Dark Soy Sauce vs Light Soy Sauce: What’s the Difference and How to Use Them

May 28, 2023
Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is a staple in Asian cooking, so you’ve definitely used it before. But did you know that dark soy sauce and light soy sauce are the two most common varieties? Each imparts a distinctive flavour to a variety of recipes and is used in distinctive ways.

The Basics of Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is a staple ingredient in many Asian countries, including China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand. It is made from fermented soybeans along with other ingredients such as wheat or barley.

The process involves grinding the beans into a paste which is then mixed with saltwater and left to ferment for several months. The mixture undergoes natural chemical changes during fermentation which results in an umami-rich liquid that we now know as soy sauce.

Dark Soy Sauce

Dark soy sauce has a thicker consistency than light soy sauce due to longer aging periods during fermentation. Its color can range from brownish-red to almost black depending on how long it’s been aged.

This type of soy sauce has stronger flavors compared to its lighter counterpart because it contains caramelized sugar or molasses which gives it a sweet yet slightly bitter taste profile. It also contains less sodium than light soy sauces making it healthier especially for those watching their salt intake.

Uses Of Dark Soy Sauce

  • Cooking: Dark or thick sauces require dark soya because they add color quickly without diluting the dish too much; ideal for stews & braises where meat needs time to cook through while adding richness & depth into stir-fries enhancing earthy tones among savoury ingredients like mushrooms providing an overall balanced taste making food appear more appetizing.
  • Marinades: Dark soy sauce is perfect for marinates as it gives the meat a deep brown colour. You can add it to any kind of protein, but it works best with beef and pork; because they are denser and require stronger flavours to penetrate through the flesh properly.
  • Dipping Sauces: In some Asian countries like China, dark soy is mixed with vinegar, sugar, and chili oil to make a dipping sauce used in dim sum platters or dumpling dishes.

Light Soy Sauce

Light soy sauce has a thinner consistency than dark soy sauces due to its shorter fermentation period. It’s usually lighter in color ranging from amber-yellow or light-brown depending on how long it’s been aged.

This type of sauce has higher salt content than darker varieties making it salty compared to dark soya which has less sodium concentration. It also contains little-to-no added sweetness because of the absence of molasses during fermentation – this allows other ingredients in dishes such as garlic & ginger flavors shine through without being overpowered by saltiness providing an overall balanced taste experience without compromising on flavor intensity too much making them ideal for seasoning delicate proteins like fish & tofu where you want savoury taste not overpowering saltiness; but you need enough flavour boosters that will make your dish shine bright!

Uses Of Light Soy Sauce

  • Cooking: Light soya goes well with stir-fries providing that savory umami taste while keeping vegetables fresh and crisp. They are also great when paired with seafood especially shrimp since they enhance their natural sweetness instead of masking them under heavy sauces or spices.
  • Sauces/Dressings:In Southeast Asian cuisine, light soy sauce is mixed with lime juice, sugar & chopped red chili peppers to make a dipping sauce used for salads or grilled meat dishes like satay.
  • Marinades: Light soy sauces penetrate easily into proteins due to their consistency which makes them ideal for marinating delicate meats like chicken breasts.


Both dark and light soy sauces have a place in the kitchen when it comes to Asian cuisine. Dark soya is ideal for robust dishes that require depth of flavor while-lights are perfect when you want savory taste without overpowering saltiness. So the next time you’re shopping or cooking Asian food, consider what type of soy sauce would work best with your dish!

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