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23 February 2021

Doubanjiang, aka Toban Djan, is a Chinese chili bean paste made from fermented soybeans, broad beans, and hot chilies. You may also see it be called spicy bean paste or broad bean chili sauce. Learn more about it.

If you are an avid fan of Chinese food and like to cook at home often, you may find yourself occasionally struggling to understand what some ingredients are and how to find them. There are many unique ingredients that are culturally relevant to the Chinese region and are very difficult to find outside of the country.

That is why some guidance in this regard can sometimes be extremely helpful and other times, absolutely necessary.

One of these ingredients that you will come across often is Doubanjiang. To help you proceed with the rest of your recipe and be able to replicate the original, authentic taste of the dish as best as you possibly can, we have compiled some helpful tips and facts about the delicious Doubanjiang sauce.

Read ahead to find out what it is, how its made, what it tastes like, and how you can acquire it.

Doubanjiang: Chinese Chili Bean Paste, in a bowl

What is Doubanjiang?

Doubanjiang is also known as Chinese chili bean paste, chili bean sauce, or Toban Djan. A frequent feature in many dishes across Chinese cuisine, Doubanjiang is made from fermented broad beans, soybeans and hot chilies that give it its spiciness. You may also see it be called spicy bean paste or broad bean chili sauce.

Doubanjiang is a staple primarily in Szechuan cooking and is one of the more classic fermented bean sauces and pastes that are used in Chinese cuisine. The sauce itself has a very bright, crimson color that screams spice and flavor and imparts a beautiful reddish hue to any curries or stews to which it is added.

The texture of the paste is quite coarse and chunky which makes it a great condiment and topping sauce for different types of foods.

What Does Doubanjiang Taste Like?

You may find two varieties of this delicious sauce. One is plain and non spicy. This variety typically has a very salty and savory flavor. Since it is fermented, it also has complex umami and earthy undertones. The spicy kind of Doubanjiang tends to have quite a spicy flavor, its Scoville Heat Units going up to 12K on the scale.

However, despite the heat intensity, the fermented sauce still has a good balance of flavor, teetering between saltiness, umami, and the kick from the peppery spice.

Doubanjiang: Chinese Chili Bean Paste, in a bowl with a spoon

How to Use Doubanjiang?

One of the most common uses of Doubanjiang is in stir fries. Whether you are stir frying some vegetables, some meat like chicken or beef, or even just some rice, Doubanjiang helps add a mouth watering spicy element along with some aromatic flavors. You can also mix it with fried noodles for some extra flavor. It is classically used to make tofu and twice cooked pork.

You can also add it to fish, soups, and vegetables, or to make chili oil.

Apart from mixing into the cooking process, Doubanjiang can also be used as a condiment or a dipping sauce. One thing to remember when topping anything with Doubanjiang or using it in the cooking process is that it is very salty. So make sure to balance the saltiness of the rest of the ingredients like soy sauce and seasonings appropriately.

Try Some of These Recipes with Doubanjiang

Is Doubanjiang the Same as Gochujang?

Unlike what some people may believe, Doubanjiang and gochujang are not the same thing. Although both the sauces are made from fermented bean paste, they have a different flavor profile. In regards to taste, Doubanjiang tends to be much more salty and umami in flavor. Gochujang on the other hand has a sweeter and more subdued flavor.

How to Make Doubanjiang?

In the Sichuan province, many people like to make fresh Doubanjiang by themselves in their homes. Not only is it pretty simple to make, but it tastes amazingly rich as well. The only thing to remember is that fermented sauces take a lot of time to make so you need to have the commitment.

Here is a recipe using which you can make your own serving of Doubanjiang:

  1. Soak your broad beans overnight and drain them.
  2. Steam them for under an hour until they are cooked but still retain some stiffness.
  3. Cool them down and then mix them with some flour and koji mold spores.
  4. Add the starter, mix it with the beans, and store it in a damp and shadowy place.
  5. Once the white growth on the beans turns yellow, place them under the sun to stop the fermentation process.
  6. Dry them in sunshine for one day, wash them, and ferment them for another 30-40 hours.
  7. On the side, cut up your peppers and mix in salt.
  8. Mix in the chili peppers with the beans and spices.
  9. Add some oil and allow the mixture to ferment for around 3 months.

Doubanjiang: Chinese Chili Bean Paste, on a plate

What is a Doubanjiang Substitute?

If you are looking for a substitute for your spicy Doubanjiang sauce, you can always go for some Indonesian chili sauce that is also called Sambal Oelek. It has a similar spicy flavor. Another substitute would be gochujang which is a Korean chili paste that is made with fermented soybeans. You can also combine red miso with some red chili flakes to get a similar texture and heat level.

If you find yourself really short on time and ingredients, then you can mix together black bean paste with some red chili flakes to get some texture and spice. On the other hand, oyster sauce can also give you similar salty and umami tones.

One of the benefits of using such substitutes in place of actual Doubanjiang is that it allows you to control the consistency and the spice level of the sauce.

Where to Buy Doubanjiang

If you live in the east Asian region, it will be relatively easy for you to find some Doubanjiang sauce in your local grocery store. Pixian Doubanjiang is a famous brand that sells hot dark brown bean paste in China. Regardless of where you live, if you want a traditional Doubanjiang experience, you need to look for the Pixian kind.

In North America, you can also look for Lee Kum Kee Toban Dijan for some authentic Doubanjiang. You will be able to find the sauce in some specialty stores in the American continent. If not, you can look for some online such as on Amazon.

Try Some of These Other Popular Sauces