When you don’t drink alcohol and try to avoid it at all costs, you quickly learn that it pops up in some unusual places.
It’s in the glaze of that sauce your favorite restaurant makes, nestled inside those fancy chocolates or part of your roommate’s special marinade.
But what about in your fried rice?
It’s time to talk about soy sauce.
Does soy sauce have alcohol?
Some brands of soy sauce may contain trace amounts of alcohol as a byproduct of the fermentation process used to make it. The alcohol content of soy sauce is usually low, ranging from 1% to 3%.
Depending on the cooking time and temperature, most of the alcohol is evaporated during the cooking process, so the amount of alcohol remaining in the final product is minimal. It is not enough to have any significant effect on the body.
That said, not all alcohol will burn off during the cooking process, so if even a tiny amount of alcohol is problematic for you, cooking the sauce won’t make a difference.
How can I tell if soy sauce has any alcohol content?
The label on the bottle of soy sauce should list the ingredients and indicate whether the product contains alcohol.
You can also check the nutrition facts panel, which is required by law to list the alcohol content of a product if it is more than 0.5% by volume.
You can also check the manufacturer’s website to see about the alcohol content of their product. Still, generally speaking, if the soy sauce is made with wheat, the fermentation process will probably yield a small amount of alcohol.
Kikkoman says their naturally brewed soy sauce has between 1.5% to 2% alcohol by volume. So if you’re avoiding all alcohol for personal, cultural, or religious reasons, you technically wouldn’t be able to consume these sauces.
In that case, you’d want to opt for a gluten-free or certified halal variety (of which there are several options). But there is a caveat.
Always read the labels and double-check:
Gluten-free soy sauce does not always mean alcohol-free.
For example, when I checked the popular brand, San-J’s website, I learned that their San-J Tamari Sauce does contain trace amounts of alcohol from sugarcane, some of which is added for preservation.
Is soy sauce halal?
Honestly, it depends on who you ask.
The majority of conventional soy sauces do contain trace amounts of alcohol. So if any amount is a dealbreaker, I’d be inclined to say, “no.”
In 2017, the United Arab Emirates government actually banned Kikkoman for its alcohol content, a move that surprised consumers and local chefs alike.
I lived in the UAE during this time and purchased Kikkoman naturally brewed soy sauce there. Generally, products containing alcohol (like pure vanilla extract) were prohibited.
So I, like everyone else, just assumed that soy sauce was halal.
It probably comes as no surprise that in late 2017, Kikkoman produced a certified halal version of its soy sauce, which is probably why we all saw it back on the shelves soon after.
In addition to the new halal version of its naturally brewed soy sauce, Kikkoman states that its all-purpose soy sauce is halal. You can also purchase Bragg’s All Purpose Seasoning if you’re looking for a truly alcohol-free or traditional soy sauce alternative.
Here’s the thing about the debate over soy sauce for Muslims:
Kikkoman’s original naturally brewed soy sauce is still not alcohol-free or halal. If you live in the US and are avoiding all alcohol, opt for a gluten-free soy sauce or an all-purpose seasoning.
That being said, trace amounts of alcohol can be found in all kinds of fermented food, even sourdough bread. So there is some debate among the community as to whether residual alcohol found in trace amounts from the fermentation process is halal or haram.
I’ll leave that debate to the scholars.
Which brands of soy sauce are alcohol-free?
Several brands of soy sauce are specifically formulated to be alcohol-free or non-alcoholic.
These brands may use a different process to produce their soy sauce, or they may omit the wheat altogether, which is why gluten-free versions can be safer for those avoiding alcohol.
Again, you have to read the labels.
Here are a few examples of alcohol-free soy sauce brands and substitutes that you may be able to find:
Can alcoholics use soy sauce?
Again, this one goes back to whether or not you are a complete purist. The amount of alcohol in soy sauce is very low.
If you’re concerned that consuming soy sauce might break your sobriety, don’t be. It is perfectly fine, just like it’s fine to eat sourdough bread, drink commercial kombucha, or eat a pastry made with vanilla extract.
However, if there is something triggering about the alcohol content of soy sauce or any other fermented product that feels like a slippery slope to you, then, by all means, avoid them.
The amount of soy sauce you would have to consume to get drunk is absurdly high. Plus, the sodium content would probably do you in before you could even feel a buzz.
Avoiding alcohol? Here are some other articles you might be interested in reading:
- The Problem With Mommy Drinking Culture
- Do Alcoholics Drink Alcohol Every Day?
- Dating an Alcoholic? Here’s What You Should Know
- Drowning in Alcohol Culture
- Do People Like The Taste Of Alcohol? A Controversial Take
- The Myth of Moderation: Why Most People Can’t Just Drink Less
- What Alcohol Does To Your Brain
- Is Alcohol Inflammatory?