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The Best Simple Oyster Sauce Substitutes

Written by Jenoye Campbell, LPN

Cooking is a hobby for many, a therapy for some, and a tough duty for a few.

If you are that one cooking master in your home, you must have used the oyster sauce for one or more of your recipes, and if not, then maybe you’ve heard about it for sure.

Oyster sauce is one of the most popular sauces in Asian cuisines and is a part of many popular dishes across the globe.

It adds a characteristic sweet-salty flavor to the food that so many people enjoy!

But what if for some reason, oyster sauce is not available?

Is there anything which can do in its place?

Well, a simple answer to this is a loud YES and that may be the reason you found this article, so let’s dive in.

This article will help you explore the five absolute best oyster sauce substitutes so that you don’t have to miss the flavor of your favorite sauce!

Need a Substitute For Oyster Sauce? 5 Tasty Swaps

Quicklist: The 5 Absolute Best Oyster Sauce Substitutes

  • Fish sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Homemade

What Is Oyster Sauce?

Oyster sauce is a sweet and salty condiment with its primary ingredients being sugar, salt, and oyster juices.

You may commonly find it in stir-fries, dipping sauces, and meat marinades, etc.

People often confuse it with fish sauce or soy and hoisin sauce but its flavor is unique and lies somewhere between the three.

Oyster sauce is a thick sauce that is syrupy and colored dark brown with a smooth consistency and texture. The essence of the sauce is usually umami i.e. a little tangy, savory flavor imparting a typical taste to most of the Asian, Chinese and Thai dishes.

How was Oyster Sauce Developed?

Did you know that oyster sauce was accidentally developed?

That’s right, this delicious flavor-changing sauce was unintentionally made by Lee Kum Sheung in Guangdong Province in 1888. Sheung has a stall from which he sold oyster broth and tea.

One morning, he got distracted and almost burnt a pot of his broth. What now remained was a thick sauce.

Curious, Sheung tasted it, and to his surprise, this brown sauce had an absolutely profound flavor that he loved.

What is Oyster Sauce Made of?

According to the food experts, the authentic oyster sauce does not have any salt or added flavors.

However, most oyster sauces are formulated using oysters, wheat flour, salt, MSG, water, sugar, modified corn starch, wheat flour, and caramel color.

For the typical mass-produced oyster sauce, you will find that it contains oyster extracts along with cornstarch and sugar, which helps to reduce commercial production prices.

This is why it is so widely available and affordable and you can find oyster sauce in almost every local grocery store across the US.

If you are a vegan, vegetarian, or have allergies, then there are other versions of oyster sauce that may be ideal for you.

Vegan alternatives are available on the market and instead of oysters, they use soybeans, brown sugar, and mushroom flavors.

Plus, to make oyster sauce vegetarian or vegan oyster sauce, you can always create your very own oyster sauce at home.

How does Oyster Sauce Taste?

This zinc and amino acid-rich sauce is a perfect balance of sweetness and a mild salty taste. It is prepared by heating raw oysters in water until it makes a viscous liquid.

The proportion of oysters used is responsible for the taste of the sauce.

So, you just might get a hint of ocean and fish taste, which is why oyster sauce is often confused with fish sauce.

But this sweet and salty sauce is quite different.

Moreover, the sauce has a slight earthy odor and a bit burnt taste. Sometimes, the brands making the sauce alter its basic recipe by adding some spices and soy sauce which gives it a uniquely different taste.

What can Oyster Sauce be Used In?

  • Steamed Pork Banh Bao
  • Mushroom stir fry sauce
  • Gailan Chinese Broccoli
  • Meat dishes
  • Crab in oyster sauce
  • Dipping sauce for spring rolls, meats, fish, shrimp, vegetables
  • Buddha’s delight
  • Hainanese chicken rice
  • Cashew chicken
  • Lo mein
  • Stir fry
  • Bò lúc lắc
  • Veggie dishes, like bok choy stir fry
  • Garlic noodles
  • Wonton soup and other soups

Here are 5 Great Oyster Sauce Substitutes

If the recipe calls for oyster sauce but you ran out of it or can’t have it for other reasons, it isn’t something to worry about.

There are many other sauces that you can use, including miso paste, thai sauce, classic soy sauce, oyster extract, teriyaki sauce, and more.

Below we have the top five sauces that you can use to enjoy a similar oyster sauce taste.

1) Fish sauce for that similar fishy and ocean flavor of oyster sauce

Fish sauce

It may not be a perfect oyster sauce substitute but fish sauce can work well if you need to replace oyster sauce or if it isn’t available.

It is made of fermented fish and thus gives a fishier taste.

Fish sauce is saltier and less sweet with a relatively thinner consistency. It is the best fit for dishes having a fishy taste already e.g. stir-fried fish.

2) Soy Sauce as a vegetarian substitute (vegan oyster sauce)

Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is an already popular sauce used in a variety of food items. But a very few people know that Soy sauce is one of the most easiest and convenient substitutes for oyster sauce.

People who don’t eat seafood can have soy sauce because it is both vegan and vegetarian.

It may not taste exactly like oyster sauce because it is saltier but adding sugar can fix it to a great extent.

But if you don’t want to do so, you can switch to sweet soy sauce. It is called Indonesian Kecap Manis and is easily available in Asian markets and stores.

If you are allergic to gluten, consider tamari as a suitable substitute because it is a gluten-free soy sauce and is made of fermented soybeans only. 

3) Hoisin Sauce for that sweet and umami taste oyster sauce alternative

Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin sauce is a thick Chinese condiment with overtones of umami, sweetness, and tanginess.

It has a barbecue sauce-like flavor and can be created with a variety of components, including vinegar, chili paste, and garlic.

Hoisin sauce can frequently be substituted for the oyster sauce in a 1:1 ratio because it has a comparable consistency.

However, depending on the components, it may have a stronger flavor, in which case you should use a smaller amount.

For stir-fries and marinades, hoisin sauce can be used for oyster sauce. It’s usually used in vegan or vegetarian dishes.

4) Worcestershire Sauce is great for a strong-flavored oyster sauce substitute

Worcestershire Sauce

Anchovies are used to make Worcestershire sauce, while oysters are used to make the oyster sauce.

These ingredients give both an umami flavor, and they may be used interchangeably with some changes.

You can also combine Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and sugar in a tiny amount to make a good alternative for oyster sauce.

Start with primarily soy sauce, add a little sugar, and finish with a few drops of Worcestershire sauce if you’re cooking a stir-fry or marinate.

This combination should add a burst of flavor to the dish without dominating it.

5) Homemade Oyster Sauce may be the ideal substitute

Homemade Oyster Sauce

If you don’t want to compromise on taste at all, you can make the oyster sauce at home.

This homemade oyster sauce, if prepared well, can serve as a perfect substitute. For a 300ml of made-at-home oyster sauce you need;

  • 250g (half a pound) dry fresh oysters
  • White wine 2 tbsp
  • 1 bulb of fresh ginger
  • 150g of sugar
  • 150 ml of soy sauce (you can use either light soy sauce or dark soy sauce)
  • One tablespoon of Honey
  • Half a tablespoon of Cornstarch

First, you need to dry and soften the oyster and then process them to get their juice. In the meanwhile, melt the sugar and add a little lemon juice to it.

Finally, add all the ingredients to the sugar syrup, mix well and boil for that subtle umami flavor with a beautiful caramel coloring. Let it cool and then enjoy.

Final Thoughts

Go ahead and make that delicious dish with any of these alternatives now that you know about some of the sauce substitutes you can use instead of oyster sauce to make your cuisine taste great.

While nothing can truly replace oyster sauce’s distinct umami flavor and sweet and salty taste, you can have something that comes close!

So, if you need to make mushroom broth, stir fry dishes, or something else from the Chinese cuisine, or maybe you are looking for a vegetarian substitute, the list above can definitely help.

Plus, if the next time you go to the grocery store and it has not restocked the oyster sauce, you can look for any of the substitutes mentioned above!

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