Best kecap manis substitute so you can still enjoy your favorite Asian recipes without feeling like they're missing a thing! I've also included my recipe for making your own kecap manis at home! It's made with just 2 ingredients, so if you can't find kecap manis at your local store, not to worry!
Best Substitutes For Kecap Manis
It's not unlikely that you're here because kecap manis popped up on a recipe, and you don't have any on hand. Maybe it's an ingredient you are unfamiliar with altogether!
Luckily, there are a number of great substitutions that can be made from simple ingredients that are much easier to find. In fact, if you have some soy sauce on hand, you're already halfway there!
- Best Substitutes For Kecap Manis
- What Is Kecap Manis
- What To Use If You Don't Have Kecap Manis
- 1. Homemade Kecap Manis
- 2. Soy Sauce + Sugar
- 3. Soy Sauce + Honey (or Maple Syrup)
- 4. Tamari + Sugar
- 5. Coconut Aminos + Sugar
- 6. Hoisin Sauce
- 7. Teriyaki Sauce
- 8. Oyster Sauce + Sugar
- 9. Fish Sauce + Honey
- 10. Tianmian Sauce
- 11. Liquid Aminos
- Tips For Choosing The Best Kecap Manis Substitute
- 📋 Recipe
- 💬 Comments
What Is Kecap Manis
Kecap manis is an Indonesian sweet soy sauce. "Kecap" means "sauce" in Indonesian, and "manis" means "sweet," hence the name.
The sauce is thick and syrupy and is made from a combination of fermented soybeans, palm sugar, water, and spices. It has a distinct sweet and savory flavor and adds a rich, caramel-like sweetness and a touch of umami to the dishes it is used in.
What To Use If You Don't Have Kecap Manis
The best solution when you run out of (or can't find) kecap manis is to make your own at home! If you're in a rush, you can keep it simple with my easy 2-ingredient kecap manis.
If not, there are tons of tasty stir-ins that will help you to develop even more flavor in your sauce!
Easy Kecap Manis Ingredients
- Palm Sugar - 1 ⅓ cup palm sugar (brown sugar or molasses can be used instead).
- Soy Sauce - 1 ⅓ cup of soy sauce (reduced-sodium soy sauce is best).
- Molasses - 1 tablespoon of molasses or treacle.
- Garlic - 2-4 cloves of garlic.
- Ginger - ½ tablespoon of ginger (peeled and diced).
- Curry Lime Leaves - 2 curry lime leaves.
- Star Anise - 2 whole star anise.
- Cloves - 2 whole cloves.
- Coriander Seeds - ¼ teaspoon of whole coriander seeds.
- Black Peppercorns - ¼ teaspoon of whole black peppercorns.
How To Make Kecap Manis
- Combine the ingredients. In a small saucepan, combine 1 ⅓ cups (255.9 grams) of palm sugar (or brown sugar or molasses) and 1 ⅓ cups (315.45 milliliters) of soy sauce. Stir well to dissolve the sugar as you bring the sauce to a low boil over medium-high heat.
- Simmer. Once the sauce reaches a boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the liquid becomes syrupy and viscous. Remember to stir frequently to prevent over-boiling. *This is the perfect time to add any of the optional stir-ins.
- Let it thicken. You'll know the sauce is ready when it clings to a spoon and slowly drips back into the saucepan.
- Remove from heat. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the sauce to cool completely. Keep in mind that the sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.
- Use or store. Once cooled, transfer the sauce to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator. It will stay fresh for up to 2 months.
2. Soy Sauce + Sugar
Because kecap manis is a sweet soy sauce, naturally, soy sauce and sugar would make the best substitution (outside of making your own). If you have brown sugar or molasses on hand, you can try making the recipe above.
If not, you can use 1 ⅓ cup of soy sauce and 1 ⅓ cup of regular granulated sugar. It won't have that same molasses taste, but it will do the job!
Combine the 2 ingredients in a saucepan and simmer them together as instructed above. This can be used as a 1:1 substitution for kecap manis in any recipe.
3. Soy Sauce + Honey (or Maple Syrup)
If you don't have any sugar on hand, honey is the next best thing. You can also use maple syrup, but your sauce will have a noticeable maple flavor.
For this substitution, you will need to add some water to the mix before simmering. Use 2 cups of soy sauce, 2 cups of water, and 1 cup of honey.
Bring the ingredients to a low boil over medium-high heat, then let it simmer until it thickens to your desired consistency. Remove from heat, let cool, and you can use this sauce as a direct substitute for kecap manis.
4. Tamari + Sugar
Tamari is typically made with wheat, making it a great substitute if you are looking for something gluten-free. It has a rich color and flavor, though it is not nearly as salty as soy sauce.
In place of sugar, you can use any of the sweetening agents mentioned above (honey, molasses, palm sugar, etc). You will want to use equal parts tamari and sweetener.
Combine the ingredients, then bring them to a low bowl over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and let simmer, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens up to your liking.
This can be used as a 1:1 replacement for kecap manis. It's particularly great in soups and stews!
5. Coconut Aminos + Sugar
Coconut aminos are one of the most popular soy sauce substitutes. It's vegan and vegetarian-friendly, as well as soy-free and gluten-free!
Simply combine equal parts coconut aminos and sugar and simmer it on the stovetop as directed above. Once it has thickened and cooled, you can use it as a 1:1 substitute for kecap manis.
6. Hoisin Sauce
Hoisin sauce shares many similarities with kecap manis. It's thick, sweet, salty, savory, and it's also made with fermented soy beans!
Hoison sauce does include a variety of herbs and spices, so it's best to use ¾ tablespoon of hoisin sauce for every 1 tablespoon of sweet soy sauce.
Like kecap manis, teriyaki sauce has a sweet-yet-savory and umami flavor. It is easy to make from scratch, or you can pick up a pre-made bottle at your local grocery store.
Teriyaki sauce typically uses soy sauce as its base and usually includes brown sugar to give it that perfect balance of sweet and savory.
You don't need to add any additional ingredients to your teriyaki sauce, and it can be used in place of kecap manis in a 1:1 ratio.
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8. Oyster Sauce + Sugar
Oyster sauce is thick and salty with an umami flavor that is similar to kecap manis. However, it does have a fishy oyster taste that is noticeable in larger amounts.
Oyster sauce also lacks sweetness. To make up for it, you can add ¼ tablespoon of sugar to every ¾ tablespoon of oyster sauce. This can be used in place of 1 tablespoon of kecap manis.
Remember, the sugar won't cover up the oyster flavor, so if you aren't a fan, this is not the best substitute for you.
9. Fish Sauce + Honey
Like oyster sauce, fish sauce has a 'fishy' flavor that may not be preferable to some people. Honey is the best option for cutting the fishy flavor, though it is still somewhat noticeable in larger amounts.
It does share the salty umami flavor of kecap manis, so it makes an acceptable substitution in most recipes. I recommend using 1 parts honey to 2 parts fish sauce.
This combination can be used as a 1:1 substitute for kecap manis.
10. Tianmian Sauce
Tianmian sauce (also called sweet bean sauce) has a very similar flavor to kecap manis, though it might not be as easy to locate as soy sauce and sugar. If you happen to have some on hand, however, you're in luck!
It has a sweet and salty flavor that works well in most recipes. You can use it as a 1:1 substitute in place of kecap manis.
11. Liquid Aminos
Not to be confused with coconut aminos, liquid aminos are actually made from soy beans. It has a sweet umami flavor but is not thick like kecap manis.
You can use liquid aminos as a 1:1 substitution for kecap manis in soups, stews, dips, and marinades!
Tips For Choosing The Best Kecap Manis Substitute
When it comes to picking the best kecap manis substitute, consider the dish you have in mind and how the flavors will blend. Here's a few more tips and tricks:
- Use your preferred sweetener: The sweeteners are interchangeable for most of these substitutes. You can use honey, molasses, brown sugar, or granulated sugar to add sweetness to savory ingredients.
- Consider the thickness of the sauce: Some of the listed substitutes above are thick and syrupy, like kecap manis, while others (like fish sauce) are not. Thin sauces will do best in soups, stews, or marinades.
- Taste test: Try a small amount of the substitute before using it in a recipe. This will help you assess its flavor to see if it matches your expectations! Adjust the seasoning as needed by adding more sweetness or saltiness to achieve your desired taste.
Now that you know how easy it is to make kecap manis at home, you'll never run out again! Tell me what recipes you make with kecap manis in the comment section below!
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Kecap Manis Substitute: Homemade Kecap Manis (+More Great Alternatives!)
Quick & Easy 2-Ingredient Version
- 1 ⅓ cup palm sugar (brown sugar or molasses can be used instead)
- 1 ⅓ cup soy sauce (reduced sodium soy sauce is best)
- Combine ingredients (1 ⅓ cup palm sugar, 1 ⅓ cup soy sauce) in a small saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar while you bring the sauce to a low boil over medium-high heat.1 ⅓ cup palm sugar, 1 ⅓ cup soy sauce
- Once you reach a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the liquid becomes syrupy (viscous), about 10-15 minutes. Be sure to stir frequently to prevent over-boiling. *Add optional ingredients once simmering. Stir in 1 tablespoon molasses, 2-4 cloves garlic, diced ½ tablespoon ginger, 2 curry lime leaves, 2 star anise, 2 cloves, ¼ teaspoon coriander seeds, and/or ¼ teaspoon black peppercorns if desired.1 tablespoon molasses, 2-4 cloves garlic, ½ tablespoon ginger, 2 curry lime leaves, 2 star anise, 2 cloves, ¼ teaspoon coriander seeds, ¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
- The sauce is done when it clings to your spoon when drizzled back into the sauce pan.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool completely (the sauce will continue to thicken while cooling). Store in an airtight container. Will keep refrigerated for up to 2 months.
Angela is an at home chef that developed a passion for all things cooking and baking at a young age in her Grandma's kitchen. After many years in the food service industry, she now enjoys sharing all of her family favorite recipes and creating tasty dinner and amazing dessert recipes here at Bake It With Love!