Soy Sweet Alternatives

Great New Finds

by Tom Herndon

I have been looking for two very basic ingredients for some time:

1) A soy-free — and wheat-free — sauce to use in place of soy sauce or tamari, with a delicious, umami flavor; and

2) A low-glycemic sweetner to replace agave nectar (I used to recommend agave, but given the conflicting reports about its health effects, can no longer do so).

It took me a long time, but I finally found both from one company – Coconut Secret. Their coconut aminos have the flavor identical to soy sauce and their coconut nectar has the same texture, viscosity, and sweetness as agave or honey.











Please take a minute to peruse the website of Coconut Secret to read their story and check out their products, such as vinegar, sugar, and flour, which are all made from coconuts. Great stuff.

In celebration of this discovery, I am taking the opportunity to provide some delicious recipes adapted from Cook’s Illustrated magazine which before this find would have been off-limits. But by substituting coconut aminos for soy sauce and coconut nectar for honey or sugar, I can now recommend with enthusiasm. Enjoy!

Ginger-“Soy” Dipping Sauce
Makes about 3/4 cup


1/4 cup coconut aminos
3 tablespoons mirin
1 teaspoon coconut nectar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 garlic clove , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 scallion , finely chopped


Whisk all ingredients together in medium bowl.

Grilled Salmon with Maple-“Soy” Glaze
Serves 4


4 salmon fillets (about 8 ounces each), each about 1 1/2 inches at thickest part
Chopped scallions and toasted sesame seeds for garnish

4 tablespoons coconut aminos
1/2  cup organic maple syrup
1  teaspoon finely grated ginger


Stir together coconut aminos, maple syrup, and ginger in a small saucepan; bring to simmer over medium-high heat and cook until thickened, 8 to 10 minutes.  Be sure to watch the glaze carefully as liquid evaporates. You want it to coat the back of a spoon.

Line the rack of broiler pan with tin foil and brush a little vegetable oil on the foil. Preheat broiler.

Place salmon on broiler rack and brush glaze on top. Broil (6″ from heat) 8 to 10 minutes or until fish is lightly browned and opaque.

Garnish each filet with a sprinkling of chopped scallions and toasted sesame seeds.

Serve each fillet on top of a lightly dressed mixed green salad, or with basic brown rice (see below).

“Soy” Marinade with “Honey” and Thyme for Grilled Lamb
adapted from a recipe by Jacques Pépin
Serves 4


1/2 cup coconut nectar
1/3 cup coconut aminos
2 – 3 cloves garlic , minced (2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger from a 1-inch piece
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
Pinch of cayenne pepper


Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Brush marinade onto butterflied leg of lamb, covering as much surface as possible (don’t be afraid to double the marinade recipe if you like stronger flavors).

Let marinate for 3 hours up to overnight.

Roast lamb according to regular instructions.

Vegetable Stir Fry with Orange Sauce (with protein option)
Serves 4

The secret to good stir-frying is lots of heat, so preheating the pan is crucial. During cooking, there should be lots of smoke, lots of steam, and lots of sizzle. Otherwise, you are braising the food and it will not develop the proper texture or flavor.

To give you as much surface area as possible, you should use a large (twelve- to fourteen-inch) nonstick skillet. This recipe can be halved to serve two (if you halve the recipe, the cooking times will decrease) but it cannot be increased, as a home stovetop has insufficient heat to cook greater quantities of vegetables. You can use an equal amound of beef, chicken or seafood, keeping in mind they all needs to be cut into small, even-sized pieces.The vegetables are grouped in batches, listed in the approximate order in which they should be added to the pan.

Note: Again, using a wok on a regular stovetop is NOT recommended because the wok will not get hot enough.  Gas stoves are ok with a wok ring. 


Meat (Optional)
3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts , other meat or fish, cut into small, even-sized pieces and drained of any water
1 tablespoon coconut aminos
1 tablespoon dry sherry

Use any combination from each of the four batch categories below for a total of 1 1/2 pounds:

  • carrots , cauliflower, onions, or peppers
  • asparagus , green beans, broccoli, or butternut squash
  • cabbage , celery, chard, fennel, mushrooms, peas, sugar snap peas, summer squash, or zucchini
  • scallions , fresh herbs, tender greens, or tomatoes

Other Ingredients
2 tablespoons chopped scallions , white part only
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 – 4 tablespoons safflower oil

1 large orange , zested to yield 2 teaspoons minced zest, juiced to yield 1/4 teaspoon juice
1/2  teaspoon coconut nectar
2 tablespoons low-sodium chicken (or vegetable) broth
1 tablespoon coconut aminos
Pinch of table salt


Toss meat, seafood, or tofu with coconut aminos and sherry in medium bowl; set aside. Combine all sauce ingredients in a second small bowl. Divide vegetables into two or three batches according to ingredient list.

Heat 12- or 14-inch nonstick skillet over high heat, 4 minutes (pan should be so hot, you can hold your outstretched hand 1 inch above its surface for no more than 3 seconds); add 1 tablespoon oil (add 2 tablespoons for fish) and rotate pan so that bottom is evenly coated. Let oil heat until it just starts to shimmer and smoke. Check heat with hand.

Drain meat or fish, then add to pan and stir-fry until seared and about three-quarters cooked (about 20 seconds for fish, 60 seconds for meat, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes for chicken or pork). Spoon cooked meat or seafood into serving dish. Cover and keep warm.

Let pan come back up to temperature, 1 or 2 minutes. When hot, drizzle in 2 teaspoons of oil, and when oil just starts to smoke, add vegetables from first category. Stir-fry until vegetables are just tender-crisp, about 2 minutes.

Leaving first batch in pan, repeat with remaining vegetables, cooking each set of vegetables until tender-crisp, or for fourth category, wilted. Add about a teaspoon of oil for each new batch (amount of oil will depend on skillet you are using—nonstick pans require about a teaspoon; other pans may require 2 teaspoons). Clear center of pan and add garlic, ginger, and scallions. Drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon of oil. Mash into pan with back of a spatula. Cook for 10 seconds. Remove pan from heat and stir garlic/ginger mixture into vegetables for 20 seconds.

Return pan to heat and add cooked meat or fish. Stir in sauce and stir-fry to coat all ingredients, about 1 minute. Serve immediately with basic brown rice.

Stir-Fried Pork, Scallions, and Peppers in Garlic Sauce
Serves 4

Sliced scallion whites and greens are used as a vegetable in this recipe. You will need four or five bunches of scallions (about 3/4 pound). Let the pork marinate as you make the sauce and prepare the vegetables.


3/4 pound pork tenderloin , cut into thin strips
2 teaspoons coconut aminos
2 teaspoons dry sherry
3 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
5 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 cup scallion whites , sliced on bias into 1-inch pieces
2  medium red bell peppers , stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips
1 1/2 cups scallion greens , sliced on the bias into 1/2-inch pieces

Garlic Sauce
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup dry sherry
3 tablespoons coconut aminos
1 teaspoon coconut nectar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
3 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes


For the Garlic Sauce:
Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

For the Stir-Fry:
Toss the pork with the coconut aminos and sherry in a medium bowl. In a separate, small bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, and 2 teaspoons of the oil.

Heat 1 more teaspoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add the pork and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up clumps, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Transfer the pork to a clean bowl.

Add 1 more teaspoon oil to the pan and return to high heat until shimmering. Add the scallion whites and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 1 minute. Add the remaining teaspoon oil and the bell peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes.

Clear the center of the pan and add the garlic mixture. Cook, mashing the garlic mixture into the pan with the back of a spatula, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Stir the garlic mixture into the vegetables. Add the pork and scallion greens and toss to combine. Whisk the sauce to recombine, then add it to the pan and bring to a simmer. Off the heat, toss until the pork and vegetables are well coated with sauce and sizzling hot. Serve immediately.

Basic Brown Rice
Makes 2 cups


1 cup brown rice
2 teaspoons ghee
1 teaspoon table salt
6 cups water


Wash rice by covering with cold water in the cooking pot, rubbing the rice together between the palms of both hands to scrub off starch, then drain.  Do this three times until water runs clear.

Cover rice with two inches of water and add the salt.  Cover pot and bring the water to boil. Simmer briskly, uncovered, until rice is almost tender, about 20 minutes.

Drain rice into a steamer basket that fits inside the pot. Fill pot with about 1 inch water and return to heat. Place basket of rice in pot; cover and steam until tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Scoop rice into a bowl, add ghee, and fluff gently with a fork.

Note: You can use long, medium or short grain rice.

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