Every now and then, I spot something in the health food store that makes me think “Huh?” Coconut aminos caused this reaction. What the heck were coconut aminos? I knew that amino acids are the building blocks of protein, but I thought of coconuts as being largely fat and fiber (and a beautiful thing it is) – so what’s this about aminos?
Turns out that coconut aminos are a seasoning remarkably similar to soy sauce.
Made from coconut sap, rather than the nut meat, and sea salt, they are a great substitute for soy sauce. Like soy sauce, coconut aminos contain glutamic acid, the source of the flavor the Japanese have named “umami,” meaning “deliciousness,” but according to the manufacturer, Coconut Secret, they are 14 times as rich in glutamate as soy sauce. This means that, like soy sauce or extracted MSG , coconut aminos will enhance the flavor of any savory dish. Coconut aminos are also rich in several other amino acids.
Do not panic at the mention of MSG. Many of your favorite foods are sources of glutamate, including mushrooms, tomatoes, aged cheeses (especially Parmesan and blue cheese), anchovies, fish sauce, and the seaweed and bonito broth so popular in Japanese cooking. I see no more reason to fear coconut aminos than I would anchovy paste.
Coconut aminos are more expensive than soy sauce, a factor of being a natural product produced in small batches by a small company. Still, since you’ll use them in modest quantity in any given recipe, the cost shouldn’t be prohibitive unless the budget is very tight.
Why spend the extra money for coconut aminos when there’s soy sauce in every grocery store? A few possible reasons. Many people are avoiding soy entirely. Others, though willing to use soy in fermented form (which breaks down the phytoestrogens), are looking for a gluten-free substitute. Yes, most soy sauce contains wheat, though there are a few wheat-free – and therefore gluten-free – soy sauces on the market. Yet others like coconut aminos because they consider them to be more in line with a Paleo diet than soy sauce.
If you fall into one of these groups, you’ll find coconut aminos fill the soy sauce gap nicely, in everything from stir fries to homemade ponzu. Give ‘em a try.
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