There are a great many variations on the theme of 'Soy sauce'. And whilst there are lots of descriptions of the difference, I can't find the answer to this question:

Which other soy sauce(s?) is Tamari closest too.

My specific scenario is this:

I use and intend to continue using Tamari as my go-to "soy sauce". But I've been seeing a lot of recipes asking for Chinese light AND dark soy sauce. So I'm thinking of buying 1 other "actual" soy sauce to complement my tamari in these recipes.

  1. Which other soy sauce should I buy, light or dark.

  2. (Just in case ...) Is this actually a good idea or will it Not Work, for some reason?


  • See also questions about the difference between Tamari and Soy Sauce, such as this one.
    – hoc_age
    Apr 3, 2015 at 21:34

2 Answers 2


Your typical Tamari is, to my understanding, going to be closer to dark than light soy sauce. So you'd want light as a second soy sauce.

Inside Japan, there are five kinds of soy sauce:

  • Koikuchi, which is your most typical soy sauce
  • Usukuchi, which is lighter because it has fermented rice in it
  • Tamari, which has more soy than wheat and thus is a bit darker
  • Shiro, which has more wheat than soy and thus is a bit lighter
  • Saishikomi, which is "twice-brewed" and thus twice as dark

In China, you have two: regular "light" soy sauce, and "dark", which is the light stuff processed further and aged. Therefore, "sashikomi" is the Japanese equivalent to dark soy sauce, if you want to stick with Japanese classifications.

If your recipes are aimed at english-speaking audiences, however, the terms are likely to be used a lot looser and less precisely than in Japan or China. Kikkoman, which is the biggest name brand I've seen in the US, brews a regular, a Tamari, and a gluten-free (Tamari can have some gluten in it). Therefore, I would normally assume that to an American chef, "dark soy sauce" is Tamari. "Light soy sauce" might mean the low-sodium stuff, or it might mean Shiro or Usukuchi. Your basic unqualified "soy sauce" is Koikuchi.

  • 2
    An excellent point that 'light' might mean 'low sodium'.
    – Joe
    Apr 3, 2015 at 19:17

Tamari (which is essentially soy sauce made without using flour) is generally darker and richer than Chinese style soy sauces. Therefore it is closer to dark soy sauce, so if you want to balance it, go for a light soy sauce.

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