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5 January 2021

Kecap manis is a widely popular Indonesian sweet soy sauce with an indulgent flavor used in a number of Indonesian dishes. Learn all about it.

If you are a fan of Indonesian cuisine, you may have heard of the sauce Kecap Manis. A delicious ingredient that tastes as complex as it looks, Kecap Manis has a lot of applications in the kitchen that you do not want to be missing out on.

What is Kecap Manis?

‘Kecap’ translates to “thick sauce” or “soy sauce” while ‘Manis’ translates to “sweet” in the Malay language. Kecap Manis is one of the most popular and widely used sauces in Indonesia, as it is incorporated into hundreds of recipes spanning across the board.

This is a thick, shiny, and incredibly indulgent ingredient that is used to add oodles of color, aroma, and flavor to all kinds of dishes.

Since it originated in Indonesia, it is a highlighted feature in several Indonesian dishes. From soups and sauces to satays and nasi goreng, which is a famous Indonesian fried rice dish, Kecap Manis is a very versatile ingredient that enhances the earthy flavors of Indonesian cuisine.

Kecap Manis (sweet soy sauce) in a bowl

What Does Kecap Manis Taste Like?

Kecap Manis is a viscous syrup that has a sweet and aromatic taste in addition to its molasses-like consistency. On the heat scale, Kecap Manis can reach up to 40K SV units. It is pretty mild in regards to the heat and is used more for its sweet soy sauce-like flavor profile.

In essence, the syrup is more bittersweet if anything, and also brings out the neutral, umami tones in the food to which it is added.

How to Use Kecap Manis?

As we mentioned before, Kecap Manis is a very versatile ingredient. This means that you can use it in many different ways and in many different savory dishes without apprehension. It can be added to sauces, glazes, and stews just as well as it can be added to rice and noodle dishes during the cooking process.

In fact, Kecap Manis is a prime feature of two of the most popular fried rice and fried noodle dishes, nasi goreng (fried rice) and mie goreng (fried noodles) respectively. Use it on many dishes, from scrambled eggs to stir fry dishes, as a dipping sauce and so much more.

Is Kecap Manis Vegan?

The kind of Kecap Manis that is sold by most brands tends to be vegetarian and vegan friendly. We highly recommend flavoring your vegan dishes with Kecap Manis and elevating the umami factor.

Is Kecap Manis Gluten Free?

You will find many brands that sell gluten free Kecap Manis, making it a great choice for allergic individuals.

Is Kecap Manis Dark Soy Sauce?

Kecap Manis does have a flavor profile quite similar to soy sauce and can be considered as a dark, sweet form of the latter. Where regular soy sauce is thin, watery, and extremely salty in flavor, Kecap Manis tends to be much thicker, glossier, and sweeter thanks to the addition of brown or palm sugar.

Should Kecap Manis Be Refrigerated?

Many people opt to keep their kecap manis out of the refrigerator due to the high sugar content of the sauce, as sugar is a natural preservative. However, as with many foods, it will last longer and remain fresher for longer when kept in the refrigerator.

I prefer to keep mine refrigerated and will bring it to room temperature before using in a recipe or as a dipping sauce.

Kecap Manis (sweet soy sauce) in a bowl with a spoon

Where to Buy Kecap Manis?

While it is a mainstay in Indonesian cuisine, the Kecap Manis sauce is not as well known across the world. Thus, you may not find it as easily as some of the other Asian and South East Asian based sauces and ingredients.

Your best bet would be to head to the aisle of Asian ingredients at your local supermarket or to find and visit an Asian market or specialty store in your area. If you fail to find it there, you can easily find it through online sources as well. Find a website that ships to your country and order away!

How to Make Kecap Manis?

In case you are unable to find some Kecap Manis in your region for any reason, it is entirely possible for you to make it by yourself at your home. We have compiled a simple recipe for you which you can follow to make your homemade Kecap Manis in almost no time. 

It is just as delicious as a store bought Kecap Manis, if not more.

  1. Combine one cup of dark brown sugar with an equal amount of water in a pot or saucepan.
  2. Bring to a simmer and stir until all of the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Next, turn up the heat and cook the mixture on high.
  4. Use a food thermometer to see when the mixture reaches 200 degrees F and cook at this temp for five minutes.
  5. Return the heat back to low and mix in 1 cup of soy sauce, 7 tablespoons dark molasses, 1 teaspoon of grated ginger, and half a teaspoon each of coriander powder and black pepper.
  6. Simmer the sauce with these fresh ingredients for 3-4 minutes. Enjoy!

You can store your sauce for up to 3 months. Just make sure to store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can also add other spices like star anise to further accentuate the earthy flavor of the sauce and add more fragrance and aroma.

What is a Substitute for Kecap Manis?

As you can see from the above recipe, brown sugar and soy sauce comprise the key ingredients and flavors of kecap manis. This is because these two ingredients very closely resemble the flavor profile of the authentic sauce.

If you want to copy the primary flavor of this wonderful sauce, you can substitute it with some soy sauce and brown sugar. On the other hand, if you are also looking to attain a similar consistency, then you will need to cook the mixture down to a thicker sauce.

At times, you can also use just soy sauce in place of Kecap Manis as it is made from fermented soybeans similar to the latter. Another great substitute is Hoisin sauce which has a similar sweet and salty combination of flavors and a very familiar, thick and glossy texture.

On a similar page lies oyster sauce which is the epitome of salty and umami sauce flavors. You can add some sugar and water to dilute the sheer saltiness of the oyster sauce.

Some other acceptable substitutes include Shoyu sauce, Tian Mian sauce, and Tamari sauce.