Does The Alcohol In Soy Sauce Cook Off? A Detailed Guide

Soy sauce is a staple ingredient in many kitchens around the world, adding a savory and umami flavor to dishes. But have you ever wondered about the alcohol content in soy sauce?

Is it enough to cause any physical effects? Does it cook off during the cooking process?

In this article, we’ll explore the origins of soy sauce, its fermentation process, and whether or not the alcohol in soy sauce cooks off.

So, let’s dive in and uncover the truth about this beloved condiment.

Does The Alcohol In Soy Sauce Cook Off?

Soy sauce is made through a fermentation process that involves five main ingredients: water, soybeans, wheat, sea salt, and yeast. During the fermentation process, the yeast from the added wheat converts into sugar and then into alcohol. This means that some brands of soy sauce may contain trace amounts of alcohol as a byproduct of the fermentation process.

The alcohol content of soy sauce is usually low, ranging from 1% to 3%. However, it’s important to note that not all alcohol will burn off during the cooking process. 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.

Alcohol usually gets cooked out of soy sauce within a minute of cooking because alcohol evaporates. However, the exact time will depend on the heat and amount of soy sauce used. Additionally, some foods can absorb the soy sauce, making it more difficult to cook out the alcohol.

That said, if even a tiny amount of alcohol is problematic for you, cooking the sauce won’t make a difference. It’s also important to note that most soy sauces only contain approximately 1.5% – 2% alcohol by volume. Unlike wine or beer though, even the biggest soy sauce enthusiast is unlikely to swig soy sauce throughout the meal!

The Origins Of Soy Sauce: A Brief History

Soy sauce is a condiment with a long and fascinating history that dates back more than 2,200 years. It originated in China during the Western Han dynasty and is made from a fermented paste of soybeans, roasted grain, brine, and molds such as Aspergillus oryzae or Aspergillus sojae. The fermentation process gives soy sauce its distinctive umami flavor.

The roots of soy sauce can be traced back to a sauce called “jan” in ancient China. This sauce was made by pickling raw materials in salt to preserve them, and there were varieties based on fruit, vegetables, seaweed, meat, fish, grains, and more. The grain type, using rice, wheat, and soybeans, is thought to be the archetype of soy sauce.

Soy sauce spread throughout East and Southeast Asia where it is used in cooking and as a condiment. In Japan, soy sauce is known as shoyu and has a unique history of its own. It is said that “hishio,” a sauce made from soybeans, was created in Japan during the Taiho Code era. Hishio was midway between soy sauce and miso paste and was served at palace banquets. Later on, tamari soy sauce was created from the liquid that seeped out of hishio during the miso-making process.

Today, soy sauce is produced all around the world. However, it is only authentic and often the higher priced brands of soy sauce that are created from fermented soybeans. Kikkoman is one of the most well-known brands of soy sauce that uses a natural fermentation process.

The Fermentation Process Of Soy Sauce

The fermentation process of soy sauce is a crucial part of its production. The process involves mixing cooked soybeans and roasted wheat with spores of Aspergillus species, which are then fermented in solid culture for two days to produce koji. The koji is then mixed with brine to make moromi, the mash that ferments to produce soy sauce.

During the fermentation process, enzymes such as proteinases, peptidases, and amylases hydrolyze the soybeans and wheat. Pediococcus halophilus grows during the first stage of moromi fermentation and produces lactic acid, which lowers the pH. This decrease in pH triggers alcohol fermentation by Zygosaccharomyces rouxii, which produces 2 to 3 percent ethanol and many kinds of aroma components.

At the same time, other types of yeasts such as Candida versatilis and Candida etchellsii produce phenolic compounds such as 4-ethylguaiacol (4EG) and 4-ethylphenol, which add characteristic aroma to soy sauce. The fermentation process also releases high levels of glutamic acid and glutamine residues from soy and wheat proteins, which form monosodium glutamate (MSG) when mixed with salt.

The secondary fermentation process with lactic acid bacteria and yeast is responsible for the diversity of soy sauce flavors. Soy sauce can differ in its sweetness, acidity, saltiness, aromaticity, texture, thickness, and the intensity of caramelization. Some potent aromatic and flavor compounds found in soy sauces include 3-methylbutanal (malty), sotolone (maple syrup-like), 2-methylbutanal (caramel), methional (cooked potato), ethanol (alcoholic), lactic acid (acidic), and ethyl 2-methylpropanoate (fruity) with hundreds of more giving variations in flavors between soy sauce types and brands.

The traditional brewing method or fermentation method takes up to six months to complete and results in a transparent, delicately colored broth with balanced flavor and aroma. The non-brewed or chemical-hydrolyzation method takes only two days to make and often results in an opaque sauce with a harsh flavor and chemical aroma. The fermentation process is crucial for the production of high-quality soy sauce with a rich flavor profile.

Understanding Alcohol Content In Soy Sauce

When it comes to understanding the alcohol content in soy sauce, it’s important to know that not all soy sauces are created equal. The fermentation process used to make soy sauce involves the conversion of yeast from wheat into sugar and then into alcohol. This means that if the soy sauce is made with wheat, it will likely contain a small amount of alcohol.

According to Kikkoman, one of the largest producers of soy sauce, their naturally brewed soy sauce contains between 1.5% to 2% alcohol by volume. However, most soy sauces only contain trace amounts of alcohol, usually ranging from 1% to 3%.

When cooking with soy sauce, it’s important to note that not all of the alcohol will cook off during the cooking process. While most of the alcohol will evaporate within a minute of cooking due to the evaporation point of alcohol, some foods may absorb the soy sauce, making it more difficult to cook out the alcohol.

If you’re concerned about consuming even a small amount of alcohol, it’s best to opt for a gluten-free or certified halal variety of soy sauce. Alternatively, you can check the label on the bottle or nutrition facts panel to see if the product contains alcohol.

Does Alcohol Cook Off During The Cooking Process?

Many people believe that all alcohol evaporates during the cooking process, but this is not entirely true. The amount of alcohol that remains in a dish after cooking depends on several factors, including the cooking time, temperature, and the ingredients used.

According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Data Laboratory, it can take more than two and a half hours of cooking for all the alcohol to be cooked out of food to which wine or some other alcoholic beverage has been added. The study also revealed that the amount of alcohol remaining in food diminishes with cooking time. After being added to food that is baked or simmered for 15 minutes, 40 percent of the alcohol will be retained. After cooking for an hour, only about 25 percent will remain, but even after 2.5 hours of cooking, five percent of the alcohol will still be present.

The size of the pan, stirring frequency, and other ingredients used in the recipe can also affect the amount of alcohol retained in the final dish. For example, a bread crumb topping on scallops cooked in wine sauce can prevent some of the alcohol from evaporating, increasing the amount of alcohol in the final dish. In contrast, recipes that require stirring during the cooking process tend to have lower amounts of alcohol because this action promotes evaporation.

When it comes to soy sauce, most brands contain only trace amounts of alcohol ranging from 1% to 3%. While most of the alcohol evaporates during cooking, it’s important to note that some may remain depending on the heat and amount of soy sauce used. However, even if a tiny amount of alcohol remains in soy sauce after cooking, it’s unlikely to have any significant impact on a person’s health or well-being.

The Effects Of Consuming Alcohol In Soy Sauce

While the amount of alcohol in soy sauce is minimal, it’s still important to understand the effects of consuming alcohol in any form. Consuming large amounts of alcohol can lead to negative health effects such as liver damage, high blood pressure, and an increased risk of certain cancers.

However, the amount of alcohol present in soy sauce is so low that it’s unlikely to have any significant effect on the body. In fact, according to Kikkoman, a popular brand of soy sauce, the amount of alcohol in their product is so low that it’s considered safe for pregnant women and children to consume.

It’s important to note that individuals who are recovering from alcohol addiction or those who choose not to consume alcohol for religious or personal reasons may want to avoid consuming even small amounts of alcohol in soy sauce. Additionally, individuals who are allergic to wheat or gluten should choose a soy sauce that is labeled as gluten-free to avoid any adverse reactions.

Alternatives To Soy Sauce For Those Avoiding Alcohol

If you’re avoiding alcohol for any reason, there are several alternatives to soy sauce that you can try. One option is liquid aminos, which is a dark, salty sauce made from unfermented soybeans. It is vegan, gluten-free, and alcohol-free, making it a great alternative for those with allergies or dietary restrictions. However, it has a slightly milder and sweeter taste than soy sauce and contains more sodium.

Another popular soy-free, gluten-free, and vegan soy sauce alternative is coconut aminos sauce. This sauce comes from the sap of coconut trees and is made with Gran Molucas sea salt cultivated in the Philippines. It contains just 90 milligrams (mg) of sodium per serving, which is far less than soy sauce and some other alternatives. The sauce also contains 17 amino acids, giving it health benefits beyond those of soy sauce. However, the cost and availability of coconut aminos can be a drawback for some people. Additionally, some people may notice a sweeter flavor and aftertaste when compared to soy sauce.

If you’re looking for a Thai-style alternative to soy sauce, you can try Thai thin soy sauce, black soy sauce, or sweet soy sauce. Thai thin soy sauce is the most often used and is similar to Chinese light soy sauce but a bit thinner and lighter in color. Black soy sauce is similar to dark soy sauce, and sweet soy sauce is extremely sweet—downright syrupy! However, these sauces may contain trace amounts of alcohol as well.