, water, and salt may be added to create flavor. Aminos are said to be rich in amino acids like arginine, glutamic acid, glycine, serine, tyrosine, lysine, and more. It’s marketed as a non-fermented alternative to soy sauce and tamari, and is often labeled as GMO-free.
Coconut aminos is made from raw coconut tree sap which is combined with sea salt and naturally aged. It is a soy free alternative and is catching on fast.
Try them all to figure out which works best for you.