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Low-Sodium Teriyaki: Yes We Can!

Is it possible to make a low-sodium version of teriyaki sauce? I began this exploration with a friend in mind, and am on a journey to see if low-sodium teriyaki sauce can be made at home. Please check out the first part of this journey , too!

Last week I posted about how we made homemade teriyaki sauce and cooked up a batch of chicken teriyaki . AngelSharum let me know that she loves teriyaki, but never makes it at home. She also posted a comment asking if it's safe for a low-salt diet. Since the recipe I use contains 3/4 cup of soy sauce for four people, using regular soy sauce would definitely not be OK for Angel!

Soy Sauce Substitutes

Soy sauce is used in recipes to supply the taste of umami. That's the so-called fifth taste – in addition to sweet, salty, sour and bitter – that is associated with glutamates. It's naturally found in foods like mushrooms, tomatoes, and some meats and cheeses. It's also supplied by adding flavouring agents like fish and soy sauces, or by putting MSG (monosodium glutamate) into food – which can be a problem for people with specific dietary requirements.

Thankfully, some creative foodies have created recipes for things like a sodium-free soy sauce alternative . One recipe I found uses a mixture of sodium-free beef broth and rice wine vinegar as a base, and then adds flavours from molasses, brown sugar and garlic.

If your rice wine vinegar is sodium-free, then your soy sauce alternative will be relatively salt-free*. Otherwise, there will be a small amount of sodium. Kikkoman Rice Vinegar is sodium-free. (Not wanting to promote any one brand, but this one is easy to obtain and is well known.)

What About Salt from the Mirin?

Mirin is a fermented rice product similar to sake, only sweeter. Some types of mirin can be drunk like sake, but it's most often used in cooking. Cooking mirin does contain some salt, though considerably less than soy sauce.

Kikkoman Kotteri Mirin has 5 mg sodium per tablespoon, and since only a single tablespoon is used in a recipe that feeds four or more, that's really not too much of a concern. But do be careful to look on your bottle: Eden Organic Mirin has 130 mg of salt for that same tablespoon!

If we were to use the organic mirin for our family, we'd each get about 22 mg of salt from the teriyaki sauce, which I think is still reasonable if you're just eating it once in a while for a treat. But if you really can't afford the sodium and you can't find a low-sodium mirin, you can substitute lemon juice instead at about 3 mg of salt per tablespoon. For our family, that's just 0.5 mg of added salt per person.

Tallying Up the Salt

So there you have it! Even folks on sodium-restricted diet can occasionally indulge in teriyaki. Making it at home gives you control over your ingredients, and allows you to reduce your salt intake from the sauce by a considerable amount.

Our homemade tare (teriyaki sauce) supplies roughly 2.27 mg sodium per serving for our family of six, taking into account the naturally occurring salt that's in the brown sugar, molasses and seasonings. This comes well under the 5 mg allowed for a sodium-free food, and it affords the diner the opportunity to eat a two-ounce portion of chicken ( 71 mg sodium ) while still maintaining a low-sodium meal of less than 140 mg. Add a couple of sensible low-salt sides like a cup of brown rice and some steamed broccoli or some mushrooms lightly sauteed in olive oil, and you're good to go!

* There is a very tiny amount of sodium that occurs naturally in the brown sugar, molasses and seasonings. For our family of six, the soy sauce alternative supplies just under 0.5 mg per serving. The recipe says it's sodium-free because the individual amounts are all under 1 mg, but since we are cooking with it I added everything up.

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Image credit: Teriyaki beef skewers by Alpha/Flickr ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )


Low-Sodium Diet Guidelines ” (Cleveland Clinic)

Umami – The Delicious 5th Taste You Need to Master! ” (Molecular Recipes)

Disclosure: The author has no connection to any brand or company mentioned herein, and has not been compensated in any way for such mentions.

Note on links: Any link that appears in boldface leads to more content by the author. Non-bolded links are references and other helpful resources.

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Feisty56 wrote on October 29, 2014, 8:25 PM

Thank you, AngelSharum for asking the question, and thank you, Ruby3881 for ferreting out this information so anyone who wants to can enjoy teriyaki or other Asian-inspired recipes without overdoing the sodium.

AngelSharum wrote on October 29, 2014, 10:10 PM

Very cool. I might have to try it one of these days and see if we like it.

Isabella wrote on October 29, 2014, 10:42 PM

I love teriyaki, i'll have to try this modification to reduce salt. It takes being creative sometimes to discover something new that's better for you.

Ruby3881 wrote on October 31, 2014, 2:36 AM

I'm glad I took the time to look into it, Deb! I think this weekend we'll make some of the low-sodium soy sauce substitute up and see how it tastes. Phew! How's that for alliteration?

Ruby3881 wrote on October 31, 2014, 2:37 AM

I hope it works for you, Angel! If we can give you one less thing to worry about, I'll be very pleased :)

Ruby3881 wrote on October 31, 2014, 2:39 AM

Let me know how it turns out for you, Isabella! I figure that it's open to be tweaked, as well. There are a lot of different recipes for soy sauce alternatives, so we can experiment until we find a blend our families like :)