How much sodium is in Asian salty sauces?

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Wednesday, 04 November 2020.
Tagged: health, healthy cooking, healthy eating, nutrition, salt

How much sodium is in Asian salty sauces?
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Salty sauces like soy, fish or hoisin sauce are a key feature of Asian cuisine and are used in countless ways as marinades, splashed into stir fries and soups, as a basting sauce on roasts and barbecues, as a dipping or a table sauce. These sauces are an easy way to add flavour to meats, fish, vegetables and plain rice or noodles. Their one drawback is the huge load of salt (sodium) they deliver. Read on for the best and worst of these sauces and how you can minimize their damage.

Most of these sauces are very low in fat and kilojoules (Calories). However, all tend to be high in salt which ranges from 3 to a whopping 20 per cent salt! This high salt content (combined with a low moisture content and often a high sugar content) gives them a long shelf life which means they can be stored unrefrigerated almost indefinitely. Even though the storage instruction say to refrigerate them after opening, honestly I’ve had some bottles in my kitchen for years and they’re fine. They take the place of the table salt in Western diets.

Eight types of Asian salty sauces

Of course, you’ll spot more than these eight, once you start adding in oil, chilli oil, rice wine and peppercorns, but these are the most popular sauces used by home cooks. There’s also teriyaki, sweet ‘n’ sour and ponzu sauces but these tend to be minor. The serve size varies from a small 10 mL, or 2 teaspoons, to a more standard 20 mL which equates to a tablespoon.

Soy sauce

This most popular of Asian sauces is essential to Chinese and Japanese cooking. It’s added  to marinades, stir-fries, noodle dishes and used as a dipping sauce.  In Indonesia, you’ll find Ketjap manis is a popular sweet soy sauce. 

Gluten-free, wheat-free, tamari is one of the authentic sauces introduced to Japan from China. It is made from soy beans and has a slightly stronger flavour than regular soy sauce. It’s traditionally used to flavour longer-cooking foods such as soups and casseroles, but it can be used as a marinade or as a dipping sauce. Interestingly many soy sauces contain alcohol so if this is important to you then shop around, Ayam Light Soy and PureHarvest Organic Tamari are both alcohol and gluten free.

Fish sauce

Made by dissolving anchovies in salt over a long period of time, fish sauce loses its pungency when cooked or mixed with other ingredients. Used in Thai and Vietnamese dishes. 

Bowl with tasty soy sauce on grey textured background

Oyster sauce

This sauce is made from oysters, soy sauce, salt and spices.

Chilli sauce

Comes in many variations e.g. sweet, hot and with garlic flavour. Can be added to soups, stir-fries and noodle dishes to add heat and enliven the flavour.

Black Bean

This sauce is made from fermented soy beans and adds a nutty barbecued flavour.  Good for pork and chicken.

Hoisin Sauce

Made from soybeans, garlic, vinegar, sugar and spices, hoisin sauce has a sweet and spicy flavour. It can be added to a stir fry, used as a dipping sauce or to glaze a roast. 

Satay sauce

This delicious sauce contains peanuts, coconut milk, chilli and spices.  Traditionally it’s served as a dipping sauce with chicken skewers or to top an Indonesian Gado Gado salad.

Char Siu sauce

This is a pleasantly sweet and rich-tasting traditional Chinese-style barbecue sauce which gives pork that characteristic red glaze. 'Char Siu' in Cantonese means barbecued pork. This pork dish is a typical Cantonese delicacy.

Sodium (salt) in the 8 types of Asian sauces 

Type of sauce

Sodium (mg) per 100 g (or 100 mL)

Soy sauce: average


Yeo’s Light Soy Sauce 640 mL


Lee Kum Kee Soy Sauce 150 mL


Yeo’s Dark Soy Sauce 640 mL


Fountain Soy Sauce 250 mL


Kikkoman Soy Sauce 600 mL


Kikkoman Soy Sauce Gluten Free 250 mL


Ayam Light Soy 210 mL


Pearl River Bridge Light Soy Sauce 500 mL


PureHarvest 250 mL


Lee Kum Kee Soy Sauce Reduced Salt 600 mL


Kikkoman Soy Sauce Salt Reduced 600 mL


ABC Sweet Soy Sauce 620 mL


Fish sauce: average


Squid Fish Sauce 300 mL


Ayam Fish Sauce 210 mL


Pandaroo Fish Sauce 200 mL


Chang’s Fish Sauce 300 mL


Maggi Fish Sauce 300 mL


Poonsin Fish Sauce 205 mL


Oyster sauce: average


Lee Kum Kee Panda Oyster Sauce 510 g


Coles Oyster Sauce 300 mL


Ayam Oyster Sauce 420 mL


Changs Oyster Sauce 430 mL


Maggi Oyster Sauce 295 mL


Ongs Oyster Sauce 255 g


Pandaroo Oyster Sauce 250 mL


Chilli sauce: average


Chang’s Hot Chilli Sauce 150 mL


ABC Extra Hot Chilli Sauce 340 mL


ABC Original Chilli Sauce 335 mL


Trident Hot Chilli Sauce 285 mL


Linghams Chilli Sauce 280 mL


Fountain Mild Chilli Sauce 250 mL


Fountain Hot Chilli sauce 250 mL


MasterFoods Squeezy Hot Chilli Sauce 250 mL


Beerenberg Chilli Sauce 300 mL


Black bean sauce: average


Ayam Black Bean Sauce 210 mL


Chang’s Black Bean Sauce 150 mL


Tyalor’s Stir Fry Black Bean Sauce 350 mL


KanTong Beef & Black Bean Cooking sauce 510 g


Blue Dragon Stir Fry Black Bean Sauce 490 g


Hoisin sauce: average


Woolworths Select Hoisin Sauce 320 mL


Chang’s Hoisin Sauce 150 mL


Lee Kum Kee Hoisin Sauce 240 g


Fountain Hoisin Sauce 250 mL


Ayam Hoisin Sauce 210 mL


Pandaroo Hoisin Sauce 250 mL


Ongs Hoisin sauce 227 g


Satay sauce: average


Empower Foods LC Satay Sauce 350 mL


Fountain Satay Sauce 250 mL


Pandaroo Satay Sauce 250 mL


Ayam Satay Mild Sauce 250 mL


Char siu sauce: average


Lee Kum Kee Char Siu Sauce 240 g


Salty Sauce Sushi Hands

The bottom line

 Which is the worst for salt? Take a look at the table where we have grouped these sauces into categories for you to compare – easily.

  • If you’ve been told to reduce your salt intake, stick to a thin smear or a tiny side of your favourite – not a huge glug.
  • Wherever you can, buy them in salt-reduced form. I know this is possible with soy sauce but not with the others. Your only other choice is to avoid really high-salt categories such as fish sauce.
  • Buy those sauces with the lowest sodium content (sometimes there is a fourfold difference in sodium).
  • When you use these sauces in a recipe, don’t add any more salt - it doesn’t need it. 

Credit: Thanks to dietitian Marthury Jeyalingan for help compiling the table.

Catherine Saxelby About the author

About the Author


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