The rise of specialized diets such as keto and paleo turned the spotlight on coconut as the go-to fat for many people looking to lose weight and maximize their health. But debate flares around the health benefits of coconut, the oil particularly, with no consensus among the medical community or the public. Producers of coconut aminos, a salty-sweet liquid condiment marketed as an alternative to soy sauce, claim a nutritional advantage, but any benefits come more from what it doesn't contain — GMOs, gluten, MSG — than what it does.
What Is Coconut Aminos?
Coconut aminos is a liquid condiment similar to soy sauce but made from the fermented sap of a coconut palm tree and sea salt. Coconut aminos can be used in place of soy sauce, Bragg Liquid Aminos, or tamari, though it does cost significantly more than any of them.
How to Use Coconut Aminos
Use coconut aminos to directly replace soy sauce in just about any recipe in a 1:1 ratio. You can also use it at the table as a general flavor enhancer. Try a little bit on steamed vegetables, spritz it on a salad, or add a dash to your favorite quinoa salad, vegetable stir-fry, or just about any savory dish.
What Does It Taste Like?
Coconut aminos tastes similar to soy sauce, with a salty umami flavor. But coconut aminos also has a touch of sweetness not present in soy sauce. It does not, however, taste like coconut.
Recipes With Coconut Aminos
Feel free to substitute coconut aminos in any recipe calling for soy sauce, though be aware that you won't get the exact same flavor and you may need to adjust the salt to compensate for the lower sodium content in the coconut aminos. If a recipe calls for a portion of both light and dark soy sauces, you can acceptably substitute an equal amount of coconut aminos for both, but you won't get the same depth of flavor in the finished dish.
Where to Buy Coconut Aminos
Most grocery stores stock coconut aminos, either near the spices and seasonings, in the health food aisle, or next to the soy sauce. You can also find it at any natural foods store and from online grocery retailers. One producer maintains a full list of stores on their website as well as online shopping options for the United States, Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, and New Zealand.
It's best to store an open bottle of coconut aminos in the refrigerator and use it up within a year, though it's fine unopened in the pantry for three years. If it starts to smell vinegary, you should discard it.
Nutrition and Benefits
Coconut aminos is both gluten-free and vegan. It generally contains only fermented sap from the coconut tree and sea salt, although a few brands add coconut sugar or coconut vinegar for additional flavor. It's marketed as a lower-sodium alternative to soy sauce, with about 90 milligrams per teaspoon compared to about 290 milligrams in a teaspoon of regular soy sauce. But while coconut aminos does contain less sodium than soy sauce, it's not a low-sodium food.
Even though it's made from sap, a form of sugar, coconut aminos contains only 1 gram of sugar per teaspoon because the fermentation process eliminates it, making it a low-glycemic food appropriate for diabetics. Coconut aminos is also suitable for a raw vegan diet. A 1-teaspoon serving delivers about 5 calories.
It's common to come across health influencers online touting coconut aminos as a nutritious condiment with wide-ranging benefits, but those claims do not have the backing of scientific studies. While manufacturers highlight the amino acids, the building blocks of protein that give the product its name, the nutrition label lists no protein content, indicating that any amino acids present in the product would likely be too insignificant to have an impact.
But while there's no solid justification for choosing coconut aminos on the basis of health alone, there's certainly no reason not to use the product if the flavor and other characteristics appeal to you.