Soy sauce eggs are soft-boiled, peeled, and marinated in a seasoned and sweetened soy sauce—the outer layer of the eggs gets dyed a coffee-brown and infused with salty, barely sweet, garlicky, and gingery flavors.
There are many ways to make soy sauce eggs—some require braising the eggs in soy sauce after soft boiling them, but the eggs are cooked for longer than I like and they're chalkier and rubberier. I prefer mine boiled until the yolks are jammy and then marinated in the soy sauce off the heat.
While this recipe is quick and easy, it takes 4 hours or up to a full day to marinate the eggs, so plan ahead. If you’re in a rush to eat them, it’s okay to marinate them for less time. Just drizzle the eggs with some of the marinade while you enjoy them. Otherwise, serve them chilled as a snack or on top of rice or noodle soup.
The Many Varieties of Soy Sauce Eggs
Soy sauce eggs are common in several Asian cuisines. The simplest versions are marinated or braised in plain soy sauce. Some are sweetened or include alcohol, usually sake or rice wine. Others are infused with aromatics, from garlic and ginger to 5-spice seasoning.
Japanese soy sauce eggs, shoyu tamago or ajitsuke tomago, are sometimes called ramen eggs—often served halved and atop a bowl of ramen. They are soft boiled until the yolks are thick, runny, and custard-like, then marinated in either soy sauce or a combination of soy sauce, sugar, mirin, and/or sake.
Chinese soy sauce eggs, lu dan, are hard boiled and simmered in soy sauce, sugar, and either ground 5-spice seasoning or the whole aromatics that are found in it, like cinnamon sticks, star anise, orange peels, cloves, Sichuan peppercorns, bay leaves, and chilis.
There are also tea eggs—tea leaves are added to the marinade and the eggshells are cracked but left unpeeled when marinating to create a beautiful, marbled surface when peeled.
Korean soy sauce eggs, gyeran jangjorim, are braised with dried anchovies, garlic, onions, scallions, chilis, sesame oil, and sesame seeds.
Steam the Eggs
While eggs are often boiled to make soft- or hard-boiled eggs, I prefer to steam them. Steamed eggs cook more consistently and a little faster. Plus, I find them less fussy—the eggs won’t bounce around in the boiling water and crack while they cook, and there’s no need to stir them. No babysitting required! Just cover the pot and set the timer. I also find that steamed eggs are easier to peel.
Marinate for 4 to 24 Hours, But No More
The eggs can be eaten after marinating for 4 hours, but I prefer them at the 8-hour mark when they've absorbed a good amount of flavor and color. The longer you marinate them, the flavors of ginger and garlic become bolder, the egg whites get rubberier, and the texture of the yolk gets creamier and firmer. It’s not a bad thing, just different. The eggs may get too salty after 24 hours.
Make it Your Way
My version of soy sauce eggs is pretty simple, with common pantry ingredients. If you have dietary concerns, want to use up pantry items, or want a variation, here are some ideas:
- Use gluten-free soy sauce in lieu of the regular stuff. Be sure to check labels. Tamari is considered gluten-free, but some brands do contain wheat.
- I use easy-to-find soy sauce brands like San-J or Kikkoman. Chinese soy sauce eggs use a dash of dark soy sauce. It’s sweeter, thicker, and darker in color. I grew up using Pearl River Bridge Superior Dark Soy Sauce. It can be found in Chinese markets and online. You can also use a dash of mushroom-flavored dark soy sauce for an extra hit of umami.
- Use brown sugar or a small piece of rock sugar instead of granulated sugar.
- Swap out half of the water in the marinade with sake.
- Use alcohol-free mirin instead of mirin, which contains up to 14% alcohol depending on the brand.
- Instead of mirin, use sake or Shaoxing wine with the addition of more sugar to taste.
- Use scallions instead of or in addition to the fresh garlic and ginger.
- Omit the garlic and ginger altogether.
How to Serve Soy Sauce Eggs
On their own, soy sauce eggs make for a quick snack for after school, after a workout, or when you’re feeling peckish. Here are other ways to enjoy them:
- For a quick meal, serve them on a bowl of furikake-topped rice or with roasted seaweed. Top the egg with a drizzle of sesame oil, a sprinkle of sesame seeds, and a pinch of cayenne.
- Nestle the eggs in a bowl of noodle soup or as an instant upgrade for instant ramen noodles.
- Slice them and top avocado toast.
- Make them into deviled eggs—boil them for a minute or two longer so that the yolks get firmer.
Let us know how you like to eat soy sauce eggs in the comments below!
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Soy Sauce Eggs
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 6 tablespoons mirin
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1/4-inch piece unpeeled ginger, smashed
- 6 large eggs, cold straight from the fridge
- Ice, for chilling the eggs
Make the marinade:
In a small saucepan, add the water, soy sauce, sugar, mirin, garlic, and ginger, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a simmer, swirling the pot once or twice, for 3 to 5 minutes, until the sugar dissolves and the marinade reduces slightly.
Transfer the marinade into a heatproof container with a tight-fitting lid and wide enough to hold 6 eggs in a single layer. Set aside to cool.
Cook the eggs:
While the marinade is simmering, fit a medium saucepan with a steamer basket and fill it with enough water to reach the bottom of a steamer basket. Cover the saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.
Use a slotted spoon, if necessary, to carefully add the eggs into the steamer basket in a single layer. Cover the saucepan and steam the eggs over medium-high heat for 6 to 7 minutes. For a custardy, almost runny yolk, go for 6 minutes. 7 minutes will give you a slightly firmer but still jammy yolk. Don't guess the time! Use a timer!
If you don’t have a steamer basket: Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over medium-high heat. There should be enough water that the eggs are fully submerged. As soon as it comes up to a boil, carefully add the eggs and cook for 7 minutes.
Chill the eggs:
While the eggs are cooking, make an ice bath. Fill a medium bowl with a lot of ice and cold water, and set it next to the stove. When the eggs are done cooking, use a spoon to immediately transfer them into the ice bath to fully cool.
Peel the eggs:
One egg at a time, use the back of a spoon to tap it all over to crack the shell. Peel the egg starting at the wide bottom end. That’s where the air pocket divot is, making it easier to peel. Dip the eggs into the ice bath to rinse off any stuck-on eggshells. Set the peeled eggs on a paper towel and pat them dry.
Marinate the eggs:
Add the eggs into the marinade, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours. The eggs will become saltier in the marinade so don’t let them sit longer than 24 hours.
Leftovers should be removed from the marinade and kept in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Don’t discard the marinade—it’s delicious drizzled over rice. Refrigerate for up to 4 days.
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