Soy sauce is a delicious, savory, dark-colored condiment commonly served with noodles, rice, and various savory snacks. And a satisfying serving of sushi and sashimi is incomplete and unfinished without this savory dressing. But have you ever wondered about its production or ingredients it has? And why is soy sauce black or darker in color?
Sometimes, it’s entirely black, and sometimes it’s available in a dark brown or reddish look. So, is there any good or authentic reason behind this color mystery? Thankfully, we are here to describe all these facts in detail so that you get your points clear. So, let’s take a glance.
Why Is Soy Sauce Black?
Soy sauce is black and dark brown due to its making process and composition. It gets its characteristic color from a variety of factors involved in the Maillard reaction.
Maillard reaction is a progressive chemical breakdown of proteins and sugars into different compounds forming caramel, dark coloration, and complex savory flavor.
This is the same process giving seared food a perfect glaze and its eye-catching dark color.
Secondly, soy sauce gets its black color from the added ingredients such as food flavorings and colorings. For instance, caramel and molasses are used to give the sauce a sweet, complex flavor and dark coloration.
Thirdly, it’s the fermentation and brewing time that matters a lot. Generally, this process lasts for four to six months yielding incredibly darker sauce.
However, the major contribution towards coloration variety is the Maillard reaction involving some chemistry facts.
How Soy Sauce Gets Its Color
Maillard reaction seems a much tricky and mysterious process but is actually a simple and common chemical process.
You might have a better idea about that if you have ever seared a steak. Such searing of meat involves high flame and heating the steak for a few minutes continuously.
And it yields a nice, brown, and caramelized food that is amazingly delicious and appetizing. Mainly, it’s the Maillard reaction that is responsible for this dark coloration.
This chemical process requires continuous heat and time depending on the recipe ingredients. And in the above case, steaks require heat for few minutes and it’s enough.
But in the case of soy sauce, the ingredient profile is quite different. Years back, soy beans were fermented or brewed in the sun heat with the help of big urns.
But nowadays, the fermentation of soy beans takes place in large containers that are heated constantly. In addition to soy beans, there were also other roasted grains such as wheat, rice, brine, and microorganism culture.
These substances interact with one another at a constant warm temperature over months and yield a thick black soy sauce.
Prolonged heat caramelizes and reduces the soy sugars and amino acids that lead to the darkening and thickening of sauce.
But this doesn’t happen all the time. Sometimes, several food colorings and flavorings are added to make the sauce darker and simultaneously cut down the fermenting time.
Read also: Do You Need to Peel Eggplant?
Dark Vs Light Soy Sauce
Soy sauce is easily available in different varieties, and you have definitely noticed them whenever you visit the grocery store.
Besides this, you can also notice these varieties in restaurants and other food points.
Most commonly, there are two varieties, one is dark, and the other one is light. But why soy sauce has such a wide range of colors?
Well, it’s the fermentation or brewing time that really matters in the color formation. The longer the fermentation of soy sauce, the darker and black it will be.
It’s because of the prolonged Maillard reaction that gives the sauce its respective color. The darker and black the sauce, the more flavorful and tastier it will be.
In short, dark or black soy sauce has a deeper and more intense flavor and is more aged and thicker than light-colored or regular sauce.
On the contrary, light soy sauce is just because of less fermentation and little Maillard reaction than darker ones. That’s why such sauce can easily be identified for its less deep flavor and comparatively thin and watery flow.
Low Sodium Soy Sauce
In addition to light and dark soy sauce, low sodium soy sauce also exists, and probably you may be wondering about this.
Unfortunately, low sodium soy sauce can also be dark or aged and light or young. And, its label tags are also confusing yet. So, what is it actually?
Well, low sodium sauce is just because of a modified fermenting and brewing procedure. Sometimes, the salt quantity is cut down while fermenting.
And this can be possible with both light or fresh and dark or aged sauce. Therefore, you cannot distinguish it by the final sauce color.
However, sometimes the word light is labeled on the sauce as it indicates the salt quantity, not its quality or taste. And the same goes for the word dark.
Why The Soy Milk Is White, But Not Soy Suace?
As we know that why is soy sauce darker in color, but soy milk is white while both having soy beans as a primary ingredient.
It seems like a simple thought, but it actually has a good reason. So, let’s know soy beans deeply to explore the worth-explaining facts.
Soy beans are actually light yellow or cream in color and their native color is not fully reflected in soy milk and sauce.
As you already know, soy sauce is black in color just because of prolonged fermentation and Maillard reaction when subjected to high heat.
But how is soy milk made? The manufacturing process of soy milk involves prolonged soaking of soy beans and then fine grinding.
After grinding, it has to be filtered, and the liquid extract is soy milk, and that’s it. After that, the soy milk is boiled to enhance its shelf life.
Here, you’ll notice that there’s no fermentation, no prolonged heating, and thus no Maillard reaction that is responsible for dark color and intense flavor.
So, the primary reason soy milk is light is just because of the beans inside color. I hope this little helping guide proves useful for you.