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Gluten Free Kecap Manis

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Homemade gluten free kecap manis, also spelled ketcap or kejap, is a common ingredient in Indonesian cuisine. It is a sweet, thick soy sauce that can be bought in Asian grocery stores but I have not yet found a gluten free version. The solution, make it.

I know…some days it feels like I have to make every ingredient to get a gluten free version. Of course that isn’t true but some days I just want to believe that. I try to remind myself “this too shall pass.”

Indonesian cuisine traditionally uses two types of soy sauce, kecap manis and kecap asin. The second is a thinner, saltier light soy sauce. I just use my regular gluten free soy sauce rather than kecap asin. But I do love the thick, sweet kecap manis in certain recipes and so I make it from scratch and keep it in my pantry.

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Specialty Ingredients for Kecap Manis

Kecap manis is made with soy sauce, sugar, star anise, garlic and lemon.

  • -If you still don’t have a favourite gluten free soy sauce have a tasting and pick one…or two because you might not always be able to find the one you thought was your favourite.
  • -I use my readily available white or brown sugar but if you have palm sugar you can use that.
  • -Star anise is an eight-pointed star-shaped spice with a licorice flavour. Omit it if you can’t find it but at some point I suggest you try it. It’s a mindset, just put it on a list and plan to buy it.  Go the extra mile and it will last for years. (Yes, I’ll use five year old star anise from the back of my pantry and I’d be happy to share it with anyone who wants some.)

Kecap manis will keep indefinitely in a cool, dark place providing you always use a clean utensil when dipping into the jar. I generally make it once a year and store it in a Mason jar with a plastic lid. The pouring jar you see in the photo is new idea for me.

The Recipes – Kecap Manis

People debate what country invented satay but Indonesia is top of the list. I have at least six recipes for peanut sauce but this satay and peanut sauce is my all time favourite. For me it feels the most authentic and brings me right back to eating satay from a street vendor in Bali.

Skewers of Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce
Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce -photo credit Jim Little

Kecap manis is often used as a condiment or dipping sauce by itself or as an ingredient in a sauce. It is also used in the peanut dressing that is served with their famous composed salad called Gado Gado. In my mind this is just a healthy way to eat more peanut sauce and I see nothing wrong with that.

Gado Gado, the premiere Indonesian salad with peanut sauce.
Indonesian Gado Gado Salad -photo credit Jim Little

Here is a 4-ingredient rib recipe for summer barbecuing, Sweet Chili Root Beer Baby Back Ribs. It is a North American interpretation with an Indonesian touch.

A paper plate with gluten free Sweet Chili Root Beer Baby Back Ribs
Sweet Chili Root Beer Baby Back Ribs -photo credit Jim Little

I’d love to hear if you made this kecap manis and what recipe you used it in. Let me know in the comments below.

A Travel Tale – Bali

From time to time I write a guest post for my friend Sue over at Travel Tales of Life. This is one I wrote about our trip to Bali.

Indonesian Chicken Satay Recipe – Bali


¾ cup sugar (white, brown or palm)
1 cup GF soy sauce
2 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp grated lemon peel
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 star anise


Put sugar in a medium saucepot on low heat. After several minutes the sugar will begin to melt and turn brown around the edge of the pan. Gently stir it allowing the sugar to continue to caramelize stirring occasionally. This will take several more minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients, stirring continually.
Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Allow to cool slightly then strain into a glass jar.
Label and store at room temperature.


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