Soy Sauce Fail

Fake Soy Sauce Packet

We had dinner delivered from our local Chinese food place last night.  (It made for an excellent cheat meal — their steamed shrimp dumplings are particularly divine.)

As I was tossing our unwanted packets of soy sauce into the trash (I always forget to ask them to leave them out!), the ingredient list caught my eye.

I always thought Soy Sauce was supposed to come from fermented soy beans.   The closest these little packets get to that was the inclusion of hydrolyzed vegetable protein.

Their HVP could come from soybeans, but there’s no way of knowing.  And even it if it does, it’s a far cry from the centuries-old process of fermenting them.

Here’s the ingredient list in that little packet:

water, salt, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, caramel color, molasses, monosodium glutamate, citric acid, and potassium sorbate (preservative).

And here’s the ingredient list in the bottle of the Kikkoman Less-Sodium Soy Sauce in my fridge:

water, wheat, soybeans, salt, lactic acid, sodium benzoate (preservative)

Quite a difference, no?

The only possible benefit I can come up with in favor of the packet is that, if the HVP isn’t made with wheat, it would be a viable alternative for people who avoid gluten. (Gluten-Free Readers:  Curious to know your thoughts!)

Although a little packet of this soy, I mean, salt sauce won’t kill you in the grand scheme of things, this is a good example of how it’s important to stay forever vigilant, always paying attention to what you’re putting into your body.

I won’t be eating either of these during the month of October, when I’ll be giving up all processed foods.  Join me!

A photo of Andrew Wilder leaning into the frame and smiling, hovering over mixing bowls in the kitchen.

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December 16, 2015 1:56 pm

Forgot to mention the MSG is this crappy soy sauce.

September 16, 2010 2:50 pm

You can get shoyu and miso starters from GEM cultures: There’s no time to start like now! I haven’t tried it yet.

Tony Feng
Reply to  Andrew
January 5, 2014 5:40 pm


September 12, 2010 8:55 am

OK, here’s the real deal, from a former macrobiotic chef. Forget anything labeled just “soy sauce.” What you want is going to be labelled “tamari” (originally the by-product of miso-making) or “shoyu” (legally mandated to be naturally fermented soy). Eden and Oshawa are reliable brands, and San J has some good ones, too. I would seek out organic, which will eliminate the possibility of ingesting GMO soybeans. The artificial (chemically processed instead of micriobiotically fermented by aspergillus oryzae and soyae) soy sauces have been shown to contain known-cancer causing ingredients and many brands were recently banned in England. Miso and tamari, BTW, can be made at home but it takes months to years to do so.

September 11, 2010 8:29 pm

On the GF front, I don’t trust anything that is not clearly labeled (for the wife, of course, I am not gluten intolerant). When it comes to Soy Sauce, we use San-J Tamari Soy Sauce, because it says on the bottle it is gluten free.

Water, Organic Soybeans, Salt, Organic Alcohol (to preserve freshness).
Beat that, yo.

San-J also produces a number of gluten free sauces that are soy sauce based, like szechuan sauce, etc. Full disclosure, I do not work for San-J, and they have never ever given me anything for free or a reduced price. I just pimp ’em ’cause I love ’em.