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The 9 Best Kecap Manis Substitutes 

The best kecap manis substitutes are soy sauce and oyster sauce. These condiments efficiently replicate the mixture of the sweet and savory flavors that this delicious sauce is notorious for in any dish.

In the rest of this article, I will cover all 9 viable substitutes for Kecap Manis and how to use them.

Kecap manis being poured into a bowl

1. Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is a salty condiment made from:

  • Fermented soybeans
  • Wheat 
  • Salt
  • Water

It has a very salty flavor, is dark brown in color, and has a thin liquid consistency. 

While it lacks some of the vital sweetness found in kecap manis, soy sauce can be combined with a few other simple ingredients to create those flavors. Elements such as sugar, molasses, or honey can be used to replicate the sweet taste of kecap manis. 

Kecap manis contains palm sugar. If palm sugar is unavailable, standard table sugar or brown sugar can serve as a different option for the mixing process. 

To combine the soy sauce and sugar-based ingredients:

  1. Place the ingredients in a pot or saucepan on the stove on medium to high heat.
  2. Stir the ingredients thoroughly for 7-10 minutes until the sauce thickens.
  3. Remove the newly created soy sauce mixture from the heat and set it aside until it looks like syrup.

Once cooled off, the soy sauce mixture can be used in cooking as a good substitute for kecap manis.

2. Tamari Sauce

Tamari sauce is considered a type of soy sauce, but unlike regularly known soy sauce, it doesn’t contain large amounts of gluten. In a similar fermentation process, tamari sauce is still made with soybeans, but the wheat ingredients are usually removed. 

Compared to traditional soy sauce’s notable flavor, tamari sauce is a little sweeter. It does have a similar texture and consistency and may need to be thickened up with additional sugar if desired. 

Tamari sauce is typically made without wheat products and is a potential option for those who cannot consume gluten. However, in some cases, small amounts of wheat may be used during fermentation and thus leave traces of wheat in the final product. 

3. Oyster Sauce

Oyster sauce is a sauce made from six core ingredients: 

  • Oyster juice or extract
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Vinegar
  • Corn starch
  • Sugar 

Despite having oysters included within its contents, this sauce does not have a fishy aftertaste and instead has a more subtle, savory essence. These salty flavors are equally balanced and do not overpower the sweetness. 

Oyster sauce in a white bowl with tomatoes in the background

Similar in consistency and flavor, oyster sauce makes an excellent substitute for kecap manis.

Unlike other replacement options, this sauce does not require any alterations as it possesses the same sweetness and thicker consistency. It is a quick addition to any dish, but oyster sauce is especially good in stir-fries or veggie-based recipes. 

4. Fish Sauce

Another fantastic substitute for kecap manis is fish sauce. While it is similar to oyster sauce in that it is seafood-based, it has a slightly different taste. It also has a more watery consistency and does not thicken. 

Fish sauce is made from fermented fish such as anchovies and has a stronger and more noticeable fish flavor. While it is not so prevalent that it is overbearing, some may be inclined to disregard this replacement altogether. 

However, fish sauce is an excellent substitute because it retains all the sweet and salty components provided by kecap manis.

If the fish flavor becomes too much or noticeable, ingredients like sugar or molasses can be added to tone down the flavors and replace them with extra sweetness. This added sugar also results in a thicker consistency that correctly mimics the thickness found in kecap manis. 

5. Mushroom Sauce

Commonly referred to as vegan oyster sauce, mushroom sauce is another alternative for kecap manis that is similar to both the oyster and fish sauce substitutes. It also shares a similar presentation, color, and consistency with kecap manis.

Not to be confused with the similar-sounding mushroom gravy, mushroom sauce usually contains the same ingredients as oyster sauce minus the oysters. These are replaced with shiitake mushrooms, making it a possible option for those with seafood allergies who still want that savory and sweet flavor combination.

This alternative vegan option contains all the flavors in kecap manis, but they may be more muted in some cases. Additional ingredients such as extra spices, soy sauce, or sugar can be added to the mushroom sauce to enhance or replace the missing flavors to the consumer’s desired levels. 

6. Liquid Aminos

Liquid aminos are a dark sauce consisting of amino acid concentrations collected from soybean protein. They are a thin consistency comparable to soy sauce, yet they have a slightly sweeter taste. 

In addition, liquid aminos contain less sodium than kecap manis and other alternatives, but they do still possess a strong salty taste. However, they are an excellent low-sodium alternative for those trying to limit their overall sodium intake.

Since liquid aminos come straight from soybeans and the only other ingredient utilized to make them is water, this sauce is entirely gluten-free and vegan, which makes them an excellent substitute for anyone who does not eat meat or animal products. 

7. Coconut Aminos

Like liquid aminos, this type is an ideal substitute for kecap manis with various health benefits. These aminos are a perfect sauce substitute for those who are:

  • Gluten-free
  • Vegan
  • Vegetarian
  • Unable to consume soy-based products

Coconut aminos are made from fermented coconut sap, but the coconut flavoring is not prevalent in the final product. Instead, these aminos have a distinct, sweeter taste that balances with the salt added during the fermentation. 

They contain no traces of soy or wheat, resulting in a substitute that those with food allergies or specialized dietary restrictions can happily enjoy. With these, people can still enjoy the delectable sweetness of kecap manis while taking care of their overall health. 

While one can add more spices to increase the flavor if preferred, coconut aminos do not require any alterations to match that of kecap manis. 

8. Teriyaki Sauce

Teriyaki sauce is another fantastic substitute for kecap manis. It is a sauce typically used for stir-fries, glazes, or marinating meat. Teriyaki sauce is typically made from:

  • Soy Sauce
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Sesame Oil
  • Sake
  • Chili peppers

In contrast to other kecap manis substitutes, teriyaki sauce is more complex in terms of its overall flavor. It maintains the essential sweet and salty components associated with kecap manis. Yet, it may also have more noticeable hints of the various aromatic ingredients added to it. 

Additionally, teriyaki sauce may be a bit spicier than kecap manis. The flavor levels in teriyaki sauce can be altered depending on how much spice is preferred. To replicate the original taste of kecap manis as closely as possible, choose a teriyaki sauce that does not contain excessive amounts of chili peppers or hotter spices. 

However, teriyaki sauce can remain unaltered if a more prominent spicy flavor is the desired outcome. 

9. Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire sauce is a sauce known for its acidic and tangy flavors that come from the following ingredients:

  • Soybeans
  • Garlic
  • Onion 
  • Anchovies 
  • Tamarind

While the savory aspects of this sauce come from the garlic and onions, the sweet elements come from the use of tamarind. Due to this balance of flavors, Worcestershire sauce matches the layered flavors of kecap manis well. 

Despite being a little thinner than kecap manis, Worcestershire sauce is not as runny as some other sauce alternatives. It maintains a syrup-like consistency and does not need to be thickened with additional ingredients. 

Like kecap manis, this sauce is versatile and used in various meat and veggie-based dishes as a base or an additional topping. 

Can I Use Hoisin Sauce Instead of Kecap Manis? 

You can use hoisin sauce instead of kecap manis. This sauce has similar sweet and salty components, but some may add more chili and garlic. If the savory flavors are too intense, a small amount of sugar can be added to emphasize more sweetness.

Hoisin sauce is a good substitute for kecap manis because it has the same texture and consistency. The taste is a little different, but it still has that familiar sweet tang.

Can I Substitute Kecap Manis for Soy Sauce?

You can substitute kecap manis for soy sauce. While it has a heavier consistency, kecap manis can be reduced by adding a small amount of water. This action preserves the flavors while matching the fluidity of regular soy sauce. Added salt can create a more savory flavor. 

However, this won’t work for those unable to consume soy. You should also be wary of adding more salt to dark soy sauce, since it’s already very rich and will become overbearing if you add too much. 

Is Kecap Manis the Same As Sweet or Dark Soy Sauce? 

Kecap manis is the same as sweet soy sauce. It has the same sweet and salty taste. However, it’s actually different from dark soy sauce. This is typically Japanese and is more intense in flavor than kecap manis.

Dark soy sauce has a very thick consistency, but it’s not as thick as kecap manis. You’ll need to alter the consistency to get the same texture.

For more, don’t miss Does Soy Sauce Need to Be Refrigerated?