What’s the Difference?

There are countless varieties of soy sauce produced around the world. Let us look at the distinctions between Kikkoman Soy Sauce, chemically produced soy sauce and Chinese soy sauce.


Kikkoman Soy Sauce and Chemically Produced Soy Sauce

In honjozo, the traditional Japanese brewing process used to make Kikkoman Soy Sauce, enzymes naturally break down soybean proteins. Hydrochloric acid is used in chemically produced soy sauce: it does not undergo any form of fermentation and is generally manufactured within several weeks.

Traditionally brewed soy sauce, the result of the honjozo process, has a clear reddish-brown color, and is well balanced in terms of flavor and aroma.


By contrast, chemically produced soy sauce usually has a cloudy, dark color; its taste is unpleasant and strong, and its chemically produced aroma is obvious.

As a result, the color, flavor and aroma of chemically produced soy sauce are not natural—they are created artificially using corn syrup, salt, caramel coloring and other additives. It is no wonder that this completely synthetic soy sauce is inferior in every way to traditionally brewed Kikkoman Soy Sauce.

Kikkoman Soy Sauce and Chinese Soy Sauce


Here we explain the differences between Kikkoman Soy Sauce and Chinese soy sauce.

Types of Chinese Soy Sauce
There are two types of Chinese soy sauce: dark and light.

Dark Chinese soy sauce is very deep in color with high viscosity, and it contains additives such as caramel coloring and monosodium glutamate (MSG). Light Chinese soy sauce has a lighter color with lower viscosity. In general, this soy sauce contains MSG and other additives used to control its strong saltiness.

Differences between Kikkoman Soy Sauce and Chinese Soy Sauce
The major differences between Kikkoman and Chinese soy sauce can be found in their ingredients and fermentation methods. In terms of ingredients, Kikkoman Soy Sauce uses wheat, which creates the aroma of soy sauce. Chinese soy sauce utilizes wheat flour and bran, which significantly weakens the aroma of the soy sauce. Wheat is indispensable to Kikkoman Soy Sauce’s rich aroma, which stimulates the appetite.

Kikkoman Soy Sauce utilizes microorganisms such as lactic acid bacteria and enzymes in the fermentation process. These are the particular elements that produce the full-bodied flavor and rich aroma unique to Kikkoman Soy Sauce.

Chinese soy sauce undergoes very little fermentation; it has both a weak aroma and flavor owing to the lack of this fermentation, and to cover these defects, MSG and other additives are used.

Both of these products are called soy sauce—yet the two are completely different, not only in flavor and aroma, but also in terms of their ingredients and production processes.

The best way to appreciate the different types of soy sauce is to make full use of your five senses—then you can understand the differences between Kikkoman Soy Sauce, produced using the traditional Japanese brewing process, and chemically produced soy sauce.

Take a Look at the Difference


Can you see the difference between the sauces on these two plates?
Kikkoman Soy Sauce is a clear, vivid reddish-brown color, while non-brewed soy sauce is dark and cloudy, like syrup.

Smell the Difference

Professionals check the aroma this way: Stir each type of soy sauce for a moment using chopsticks. Place the chopsticks just beneath your nose and inhale deeply. You will notice a striking difference in aromas.


Kikkoman Soy Sauce smells slightly sweet and emits a fine aroma that stimulates the appetite. Non-brewed soy sauce has a very strong smell overlaid with a sour, chemical aroma.

Feel the Difference


Confirm the difference using chopsticks.
Chemical soy sauce, dark in color with high viscosity, sticks to the tips of the chopsticks. Kikkoman Soy Sauce drips down smoothly from the chopsticks. This indicates the high quality of Kikkoman Soy Sauce.

Taste the Difference

Taste just a few drops of Kikkoman Soy Sauce. You will immediately enjoy the wonderful flavor unique to Kikkoman Soy Sauce: it has a rich, complex aroma, an original sweetness and a great taste. Kikkoman’s full-bodied flavor is not too strong, and it is this versatility that brings out the flavor of any food.
On the other hand, non-brewed soy sauce is salty and has an overly strong flavor with an unpleasant, artificial taste.


Easy Ways to Identify High Quality Soy Sauce

To prepare the most delicious dishes, choose soy sauce labeled “traditionally brewed” in the US made from fresh ingredients. A wide variety of such soy sauce is available on the market. If you prefer high quality soy sauce free from additives, choose one that is traditionally brewed and that uses a limited number of fresh ingredients. Excellent flavor and aroma are matured during the traditional Japanese brewing process.
On the supermarket shelf, you will find many different brands of soy sauce; it is hard to tell at a glance which are high quality. Here are several easy ways to identify them.

Check the label on the back of the bottle.


Kikkoman Soy Sauce and other high quality products are produced using only water, soybeans, wheat and salt.

The reference to “traditionally brewed” is a strong indication of a high quality soy sauce.

Some manufacturers, however, use these words for products that are brewed over a very short period of time. To identify good quality soy sauce with confidence, select one that is brewed authentically using the traditional Japanese brewing process with only simple ingredients and which is free from additives.


Check the color of the soy sauce through the bottle neck by tilting the bottle to one side and then to the other.


If it is clear reddish-brown, the quality of the soy sauce is likely to be very high. To make sure, however, check the label to see whether it says “traditionally brewed” with simple ingredients.

Carefully shake the soy sauce bottle.

Another sign of high quality is if the soy sauce shows low viscosity and allows light to pass through.