Soy sauce, also known as “shoyu”, is one of the main flavors prominent in many Japanese dishes. It is a versatile sauce that heavily aids in seasoning and marinating foods and is even used as a dipping sauce on its own. By using genuine, high quality Japanese shoyu, you can easily recreate authentic Japanese cuisine in your home too. We previously shared a complete guide to shoyu, which has caused many consumers to become curious about Japanese soy sauces, as well as where to purchase high quality and genuine ones outside of Japan.
Whether you have a casual interest or a deep passion for authentic Japanese soy sauce, we’re going to share the best barrel-aged, high quality soy sauces that are available for purchase on Japanese Taste. In this article, we’ll focus on artisan soy sauces that are made with only quality ingredients, are free of additives, AND are only processed using traditional methods.
Teraoka’s naturally fermented soy sauce is made with organic and domestically produced soybeans and wheat, and is carefully processed in an organic-certified traditional brewery. This soy sauce has an aromatic aftertaste and is full of natural ingredients that have been fermented by skilled soy sauce artisans.
A mellow taste and the aroma of the wooden vat used for fermentation prevent this shoyu from being too sharp in taste. This authentically fermented shoyu pairs excellently with sashimi, chilled tofu, and grilled fish. It can even be a great secret ingredient for ramen broth or nabemono (Japanese hot pot).
Teraoka Organic Shoyu Japanese Barrel Aged Soy Sauce 500ml
As an authentic barrel aged soy sauce made by Daitoku Shoyu, this Tokiarubeshi organic shoyu is rich in umami aroma and has a uniquely deep flavor. Daitoku Shoyu is a soy sauce brewery that strives to stick to traditional brewing methods as much as possible, in order to retain the genuineness of Japanese shoyu.
What makes this Japanese shoyu sauce remain superior is that it only contains domestically sourced and produced ingredients that are JAS-certified. Like other genuine-aged Japanese soy sauces, this soy sauce is free of additives. The full-bodied flavor of this soy sauce only comes from the natural power of yeasts and microorganisms developed during the fermentation process.
This soy sauce is a great option for those looking for an all-purpose soy sauce food cooking and seasoning their dishes. It will enhance the flavor of any food you add it to, as well as its unique signature barrel-aged aroma.
Daitoku Tokiarubeshi Shoyu Organic Japanese Soy Sauce 300ml
Starting out with a premium shoyu from Takesan Kishibori, this traditionally brewed soy sauce is a must-have soy sauce for those who often cook Japanese cuisine at home. The carefully selected whole soybeans, wheat, and solar salt are combined together and are fermented in a cedar barrel for more than one year. Since this product is the freshly squeezed liquid of moromi (immature soy sauce), it has a beautiful amber color that is lighter in hue than ordinary koikuchi soy sauces. The sweet aroma of wheat and the mellow scent of the wooden vat give this shoyu a unique aroma and tons of flavor. In short, this shoyu has a complex flavor and refined aftertaste.
This product has consistently gained 5-star reviews from many Japanese Taste customers who simply can’t get enough of its flavor. Some of them also commented that this soy sauce boosts the flavor of wagyu beef, or that it can be a great ingredient to add to gyoza dipping sauce and oyakodon (Japanese chicken and egg rice bowl).
Takesan Kishibori Shoyu Premium Japanese Soy Sauce 360ml
Here is another koikuchi shoyu you should try. (It’s hard to only pick one!) As the name of this soy sauce suggests, it has a darker color and richer taste than standard soy sauces. However, what makes this shoyu truly unique is that it has a tangy aftertaste, a trait that is quite unusual for regular soy sauces. Its distinctive tang adds a pleasant finishing touch to dishes, especially seafood dishes.
Marunaka’s Black Label soy sauce is versatile, but it is also the perfect soy sauce for making your dishes more robust in flavor. Japanese fish dishes such as sashimi, nizakana (simmered fish), and yakizakana (grilled fish) pair especially well with this shoyu. If you’re not a fan of seafood’s fishy odor, this shoyu may be a convenient seasoning to not only enhance the flavor, but also eliminate any unwanted smells of seafood.
Marunaka Shoyu Traditional Japanese Dark Soy Sauce Black Label 720ml
This is another artisan soy sauce from Marunaka, a Japanese shoyu maker who has dedicated itself to producing naturally brewed soy sauces. In terms of artisanship, Marunaka is probably the best because it’s one of the very few Japanese shoyu manufacturers that still uses only traditional methods for producing soy sauce.
For instance, it’s said that only Marunaka practices the classic salt water production method called shiotsuri (literally translates to “salt hanging”). In this method, a huge hemp sack filled with salt is placed inside of a wooden barrel full of water. The salt dissolves gradually and naturally, which keeps the natural bacteria residing in the barrel unharmed. Soy sauces made with this method are said to be more rich in aroma while having a pleasant taste.
What makes this soy sauce different from other koikuchi counterparts is that its color is not very dark, so you can enrich the flavor of whatever you’re cooking without altering the color of the dish too much. This shoyu naturally pairs with any Japanese dish, but surprisingly goes well with fruits, olive oil, and even vanilla ice cream! If you are a fan of mixing sweet and salty flavors together, this might be the shoyu for you. According to Marunaka, this soy sauce also pairs particularly well with butter.
Marunaka Shoyu Naturally Brewed Japanese Soy Sauce 300ml
Just as in the case of wines and cheeses, some prefer ones that are milder in taste. Likewise, some avoid using soy sauce because they find it to be too salty. The sharp saltiness of shoyu is called kado; it is one of the unique features of soy sauce, but of course there are some people that don’t like it. If you want to experience a Japanese soy sauce that is only mild in salty flavor, we recommend Yamaroku Tsurubishio Shoyu.
This artisan soy sauce has a unique mellow flavor that enhances dishes without overpowering the flavor of what you’re cooking.The secret of this mild effect comes from Yamaroku’s special re-fermentation method. They age their natural raw soy sauce that has already fermented for 1~2 year(s) for a second time by placing it into the same wooden vat for additional 2~3 years. During this additional brewing, they add soybeans and wheat into the barrel instead of saltwater. Doubling the ingredients that aren’t salt allows for the sharp kado element to be removed from the shoyu while still preserving its savory flavor. That’s why Yamaroku’s soy sauce is mild in saltiness, but is still deep in flavor.
Yamaroku Tsurubishio Shoyu Barrel Aged Japanese Soy Sauce 500ml
Fundokin is another soy sauce manufacturer that continues to adopt traditional fermentation methods and is famous for using the world’s largest wooden brewing barrel. The ingredients included in their shoyu are non-GMO soybeans and wheat which are domestically produced in Japan, as well as solar salt. These three ingredients are mixed and fermented together in a Japanese cedar vat for quite a long period of time. This natural soy sauce has a mild taste and features a clear red-brown color and deep aroma. Fundokin focuses deeply on creating an environment comfortable for beneficial microbes because they believe that the optimization of microorganisms that naturally develop in the shoyu during its fermentation make it tastier.
Fundokin’s soy sauce pairs very well with foods simple in flavor like tofu, egg, poultry, and vegetables. It’s a suitable condiment for those who prefer enjoying the natural flavors of their foods, or do not like to over-season their food. The best Japanese dish with which to enjoy this artisan shoyu is hiyayakko (Japanese chilled tofu).
Fundokin Naturally Brewed Japanese Soy Sauce 500ml
Another koikuchi shoyu option, but this time from Kanazawa Daichi, an organic farm run by an advocate of sustainable farming. Those who are a fan of purchasing natural products should definitely check out this organic soy sauce.
This shoyu is made from Japanese organic soybeans and wheat, both of which are grown and harvested in Ishikawa prefecture. These days, since soybean production mostly takes place outside of Japan, it is very rare to find shoyu companies who actively source domestically grown soybeans. Once the ingredients have been harvested, they are transported to a JAS certified brewery in Hyogo prefecture and are brewed in a cedar barrel there.
Flavorwise, this soy sauce is rich in natural umami flavor which remains intense even when diluted with water. It is a flavorful soy sauce with prominent flavor that can be highlighted in even small amounts. Therefore, a little goes a long way.
Kanazawa Daichi Koikuchi Shoyu Japanese Organic Soy Sauce 360ml
This is the best choice if you prefer the sweet over salty flavors. Goto Shoyu, a soy sauce company based in the Kyushu region (an island located southwest of the main island Honshu), produces a sweetened soy sauce that is preferred among Kyushu locals. It’s made with soybeans and wheat, both of which are cultivated in Fukuoka, along with a sugar syrup extracted from rock candy. This soy sauce has a rich, sweet taste but also has strong umami due to the natural fermentation process. This sweet shoyu tastes great with seafood, and is also a useful ingredient for making Japanese sweets like mitarashi dango (skewered rice dumplings glazed with a sweet soy sauce syrup).
So why is sweet shoyu preferred in southern Japan? One of the reasons is related to the local climate: Kyushu is so hot and humid that there is more risk of fluid loss due to excessive sweating. As a result, sweetened soy sauce is a handy food to recharge both the salt and sugar levels of Kyushu locals through their diet.
Goto Shoyu Japanese Sweet Soy Sauce Akane 500ml
Based in Wakayama prefecture, which is said to be the origin of Japanese soy sauce, Yuasa is a well known shoyu brewery for producing natural shoyu with only a few ingredients. In fact, this naturally brewed Japanese soy sauce exhibits all of the qualities that high quality soy sauce should have, while only containing 3 ingredients!
This soy sauce has an extra rich flavor that pairs perfectly with soups, stews, and even stir fried dishes. According to a sommelier who tried this soy sauce, the flavor profile of this shoyu can be described as being salty at first, but then having a strong flavor, deep-roasted coffee like or bitter chocolate flavor that spreads in your mouth.
Yuasa Shoyu Naturally Brewed Japanese Soy Sauce 200ml
This barrel-aged Japanese Shoyu comes with a unique twist – it is made using black soybeans. While many Japanese soy sauces use white soybeans, black soybeans also bring a unique umami and flavor to shoyu. The black soybeans also give this shoyu an intense dark color, which is quite a bit darker from standard soy sauces.
Similar to other natural soy sauces from Yuasa, this soy sauce only contains minimal ingredients – black soybeans, wheat, salt, and koji, which are all processed in Japan. Since this soy sauce is so aromatic in flavor, it is recommended to pair with chilled tofu or used as a dipping sauce for sashimi. Interestingly, it also pairs well with red wine!
Yuasa Kuromame Shoyu Japanese Black Soybean Sauce 200ml
When it was revealed that many chefs from 3-star establishments around the world give their patronage to this Yamato Hishio shoyu, many core fans of Japanese cuisine sought out this product by searching in stores or on the web for it. You can bet that yes, this is an amazing shoyu.
Raw soy sauce, or nama shoyu (sometimes pronounced as nama jyoyu), is a soy sauce that is processed without heat sterilization. This gives the shoyu an extra-mellow flavor that preheated soy sauces do not have. You don’t have to worry about the hygienic aspect because the soy sauce is filtered using a special microfilter that effectively removes any impurities without disrupting its original taste. Yamato Hishio shoyu also contains natural enzymes, which actively help your body’s digestive system keep moving.
Yamato Hishio Shoyu Japanese Raw Soy Sauce 180ml
For those who are looking for an artisan shoyu that is not only full-bodied and rich in umami aroma but can also be used for cooking and in dipping sauces, check out this organic soy sauce from Fueki. Fueki, a Saitama-based shoyu brewery created this Kinbue Koikuchi natural soy sauce to be flavorful while only containing a few (but high-quality) ingredients.
This barrel-aged shoyu only contains carefully selected soybeans from Aomori, wheat from Saitama, and solar salt from Mexico. It is also free of any additives. Instead, Fueki believes that the high quality ingredients and natural flavors of the shoyu barrel are enough to create an insanely flavorful end product, and they were not wrong.
As mentioned, this soy sauce can be used in many different applications. In fact, not only is it an ideal dipping sauce for sashimi and sushi, it also compliments the flavor of grilled meats, seafoods, and even vegetables very well.
Fueki Kinbue Koikuchi Shoyu Natural Japanese Soy Sauce 600ml
Last, but certainly not least, is an organic and additive free barrel-aged shoyu from Yamahisa. This organic and JAS-certified shoyu is made only with domestically produced soybeans, wheat, and solar salt. These three ingredients are left to ferment in a large, cedar barrel for a year and a half to create a delicious soy sauce. The methods that the shoyu makers use for preparing this soy sauce are those of which have been used for more than 400 years.
This soy sauce also has a unique robust flavor that cannot be found in mass-produced soy sauces, according to Yamahisa. In order to enjoy the flavor of this soy sauce to the fullest, use it as a seasoning for grilled meats, seafood, or root vegetables. You can also use it as a seasoning for your general cooking.
Yamahisa Koikuchi Shoyu Organic Japanese Dark Soy Sauce 500ml
Which authentic Japanese barrel-aged soy sauce do you want to try first? Let us know in the comments below!