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12 Recipes That Put Soy Sauce Center Stage

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Soy sauce has become a ubiquitous kitchen staple. I keep a bottle in my fridge at all times—it’s one of the few things I restock before it runs out. Its applications are many—like, sooo many. After all, home cooks have had about 2,000 years to dream up novel uses for the sauce (it originated in East Asia way back in the Western Han dynasty). Soy sauce is made from a combination of fermented soybeans, roasted grain, brine, and mold and lends its trademark umami to any dish, a bold and brackish rounding out of flavors.

Since its creation, the sauce has spread across the Asian continent (and to the rest of the world), developing many iterations along the way. When most English-written recipes call for soy sauce, they’re referring to light soy sauce, which is used in a lot of Chinese cooking. But there’s also tamari, shoyu, kecap manis—soy by-products that bear distinct flavor profiles, preparations, usages, and cultural contexts. Read how Pat Tanumihardja, community member and cookbook author, parses the differences between varieties.

All About Soy Sauce

All About Soy Sauce by Pat Tanumihardja

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Add 3 Bottles to Your Pantry For Infinite Stir-Fries, Braises & Soups

Add 3 Bottles to Your Pantry For Infinite Stir-Fries, Bra... by Sarah Jampel

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Soy sauce figures well into sauce mixes for braises, drizzled over simple rice dishes, whisked into salad dressing. It lifts and complicates and provides a welcome foil to oil’s heaviness. I’m also a sucker for dipping anything directly into it. Mixed with Shaoxing wine and toasted sesame oil, soy sauce joins a holy trifecta that can bring your weeknight braises, soups, and stir-frys to new heights. For more specific inspiration, here are a variety of uses for soy sauce, that vivid and versatile kitchen favorite.

Dunk or Drizzle

Soy Sauce Butter Popcorn

Soy Sauce Butter Popcorn by Posie (Harwood) Brien

Lumpia (Filipino Egg Rolls)

Lumpia (Filipino Egg Rolls) by Madeline Hall

Spruce up a Salad

Lacinato Kale & Mint Salad With Spicy Peanut Dressing

Lacinato Kale & Mint Salad With Spicy Peanut Dressing by dymnyno

Shaking Beef (or Other) Salad

Shaking Beef (or Other) Salad by Alexandra Stafford

You Braise Me up

Chinese Style Honey Hoisin Sticky Ribs

Chinese Style Honey Hoisin Sticky Ribs by thirschfeld

Coconut Water–Braised Pork Belly (Thit Kho Tàu)

Coconut Water–Braised Pork Belly (Thit Kho Tàu) by Imogen Kwok

Go for the Glaze

Ginger Soy Glazed Salmon

Ginger Soy Glazed Salmon by Meatballs&Milkshakes

Rachel Khoo's Sticky Malaysian Chicken with Pineapple Salad

Rachel Khoo's Sticky Malaysian Chicken with Pineapple Salad by The Curious Pear

Master the Marinade

Marinated Mushrooms, Sichuan-Style

Marinated Mushrooms, Sichuan-Style by Josh Cohen

Spicy Orange-Ginger Chicken

Spicy Orange-Ginger Chicken by foxeslovelemons

Why not try stir-fry?

Shrimp and Baby Bok Choy Stir-Fry

Shrimp and Baby Bok Choy Stir-Fry by ieatthepeach

Weeknight Soy Sauce-y, Peanut-y Tofu

Weeknight Soy Sauce-y, Peanut-y Tofu by Nicholas Day

What's your go-to use for soy sauce? Tell us about your favorites in the comment section below.

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Japanese, Sauce, Chicken, Weeknight Cooking