Traditional stir-fry contains 1,000 milligrams or more of sodium.
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Soy sauce is a staple of Asian cooking, but for those watching their sodium intake, it may as well be liquid poison. Too much sodium in your diet makes you retain water so you feel and look bloated. It also contributes to high blood pressure, which can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. Life without soy sauce may seem like a grim prospect, but all is not lost. There are several ways to get the deep umami of soy sauce without life-threatening levels of salt.
Substitute Lower Sodium Soy Sauce
The simplest way to cut the salt content of soy sauce is to mix it with a nearly equal amount of water. This definitely weakens the flavor, but it also lowers the sodium content.
Substituting with low-sodium soy sauce can lower the the salt content from around 900 milligrams to 630 milligrams per tablespoon. You can lower the salt content even further by diluting low-sodium soy sauce using one-fourth water for each three-fourths of low-sodium soy sauce.
Try Tamari Instead
Tamari is a lot like soy sauce. They're both made from fermented soy beans, but there are a few crucial differences. Soy sauce, created in China, is pressed from soybeans and wheat after they've been mixed with other grains, brewed and then fermented.
Tamari, created in Japan, is the liquid byproduct of miso paste. This is also made from fermented soy beans, but with no added wheat or other grains. Tamari is thicker than soy sauce and has a less salty flavor. It's available in a lower sodium version and can also be diluted to further reduce its salt count.
Consider Coconut Aminos
Coconut aminos is a rich, dark liquid made from the nectar of a coconut palm's blossoms. The nectar is blended with sea salt and then fermented. The flavor is richer and more buttery than soy sauce or tamari and somewhat sweeter, though not quite as sweet as teriyaki sauce.
Coconut aminos has approximately 70 percent less sodium than soy sauce, and while it's not a perfect substitution, it can be used the same way as soy sauce or tamari. It's a favorite of those on a paleo diet because it contains no gluten, and it's useful for those who must avoid soy.
Make Your Own Soy Sauce
While homemade soy sauce might not taste exactly the same as mass-produced versions, it's a good alternative if reducing your sodium intake is crucial to maintaining your health.
Saute 4 to 6 finely minced baby portobello mushrooms and 1 to 2 minced garlic cloves in a saucepan for 3 to 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Stir the mixture fairly constantly, because if the garlic burns it will turn your soy sauce base bitter.
Turn the heat down and de-glaze the pan with 2 to 3 tablespoons of beef stock and a cup or so of water. Whisk in 1 tablespoon each of almond or sesame oil, balsamic vinegar and liquid smoke. Season to taste using molasses or dark brown sugar, ginger and cayenne pepper.
Scoop the mushroom and garlic pieces into a mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth. Press the excess liquid out of the cheesecloth and back into the saucepan with a large spoon or the bottom of an empty tumbler.
Reduce the liquid by at least one-quarter of its volume over medium-high heat, stirring it frequently. Correct the seasoning, being careful not to burn your mouth when you taste it.
Pour the soy sauce into a clean jar with a tight lid and refrigerate it.