Soy sauce has a real unique taste: it’s salty and a little sweet. When you go to a Korean grocery store, you’ll find that they stock many different kinds of soy sauce, usually without English labels. Personally I always use jin-ganjang (진간장), and have been using the Sempio brand for decades.

Unlike traditional Korean guk-ganjang (국간장 or “soup soy sauce”) which has been used by Koreans for thousands of years, this style of soy sauce was introduced from Japan to Korea relatively recently. Like guk-ganjang, this soy sauce is made from soybeans but the process is totally different and the resulting soy sauce is darker, less salty, not as strong, and a little sweet. It’s better suited for everyday uses as a dipping sauce or a light flavoring agent, not to flavor a whole pot of soup. It’s too dark for that anyway – guk-ganjang is light in color and it doesn’t darken the broth.

Soy sauce


Soy sauce


I remember when I was a student and soy sauce first gained popularity in Korea: I used to have a quick breakfast by mixing rice, soy sauce, and a bit of butter before rushing out the door!

Recipes that use soy sauce (ganjang):


  1. CikSyu Johor, Malaysia joined 1/17 & has 2 comments

    Hi Maangchi, the soy sauce that you use in your cooking. it is dark soy sauce or light soy sauce. in my country, i really don’t have that brand that u suggest. thankz

  2. RuthC Colombia, South America joined 6/17 & has 8 comments

    Hi maangachi, I have always wanted to cook Korean food, but where I live only sell soy sauce kikkoman and lee kum kee. Which best replaces Korean soy sauce?

  3. Karenchristy Indonesia joined 2/14 & has 3 comments

    Maangchi 안녕~
    I wanna ask which soy sauce should i use to cook 잡채?
    The 진간장 or 국간장?
    고맙습니다 :)

  4. KrynauwOtto2 Pretoria, South Africa joined 9/13 & has 54 comments

    Hi Maangchi,
    What’s the difference between Korean soy sauce and Japanese/ Chinese soy sauce?

    • Kim Yunmi United States joined 7/12 & has 30 comments

      Chinese soysauce is traditionally made as a kinda stewish broth. Japanese soy sauce is made anaerobically. (Meaning without air–also without sun). This makes for a milder taste Traditional Korean soy sauce is made aerobically, as in with air. That is, they take the soybeans, boil them, form blocks, let them dry and then the soysauce is a byproduct of making doenjang. Koreans also traditionally added flavorings to control mold, etc, such as garlic, jujubes, ginger, seaweed, etc. Which makes for a darker, heavier, but also sweeter soy sauce. If the fermenting goes well, the umame flavor can be exquisite, but it really depends on the time it gets to ferment. Most of the soysauce preserves either better in a refrigerator or in direct sunlight after it’s made. I store the soy sauce I made in leftover glass kimchi jars.

      All soy sauce gets darker as it ages more… and the flavor can become more intense, but the Korean method is very hard to control (Because Korean soy sauce is more like wine–you need the perfect conditions and weather to create it), which is why industrial soy sauce is usually not made through the Korean method anymore.

  5. HannahT joined 1/11 & has 2 comments

    Hi Maangchi! I just found your site recently and I think it is amazing! I’m half-Korean, but I don’t know how to cook Korean food at all, and I really want to learn :) I have a question about the word for soy sauce, “jingangjang.” In the first picture (of the sempio soy sauce) the can says “yangjoganjang” (양조간장). Is that another word for soy sauce or is it a different type? Just wondering thanks!!

  6. agitologi indonesia joined 10/10 & has 1 comment

    hi miss maangchi..
    i’m trying to learn cooking korean food, and i want to ask you about this soy sauce. in my country, there is 2 type of soy sauce : sweet soy sauce and salted soy sauce, i’m sure that you’re not using the sweet one. but i also not sure you’re using salt soy sauce that i usually use. i can’t find korean soy sauce in here.
    so my question is, how is the taste of korean soy sauce? it’s important to me so at least i can get the picture, and try to find something familiar.
    and you’re also use kanari sauce or fish sauce. is it the same with fish oil (the taste is salty and the color is brownish black)?
    thanks, and i’m sorry for the long comment here..

    • Kim Yunmi United States joined 7/12 & has 30 comments

      Indonesian soy sauce is different from Korean in that Indonesian uses other flavorants added. Korean soy sauce compared to Chinese soy sauce tends to harbor a rounder flavor. Indonesian as I understand it, adds things like Candlenuts, so it probably nuttier in flavor.

      Chinese soy sauce tends not to be as umame as Korean and is generally saltier. This is probably because less mold is allowed to be in the soy sauce.

      Korean adds kochu, jujubes, garlic and ginger.

      Indonesian adds other spices, so I don’t think would be the same. (I also think the spices added are because of latitude–Indonesia uses far stronger spices, but is also closer to the equator, so you need more control over the bacteria and mold that does or does not grow.)

      Japanese, BTW, is milder than Chinese or Korean and lighter on salt because they can get away with it through how they process the soy sauce. (in the super traditional style).

      Fish sauce from Indonesia and Korea probably is different based on the fish used. Koreans vary based on region on which fish are used. Some Korean fish sauce adds shrimp top it too.

  7. ladymishel Philippines joined 10/10 & has 2 comments

    I hope this soy sauce is available in Philippines

  8. tsirhcevoli USA joined 3/10 & has 24 comments

    Does it have MSG in it? (Mono Sodium Glutamate)

  9. Is there a difference between Chinese and Korean soy sauce? Because I guess there is a difference between Chinese and Japanese soy sauce.

  10. LunaSlave& has 1 comment

    are there any good brands of Korean soy sauce that don’t use wheat?

    I’m stuck using San-J’s wheat free Tamari, it’s the only decent soy sauce I can find without any wheat in it (I can’t handle wheat gluten) but it’s quite expensive and only seems to come in small bottles. If I could get larger bottles of gluten free Korean soy sauce that’d be perfect – basically looking to use it in making galbi.

    • I know Wheat-free Korean soy sauce called Chosun Soy Suace. Sempio is No.1 Brand of Soy Sauce in Korea, which has more than 60 years history.

      Sempio’s Wheat-Free soy sauce tastes great. This SOY sauce is used mainly for Soup in Korean cuisine.
      but it can be used versatily in many different cuisines.

  11. Martha from Hoju& has 5 comments

    Hi Maangchi Soen Saeng Nim,

    I bought Saempyo soy sauce. However, I saw at least 2 types, one says soy sauce for soup ‘Guk Kan Jang’. What is the difference between this and just Saempyo soy sauce? When do you use one and not the other?



    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,045 comments

      Buy jinganjang (dark soy sauce) 금S
      I’m copying and pasting the answer that I gave to someone else a while ago.”

      There are 2 kinds of soy sauce that Koreans use: dark soy sauce (“jinganjang”(진간장)and soy sauce for soup called “gukganjang” (“국간장” in Korean)
      Koreans use gukganjang (soy sauce for soup) instead of fish sauce. I’m living in New York , so it’s difficult to make homemade gukganjang (soy sauce for soup). I know they sell it at a Korean grocery store here, but the taste is a little different from the soy sauce that I used to use in Korea.
      I found fish sauce gives the similar taste of well fermented gukganjang. That’s why I use fish sauce (“aekjjeot”: 액젓 in Korean) in ddeokguk.
      It sounds like you are living in Korea now. If you like to make delicious ddeokguk, you will have to find well fermented homemade soy sauce. If not, use fish sauce. If you don’t like the strong flavor, use less than my recipe and add a little salt instead.
      When you go to a Korean store, look for “kkanari aekjeot” (“까나리 액젓” in Korean). I know you won’t be able to find the 3 crabs there! : ) “

  12. Conejo& has 2 comments

    Hi Maangchi:
    I really like your site and your recipes, especially japchae!
    In my local oriental supermarket there are two types of korean soy sauce – once called JEN S with an orange label (the same as in the picture here) and one called JEN GOLD F-3 with a cream coloured label. The F-3 soy sauce is more expensive. Can you tell me what the difference is, and which one I should use?

  13. I thought so. The movie was on my language. They said it ”mi kecap”. Mi is equal noodle, kecap is indonesian language for sweet dark soyabean sauce. But the dish eaten simple without meat or vegetable. It’s very dark and may leave reddish oil on your lips when u eat it. But, hey anyway is there a picture of blackbean sauce noodle?

  14. Hi Maangchi! In some korean soap opera like Full House. I saw dark oily black noodle eaten. They said it’s soy sauce noodle. I’d really like to know how to make it. Could u help me?

  15. Nice! That looks great! Now that I already bought a bottle of Korean soy sauce (the same brand name “Saem Pyo”), I can cook any Korean food I want! For example: one of my favorite Korean dishes is Bulgogi. Guys, even if you haven’t gone to Korea, but if your country [whatever it is] have Korean groceries and shops, I hope you can easily find this brand. I’m located in the Philippines, and our country also have some Korean shops.

    And to Maangchi, thank you very much for recommending that soy sauce. =)

  16. Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,045 comments

    Yes, you can use Chinese soy sauce.

  17. Is it okay if I use Chinese Soya Sauce?

  18. Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,045 comments

    I don’t know much about other kinds of soy sauce. Why don’t you leave your question on the forum on my website?

  19. dear maangchi

    i heard there are many various art of soy sauce: the chinese, the korean and the japanese…what is actually the base different among them?

  20. Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,045 comments

    I think kitoman soy sauce is ok. I’m wondering why the sauce tastes a little bitter. Anyway, soy sauce I’m using everyday is the brand name “Saem Pyo” (샘표 진간장 in Korean). Thank you!

  21. hi maangchi i was wondering, does the brand of soy sauce that you use matter? I tried to make the green onion dipping sauce with the kikkoman light soy sauce…the soy sauce has a slight bitter taste to it,

    Sincerely bokchoy

    • ltzecherk UK joined 2/10 & has 1 comment

      phuong was asking a long time ago about kikkoman light soy sauce being bitter. i’ve been using kikkoman light soy sauce all this while and it is never bitter because I hate bitter taste. i think you’d better check the expiry date or the way you store it. i’d prefer kikkoman because it doesn’t contain any artificial flavouring or coloring. hehe.

      • Hana Yi Canada joined 9/10 & has 12 comments

        Could you please pick this one?
        I have written without considering English grammar, haha.

        ” I agree with Itzcherik (UK). I do use kikoman light soy sauce and other products from the same company at home. I actually prefer the taste of Japanese soy sauce than Korean one because kikkoman Sushi & Sashimi soy sauce for example tastes mild and not strong at all. ”

        The picture of a soy sauce I use home often:

        • Hana Yi Canada joined 9/10 & has 12 comments

          I have never used a Korean soy sauce since I bought one from Korean. One day my husband complained the taste a lot. I don’t remember what kind of soy sauce I bought that time. I had hardly cooked Korean food home because my husband is good cook. However, I started to cook Korean food home, I should get “Sampyo Jin soy sauce”. I am very excited on a Korean dish I will cook tonight. Firt of all I have to buy “Sampyo Jin soy sauce” from a Korean stroe. Happy cooking day !!

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