How to Make Sweet Soy Sauce

by Christina Kalinowski

Tangy, briny soy sauce makes an excellent base from which to build a sweet sauce that can be used as a savory meat marinade, a stir-fry sauce or simply as a pot sticker dipping sauce. Adapted from Serious Eats’ Sweet Soy Sauce, the brown sugar in this mix lends a robust molasses-tasting sweetness, while Chinese five-spice powder adds depths of flavor with warm cinnamon and cooling licorice notes. While sweet, salty and umami are the stars, rice wine vinegar adds sour notes and toasted sesame oil contributes bitter notes for a sweet soy sauce that delights all five primary tastes.

Start to Finish: 10 minutes

Servings: Makes around 1/4 cup

Difficulty Level: Beginner


  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon water

Simmer the Sauce

Combine soy sauce, brown sugar, rice wine vinegar, garlic, sesame oil, ginger, Chinese five-spice powder and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan. Bring to medium heat, whisking until the brown sugar is completely dissolved.

Thicken the Sauce

Whisk the cornstarch and water together in a bowl, until combined. Pour the cornstarch mixture into the saucepan, whisking to combine. Bring the saucepan to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, whisking frequently, until the sauce thickens slightly. Remove the pan from heat and let cool before use.

Substitutions and Variations

If you can’t find fresh ginger, jarred minced ginger is an acceptable substitute. Red pepper flakes add a subtle, underlying heat, but they can be left out if the spice isn’t desirable. An additional tablespoon or 2 of brown sugar will up the sweetness level if you prefer a sweeter sauce. Opt for mirin in lieu of rice wine vinegar.


  • If you’d like to use sweet soy sauce as a marinade, triple or even quadruple the recipe so that you have enough to marinate up to 2 pounds of meat.

    Store any leftover sweet soy sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

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About the Author

Christina Kalinowski is a writer from the Twin Cities who began her career in 2011. She contributes food and drink related articles to The Daily Meal. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from Purdue University.