11 different ideas for oyster sauce substitutions. If you are allergic to shellfish, a vegetarian, or just don’t have any in the pantry, these easy swaps can help!
Oyster sauce is a common ingredient in asian cuisine for its savory flavor and thick consistency.
But if you are allergic to oysters, have a shellfish allergy, have a fish allergy, or have just run out of it in your pantry, there are several things you can use in place of oyster sauce in all these recipes.
While none of these sauces directly taste like oyster sauce, they come really close! There are tons of umami rich options that can easily replace oyster sauce in recipes for marinades, stir-fry dishes, sauces, and dipping sauces.
Plus, many of them are super allergy friendly and a great alternative for vegetarians and vegans. Here are the 11 best oyster sauce substitutes.
What is oyster sauce?
Traditional oyster sauce is made from a main ingredient of oysters (more specifically the oyster extract), water, salt, sugar, MSG, corn starch, wheat flour, and caramel coloring.
There are vegetarian versions that replace the oysters with soybeans and mushrooms.
However, if you are allergic to corn or wheat, neither of these sauces will be safe.
What does it taste like?
The color, texture, and flavor of oyster sauce are a unique combination that isn’t easily replicable. It is sweet, salty, and has a briney element from the oyster, with an undercurrent of umami fish flavor.
History of oyster sauce
Lee Kum Sheung in the Guangdong Province of China accidentally invented oyster sauce in the 1880s, at least according to legend! At his oyster restaurant, he overcooked a batch of oyster broth but after tasting it discovered the deep flavor.
If this is true or not, oyster sauce has made itself a staple sauce for cooking in Cantonese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Khmer styles.
Top oyster sauce substitutes
Hoisin Sauce + Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon Hoisin Sauce + 1 tablespoon Soy Sauce = 2 tablespoons Oyster Sauce
This is my personal favorite for an easy oyster sauce substitute.
Hoisin sauce is a thick, almost BBQ sauce type of sauce from China. It has a rich, complex flavor panel with elements of umami and sweet. The name directly translates as “fish sauce” but there is almost never fish in the sauce itself!
The sauce is rich, thick, and most closely resembles the same texture of oyster sauce.
Different hoisin sauces have different ingredients, things like chili, garlic, or vinegar. Because of that, you may want to use less hoisin sauce than oyster sauce and taste test for flavor.
The thickness and sweetness of hoisin sauce combines with the thinner liquid of soy sauce to make a really good oyster sauce substitute!
You can use any type of soy sauce that you like, including traditional, low sodium, tamari, or even coconut amino acids.
Tip! If you are avoiding wheat, you can use tamari sauce in place of soy sauce.
Vegan / Vegetarian Oyster Sauce
Use as a direct 2:1 substitute for oyster sauce, using only half of the amount of oyster sauce that the recipe calls for.
This vegan option is one of the best substitutes to use. It is free from animal products, making it safe for vegetarians and vegans, not to mention that it is fish free making it safe for those with allergies!
It is typically made from mushrooms and nori (seaweed) to give off the umami and fishy flavor that is found in oyster sauce.
The flavorful sauce has a similar sweet flavor with the dark brown color that’s typical of oyster sauce. It has a similar consistency but because of the strong flavor, I recommend that you use only half of the amount called for to start with and then add more to your liking.
As each company has different ingredients, you may need to purchase a few until you find one that you like the best.
Use 1:1 equal amounts of fish sauce to replace oyster sauce. Add a spoonful of sugar to help mimic the sweetness.
Maybe it’s the most obvious, but you can use fish sauce to replace oyster sauce in your recipes, as long as you are not allergic to fish!
Fish sauce is generally thinner, less sweet, and lighter in color when compared to oyster sauce. That’s why I recommend that you use a teaspoon of sugar to help sweeten the fish sauce. However, it has a similar umami taste making it a good alternative.
There are vegan fish sauces available. Vegan fish sauce is typically made from mushrooms and nori to give it a similar taste element to oyster sauce. Try out a few different brands to find your personal favorite.
Soy Sauce / Tamari Sauce / Coconut Amino Acids
1 tablespoon of Soy Sauce + 1 teaspoon of cornstarch/tapioca/arrowroot powder = 2 tablespoons Oyster Sauce
Plain soy sauce is a great swap for oyster sauce. It is made from fermented soy beans, giving it that rich umami flavor.
Traditional recipes call for the cooked soybeans to be added to a salt brine and then allowed to ferment. Then, roasted grains like wheat are added, to make them richer and sweeter.
If you are allergic to wheat or avoiding gluten, you can use Tamari which is a wheat/gluten free variation of soy sauce.
If you are allergic to soy, you can use coconut amino acids which have a similar texture and flavor of soy sauce.
To make a good substitute, mix 1 tablespoon of a good soy sauce with a teaspoon of cornstarch (or tapioca flour or arrowroot powder) and mix well. This will give it the same thickness of oyster sauce.
2 teaspoons of Teriyaki Sauce = 1 tablespoon Oyster Sauce
Teriyaki sauce is one of the most popular sauces around! This Japanese sauce is similar to oyster sauce in that it is a sweet and thick sauce.
Soy sauce is the base and then mixed with any number of ingredients like sugar, sake, rice wine garlic, ginger, spicy chilis, or citrus juice.
It is similar to a BBQ sauce, which is what makes it work so well as an oyster sauce replacement.
Teriyaki sauce often has mirin wine or sake added, so use caution when cooking for children or those sensitive to alcohol.
Teriyaki is a super common sauce found in most grocery stores. Choose your favorite and add to any dish that calls for oyster sauce.
Soy Sauce + Worcestershire sauce + Sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce + 1 teaspoon brown sugar + a few drops of Worcestershire sauce = 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
A bit of a DIY approach to replacing oyster sauce, this combo is a good one as it combines the different elements of oyster sauce into one sauce made with common ingredients.
If you are allergic to fish/shellfish note that worcestershire sauce is often made with anchovies.
Sweet Soy Sauce (Kecap Manis)
Use a 2:1 ratio of replacing 1 part of oyster sauce with half a part of sweet soy sauce.
Sweet soy sauce is a staple ingredient in Indonesian cooking. It goes by a few different spellings, including sweet soy sauce, kecap manis, or ketjap manis.
This is made by further reducing soy sauce and adding sugar. The final result is a sauce that is dark, rich, thick, and almost like soy sauce syrup.
Since it has been reduced, it is a powerful sauce that only requires a little bit to add to the dish to make it flavorful.
This one might be more difficult to find in a local grocery store so be sure to check your local asian market.
Black bean paste
Use a 2:1 ratio replacing oyster sauce with half the amount of black bean paste.
Black bean paste is not made from black beans, but rather, from a variety of black soybeans.
This typically contains fermented black soybeans, vinegar, sugar, and lots of herbs and spices like garlic, chilis, and citrus fruits.
It has a strong, funky sort of texture and flavor thanks to the fermented beans, making this a really good substitute for oyster sauce!
Because it has such a strong flavor profile, use only half of the recommended amount of oyster sauce and build up from there until you reach a flavor profile you like.
Use a 1:1 ratio of replacing oyster sauce with an equal amount of mushroom sauce.
Mushroom sauce is also called mushroom soy sauce, mushroom broth, mushroom oyster sauce, mushroom stir fry sauce, or shiitake sauce. No matter the name, they all contain a similar ingredient list of soy sauce that has been infused with mushrooms.
There are no hard and fast rules about which mushrooms are used. Some types include shiitake mushrooms, porcini mushrooms, and even the oyster mushroom!
Adding mushrooms to the soy sauce not only helps to thicken the soy sauce but it also brings the saltiness levels way down.
If you can’t find this one at your local grocery store, check out your local Asian market.
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