The Five Top Oyster Sauce Substitutes

Oyster sauce many not be the most common ingredient in people's cupboards, but thanks to its incredible flavor and versatility, it's becoming more and more popular all around the world. This Chinese condiment has a fantastic savory flavor that enhances all sorts of dishes. If you don't have any oyster sauce or have just run out and are wondering what to do, try one of these amazing oyster sauce substitutes.

By Cookist
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As an essential component in many different recipes, oyster sauce is one of the most popular condiments in Asian cuisine. Although it was created in China, thanks to its delicious taste and savory character, oyster sauce is used in Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian, and other cuisines. Oyster sauce is used in everything from chow mein to beef stir-fry, cashew chicken, har gow, and more. As you might expect, oyster sauce is made from oysters, as well as several other ingredients which help give this tasty condiment its unique flavor. If you're whipping up a recipe that calls for oyster sauce but don't have any in your pantry, don't worry. There are several excellent oyster sauce substitutes you can use in your cooking.

What Is Oyster Sauce?

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Oyster sauce is a dark, savory condiment that's used in a variety of recipes. This delicious sauce comes from China and is made from cooked oysters, soy sauce, sugar, flour, cornstarch, and MSG. It's thick, savory, a little sweet, and tangy. One thing to note: because it's made from oysters, oyster sauce isn't vegan or vegetarian-friendly, and most versions aren't gluten-free, although these days you can pick up a bottle of gluten-free oyster sauce. The good news? Some of these oyster sauce substitutes are perfect for those who don't eat meat.

The Best Oyster Sauce Substitutes

Hoisin Sauce

Like oyster sauce, hoisin sauce has a rich, dark flavor and thick texture. It's often used to make stir-frys, glaze meats like duck, chicken, or beef, or as a dipping sauce. It's sweeter and less salty than oyster sauce, and also has more spices in it. It's the closest taste for oyster sauce, so if you want the nearest substitute, hoisin sauce is the way to go. Hoisin sauce is often vegan and vegetarian-friendly, but sometimes it may contain fish. Be sure to check the label before you buy it.

Soy Sauce

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Almost everyone has a bottle of soy sauce in their fridge, making it a great substitute for oyster sauce. It has a similar salty-savory flavor but is thinner compared to oyster sauce. Soy sauce is made from fermented soybeans and is a great vegan and vegetarian-friendly oyster sauce substitute.

Sweet Soy Sauce

Sweet soy sauce is an Indonesian condiment with a thick, syrupy texture. It's made from soy sauce and sugar and has a sweet, savory, salt flavor, which is why it's a great substitute for oyster sauce. It's vegan and vegetarian.

Teriyaki Sauce

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Teriyaki sauce is a Japanese condiment often brushed over grilled meat, chicken, and seafood. It's made from a mix of soy sauce, garlic, sugar, and other ingredients, and has a tangy, sweet, rich umami flavor that's similar to oyster sauce. The consistency is on the thicker end of the spectrum, which is why it's one of our top picks as an oyster sauce alternative. Most teriyaki sauces are vegan, but make sure to double-check the label – some contain honey.

Fish Sauce

A staple ingredient in Thai cuisine, fish sauce has a salty seafood flavor. It's made from fermented fish and salt. It's not as sweet or complex tasting as oyster sauce, but it'll work in a pinch.

How to Make Oyster Sauce 

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Despite its complex flavor, oyster sauce is surprisingly easy to make. Simmer 40 ml of soy sauce with 25 ml of liquid from a tin of canned oysters for 10 minutes over low heat. Add ½ to 1 teaspoon of brown sugar, and whisk to dissolve. That's it! Homemade oyster sauce in no time.

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