Kecap Manis, also known as sweet soy sauce, is (you guessed it) a dark, sweetened soy sauce. It is incredibly popular in Indonesia, and it is a staple in the cuisine of that area.
The production of this type of sauce takes about 90 percent of Indonesia’s production, therefore, it is impossible not to find Kecap Manis in your average Indonesian pantry.
It is also quite easy to find in your local corner shop or supermarket around the world. But in the eventuality you do not have it on hand, we got you covered.
Read more to find out all the delicious sweet soy sauce alternatives you can implement in your cooking to achieve fantastic and tasty results.
The best substitute for Kecap Manis
Kecap Manis is essential in the making of exquisite, traditional dishes such as Nasi goreng, a bowl of fried rice cooked with meat and vegetables, or Ayam kecap, which is chicken simmered in this sweet soy sauce.
Although it is quite a popular ingredient, this type of sauce might not be available where you are located.
As a result, whether you want to make a delicious Indonesian dish, or simply add some extra flavor to your cooking, there are plenty of ways you can find a pretty decent Kecap Manis substitute for your recipes.
Kecap Manis is essentially a thicker, sweeter version of soy sauce. It is also dense and viscous, with a similar consistency to maple syrup.
In addition, Kecap Manis contains cinnamon, star anise, black pepper, and other spices that give it its signature, delicious taste.
Here is a list of the best substitutes for Kecap Manis that you will be able to find in any shop near you, or even in your pantry at home!
1. Soy sauce and honey
As mentioned above, sweet soy sauce is fundamentally soy sauce that was sweetened, with spices added to it for that extra kick.
Therefore, if you want to find the perfect substitute for Kecap Manis, you do not have to go too far or think too hard about it. Every so often the easiest answer is the correct one too!
As sweet soy sauce is a little thicker than your ordinary sauce made from soy, you can add some honey to give it that spot-on consistency. Adding honey to the mixture will equally give it the sweetness necessary to fully match the original sweet soy sauce.
As soy sauce has quite a significant percentage of sodium in it, you might even opt to use a healthier option, like light soy sauce for your mixture.
This soy sauce and the honey mixture will give you an incredibly similar result and if mixed correctly, you will barely notice the difference between the original and your homemade sweet soy sauce.
2. Soy sauce and brown sugar
It is known by now that soy sauce is the perfect sweet soy sauce substitute. But there is another mixture that will give you that same, tasty and thicker result:
- Take some soy sauce and some sugar, preferably brown sugar, and add it to a pan on low heat.
- Stir well and consistently try to keep an eye on it.
- If it bubbles, that is alright. But remember, don’t boil it too much otherwise it will burn. If it happens, simply take the pan away from the heat and wait a few seconds.
- Stir well to avoid the mixture sticking to the pan and carry on until the sauce has thickened enough to resemble maple syrup.
- Once you see it dark and thick, turn off the stove and set it aside to let it cool down.
Once it is ready, you can pour it into a small container or a little bowl to serve immediately.
It is as easy as it sounds, and it takes nothing but a matter of minutes to make. It keeps washing up down to a minimum, and the result is absolutely outstanding. So it is definitely worth a try.
3. Hoisin sauce
To carry on with our list of soy-based sauces, hoisin sauce is also a fantastic substitute for sweet soy sauce.
This type of sauce comes from soybean paste, therefore it is already thicker and more viscous compared to your typical soy sauce. It is already sweetened, but on top of that, it also has that savory taste to it that makes every food incredibly delicious.
Using hoisin sauce as your sweet soy sauce alternative will also avoid that minimum hassle of creating your own sauce at home. They both add that perfect umami to your dish and its consistency is already perfect enough to work as a fantastic alternative.
If you want a slightly runnier, more liquid consistency though, it is equally possible to include one or more tablespoons of water in your hoisin sauce.
That will give it a more delicate texture, ideal for dipping or use as a condiment to fix your food once it is already done.
4. Fish sauce
If you do not have any soy-based sauces around, fish sauce works wonderfully as well. It might taste a little stronger than sweet soy sauce, but it is a fantastic alternative to those who prefer a soy-free product.
To give it that wonderfully firmer consistency, you can follow the same process listed above for soy sauce.
You can either mix it with honey or unrefined sugar to make it thicker and sweeter, to make it taste even more like the real thing:
- when mixed with honey, it can be easily achieved in a bowl. Just include both your ingredients and stir well, until the mixture is thick and smooth;
- when mixed with brown sugar, add the two ingredients to a small pot and let it boil on low heat until the mixture is smooth and dense enough.
Both versions of this fish sauce will give you a pretty similar and close alternative to dark sweet soy sauce.
5. Oyster sauce
Slightly less fishy but still fantastic enough to work as a substitute for our popular Indonesian sweet soy sauce.
Both Kecap Manis and oyster sauce share numerous similarities. One can be their consistency: they both have a dense, firmer texture. Both sauces are quite flavorful and slightly spiced. They both share a lovely, sour caramel aftertaste.
As a result, it does make sense to use oyster sauce in your recipes when it calls for a dark sweet soy sauce.
The sole difference might represent the lack of sweetness to oyster sauce, but this is easily fixable. Just follow the methods listed above, and you will have the perfect Kecap Manis substitute.
You can add either brown sugar or honey, and you will come up with a fantastic, more concentrated oyster sauce with a sweet something to it.
6. Tianmian sauce
Tianmian sauce is a Chinese sauce made out of sweet bean paste. It is definitely thicker than our Kecap Manis. Its texture is more like a paste than a sauce.
And tianmian sauce is not as sweet as Kecap Manis either, but that does not stop it from providing a fantastic substitute. It can be employed for braising meat, or it can be added as a special ingredient to sauces and dips to create a fantastic condiment.
Tianmian sauce can be an excellent alternative for your homemade recipes, but there are a few more options if you are still not convinced!
7. Tamari sauce
This Japanese sauce comes from miso soybeans. It means that it will give your recipes that fantastic umami you are looking for.
On the plus side, Tamari sauce often comes as a gluten-free sauce, so it fits perfectly for those who follow a gluten-free diet (although it is always best to double-check the label!).
8. Shoyu sauce
Shoyu sauce is pretty much a Japanese version of soy sauce. The only difference is that it contains slightly less salt and it is a little sweeter.
These two qualities make it another ideal match in our quest for the best sweet soy sauce alternative. It is incredibly easy to find anywhere around the world, as it is the most used soy sauce out there.
It does not require any modifications in your recipes. Simply swap it for Kecap Manis when the recipe calls for it, and you are done. Easy-peasy!
9. Coconut aminos
Coconut aminos is made from the nectar of coconut palms. It contains an incredibly low percentage of sodium compared to soy sauce.
It also is fantastically sweet, so it works wonders as a sweet soy sauce substitute. Coconut aminos is also gluten-free and soy-free, so it is great for any sort of diet.
Although it already is quite sweet, if you are planning on using it for your recipes you might want to mix it a little bit with some brown sugar or honey.
That will ensure you achieve the exquisite balance between sweet and sour that brings out the full flavor of your dishes.
How to choose a Kecap Manis substitute
From this comprehensive list of Kecap Manis alternatives, it is pretty easy to notice there are plenty of choices for you out there:
- Best alternatives: if you plan to keep washing down to a minimum, some alternatives can be used as they are and do not require any modifications. For example, shoyu sauce, if you enjoy your food to be a little sweeter. Or Tianmian sauce, if you do not mind that hint of sourness. And last but not least, hoisin sauce can work too as a Kecap Manis alternative, thanks to its delicate flavor and thicker consistency.
- Saltier alternative: if your recipe calls for this delicious Indonesian sweet soy sauce, and if you prefer a saltier, rather than a sweeter alternative, there are a few options for you. It is possible to either go making your own sauce by mixing soy sauce or oyster sauce along with brown sugar or some honey to create that perfect mix of flavors that resembles our excellent sweet soy sauce.
- Soy-free and gluten-free alternatives: if you are on a soy-free or gluten-free diet, there are also wonderful substitutes you can use in your recipes. Both coconut aminos and fish sauce are soy-free and gluten-free (although, you should always check the label to be extra sure!), and they both work wonders as Kecap Manis alternatives. Tamari sauce is also a fantastic gluten-free alternative.
The options are countless, and it all depends on your personal preference and the use you are going to make of it. The choice is yours to make. They will all make your dish incredibly tasty anyway!