Finding the Perfect Oyster Sauce Substitute: A Comprehensive Guide – Bokksu Market

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Finding the Perfect Oyster Sauce Substitute: A Comprehensive Guide

by Bokksu Staff

Did you know that you can replicate the salty-sweet umami taste of oyster sauce with simple alternatives? We’ve discovered various substitutes that you can use to make any dish better in seconds!

Introduction to Oyster Sauce: A Culinary Staple

Oyster sauce in a small plate

Oyster sauce is a condiment made from oyster juices, sugar, salt, and other ingredients. It has a savory, salty flavor (umami) and is mostly used in Asian cuisine. Typically, the sauce is thick, and it has a syrupy texture with a dark brown color.

The Chinese use oyster sauce as a staple ingredient in dishes such as chow mein, beef with vegetables, and fried chicken.

It also serves as a topping for family meals. Vietnam and Thailand are heavy consumers of oyster sauce; however, people enjoy it all over the world.

Lee Kum Sheung was the inventor of oyster sauce in 1888. Today, his original recipe is the basis for the Lee Kum Kee Premium Oyster Sauce. This product offers a modernized version of the condiment that brings umami to fried rice, stir-fries, and other dishes.

Lee Kum Kee Premium Oyster Sauce

With this sauce, the kitchen is your oyster! Specially made with the finest oyster extracts, this oyster sauce boasts a rich oyster taste with light sweet and salty flavors. Use this all-purpose sauce to enhance the taste and appearance of your favorite cuisines like fried rice, pad thai, stir-fries, and more!

If you're looking to learn more about what oyster sauce is and how to use it, check out this blog!

Common Allergens: Wheat, Soy. May also contain: Mollusk Shellfish, Alcohol.

18 oz

Why Substitute Oyster Sauce?

There are many reasons to seek oyster sauce alternatives. What’s yours?

You’re vegan:

Oyster is a kind of shellfish, making it a non-vegan ingredient. If you’re vegan, you’ll want to choose one of the plant-based substitutes we recommend in this post.

You have allergies:

If you’re allergic to shellfish, oyster sauce is NOT an option. The same goes for people with celiac disease, as they’re not allowed to eat oyster sauce with gluten in it.

You’re limited to finding a gluten-free sauce from a trusted supplier or using the gluten-free substitute we recommend in this post.

You ran out of oyster sauce:

Perhaps you love oyster sauce so much that you ran out before you could buy more. There is no need to wait until you go grocery shopping. Try one of our oyster sauce substitutes.

You’re trying something new:

These oyster sauce alternatives are perfect for those looking to experiment in the kitchen. You can try as many substitutes as you like and find one with the perfect umami flavor.

Soy Sauce: The Classic Alternative

Soy sauce in a small bowl

Soy sauce serves as a condiment and a cooking ingredient made from fermented soybeans, wheat, and salt. It’s used to make toppings for various Japanese dishes.

Soy sauce is the most common alternative to oyster sauce.

Soy Sauce vs. Oyster Sauce

Both soy and oyster sauces are staple condiments in Asian homes. However, soy sauce is more common in Japan than in China.

Comparing the two sauces in terms of flavor and usage, soy sauce is vegan and vegetarian, unlike oyster sauce. Also, soy sauce is saltier but not as thick.

We recommend that you add some sugar to your soy sauce if you want to use it as a direct substitute in a dish that requires oyster sauce.

To ensure you don’t lose umami in your dish, only substitute it with a high-quality product like Shibanuma Artisanal Soy Sauce.

Shibanuma Artisanal Soy Sauce

Since their founding in 1688, maker Shibanuma has specialized in making the highest quality Japanese seasonings in Tsuchiura of the Ibaraki Prefecture. Prepared by skilled chefs, this premium artisanal soy sauce is seasoned with bonito and matured in wooden tubs to perfect its mellow flavor that perfectly harmonizes with many dishes.

Common Allergens: Wheat, Soy. 

10.14 oz

Hoisin Sauce: A Sweet and Savory Swap

Bottle of hoisin sauce

Hoisin sauce is another vegan substitute. It’s a Chinese condiment with a sweet and tangy taste similar to BBQ sauce. Although it’s sweeter than oyster sauce, both condiments have the same consistency and texture.

Hoisin sauce is typically made of garlic, soybeans, chili, and vinegar. Depending on its ingredients, it may have a stronger umami flavor than oyster sauce.

Using Hoisin Sauce in Stir Fries and Dipping Sauces

Feel free to use hoisin sauce as a straight swap for oyster sauce in stir-fries, dipping, and marinades. You can also add it as a topping for lettuce wraps and chicken ribs.

Some hoisin sauce products contain gluten; read the label carefully if it poses a problem for you.

Sweet Soy Sauce: Enhancing Flavors Naturally

Invented in Indonesia, sweet soy sauce is a sweetened and aromatic variant created by adding palm or cane sugar. It has a darker color than the regular version and a syrupy consistency.

This type of sauce is known as kecap manis in Indonesia. It’s used to add sweet, umami flavor to a variety of dishes as a topping, marinade, or dipping sauce.

Sweet Soy Sauce as a Versatile Condiment

Sweet soy sauce has vast applications in cooking. In Indonesia, it’s used as a marinade for grilled chicken and grilled fish. People also use it as a dipping sauce for fried tofu.

Basically, any stir-fried dish could use some sweet soy sauce, including ramen, udon, rice noodles, and meat.

Fish Sauce: A Pungent Oyster Sauce Substitute

Fish sauce

Although oyster sauce already has a subtle fish flavor, fish sauce brings the full taste of seafood. It's a thinner, saltier, and less sweet alternative that works better as a condiment for dishes with fish rather than meat.

Made from fermented fish (anchovies), the sauce is accompanied by a pungent smell that is necessary for its flavor profile.

Fish Sauce in Asian Cooking

Fish sauce will enhance the flavor of any Asian meal by adding an extra layer of umami. Mix some sugar and cornstarch in the sauce if you want to use it in a recipe as a substitute for oyster sauce. They will give the condiment a sweeter taste and a thicker texture.

Teriyaki Sauce: A Unique Twist

Chicken being dipped in teriyaki sauce

Teriyaki sauce is tangy, sweet, and umami-rich. The term teriyaki refers to a Japanese style of cooking that involves the grilling and broiling of meat, fish, and vegetables with soy sauce, sugar, and mirin or sake.

As a reliable oyster sauce alternative, teriyaki sauce can function as an ingredient, dipping, topping, or marinade for stir-fried dishes.

It’s a vegan sauce but typically contains soy and, hence, gluten. Only teriyaki sauces that use tamari instead of soy sauce are gluten-free. 

Incorporating Teriyaki Sauce into Your Dishes

Use a spiced-up teriyaki sauce as a marinade or glaze in dishes like teriyaki chicken or teriyaki don. For the best results, we recommend Morita Teriyaki Sauce.

You can also use teriyaki sauce as a BBQ sauce alternative when making pork ribs. Another application is to drizzle the sauce on stir-fry meals or use it as a dipping sauce for kebabs and grilled chicken.

Morita Teriyaki Sauce

With this teriyaki sauce, you can quickly and easily appreciate the rich umami flavors in any dish. It features spices like sansho pepper which makes the sauce extra fragrant and flavorful. Whether you're making teriyaki chicken, teriyaki salmon, or teriyaki don, this teriyaki sauce is your new best friend for grilling, frying, dipping, and more!

Common Allergens: Wheat, Soy.

Sale $3.99 Regular $5.49 27% OFF
6.5 oz

Mushroom Broth: A Vegan-Friendly Option

Bowl of mushroom broth

Mushroom broth is one of the best vegan substitutes for oyster sauce. Mushrooms, garlic, tamari, and celery combine to form this umami bomb. It’s thicker and creamier than oyster sauce.

The color of the broth is also lighter than that of oyster sauce. To get the full umami blast, it’s best to use shiitake mushrooms. 

Crafting Mushroom Broth from Shiitake Mushrooms

Below is a quick guide to making and using mushroom broth in place of oyster sauce:

  1. Clean shiitake mushrooms.

  2. Add garlic, mushrooms, salt, pepper, and shallot to a stock pot.

  3. Add enough water to cover the ingredients in the pot.

  4. Set the stove to medium heat and allow the pot to simmer for about two hours or until the flavor is as intense as you like.

  5. Let the pot cool off for 30 minutes.

  6. Strain it into a bowl using a fine mesh strainer.

  7. Your mushroom broth is ready to be served or stored in the fridge.

Worcestershire Sauce: An Unexpected Substitute

Worcestershire sauce in a bowl

Also called Worcester sauce, this condiment is made from anchovies, vinegar, molasses, garlic, sugar, tamarind extract, and onion. It’s a popular sauce commonly used on finished dishes such as hamburgers and steak.

People also use it to add flavor to Bloody Mary, Caesar, and other cocktails. Hence, one would not expect Worcestershire sauce to be a good substitute for oyster sauce. Fortunately, it is!

Worcestershire Sauce in Marinades and Sauces

This unexpected sauce can mimic the umami of oyster sauce if you mix it with soy sauce and sugar. Worcestershire sauce has a strong taste, so you only need to add a few drops. It works well as a marinade and topping.

Gluten-Free Soy Sauce: For Health-Conscious Cooks

We understand that some people don’t like to use ingredients with high gluten content due to personal or health reasons. If you’re in a similar situation, you can still enjoy soy sauce as a substitute for oyster sauce.

All you need is Kikkoman Gluten-Free Soy Sauce. It’s made from rice instead of wheat and offers the same salty and savory taste as regular soy sauce.

Kikkoman Gluten-Free Soy Sauce

Kikkoman is giving you the same savory taste of soy sauce without the gluten! It's a tamari style, meaning the soy sauce is made from rice instead of wheat. They use a time-honored process of natural fermentation to create this versatile sauce, great to use in Asian and non-Asian cooking alike! The sauce is certified gluten-free by the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America (GIG).

Common Allergens: Soy.

10 oz

Choosing Gluten-Free Soy Sauce for Vegetable Dishes

One big reason to use gluten-free soy sauce in recipes requiring oyster sauce is that it helps to avoid celiac disease symptoms caused by gluten intake. These symptoms range from abdominal pain and bloating to diarrhea and intestinal damage.

People with wheat allergies will also benefit from using gluten-free soy sauce as an alternative. Lastly, it provides more energy and helps with weight management.

Black Bean Paste: A Bold Flavor Alternative

Jajangmyeon or noodles in black bean sauce

Mostly used as cake filling, black bean paste also doubles as a suitable oyster sauce alternative. It’s made from pulverized soybeans and has a salty and earthy taste with a slight sweetness. The paste possesses a black color that can darken food.

Using Black Bean Paste in Stir Fries

Black bean paste has a similar texture to oyster sauce but is a lot spicier. It’s a useful substitute when you need to spice up your dish with a hot condiment.

For foods that taste better when spicy, such as jajangmyeon, we highly recommend that you try Assi Jjajang Black Bean Sauce.

Assi Jjajang Black Bean Sauce

Korean cuisine is known for its spicy, flavor-packed meals. One of the kitchen staples often found in these dishes is jjajang, aka black bean sauce. This delightful condiment helps balance the heat with a salty, earthy, slightly bitter umami flavor. Use this black bean sauce in the popular Korean dish jajangmeon or in jjajang tteokbokki for a delicious, complex taste.

Common Allergens: Wheat, Soy.

PLEASE NOTE: Expiration dates on product images only reflect when the photo was taken. Please refer to the back of your purchased product for its own expiration date.

1.1 lb

Vegetarian Oyster Sauce: Plant-Based Perfection

Earlier, we mentioned that oysters are shellfish. How can oyster sauce be vegetarian, you might ask? The answer is mushrooms - oyster mushrooms, to be exact.

These mushrooms produce a high umami flavor that allows them to match the savory taste of oyster sauce.

You can attempt to make this sauce at home with mushrooms, cornstarch, soy sauce, salt, and other ingredients. Most people choose to buy it from the store.

Finding the Best Vegetarian Oyster Sauce

Here are our recommendations for high-quality vegetarian oyster sauce brands:

  1. Only shop at trusted stores and online markets like Bokksu Market.

  2. Search for the label indicating that the sauce is a vegan option.

  3. Don’t stop there but take a closer look at the ingredients used, particularly if you suffer from food allergies.

Mushroom Sauce: Rich and Earthy

Bowl of mushroom sauce

Mushroom sauce is a popular topping for various dishes and works well as a stand-in for oyster sauce. It has a white or brown color, depending on the ingredient used. Some versions are made with white wine and others with red wine to achieve rich and earthy notes.

Mushroom sauce can be both vegan and non-vegan, depending on whether or not it contains cream, as most vegan recipes use almond instead.

Homemade Mushroom Sauce with Shiitake

Check out this recipe for creating a mushroom sauce that rivals oyster sauce in depth.

  1. Add olive oil to a pot and set the stove to medium heat. Let it cook for 8 to 10 minutes until it turns golden brown.

  2. Switch to low heat and add flour. Stir the mixture for 2 minutes.

  3. Add vegetable broth, garlic, and thyme. Stir the contents of the pot and set the stove to medium heat for 5 minutes.

  4. When you notice some thickening, add red or white wine vinegar and molasses.

  5. Set the stove to low heat and cook for 5 minutes.

  6. Your mushroom sauce is ready to serve!

Best Oyster Sauce Substitutes for Every Dish

Let’s say you have no dietary restrictions and you want to select an oyster sauce alternative based on the type of dish you want to make. What would be the best substitute? Below is a guide to help you make the best decision.

Selecting the Right Substitute for Stir Fries and More

Check to see if the meal falls into any of the following categories:

  1. Meat Dishes - If you’re planning to make a meat dish such as chicken, beef, or pork, you should use a substitute that works great as a marinade. Hoisin sauce is the go-to option here. 

  2. Vegetable Dishes - To add flavor to sides of broccoli, kale, green beans, and the like, use an oyster sauce alternative capable of bringing more sweetness to balance the flavors. Sweet soy sauce or teriyaki sauce are the best options.

  3. Stir Fries - When it comes to adding umami depth and spice to stir fried dishes like ramen and rice noodles, we recommend soy sauce or black bean paste as the perfect oyster sauce alternatives.

  4. Seafood Dishes - For dishes that contain seafood, you want to get a substitute that can complement their strong flavors. Fish sauce and hoisin sauce are great with seafood dishes.

Other Oyster Sauce Alternatives: Expanding Your Culinary Toolbox

Condiment bottles

We may have mentioned the best oyster sauce substitutes. However, there are other alternatives that work fairly well but didn’t make the list.

One good alternative is anchovies. These are small fish that you can mix with soy sauce and add to noodles.

Coconut aminos are soy-free and vegan. They are made from fermented coconut sap and salt, offering a healthy alternative to oyster sauce.

Experimenting with Different Substitutes

The great thing about condiments is that we’re constantly discovering new ways to use them.

Feel free to embark on a journey of culinary experimentation with various oyster sauce substitutes. Who knows? You might invent a new combination that catches on!

Mastering the Art of Substitution

When substituting oyster sauce in your recipe, the important factors to consider are sweetness, savoriness, texture, and content. Make sure you fully understand what’s in an ingredient before using it in any meal.

Elevating Your Cooking with Oyster Sauce Substitutes

Finding the right oyster sauce substitute will ensure that you get the expected flavors from your cooking. It can also save you when you find yourself in a tight spot. Feel free to explore Bokksu Market sauces to find the perfect oyster sauces and their alternatives. Umami never has to leave your kitchen!

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Finding the Perfect Oyster Sauce Substitute: A Comprehensive Guide


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