Is Soy Sauce Paleo? Bacteria, Wheat, and the Things You Don’t Know

Jeremy Hendon | July 3

Soy sauce is at the heart of practically every Asian cuisine. It’s cooked into most Chinese foods, and it’s impossible to go to a sushi restaurant without seeing dozens of little soy sauce bottles.

Oh, and it’s delicious in all its salty glory.

Still, you’re Paleo and committed to improving your health and diet, so the big question is whether or not it’s good for you. And you have a sneaking feeling that the word “soy” in the name probably means that it’s on the blacklist of Paleo Don’t Eats.

Soy sauce is a salty brown liquid that is added to various recipes. For example, most Chinese stir-fries will have soy sauce. And if you’ve ever had sushi, you would have dipped your sushi (or sashimi) in soy sauce.

If you don’t eat much Asian cuisine, then you probably don’t use soy sauce very often, although it’s very versatile and can be used for a variety of non-Asian dishes.

How is Soy Sauce Made?

To fully appreciate whether or not soy sauce is Paleo, we really need to look beyond just its name and think about both the ingredients and the process for making soy sauce.

To make things just a little bit more complicated, though, soy sauce can be made in a number of different ways and might include a number of different ingredients. Let’s start at the beginning…

But first, here’s a quick video, where I discuss most of the issues with soy sauce.

Traditional Soy Sauce

Soy sauce originated in China several thousand years ago (at least so far as we know).

Traditionally, it was made by soaking and boiling soy beans and then fermenting them for months in a brine (salt water). It’s actually this fermentation process that gives soy sauce its characteristic brown color.

After fermentation, the solids are removed, and you’re left with a dark brown liquid (soy sauce).

Modern Soy Sauce

A few soy sauces are still made in the traditional way, but most modern soy sauces are quite different.

First of all, all modern soy sauces are pasteurized. This kills all of the bacteria in soy sauce (probably not a good thing, since those bacteria created through fermentation are likely pretty beneficial for us), and it makes the soy sauce more “shelf-stable” so that it can be sold and used for months or even years after it’s made.

Added Wheat

Most modern soy sauce is actually made using an initial mixture of 1/2 soybeans and 1/2 wheat, both of which are cooked and then fermented. The fermented wheat adds extra flavor to the soy sauce, but it also deposits quite a bit of gluten (not something I’m very happy about).

Even soy sauces that don’t use 1/2 wheat almost always still include some wheat in the process.

Added Sugar and Coloring

If you visited many homes in China, you’d actually notice that they usually have 2 different types of soy sauce. On one hand, they’ll have a “regular” soy sauce (like those described above), which is used mostly for stir-frying dishes. On the other hand, they’ll also have a much darker soy sauce (called laochou), which is aged and contains added caramel and/or molasses, for use with meats and fish to make the food darker in color.

To be fair, there are a ton of different types of soy sauces, and the exact method and the exact ingredients will vary from brand to brand and from country to country.


As you can imagine, waiting months for soybeans to ferment is not something that large food companies like to do.

So in order to skip the months of fermentation and make the soy sauce even more shelf stable, some brands of modern soy sauce are made through acid-hydrolysis (a process that takes around three days). In this process, the soybean proteins are removed using hydrochloric acid and a variety of colorings and flavorings are then added in.

Is Soy Sauce Paleo?

Truthfully, No.

Even the traditional soy sauces aren’t really Paleo.

However, a soy sauce made from just soy (no wheat, sugars, or colorings) in the traditionally fermented method probably won’t cause you many problems.

If you recall from our article on Why Soy is the Worst Kind of Legume, soy contains a ton of phytoestrogens (in the form of isoflavones), which can cause problems such as “man-boobs,” infertility, etc. Luckily for everyone who loves Asian foods, soy sauce actually contains little or no isoflavones.

In other words, feel free to add a little soy sauce to your Paleo dishes occasionally, but make sure you buy gluten-free ones made in the traditional method.

Here are a few brands I recommend:

San-J Organic Tamari Soy Sauce

Wan Ja Shan Organic Tamari Soy Sauce

Also, here are a couple of recipes that are delicious with soy sauce:

Cauliflower Rice

Paleo Egg and Carrot Breakfast

What Do You Think?

I’ve got a couple other articles coming soon – Is Tamari Sauce Paleo? and What About Umami and Glutamates? Stay on the lookout for those, or sign up for our email list (below) to get updated when I publish those articles!

In the meantime… Do you use soy sauce? Do you find that when you eat it, you feel different or experience any problems? Let me know in the comments below!

Images (in order): Olivier H, worldoflard, and Olivier H.

Tamari vs Soy Sauce vs Coconut Aminos

by Lisa Bryan — January 25, 2018This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

Tamari is a great gluten-free soy sauce alternative. But what is tamari? And how does it differ from soy sauce and coconut aminos in terms of production and flavor. Is all tamari gluten-free? Let’s dive in and I’ll explain.

When I went gluten-free several years ago, I still remember being shocked at how gluten managed to sneak into so many unsuspecting foods. Soups, teas, chewing gum….and sushi? Say what?

As an avid sushi-lover, it broke my heart to learn that gluten was indeed in my soy sauce. And in fact, there’s quite a bit of it. But after a little online sleuthing I soon discovered tamari and coconut aminos – my sushi saviors and “go-to’s” for Asian-inspired meals.

But as these food products were new to me (and they may be for you), let’s break down how they’re different, starting with the one you’re likely most familiar with.

What is Soy Sauce?

Soy sauce is a condiment frequently used in Chinese and Japanese cuisine. It’s dark brown color is punctuated with a salty, savory, umami flavor and most folks know it from eating sushi, though it’s used in numerous Asian sauces and marinades as well.

The flavor of soy sauce comes from fermented soybeans, along with roasted grains (wheat), salt, water and a mold or yeast culture.

Interestingly enough, there isn’t just one type of soy sauce. In fact, there are hundreds of variations of this basic condiment. In the US, we most frequently find a light soy sauce (the most common type), a dark soy sauce (with added caramel color or molasses to thicken and sweeten it) and a low-sodium soy sauce (which uses less salt in the production process).

What is Tamari?

So now that you know what soy sauce is, let’s chat about tamari. In the most basic sense, tamari is soy sauce made without the roasted grains (wheat). Unfortunately, nothing is ever quite that easy.

While most tamari products in the US from major brands such as San-J and Eden Organic are 100% gluten-free, you do need to watch labels as some tamari sauce brands could use just “less wheat” – which would still be enormously problematic if you’re celiac like I am. As always, read your ingredient labels.

Because tamari is made from more soybeans (and I like to think, less “filler”) I find that it has a bolder, stronger flavor than soy sauce. But it’s a flavor that I’ve come to love.

What are Coconut Aminos?

Coconut aminos are a soy-free alternative to soy sauce. Made from just two ingredients – coconut tree sap and salt – coconut aminos are popular in the paleo community and for those who are avoiding soy for health reasons.

Coconut aminos are still dark in color and have that salty, umami flavor, though contain far less sodium and have a more mild, slightly sweeter and perhaps more diluted flavor.

They’re definitely not as strong in flavor as tamari, but are a great soy sauce alternative.

Which is Better – Soy Sauce, Tamari or Coconut Aminos?

Of course, the answer to this is highly individual and nuanced. As a celiac, I simply can’t eat soy sauce anymore, so that’s off the table for me. But if you don’t have a problem with gluten and you’d like to enjoy soy sauce, I’d recommend always purchasing organic soy sauce. Soybeans are one of the top GMO and pesticide-laden crops, so it’s worth spending the extra money on organic.

I enjoy both organic tamari and coconut aminos and switch things up based on what I’m eating. Because I avoid soy in almost all other capacities (and ensure it’s not an added ingredient in purchased food products), I’m fine splurging on organic tamari when enjoying sushi once or twice a month. I personally love the stronger flavor.

But coconut aminos are nothing to brush under the rug either and I use them frequently in sauces, marinades or other recipes that may already include savory ingredients and salt. Additionally, if you’re paleo or following an AIP or Whole30 diet or avoiding soy for a variety of reasons, coconut aminos will be your preferred choice.

A Few More Gluten-Free Tamari Tips

  • Always read ingredient labels to ensure your bottle of tamari is 100% gluten-free
  • Remember that it’s extremely difficult to distinguish between soy sauce, tamari and coconut aminos based on looks alone. Poured into a glass jar, they all look the same.
  • If eating out, remember to not only request to see the bottle of gluten-free tamari, but also verify that soy sauce or other sauces (such as ponzu, which is also made from soy sauce) were not used as a marinade for any ingredients in your meal.
  • If eating sushi, remember to always verify that the rice is gluten-free. Many sushi restaurants will use malt vinegar when cooking the rice, which is not gluten-free.
  • This is the brand of tamari and coconut aminos that I personally buy.

Enjoy these Tamari Recipes

If you’d like some recipe inspiration, I’ve got you covered. I adore Asian food and these are a few of my favorite recipes that use tamari. But remember, you can always substitute coconut aminos in any of these recipes.

  • Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps (gluten-free, paleo)
  • Cauliflower Fried Rice (gluten-free, paleo)
  • Asian Cauliflower Rice with Ginger Shrimp (gluten-free, paleo)
  • Kale Chips


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posted in:
Healthy Living

by Lisa Bryan — January 25, 2018

Growing up, my family’s kitchen cupboards were always jam-packed with bottles of all shapes and sizes—multiple soy sauces, vinegars and chili sauces. The combination of different sauces is key to achieving the perfect balance of sweet, salty, sour, spicy and bitter found in Asian cooking. As a result, I’ve always considered myself a bit of a condiment connoisseur and my own pantry is a jumble of chili sauces, vinegars and even four (yes, four!) types of soy sauce. But I’ve been missing out on one until recently: coconut sauce.

It’s rare for me to be surprised by a new product. But that’s exactly what happened. I was cooking kung pao chicken and bok choy salad for a dinner party in a gluten- and soy-free home, which called for serious improvisation when seasoning my dishes. Soy sauce was out of the question (it contains wheat), as was tamari (which contains soy). So what’s left? Coconut seasoning sauce—the perfect soy sauce substitute.

What is coconut sauce?

Coconut sauce, also known as coconut aminos, isn’t your typical liquid seasoning. While other Asian liquid seasonings, like Maggi sauce and Knorr liquid seasoning are laden with preservatives, MSG and artificial flavours, coconut sauce usually has a short two-ingredient list: coconut sap and sea salt. (Some may also include coconut nectar.) The all-natural ingredients mean that this product is also paleo diet-friendly. The combination of subtly sweet-and-sour coconut sap and the sea salt ticks most of the boxes needed to balance flavours in Asian dishes. I found that because of this sweet-and-sour flavour combo, I didn’t need to add as much of the sugar and acid called for in my recipes.

The dinner was a hit. My dining companions were surprised to find out I didn’t use any soy sauce, and my restrictive-diet friend was elated she now had a sauce she could use to cook up Asian recipes. Whether we should toss out all our soy sauces in favour of this substitute is up for debate; to my discerning (and professional) palate, there’s a slight difference in taste, but I believe most wouldn’t notice. Plus, there’s value in having this option available when preparing meals for guests or crowds with dietary restrictions (ie. potlucks).

A longtime staple in health food stores, coconut sauce is now stocked at many major grocery stores. The bottles are usually tucked away in the health food aisle, amidst the goji berries and spirulina powders. The brand I tried, Naked Coconuts (pictured above), can be found at Loblaws and ordered online at

How to use coconut sauce

When cooking with coconut sauce at home, just think of it as an alternative to soy sauce or tamari. Whether you use it in stir-fries, fried rice, dressings or marinades, the key is to taste as you go: Start by substituting an equal amount of coconut sauce for soy sauce. Because coconut sauce typically contains up to 70 percent less sodium (depending on the brand) than soy sauce, it’s best to taste, then add more if you find the dish needs more saltiness. If your recipe calls for sugar/honey or vinegar, add half the quantity of each. Taste, then add more if needed (up to the full amount of soy sauce called for in the recipe).

I also tried this seasoning sauce in Chatelaine’s shoyu eggs recipe to great success. Instead of using the soy sauce, rice vinegar and granulated sugar called for, I substituted with 1 cup coconut sauce, making it a gluten- and soy-free dish.

Try coconut sauce in some of these recipes, using the substitution method above.

Sesame-chicken lettuce wraps

Photo, Jodi Pudge.

Salmon Poke Bowl

Photo, Erik Putz.

Spicy Nutty Dressing

Photo, Erik Putz.

Thai Tofu Quinoa Bowl

Photo, Erik Putz.

Originally published April 2018; Updated April 2019.

Coconut Aminos: Is It the Perfect Soy Sauce Substitute?

Coconut aminos is just one option of a variety of possible soy sauce substitutes. Some may be a better choice than others, depending on the intended use.

Liquid Aminos

Liquid aminos is made by treating soybeans with an acidic chemical solution that breaks down the soy protein into free amino acids. The acid is then neutralized with sodium bicarbonate. The end result is a dark, salty seasoning sauce, comparable to soy sauce.

Like coconut aminos, liquid aminos is gluten-free. However, it contains soy, making it inappropriate for those avoiding this substance.

Liquid aminos has 320 mg of sodium in one teaspoon (5 ml) — much higher than the 90 mg of sodium in the same amount of coconut aminos (4).


Tamari is a Japanese seasoning sauce made from fermented soybeans. It’s darker, richer and tastes slightly less salty than traditional soy sauce.

Though not appropriate for soy-free diets, one of the distinguishing characteristics of tamari is that it’s typically made without wheat. For this reason, it’s a popular choice for those following gluten- and wheat-free diets.

Tamari has over 300 mg of sodium per teaspoon (5 ml) and is thus less appropriate for reduced-sodium diets compared to coconut aminos (5).

Homemade Soy Sauce Substitutes

For the do-it-yourself (DIY) crowd, there’s a wide selection of possible recipes for homemade soy sauce substitutes.

Typically, homemade soy sauce substitutes eliminate sources of soy, wheat and gluten. Like coconut aminos, they may be a good choice for those avoiding these allergens.

Though recipes vary, homemade sauces usually add sugar from molasses or honey. This may be a problem for those looking to manage their blood sugar.

Even though coconut aminos is made from a sugary substance, it has a low sugar content due to its fermentation process. It contains just one gram of sugar per teaspoon (5 ml), which is unlikely to have any significant impact on your blood sugar.

Many homemade recipes use high-sodium ingredients, such as broth, bouillon or table salt. Depending on the amounts used, these may be less suitable than coconut aminos for those looking to reduce sodium in their diets.

Fish and Oyster Sauce

Fish and oyster sauces are often used to replace soy sauce in recipes, though for different reasons.

Oyster sauce is a thick, rich sauce made from boiled oysters. It’s more akin to dark soy sauce, though notably less sweet. It’s usually chosen as a dark soy sauce alternative due to its thick texture and culinary application, not for any particular health benefit.

Coconut aminos would not make a good substitute for dark soy sauce, as it’s too thin and light.

Fish sauce is a thinner, lighter and salty seasoning sauce made from dried fish. It’s typically used in Thai-style dishes and is both gluten- and soy-free.

Fish sauce is high in sodium, so it’s not a viable soy sauce replacement for those trying to reduce their salt intake (6).

Moreover, fish and oyster sauces would not be appropriate substitutions for vegetarian or vegan diets.

Summary Coconut aminos is lower in sodium than most other popular soy sauce alternatives while also being free from common allergens. It may not be as useful for some culinary dishes.

Coconut Aminos Fried Rice (Gluten-Free)

A lightened up, soy-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, healthier version of fried rice, that is super easy to make and super tasty!

This Coconut Aminos Fried Rice recipe has been my go-to fried rice takeout replacement. It’s a lightened up, soy-free, healthier version of fried rice, that is super easy to make and super tasty!

I posted about it in my stories on Instagram, and so many of you asked me to provide the recipe, that I decided to share it here on the blog!

This recipe came to be because I had the biggest craving for Chinese food takeout… I mean, I wanted some BAD.

But I knew that there was nothing on the menu that I could actually order.

Why? Well, I have had to be dairy-free and soy-free for the past 11 months now.

No exceptions.

My baby has both a dairy and soy intolerance and so I have completely cut both out of my diet while I am breastfeeding her.

I have been very strict with adhering to this diet because it’s for someone else.

If being dairy-free and soy-free was about only me, I would probably have a little here or there and deal with the consequences.

But I can’t do that to her.

So… when I was craving fried rice, I knew that I couldn’t order it out. I had to make it myself!

I experimented making homemade fried rice several times, before figuring out my favorite way to make it.

Basically, the more simple the better. With extra scrambled eggs, fresh peas and carrots, and a hint of ginger.

SO good!

  • And if I am being honest, I actually prefer fried rice made with coconut aminos more than fried rice made with soy sauce.

    I have come to really like the taste of coconut aminos. It has a sweeter flavor than soy sauce. It also seems less harsh in flavor to me.

    I now bring coconut aminos with me to sushi restaurants. I just love it!

    If you are looking for a healthier, soy-free, gluten-free homemade fried rice recipe, try this Coconut Aminos Fried Rice and let me know what you think!

    Oh and if you want to make a whole “take-out” meal, try making this Paleo Skillet Honey Sesame Chicken to go with it!

    5 from 1 vote Servings: 8 servings Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 10 minutes Total Time: 30 minutes A lightened up, soy-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, healthier version of fried rice, that is super easy to make and super tasty!


    • 3 cups cooked rice
    • 2 Tbs sesame oil
    • 1/2 white onion, , diced
    • 1 cup peas, ( fresh or frozen )
    • 1 cup carrots (thinly sliced and quartered), ( fresh or frozen) (this was 2 carrots for me)
    • 4 eggs, , lightly beaten
    • 5 Tbs coconut aminos
    • ½ tsp ground ginger
    • ½ tsp garlic powder


    • Add sesame oil to a large frying pan or wok and heat over medium heat. Add the onion, peas, and carrots and sauté until tender. The cooking time will vary based on if you are using frozen or fresh veggies. I used fresh and it took me 8 minutes.
    • Push the sautéed onion, peas and carrots to one side of the pan. Then pour the beaten eggs into the other side. Mix the eggs around using a spatula, and keep mixing until the eggs are scrambled. This took 2 minutes for me. After the eggs are cooked, mix them into the sautéed veggies.
    • Next, add the cooked white rice to the pan. Mix into the sautéed veggies. Then add the garlic powder, ground ginger, and coconut aminos on top. Mix everything together until combined and the rice is heated through.


    *You can use leftover rice or make rice specifically for this recipe. Sticky white rice works best. To make it sticky— use 1 cup of uncooked rice and cook it in 2 cups water. Heat on high until the water is boiling and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Let it cook uncovered until the water has evaporated. Mix it every so often until you notice the rice has started sticking a little to the bottom. The rice should be sticky and cooked through. This takes me about 16 minutes but it depends on the size of your pan. Course: Side Dish Cuisine: Chinese Keyword: coconut aminos, fried rice Author: Dominique | Perchance to Cook

    Coconut aminos is a savory seasoning sauce that has become a popular substitute for soy sauce in gluten-free, paleo, and Whole30 diets. This condiment is made from aging coconut tree sap and has an umami quality with a slight sweetness.

    What is Coconut Aminos?

    If you’re on the Whole30 or Paleo diet, you might have noticed that coconut aminos are on the “yes” list. What is coconut aminos and how do you use it?

    How It’s Made: Coconut aminos is a sauce made from the nectar of the coconut blossom, commonly referred to as the sap. The sauce is made from tapping the unopened flowers of a coconut tree, then fermenting the resulting nectar with a little bit of salt added.

    Taste: It’s dark, thick, salty and slightly sweet–you can think of it as a syrup with high umami qualities, thanks to the fermentation process breaking down the proteins into flavorful amino acids, like glutamate. I’ve found the savory notes to be less intense, but still flavorful.

    Since it comes from a coconut tree, it’s soy-free and gluten-free, with a taste profile that makes it an ideal substitute for soy sauce.

    Health Benefits of Coconut Aminos

    The health benefits of coconut aminos are wide-ranging. It’s ideal for those with gluten allergies or intolerances, soy allergies or intolerances or those looking to complete Whole30 or live by a Paleo diet. It also comes with a reduced risk for heart disease, diabetes, and colon cancer when compared with soy sauce, thanks to the lack of MSG, GMOs and phytoestrogen and phytic acid.

    Coconut aminos is also jam-packed with 17 amino acids, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin B and scores low on the glycemic index. It’s low calorie–just five calories per teaspoon.

    Cooking with Coconut Aminos

    Cooking with coconut aminos is easy, especially when you have soy sauce in mind.

    • Marinade: It works well as a marinade for any meat or fish, especially tougher textures and flavors like beef, pork, and shrimp.
    • Sauce: Mix it with ginger, garlic, and cornstarch or arrowroot powder to make a stir-fry sauce and cook it in a wok with protein and vegetables.
    • Seasoning: Combine it with sushi for a different kind of dipping sauce, or use it in place of salt when cooking up soups.
    • Dressings: Combine it with lemon, vinegar and olive oil for salad dressings.

    As you can imagine, the possibilities are endless, mainly when thinking up Asian-inspired dishes. You can buy it online or find it at most health food stores–even Whole Foods and Target carry it! Have you ever cooked with coconut aminos before or are you a newbie? Let me know in the comments!

    Popular on Amazon

    Here are a few of the most popular Coconut Aminos products listed on

    • Coconut Secret
    • Coconut Secret 3 Pack (Original, Garlic, Teriyaki)
    • Bragg Liquid Aminos
    • Big Tree Farms Coco Aminos

    Some of the links above are affiliate links, which pay me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting my website.

    Yeah, yeah, if you eat enough coconut oil you’ll be able to lose fat while gaining muscle, fast until 4pm without hunger, and squat twice your bodyweight until you’re 150.* But even though coconut is an excellent source of healthy fat, some people just don’t react well to it – from rashes, to indigestion to everything in between. So here’s a practical guide to replacing all things coconut with other Paleo-friendly alternatives.

    *Not really. Sorry.

    Coconut oil (for cooking)

    Coconut oil is the staple cooking fat for Paleo meals, but it’s far from your only choice. You have so many other Paleo choices for cooking fat that replacing coconut oil is a snap. Try…

    • Animal fat (lard, tallow, schmaltz, etc.). Tallow, or beef fat, is particularly good for cooking at high heat because it’s very saturated, just like coconut oil.
    • Butter
    • Healthy plant fats (olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, or red palm oil). Avocado oil is especially good if you want something without a strong taste of its own.

    Your favorite of this list will depend on what you’re using it for, but there’s something for everyone in the non-coconut fat department.

    Just as a point of trivia, red palm oil actually contains a respectable concentration of medium-chain triglycerides, the famously healthy fats that make coconut oil so fantastic. So if you’re looking specifically for an MCT substitute, then palm oil is your next-best choice.

    Coconut oil (for beauty/cosmetic uses)

    Coconut oil isn’t just for the table! It’s also used as a moisturizer, hair conditioner, mouth rinse…for any product you can buy at CVS, there’s probably a coconut-oil version of it somewhere. But even if your skin rebels at the thought of putting cheap moisturizer on it, you still have non-coconut options:

    • Skin: jojoba oil, cocoa butter, avocado oil, or shea butter are all excellent choices for moisturizers and general Paleo skincare.
    • Hair: if your skin is so sensitive that you can’t do any commercial products, look into the no-(sham)poo method. The most popular way to do no-poo is to rinse with baking soda, and condition with vinegar, but you also have plenty of other options as well.
    • Teeth: toothpaste can be an issue with coconut allergies because sodium laurel sulfate (the ingredient that makes the toothpaste foam) is derived from coconut. But there are some brands without it; just look for “SLS-free” on the label. Alternately, if you’re into oil pulling, you can just replace coconut with sesame seed oil.

    Coconut milk (and/or coconut cream)

    This one’s a little tougher. So many Paleo recipes call for coconut milk to add a creamy texture to curries, sauces, and desserts. But you do have alternatives. For a substitution, why not try…

    • Almond milk: tastes a little “nutty,” which not everyone likes, but it’s widely available.
    • Cashew milk: slightly sweeter, and has a taste that most people find a little closer to cow’s milk.

    Either would work well in a curry or drink recipe, or just as something to lighten your coffee with. If you’re struggling to get the texture right, a pinch of gelatin might also help thicken up a gravy and provide the same creaminess as coconut milk.

    You can get both at grocery stories, but almost all grocery-store versions come with added sugar and flavorings along for the ride. A cheaper and healthier option is to make them yourself at home. Here’s a recipe for almond milk, and here’s one for cashew milk.

    Coconut flour

    Coconut flour is used in everything from Paleo cookies to the breading on your fried chicken. But with so many excellent grain-free flours out there, it’s not hard to find a substitute. Just beware: you cannot substitute coconut flour 1-to-1! Coconut flour sucks up a lot more water than just about anything else, so you can’t just chuck any old powdered thing in there and call it a day. If you’re not a master grain-free baker, it’s usually best to look for a recipe specifically calling for whatever flour you’re looking for, instead of trying to substitute one for another.

    • For baking or breading, try: almond flour, hazelnut flour, or any other nut flour.
    • For thickening sauces, try: tapioca starch or arrowroot powder.

    Another option is to find recipes that don’t use any flour at all, like these flourless brownies.

    It’s also worth mentioning that this shouldn’t really be a huge deal. If your “Paleo” diet is comprised mainly of “Paleo cookies” washed down with “Paleo bread” and “Paleo pizza,” then it’s not really Paleo; it’s a sad, second-rate imitation of standard American junk food. Any kind of flour replacement should be an occasional treat, not an everyday staple. But for those times when you do want a special treat, coconut flour is far from the only option.

    Coconut flakes

    Coconut flakes are mostly used to add that special touch of chewy sweetness to cookies, macaroons, or other treats. Sometimes they’re also sprinkled on top of a dish to add a crunch. Substitutions will vary depending on how you’re using them, but try…

    • As a sweet, chewy ingredient: raisins, dried cranberries, or other dried fruit.
    • For crunch on top of a salad: sunflower seeds, flax seeds, crumbled nut topping or dehydrated blueberries (or other berries).
    • As a “crust” ingredient: see one of the non-coconut flours listed above.

    Coconut aminos

    Coconut aminos are the Paleo answer to soy sauce. They deliver the same salty tang, only with no soy and no wheat. Unfortunately, if you also struggle with coconut, then this isn’t exactly an ideal solution.

    For a different option, here’s a recipe for a replacement with no soy, wheat, or coconut products. Let the stir-fries resume!

    Coconut water

    Found in bottles and juice boxes in the checkout line, coconut water is touted as an all-natural electrolyte replacement and energy drink, a little like Mother Nature’s Gatorade.

    That’s all true enough: it does have electrolytes, and it is better for you than chugging down a bottle of bright blue food coloring. But you can also make your very own electrolyte drink by squeezing a lemon into a bottle of water and adding a pinch of salt. Shake it up and gulp away; no coconut required.

    Coconut sap/coconut sugar

    Let’s get this straight: coconut sugar is sugar. Sugar does not magically become healthy because it’s made from the sap of a tree that also produces coconuts! So the bad news is that there’s nothing magical about “coconut sugar” that makes it healthier than any other kind of sugar. But the good news is that if it’s not special, it’s easy to replace. If you need a sweetener, you can substitute honey, molasses, or another Paleo-friendly sweetener, but bear in mind that no matter how “natural” it might be, you’re still essentially eating a spoonful of sugar. Keep it occasional and don’t try to fool yourself that it’s a health food.

    Coconut: Optional, not Required

    Coconut is a Paleo darling. And it is very good for you, but it’s certainly not required, and if it’s causing a bad reaction, then just skip it! Anything you can do with coconut, you can do with something else. From moisturizing your face to fueling your workout, there’s nothing that you have to rely on coconut for. So don’t let this one food stand between you and Paleo; it just shouldn’t be that big of an obstacle.

    Coconut Aminos Is the Good-for-You Alternative to Soy Sauce

    Getty Images

    Coconut aminos isn’t as mainstream as kale chips (yet), so unless you spend all your insomnia-fueled hours scrolling wellness-themed Instagram accounts, you’re probably wondering what coconut aminos is right about now.

    “Coconut aminos is the fermented byproduct of coconut nectar, harvested from a coconut tree, combined with sea salt,” explains Kimberly Snyder, CN, New York Times bestselling author and founder of Solluna. “It’s an amazing alternative to soy sauce or tamari that’s a bit thinner and more watery, with a slightly sweeter and less salty taste and an array of health benefits.”

    How healthy is coconut aminos?

    Unlike soy sauce, which is loaded with sodium and devoid of health benefits, coconut aminos contains a significant source of nutrients. “Besides being lower in sodium and low on the glycemic index, it’s gluten-, soy-, and wheat-free, so it’s great for those with allergies or food sensitivities,” says Emma Hulse, Splendid Spoon’s in-house registered dietician.

    More specifically, the coconut sap is rich with 17 different types of amino acids—which is why it’s called coconut aminos. “Each of these amino acids works together as your building blocks of protein, promoting your levels of energy and muscle repair,” explains Snyder. “It also contains amazing minerals like potassium, which is necessary for muscular function and digestion. Additionally, potassium can help regulate fluid balance in your body and help keep your blood pressure down.”

    Where to buy coconut aminos

    “When choosing a brand, make sure the product isn’t derived from soy or soy isolate,” says Ali Bourgerie of Shifting Nutrition. “Also make sure that it’s made from organic coconut sap, that it’s non-GMO, and contains no MSG or unnecessary processed additives.” She singles out the brand Coconut Secret as a favorite. “It’s hand-harvested from coconut tree sap grown on an organic farm in the Philippines and simply mixed with mineral-rich sea salt.” Another recommended brand is Trader Joe’s Organic Coconut Aminos Seasoning Sauce.

    How to use coconut aminos

    To use coconut aminos, simply substitute it into recipes that call for soy sauce or tamari. “You can toss a little coconut aminos onto your stir fry veggies, or drizzle it over your cooked quinoa or roasted veggies,” suggests Snyder. “I also like to use it in salad dressings, or mix it into a dipping sauce to snack on with chopped up veggies.” Hulse suggests using coconut aminos to make the All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce from Nom Nom Paleo. “This sauce takes any stir fry veggie dish to another level of delish!” she says.

    Another versatile sauce can be made by combining 1/3 cup tahini, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, a tablespoon of coconut aminos, and a pinch of salt. Just mix all ingredients and water to thin while whisking until desired consistency. “I love adding this mix into a rich red curry, marinating tempeh with it, serving it with sushi, or using it in a stir-fry with a little coconut sugar, grass-fed ground beef, and a whole lot of veggies,” Bourgerie says.

    Related: The Surprising Ingredient You Should Be Adding to Your Eggs

    Get started right now with our FREE Paleo Starter


    Do you have a craving that only a drizzle of salty, earthy soy sauce can cure? The unique flavor of soy sauce or tamari (a version made without wheat) is hard to duplicate, but rest easy, dear Paleo umami lovers; there is a replacement for you. Coconut aminos have stormed the soy-castle as a Paleo friendly substitution.

    While not an identical swap, coconut aminos serve as a natural condiment that can be used as a simple dipping sauce for sashimi, a savory salad dressing, or the perfect pork marinade.

    This miracle sauce is made from coconut tree sap and sea salt, with no other additives. Better yet, it’s raw, so all of those living nutrients, amino acids and enzymes from the tree sap are captured and passed directly along to you in the form of a better-than-the-original substitute for soy sauce. You get health benefits and flavor!

    Be careful not to confuse coconut aminos with Braggs liquid aminos, however. Braggs are actually a highly processed form of soy sauce that uses chemical reactions in place of natural fermentation methods. This is not a good Paleo alternative.

    The ugly? Although coconut aminos are a great substitution for soy sauce, coconut aminos do have a high sodium content like soy sauce does, so be sure to keep that in mind if you are watching your salt intake. They also have a slightly sweet taste, which might be off-putting to some, but when blended with a bit of high-quality fish sauce, the rich taste of coconut aminos can take a basic broth from ordinary to the stuff umami-flavored dreams are made of.

    Here is an easy recipe for a pork tenderloin marinade to get you started off on the right foot. It uses Paleo Plan recipes for Ginger Garlic Marinade and Cauliflower Rice to make a tasty Asian inspired Paleo meal.

    Ginger and Garlic Paleo Pork Tenderloin with Cauliflower Rice

    Makes: 4 servings

    Approximate active cooking time: 30 minutes (plus 2-24 hours of inactive cooking time to marinate the tenderloin)


    • 1-1/2 lb. pork tenderloin
    • 1 cup coconut aminos
    • 2 inches fresh ginger root, sliced
    • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
    • 1 cup white wine
    • ½ tsp. sea salt
    • 1 TB. coconut oil
    • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
    • 6-8 scallions, trimmed and sliced


    1. Slice pork tenderloin into 1-inch rounds.
    2. Place meat in a covered shallow dish (non-metal) or re-sealable plastic bag. Add coconut aminos, white wine, ginger root slices and garlic. Make sure that the marinade surrounds most of the meat.
    3. Cover and refrigerate 2 to 24 hours, turning the meat (or “squishing” the bag) several times to make sure the marinade covers the meat completely.
    4. Shortly before mealtime, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, remove the tenderloin from the marinade. Do not discard the leftover marinade. Sprinkle both sides of each pork slice with sea salt.
    5. When the pan is hot, add coconut oil and wait 15 seconds. (the pan should smoke slightly). Add tenderloin slices to the hot pan and cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side, (or until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F). Remove from pan, and let pork rest 5 to 10 minutes.
    6. While the meat is resting, reheat the same skillet over high heat. Remove the ginger slices from the leftover marinade and add the remaining liquid to the hot pan. Bring to a boil, uncovered, for 5 to 8 minutes to reduce into a thin sauce.
    7. Meanwhile, prepare the cauliflower rice by placing the raw cauliflower florets into a food processor fitted with a chopping blade. Pulse until a rice-like consistency has formed.
    8. Remove the cauliflower rice from the food processor and add to the boiling marinade. Stir with a wooden spoon and cook for an additional minute to heat through.
    9. To serve, scoop cauliflower rice with coconut amino sauce onto a plate, top with tenderloin slices, and garnish with sliced green onions.

    Make your favorite Asian recipes with this Soy Sauce Substitute. For just $1, you can make this easy soy sauce alternative with ingredients in your pantry.

    I love to cook Chinese food, but one thing is missing from my pantry: regular soy sauce. I’ve long given up on convention soy sauce because my family is gluten free and soy free, and I now know why soy is bad for my health.

    But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss it. Thankfully, I have a soy sauce alternative called Coconut Aminos on hand. It’s both gluten free and soy free – made from coconut sap. It tastes delicious and Paleo friendly as well. In fact, my Gluten-Free Fried Rice recipe calls for Coconut Aminos.

    Why Make Your Own Soy Sauce Substitute

    The store-bought gluten-free soy sauce can get expensive. On Amazon, it’s about $12 for a 8 oz. bottle. At my local health food store, it’s about $6.85 for the same bottle.

    That’s why I love having this Soy Sauce Substitute recipe on hand in case I need an alternative with basic ingredients I already have in my pantry. It’s really easy to make and a great way to use up leftover bone broth.

    More Recipes You Might Like

    • Easy Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl
    • Gluten-Free Fried Rice
    • Paleo Sweet and Sour Chicken

    Did you try this soy sauce substitute recipe? Don’t forget to rate the recipe and comment below to let me know how it went. You can also FOLLOW ME on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

    5 from 2 votes Soy Sauce Substitute Recipe (Soy-Free, Gluten-Free) Prep Time 1 min Cook Time 10 mins Total Time 11 mins Make your favorite Asian recipes with this Soy Sauce Substitute. For just $1, you can make this easy soy sauce alternative with ingredients in your pantry. Course: condiment Cuisine: Chinese Keyword: soy free soy sauce, soy sauce alternative Servings: 1 cup Calories: 151 kcal Author: Don’t Mess With Mama Ingredients

    • 1.5 cups bone broth
    • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
    • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
    • 1 tsp organic dark molasses
    • 2 tsp date sugar
    • 1/4 tsp organic garlic powder
    • 1/8 tsp organic onion powder
    • 1/8 tsp Himalayan salt
    • 1/8 tsp organic white pepper
    • 1/8 teaspoon organic ground ginger
    • 1 tsp sesame oil optional, but I love the flavor


    1. In a small saucepan, add all ingredients except salt and sesame oil.
    2. Bring ingredients to a boil and simmer on medium heat for about 10 minutes.
    3. Turn off heat, add in salt and sesame oil and stir until well mixed.
    4. Let cool and store in an airtight container for up to a week or freeze a portion of it to use for later.

    Nutrition Facts Soy Sauce Substitute Recipe (Soy-Free, Gluten-Free) Amount Per Serving Calories 151 Calories from Fat 36 % Daily Value* Fat 4g6% Sodium 446mg19% Potassium 102mg3% Carbohydrates 15g5% Sugar 12g13% Protein 12g24% Calcium 14mg1% Iron 0.3mg2% * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

    Want More Recipes?

    Check out my new book, Gluten-Free, Real Food Recipes for Kids. I wrote this book with YOU in mind. Parents who want to provide kids with wholesome meals without artificial colors, preservatives and other additives. All the recipes are gluten-free – with many options for grain free or Paleo, dairy free, egg free and vegetarian.

    What’s Included In This Book

    It’s filled with 130+ pages of content and recipes, including:

    • Real food nutrition 101
    • Detailed information on how to properly soak and sprout nuts, beans, grains and seeds
    • A guide on how to spot chemical additives and what to avoid
    • Kitchen essentials and cooking tools
    • Tips on how to get kids to become better eaters and help in the kitchen
    • 70+ gluten-free recipes – such as snacks and appetizers, beverages, condiments and dressings, main meals, desserts and more

    Photo credit: / vaaseenaa

    Coconut Aminos Are the Vegan, Gluten Free, Paleo Alternative to Soy Sauce

    If you follow Paleo blogs, you’ve probably seen recipes calling for this condiment as a substitute for soy sauce, but what exactly are coconut aminos anyway? The bottled sauce you find in stores is made by fermenting the sap of coconut trees, which yields a dark sauce that’s rich in amino acids, the building blocks of protein.

    What makes coconut aminos healthy?

    First and foremost, coconut aminos are the smart and safe choice for anyone who is allergic to soy. The taste of soy sauce should be enjoyed by everyone, right? It’s also the best bet for anyone with Celiac’s disease or gluten-intolerance, as coconut aminos are naturally gluten free. Traditional soy sauce does contain gluten with the exception of tamari. (To be fair, there are still some pretty nice Healthy Benefits of Soy.)

    Serena Marie, R.D., a dietitian based in Brooklyn, says she also recommends coconut aminos for her Paleo clients (the Paleo diet does not include any soy) or for those who are trying to avoid GMOs. Soy is actually one of the most common genetically engineered (GE) foods among American crops-with the USDA Economic Research Service reporting that 94 percent of all land used to farm soybeans contains herbicide-resistant GE crops. Coconut, meanwhile, is not a genetically modified crop, therefore making sure GMOs won’t make into your bottle of coconut aminos.

    Coconut aminos are also a good choice if you have high blood pressure because it’s much less salty than soy sauce, sometimes costing as much as 65 percent less in sodium. If you don’t have high BP and you miss the salty flavor of soy sauce, you can sprinkle a pinch of salt on dishes seasoned with coconut aminos, says Marie.

    Bonus benefit: Since coconut aminos are fermented, it’s possible that they could contain some beneficial live bacteria (that’s the kind your digestive system really likes). Marie says emerging science shows this kind of healthy bacteria is good for your colon, gut, and immune system. (Should You Be Eating More Fermented Foods and Drinks?)

    How to eat coconut aminos

    It’s pretty obvious that coconut aminos work in just about any dish that you’d normally use soy sauce. So use it to dip your sushi roll or try it as a sauce base for stir-fried zoodles. You can even stir a bit into chili for an unexpected kick of flavor.

    • By By Julie Stewart

    Coconut Aminos

    THE ORIGINAL Soy–Free alternative to soy sauce.

    Now you can cook delicious Asian dishes without the wheat, soy and excessive salt in traditional soy sauces.

    Coconut Aminos has 73% less sodium than soy sauce. When it comes to sodium, no soy sauce can compare… Coconut Aminos has just 90 mg of sodium per teaspoon. The leading brand of “lower sodium” soy sauce has more than twice the salt at 234 mg per tsp. And it’s 100% Organic, Gluten-Free, Non-GMO, Vegan, has No MSG and contains 17 Amino Acids. It’s the healthiest, best-tasting Asian condiment on the market!

    Don’t Settle for Imitations!

    While there are now many copycat products using our Coconut Aminos name, none can match the unique and amazing flavor of the original. Still the top selling soy sauce alternative in the world!

    • Certified 100% Organic
    • Gluten-Free
    • Soy–Free
    • No MSG
    • Non-GMO
    • Vegan
    • 17 Amino Acids

    Stir-fry and sushi have never tasted so good.

    Coconut Aminos has a delicious tangy-sweet flavor reminiscent of soy sauce but without the high salt content. Since Coconut Aminos is made from coconut tree sap, not coconuts, it does not have a coconutty flavor.

    We are proud that our Original Coconut Aminos has only two ingredients:

    Organic Coconut Tree Sap from our Certified Organic Farms in the Philippines, and hand harvested, mineral-rich Sea Salt collected near the coast of the southern islands and sun dried in open air structures lined with clay bricks.

    When the coconut tree is tapped it produces a highly nutrient-rich sap that exudes from the coconut blossoms. This sap has a low glycemic index of only 35 and contains a wide range of minerals, vitamin C, broad-spectrum B vitamins, 17 amino acids, and has a nearly neutral pH. Read Coconut Sap Nutrition.
    The “Gran Molucas Sea Salt” used in our Coconut Aminos garners its name from the exotic tropical island of Mindanao, the 2nd largest island in the Philippines. It is surrounded on all sides by converging Pacific Ocean waters ~ the Sulu Sea to the West, the Celebes Sea to the South, and the Philippine Sea to the East.

    A local culinary heritage in Mindanao, this unbleached, unrefined, naturally white sea salt is fed only by the sun and the sea. It is hand-harvested by local salt producers working as their forefathers did, in their ancestral salt fields.
    After many days of labor, the salt is then sun-dried (to evaporate excess moisture) in open-air cages lined with clay bricks. The result is a distinctly flavorful and nutritious, mineral-rich, unrefined sea salt.

    Recipe Tips

    Use Coconut Aminos like soy sauce as the key ingredient in stir fry, dressings, marinades and with sushi. “We love it so much we pour it over almost everything!”

    Each hand-made batch may vary slightly in flavor and color. Due to the naturally occurring fermentation of this product, the contents may fizz when opened. `Refrigerate after opening.

    Although this product is made in a dedicated facility that makes only Coconut Aminos, it is later bottled in a facility that also occasionally bottles peanut and walnut oils, as well as dressings that may contain gluten. The bottling facility adheres to the strictest allergen protocols, and the machines are thoroughly washed and sterilized before and after each production run. While we are virtually certain that there is no commingling, for liability reasons, we cannot 100% guarantee that there is no contamination, even though it is highly unlikely.

    To our valued Canadian customers:
    Our Coconut Aminos product is labeled in Canada as “Soy-Free Seasoning Sauce”. We were required to do so in compliance with CFIA labeling restrictions.

    Coconut Aminos vs. Soy Sauce ~ you decide!

    Soy sauce is one of the world’s oldest condiments, dating back more than 2,500 years. Collecting the drippings of miso, a fermented soybean paste, was the traditional, time-honored method of preparing soy sauce. And because the miso was aged (thus naturally fermented), the unhealthy components of the soybean were neutralized during the aging process.

    In these modern times however, soy sauce is made by fermenting a mixture of mashed soybeans, salt, and enzymes. Many conventional soy sauce manufacturers also utilize a chemical process known as acid hydrolysis that does not incorporate fermentation, so the harmful effects of the soybean are not inactivated.

    Consumer concerns about eating soy products have risen to an all-time high, and for solid, proven reasons. Soy-based foods are a big and controversial topic, and I will do my best to explain this as clearly and succinctly as possible.


    • Soy ~ Based on USDA survey data, GMO soybeans went from 17 percent of U.S. soybean acreage in 1997, to 68 percent in 2001, to an alarming 94 percent in 2014.
    • Coconut Aminos ~ Coconut trees are NOT genetically modified and are not on any future endangered GMO crop list. Coconut Aminos is Non-GMO Project Certified.


    • Soy ~ Even though soy is inherently gluten-free by nature, soybeans are often grown in rotation with wheat crops. Farmers use the same fields to grow soy and wheat, along with the same machinery during harvest, the same storage facilities, and the same trucks for transporting. As a result, soy can be subject to gluten cross-contamination. Soybeans are one of the most cross-contaminated of all crops and many people report reacting to soy as they do to wheat and other gluten grains. Soy ranks as one of the top 8 allergens in the U.S.
    • Coconut Aminos ~ Coconut trees and their sap are completely gluten-free with no possibility of cross-contamination. Coconut Aminos is Gluten-Free Certified.


    • Soy Sauce ~ Traditional soy sauce and tamari contain large amounts of Sodium. An average of 940-1000 mg per Tablespoon, while the low sodium versions still contain approximately 700 mg per tablespoon.
    • Coconut Aminos ~ We are proud to report that Coconut Aminos contains only 270 mg of sodium per tablespoon. That is 73% Less Sodium than soy sauce, tamari and Bragg Liquid Aminos.


    • Soy ~ Soy mimics estrogen. Soybeans contain phytoestrogens which are powerful endocrine disrupters that mimic the body’s natural estrogen hormones. For men this can lead to a testosterone imbalance, infertility, low libido and sperm count, and increased risk of cancers. For women, it can cause estrogen dominance linked to infertility, menstrual issues and cancer. These phytoestrogens are so strong that a baby feeding on only soy formula is consuming the hormonal equivalent of 4-5 birth control pills a day.
    • Coconut Aminos ~ Coconut sap contains zero phytoestrogens, and is safe to consume for men, women and children of all ages.


    • Soy ~ The high levels of phytic acid in soy inhibit the body’s ability to absorb important minerals including zinc, calcium, copper, iron and magnesium. Soy also contains protease inhibitors that can block the enzymes necessary for the proper digestion of proteins.
    • Coconut Aminos ~ Made entirely from coconut tree sap, our Coconut Aminos does not contain enzyme inhibitors of any kind.


    • SOY ~ Goitrogens are potent anti-thyroid compounds that inhibit the thyroid’s ability to utilize iodine correctly. When you have an underperforming thyroid gland (hypothyroidism), your metabolism slows down so you feel cold all the time, have low energy and a weakened immune system.
    • Coconut Aminos ~ The pure coconut sap used to make Coconut Aminos has NO goitrogenic compounds.

    Note: If you are consuming soy sauce that is prepared by traditional methods of fermentation and made with certified organic, non-GMO soybeans ~ most of the harmful components are inactivated during the aging process. However, if you have soy allergies, thyroid, gluten, digestive, or other immune system issues, it might be best to refrain from soy sauce in your diet.

    Soy sauce alternative paleo

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