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10 November 2020

Looking for a good substitute for hoisin sauce? Whether you’ve run out or can’t find what you’re looking for, here is a list of alternatives you can use. 

Chinese cooking is known for its diverse flavors and aromatic dishes. Most dishes tend to maintain a complex balance between a variety of flavors – sweet, salty, spicy, sour. The give and take between so many flavors makes for a truly delicious experience with Chinese cuisine. To incorporate and maximize flavor, Chinese cooking tends to use a lot of extracts and sauces. These sauces are typically very condensed and contain tons of flavor. One of these is the Hoisin Sauce.

What is Hoisin Sauce?

Thick, aromatic, and dark, hoisin is an incredibly flavorful sauce used commonly in Chinese cooking. It looks and feels similar to barbecue sauce but it is not quite as sweet. Hoisin sauce shifts between sweet, salty, and umami flavors. While the name of the sauce translates literally into seafood, it does not contain any of that. Instead, hoisin sauce is made mainly from fermented soybean paste. That is why its consistency is so thick.

How is Hoisin Sauce Used?

Hoisin sauce can be used in a variety of ways. One of the main ways it is used is for glazing meat. It gives the meat a very rich and complex taste. You can also use hoisin sauce to glaze vegetables, add to stir fries, or use as a dipping sauce. The sweet and salty taste gives it a very tangy flavor that is sharp and distinctive.

Can I Substitute Hoisin Sauce with Sweet and Sour Sauce?

Sometimes, you may struggle to find hoisin sauce on the shelves in grocery stores. In such a case, you can use certain alternatives or substitutions. One recommended substitution for hoisin sauce is the tried, tested, and thoroughly trusted sweet and sour sauce. The tangy flavor of sweet and sour sauce very closely mimics that of hoisin.

Can I Substitute Teriyaki Sauce For Hoisin Sauce?

Hoisin sauce typically has a distinctive garlicky flavor to it. That is why you would do well to use some garlic teriyaki sauce to trick your taste buds. Teriyaki sauce also usually incorporates soy sauce, which has a similar flavor profile to hoisin.

Can I Substitute Fish Sauce for Hoisin Sauce?

Fish sauce is also used as an alternative to hoisin sauce at times. This is because fish sauce is similarly sharp and salty like hoisin sauce, although it lacks the sweetness factor. Add some sugar or honey in conjunction to best replicate the taste of hoisin sauce.

What Are Alternatives to Oyster Sauce in Cooking?

Oyster sauce is another delicious sauce that features frequently in Thai and Chinese cooking. An oyster sauce typically comprises salt, sugar, and caramelized oyster extract that gives it its signature sweet and salty taste that teeters on the edge of umami.

A thick consistency with a rich brown color, oyster sauce is a combination of sweet and tangy flavors that pair very well with plain bases such as stir fries, rice, and noodles. Other times you can use it to add flavor as you sauté some vegetables or stir into some rich broth or soup.

While it is a signature feature in Asian cooking, it might not be readily available for people in other regions.  If such is the case, you will be glad to know that there are a number of substitutes that you can use to replace oyster sauce in your recipes. Here are some of the best alternatives to oyster sauce in cooking:

  • Hoisin and Soy Sauce Mixture. The closest that you can get to replicating the flavor of oyster sauce is by mixing hoisin sauce and soy sauce together in a 1:1 ratio. While it does not hit the mark dead on, it comes pretty close considering sweet, salty, and umami are the dominant flavors in hoisin and soy sauce as well. You will be hard pressed to notice the difference on your palette, especially if you are incorporating the sauce while cooking.
  • Hoisin Sauce. If you want to make things simpler, you can also substitute plain hoisin sauce for oyster sauce as well. As we have discussed before, hoisin sauce is sweet and salty, flavors that work well to replicate the effect and taste of oyster sauce. You would use similar quantities of hoisin sauce as you would of oyster sauce.
  • Soy Sauce. On the other hand, you can also use soy sauce as an alternative to oyster sauce. It goes particularly strong on the salty and umami fronts but lacks in the sweetness department. It is also much thinner than oyster sauce. Regardless, you can use 2 tablespoons of soy sauce for every 3 to 4 tablespoons of oyster sauce as an easy alternative. If you do not want to miss out on the sweetness factor, then you can consider incorporating some white or brown sugar to the mix in addition to the soy sauce.
  • Fish Sauce. While the flavor profile of fish sauce is similar to that of oyster sauce, it is much sharper on the salty front. Therefore, it would be wise to add less and increase the amount gradually after judging the taste.
  • Kecap Manis. Lastly, you can also use a sweet version of soy sauce called kecap manis. This is an Indonesian sauce that is thick, dark, and extremely aromatic. As suggested by the name, the sauce is predominantly very sweet, which makes its taste noticeably different than plain oyster sauce which is milder in this regard. But it can certainly be a passing substitution if you have no other option at your disposal.

Check out my Homemade Hoisin Sauce recipe, made with peanut butter or black bean sauce, soy sauce, Chinese five spice powder, sesame oil, rice vinegar, hot sauce and more. So easy to make!


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