ANSWER: Yes! Despite some controversy involving Kikkoman (which we talk about later), you can rest assured that soy sauce is vegan. Soy sauce ingredient statements vary depending on the brand, but we weren't able to find any that have any animal products. One point of confusion is lactic acid which is found certain brands of soy sauce, but it is merely a bacteria used for fermentation.
Soy sauce is a Japanese condiment that's been being brewed for centuries. The traditional recipe calls for soybeans, wheat, salt, and water and this hasn't changed today (although production processes have). There is a fermentation and aging process, which according to Kikkoman (one of the biggest brands on the market) is a several month process.
Check out the video above for a beautifully detailed explanation.
Based on our research there are a few different types of soy sauce on the market - some of which aren't really soy sauce at all. Kikkoman's most popular All-Purpose Soy Sauce has the following ingredient statement:
WATER, WHEAT, SOYBEANS, SALT, SODIUM BENZOATE; LESS THAN 1/10 OF 1% AS A PRESERVATIVE.
They also have a preservative free version (no impact on the vegan status), but this is what you're likely to find in the store.
Some other (less expensive) brands of soy sauce such as La Choy rely on sweeteners and colors to emulate the soy sauce experience. From our experience, this isn't the best in terms of flavor profile - even though it is still vegan. Their ingredient statement looks like:
Water, Salt, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative).
For some time, Kikkoman was conducting animal testing so that they could make shaky health claims about their products. Thanks to the action of dedicated Vegan activist groups such as PETA, this practice was ceased. That being said, even though their actions were unacceptable, grudges cannot be held forever.
Interestingly, the recommendation we're going to make is not for soy sauce, but for tamari which is a gluten free version of soy sauce. Not only is SAN-J soy sauce certified vegan, but it also has a deeper, richer, and more complex flavor profile than soy sauce. While you do't have to be worried about the vegan-status of other brands, you're not going to beat tamari when it comes to flavor.
We've also written extensively on many common questions regarding vegan savory sauces/condiments. Some of the other topics we've covered are:
You'll quickly realize with a little bit ow knowledge you won't be missing out on much as a vegan!
There's no need to worry about the vegan status of soy sauce, but when it comes to culinary excellence, go for Kikkoman or SAN-J Tamari - preferably the latter. Fermented soy products such as soy sauce and tamari provide umami to vegan dishes which brings out whole new dimensions of flavor. They are critical ingredients to the arsenal of any vegan chef.
Cooking healthy, delicious, plant-based meals has been Joey’s true passion since he went vegan in 2015. He has a masters in Nutrition and Food Science and is committed to making the internet a place of education and knowledge rather than misinformation and clickbait. He currently lives in Delaware with his wife.