What Is Nama Shoyu?

A Guide to Buying and Using Nama Shoyu

A bowl of Nama Shoyu.

The Spruce/Madhumita Sathishkumar

In Japanese, nama means raw (or unpasteurized) and shoyu means soy sauce. Therefore, nama shoyu is a raw, unpasteurized Japanese-style soy sauce popular among those following a raw and vegan food diet.

Raw Food Culture

Though nama shoyu is actually heated well above the usually raw-allowed 118 F, it is still used by many raw foodists because it is believed to contain beneficial living enzymes; those following a raw vegan diet will usually consider that the beneficial enzymes counteract the fact that it was heated above the allowed temperature. The Ohsawa brand Nama Shoyu, for example, is fermented, or cultured, in the traditional way, in wooden barrels under the sun. The label boasts "living enzymes and beneficial organisms." 

A few very strict and pure raw foodists don't consume this nama shoyu because it isn't technically raw. However, the depth of flavor it adds to foods remains crucial to many dishes, and the sauce is regularly incorporated into the diets of raw foodists as well as in most raw food restaurants. Though there is some small debate in the raw food community about nama shoyu, most raw foodists will include nama shoyu in their diet as an acceptable product, especially since it is usually consumed in such small quantities. The presence of the living enzymes seems to supersede the heating that takes place before the culturing process. The same goes for foods like fermented cashew cheese. Though the cashews may not be 100% fully raw, the presence of so much living enzymatic activity makes up for it, to all but the most strict adherents of a raw food or raw vegan diet. 


Nama shoyu adds a rich depth of umami-like flavor as well as a hearty dose of saltiness. A bit of sea salt or kosher salt can replace or substitute nama shoyu in a pinch, though it won't be quite the same. For those who are gluten-free or simply prefer a fresh, truly raw vegan experience, experiment with a homemade raw vegan substitute for nama shoyu.

Not eating a fully raw vegan diet and looking for a substitute for nama shoyu? Nama shoyu is also similar in taste and function to:

Raw Vegan Meals

Nama shoyu can be used in the same way that you would use soy sauce. The possibilities are nearly endless! Here are a few suggestions:

  • Marinades
  • Dipping sauce (for lettuce wraps or raw nori rolls)
  • Raw soup stock
  • Salad dressings
  • Sauces
  • As a general condiment

Recipes With Nama Shoyu

Article Sources
The Spruce Eats uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Raba DN, Iancu T, Bordean DM, Adamov T, Popa VM, Pîrvulescu LC. Pros and cons of raw vegan dietAdvanced Research in Life Sciences. 2019;3(1):46-51. doi:10.2478/arls-2019-0010