These oyster sauce substitutes are ideal when you need that distinct flavor in a pinch.
From hoisin to teriyaki, these easy swaps will save your dinner.
Keep in mind that nothing is going to be precisely the same.
But if you’ve run out or just feel like a change, these oyster sauce alternatives should do the trick.
That said, depending on the recipe, some of these swaps may not work.
For example, soy sauce doesn’t have the same thick consistency. So, you might need to experiment to get just the right results.
I’ve got not just one but eight oyster sauce substitutes. But first…
What Is Oyster Sauce?
If you make a lot of Thai or Chinese recipes, you’re likely familiar with oyster sauce. If not, that’s okay, too!
You’re about to learn all about it.
Oyster sauce is a thick and flavorful condiment that’s as common in Asia as ketchup, and hot sauce are in the US. Caramelized oysters are the primary ingredient, which gives the sauce its distinct, robust flavor. It’s salty, sweet, and a staple in lo mein, Sichuan dishes, and kung pao recipes.
Now that you know all about it let’s see what you can use to replace it.
Need a Substitute For Oyster Sauce? Here’s 8 Tasty Swaps
1. Soy Sauce
Oyster sauce is yummy. However, it’s not an option for vegetarians, vegans, or those allergic to seafood.
In that case, soy sauce is a suitable replacement.
As mentioned, it’s not as thick as oyster sauce, and it’s much saltier. That means you’ll have to add some sugar to get the sweet-n-salty taste of oyster sauce.
If you can find “sweet” soy sauce – also called kecap manis – that’s a better option.
It’s harder to find than soy sauce but not impossible. Check out Asian markets or an online store.
If you’re stuck using regular soy sauce, don’t forget the sugar. Also, cut back on how much you use.
I’d say use 1/2 to 3/4 the required oyster sauce amount. Otherwise, your dish will be too salty.
2. Sweet Soy Sauce
Speaking of kecap manis, let’s go ahead and talk about it.
As I mentioned, it’s a sweeter version of soy sauce that’s a little harder to find. However, it’s a fantastic oyster sauce substitute if you can get your hands on it.
Made from soybeans, it’s vegan-friendly.
It also looks terrific; it has a deep black color and a glossy shine. That makes it a favorite for those who value presentation as much as taste.
It’s a bit sweeter and saltier than oyster sauce, so add only half the needed amount. (i.e., Add 1/2 cup of sweet soy sauce for every required cup of oyster sauce.)
3. Fish Sauce
Perhaps the oysters aren’t the problem; maybe you just ran out of oyster sauce! In that case, fish sauce is a better substitute than soy sauce.
It doesn’t taste precisely like oyster sauce, but it’s close.
Like soy sauce, it’s thinner and saltier. You can add a dash of sugar to offset the saltiness, but it won’t perfectly match oyster sauce’s flavor.
You’ll have better luck using fish sauce in seafood-based dishes. However, if you use it in other recipes, it may give them a slightly fishy taste.
It’ll also work well in recipes that call for a minimal amount of oyster sauce.
4. Hoisin Sauce
Hoisin sauce is another excellent vegan substitute for oyster sauce. In terms of consistency, it’s a better match for oyster sauce, too.
It also features a better balance of sweetness and saltiness.
Unlike the first few options on the list, you can also use it in a one-to-one ratio. (That’s always a plus; I hate conversions in cooking!)
The flavor features strong umami notes, but it isn’t fishy. That means you can use it in various dishes, not just those with seafood in them.
It makes an excellent marinade.
5. Teriyaki Sauce
Teriyaki isn’t always an ideal oyster sauce substitute, but it’ll work if you’re in a bind.
It’s typically sweeter than oyster sauce, but it has a similar consistency.
You can try adding a dash of salt to even out the sweet-n-salty ratio.
I wouldn’t mess with it too much, though. It’s very easy to get things too salty when you start playing around with it.
It’s a good choice for marinades, stir-fry dishes, and noodle-heavy recipes.
6. Black Bean Paste
Black bean paste is another substitute that you might have to track down.
It’s not commonly available in most US grocery stores, so check online or in Asian markets.
It’s a rich, zingy, vegetarian-friendly option with a ton of umami flavor. (That comes from the fermented black beans.)
You can use it in a one-to-one ratio for oyster sauce. However, black bean paste has a distinct, hard-to-explain flavor. Not everyone appreciates it.
In other words, don’t go adding it into your dishes haphazardly.
Be sure to give it a thorough taste test first. Then, if you like it, add it in small increments so that it doesn’t overpower the other ingredients.
Tamari is soy sauce’s less famous cousin. It, too, comes from soybeans; however, its taste is noticeably different from soy sauce.
The soybean taste is more robust, and there’s far less salt.
There isn’t a ton of sweetness to it, either. In truth, it’s a better substitute for soy sauce than oyster sauce.
However, you could also use it for oyster sauce in a pinch. It may require some tweaking, though.
You might want to add both salt and sugar to your recipe. It’s the only way to get that sweet-n-salty oyster sauce taste.
Still, if you appreciate rich, earthy flavors, you’ll probably enjoy tamari. It’s a complex sauce full of depth and warmth.
8. Mushroom Broth
Here’s one last vegan-friendly oyster sauce alternative. Mushroom broth is a savory, earthy substitute with a wonderful, umami-packed taste.
You can purchase it pre-made or make your own. (There are hundreds of recipes online if you’re unsure how to do that.)
The first time you try it, you’ll be surprised at how much it tastes like oyster sauce. The consistency is nothing like it, though.
If the thinness of the broth bothers you, try adding in a bit of cornstarch. That should thicken it up enough to make it a better match for oyster sauce.
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