Tamari

Tamari is a particular variety of rich, dark soy sauce from Japan. Tamari is sometimes called miso-damari, a reference to the fact that it is in fact a by-product of miso making. The dark liquid produced by miso paste as it ages. Unlike most soy sauces, tamari is made with little or no wheat. Because of this, tamari is often marketed as a wheat and gluten-free sauce (though certain brands or varieties may have a small amount of wheat).

It is worth noting that tamari is not simply a gluten-free soy sauce (nor is it always gluten-free); because of the ingredients and the way it is produced, it is richer, darker, a little thicker, and more mellow than many conventional soy sauces. It’s also worth noting that soy sauces in general can vary enormously in colour and flavour.

Other names: Tamari is the only term commonly used for this sauce, though you may occasionally see it referred to as tamari soy sauce or the aforementioned miso-damari. In Japanese, tamari is たま while miso-damari is 味噌溜り.


The greatest selection of tamari will generally be found in Japanese grocery stores. Large Asian grocery stores may also carry a respectable selection. Because tamari is generally wheat- and gluten-free, it has become a more common site at high-end grocery stores and health food stores catering to that particular dietary restriction.

It is worth noting that tamari is only one of many types of Japanese soy sauces, so check the labels and, if necessary, the ingredients when shopping.

When choosing tamari, you need to take into account what it is you’re looking for. If you’re concerned primarily about flavour, you’ll simply need to look for recommendations or try a few different brands yourself, though I will personally recommend paying a little bit more for tamari that’s brewed in a strictly traditional method.

If, however, you’re choosing tamari explicitly to avoid wheat or gluten, be sure to examine the ingredients and/or look for a brand that specifically advertises this fact.

In general, tamari can be used anywhere you’d use a conventional soy sauce. Tamari does have a unique flavour, but it is generic enough to stand in for standard soy sauce in most situations (in fact, some prefer the mellower, bolder flavour). While the taste is distinctive, it is generally milder than many standard soy sauce varieties, making it a good choice in situations where you want a prominent soy sauce flavour that won’t overwhelm your other ingredients.
Preparation

Tamari requires no particular preparation.

Storage

Tamari should be stored in a cool, dark, dry pantry, or in the refrigerator.

As mentioned above in the “How to Choose It” section, tamari varies based upon the presence or absence of wheat. While all varieties are composed overwhelmingly of soy beans, some brands do add a little bit of wheat, ostensibly to round out the flavour. You can decide for yourself whether or not you prefer a wheat-free tamari (I personally do), but be sure to check the ingredients if you’re making your decision for health or allergy reasons.

As a general rule, tamari must be produced using traditional brewing methods in order to actually qualify as tamari (and not a simple un-brewed soy sauce), though it may be worth noting the techniques and any preservatives used by various brands. Ideally, a more traditional, longer-brewed tamari will have a better and more balanced flavour.

‘Lite’ salt-reduced tamari varieties are also available – these tend to have 20-30% less sodium than standard varieties.

Many tamari brands are certified organic. It’s also worth noting that some conventional brands are certified GMO free, soybeans being one of the most common genetically modified food products on Earth.

As a general rule, any good quality, brewed soy sauce can stand in for tamari, and vice-versa. There are mild to moderate differences in flavour, but these tend to be less pronounced unless a dish prominently features the taste of tamari/soy sauce.

Chinese dark soy sauce probably has the most in common with tamari in that it is richly coloured and bold but mellow in flavour. Light soy sauces, in contrast, tend to be saltier and brasher in flavour.

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