The most important etiquette rules on how to serve and eat soy sauce. Tips to be the ideal host or the perfect guest at the dining table.

soy sauce dipper bowl

What soy sauce etiquette is

Soy sauce etiquette is the set of rules to properly serve, use, and eat soy sauce. Such rules help avoid behaviors that may disrespect your hosts or guests, or make you look unpolite.

If you are hosting, follow soy sauce etiquette to serve it to your guests appropriately.

As a guest, respect soy sauce etiquette rules to properly use it at the dining table and avoid offending your hosts.

What you should know about soy sauce

Soy sauce is a table condiment. It is made from fermented soybeans, grain, and brine.

Many varieties of soy sauce exist. In general, soy sauce is liquid in texture, dark brown in color, and salty in flavor. It is typical in Asian countries and it originated in China.

rules to eat and serve soy sauce and add it to a dish

Etiquette rules to serve and eat soy sauce

1) How to store soy sauce

Store soy sauce at room temperature, outside the fridge. Keep it in a cool and dry place, far from sources of heat and direct light. Consume it before the expiration date on the bottle.

Avoid storing soy sauce in the fridge, as cold temperatures prevent the sauce from releasing its aroma.

2) How to clean soy sauce

Soy sauce in commerce is ready for consumption. It does not need cleaning or filtering.

3) How to prepare & cook with soy sauce

You can use soy sauce as an ingredient or a dressing. Soy sauce can be used to marinate meat and fish, or added when stir-frying. As a dressing, soy sauce goes well with Asian dishes, meat, fish, and vegetables.

Use soy sauce sparingly. It is most appropriate to present soy sauce to your guest separately from food, and let them add it to their liking.

Some guests may avoid soy sauce for health reasons, such as celiac conditions or another intolerance or allergy. Thus, before hosting a meal, it is considerate to ask your guests whether they have some dietary restrictions.

4) How to serve & present soy sauce

Soy sauce is not a necessary seasoning in Westerner dining etiquette. While it is common in Asian dining etiquette. Soy sauce may be placed on the dining table on formal and informal occasions.

Serve soy sauce at room temperature. Serve it in a small ceramic or glass bottle or container. You can put a small saucer plate under the container to prevent soy sauce from dripping onto the table. Provide each guest with an individual dipping bowl to pour the sauce in.

Place soy sauce at the center of the table, next to the other condiments, so it is easily accessible to most or all guests. If you are hosting a large party, serve one say sauce container for every 8 guests.

At the end of the meal, before serving a cheese course, fruit, or dessert, it is polite to remove saoy sauce and other condiments from the table.

5) Foods & beverages to pair soy sauce with

Soy sauce goes well with Asian food, such as stir-fried dishes, sushi, and sashimi. You can pair it with meat, fish, and vegetables too. Soy sauce matches well with salmon, tuna, and chicken.

Pair soy sauce with beer or Sake. Avoid pairing it with wine, as it is too salty.

6) How to use & eat soy sauce

In general, adding seasoning to a dish risks disrespecting your host. It can signal that you dislike the flavor, or that the dish could have been prepared better. Thus, if you add soy sauce to a dish, add it in small quantities.

The most polite way to add soy sauce depends on the cuisine and food. For example, in Japanese cuisine, soy sauce is rarely added directly to the food. Instead, you should dip the food into the dipper bowl.

soy sauce etiquette mistakes

Soy sauce etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. Read more about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst soy sauce etiquette mistakes. 

  • 8/10. Pouring soy sauce directly on sushi or sashimi.
  • 7/10. Adding soy sauce in large quantities to your dish.

Additional information for properly serving soy sauce

How many calories per serving?

Counting calories is essential to stay healthy and to correctly plan a menu.

The calories in soy sauce depend on the variety. In general, a tablespoon contains about 9 calories.

How to buy the best soy sauce

A crucial factor in soy sauce etiquette is to serve the best product possible to your guests.

Choose the best

Most soy sauce in commerce is an industrial or semi-industrial product. The most common varieties are either Chinese or Japanese. They can vary in color, taste, and density. Try different brands and identify the one that better suits your taste.


  • Chemical and Sensory Characteristics of Soy Sauce: