15 Finger-Licking Oyster Sauce Substitutes
A common ingredient in stir-fries, oyster sauce has a potent, recognizable umami flavor. Still, if you run out of it, there are plenty of oyster sauce substitutes at hand.
Some are simple and easy, and you probably have them in your kitchen right now. Others can be obtained by mixing different ingredients. Not to mention, you can make your own oyster sauce at home. We’ll talk about all of these below.
The Oyster Sauce Flavor Profile
Used in stir-fries and marinades and as a dipping sauce, oyster sauce brings a certain mix of aromas to the table. It all stems from how this sauce is created. Oyster sauce is made by cooking oysters in water for a long time. Simmered for a long time, the oysters release all their flavor. The obtained cooked liquid is drained and caramelized. After that, it’s combined with sugar, salt, soy sauce, and cornstarch to make it thicker. Used a lot in Chinese and Thai cuisine, oyster sauce is dark, with a thick composition.
When it comes to flavor, oyster sauce is the definition of umami. It is salty and sweet, with a dash of fermented tanginess and a hint of caramel.
The proportion of oysters used in preparing the sauce will make it milder or more intense. In high-quality oyster sauce, you can feel the odor and taste of the oyster: an earthy smell, with a slightly burnt, caramelized taste. While it’s made from oysters, its taste is not too fishy, but rather, it can mask the aroma of seafood and fish when added to a dish.
Fifteen Simple Oyster Sauce Substitutes
Now that we’ve covered its flavor, we can jump right to the topic. Be it that you don’t have oyster sauce at home, or that you simply don’t like its aroma, there are some ingredients that can provide that umami blend of flavors. What can you replace oyster sauce with, you’re wondering? Here are the best subs you can try!
1. Soy Sauce
Soy sauce is much thinner in consistency than oyster sauce. Made from fermented soybeans and cereals in brine, this ingredient can replace oyster sauce successfully. While more liquid, it can add that umami feel and saltiness that the mollusk sauce has. When it comes to quantity, a ratio of 1:2 would be fine. To make soy sauce a better substitution for oyster sauce, add a little molasses to it. Extra tip: both light and dark soy sauce can be used to replace oyster sauce.
2. Sweet Soy Sauce (Kecap Manis)
Kecap Manis is one of the best alternatives for oyster sauce. This Indonesian sauce packs even more sweetness than oyster sauce. It will work well, especially if you substitute it in a maximum 1:1 ratio, but it will be better to start with a 1:2 ratio.
3. Hoisin Sauce
Can you use hoisin sauce instead of oyster sauce? Well, yes! Hoisin sauce, another Chinese ingredient, brings together both sweet and salty flavors. Hoisin sauce also has a thicker consistency. In fact, it’s even thicker than oyster sauce. You can use it in a 1:1 ratio.
4. Fish Sauce
Is oyster sauce the same as fish sauce? They are not the same, but they can be used interchangeably. Oyster sauce tastes a little like fish brine, but it’s milder and sweeter. Fish sauce is often used paired up with oyster sauce to add more flavor to stir-fries. Now, when it comes to flavor, fish sauce is not sweet and can be quite salty. You’ll notice it also has a pungent, intense, sharp flavor.
Make sure to start with a 1:2 ratio and go up from there. Extra tip: Fish sauce can be one of the best oyster sauce substitutes, especially when mixed with honey or molasses.
5. Mushroom Soy Sauce
Mushroom soy sauce is made from mushroom sauce and soy sauce. Made from fermented soybeans and mushrooms, this sauce has that tangy aroma and umami flavor blend you love about oyster sauce, and it’s a great vegan option!
Not to mention, it has a similar thick consistency! It has a sufficiently sweet taste, but you can always complete it with a little sugar.
6. Mushroom Broth
Is oyster sauce vegan? We have come across many questions related to this topic. While oyster sauce is not vegan, there are a couple of options for you to try.
One of the best is mushroom broth. Particularly if it’s made from shiitake mushrooms since they have a more intense, earthy, woody flavor. You can add some teriyaki sauce and miso paste for an extra umami flavor. You can make your own mushroom broth, or you can dissolve one cube of concentrated mushroom broth in some boiling water.
Either way, adding in some cornstarch slurry and brown bean sauce + sugar can really hit the spot! You’ll get both the taste, smell, flavor, and consistency of oyster sauce. Only, it’ll be vegan!
7. Black Bean Paste
Black bean paste is one of the best substitutes for oyster sauce. It’s yet another vegan option since it’s made from fermented black beans. This paste is usually mixed with vinegar, garlic, sugar, and soy sauce, so there’s that salty-sweet umami flavor! The great thing about it: it replicates oyster sauce texture and consistency as well. A 1:1 ratio will do.
8. Mushroom Stir-Fry Sauce
Looking for another vegan alternative to oyster sauce? This blend of soybeans as a base, plus sugar, salt, mushroom flavoring, caramel, and cornstarch will be perfect. You can use it instead of oyster sauce at a 1:1 ratio. Extra info: this option is not suitable for those who suffer from celiac disease since it contains wheat, aka gluten.
9. Worcestershire Sauce
While they are both made from seafood, Worcestershire sauce and oyster sauce do have differences. Worcestershire is made from anchovies, and oyster sauce is made from mollusks. They are similar in that they both bring that umami flavor. However, they differ in terms of texture and flavor.
Oyster sauce is thicker, while Worcestershire is more liquid. The latter is also saltier, rather savory, and has a fruity tanginess to it. You can use them interchangeably but start small since Worcestershire can overpower your dish. Start with a 1:2 ratio and maybe add in some sugar and soy sauce to get closer.
10. Vegan Oyster Sauce
If you want a vegan oyster sauce replacement, this is the one for you. Made from concentrated plant-based ingredients, this sauce is similar to oyster sauce in terms of color, thick texture, and flavor. Using a 1:1 ratio will do.
11. Teriyaki Sauce
This Japanese sauce is made from soy sauce, brown sugar, and garlic. It has a similar thick, caramel-like consistency to oyster sauce. In terms of flavor, they are not equal, but in case of an emergency, you can use them interchangeably. You’ll notice oyster sauce has a more briny, fishy flavor, while teriyaki brings more sweetness.
12. Chinese Brown Sauce
Made from beef stock or beef broth, soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine, and sugar, this sauce can successfully replace oyster sauce. You’ll like its salty, sweet, tangy, umami flavor and its rich texture that is quite similar to oyster sauce.
13. Tamari Sauce
While oyster sauce results from the juices of oysters left to simmer and caramelize, Tamari sauce is made from fermented soybeans. It is less salty than soy sauce and it has a thicker consistency, coming closer to oyster sauce. It works better as an alternative to the mollusk sauce if you add a pinch of sugar.
14. Coconut Aminos
Coconut aminos are made from the fermented sap of coconut trees. The sap is fermented with sea salt, resulting in a salty-sweet, umami-packed ingredient. This replacement is suitable for vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free diets.
15. Miso Paste
Miso paste is made from soybeans, barley or rice, salt, and koji mold. These ingredients are fermented, and Miso paste results. Miso paste is rather briny, although rich and tangy. But it can be used when you are out of oyster sauce.
What to use instead of oyster sauce: try these combos!
Oyster sauce has a syrupy consistency. This texture is obtained by cooking mollusks in water until a dense shellfish soup results. This strained soup is then cooked with sugar, salt, soy sauce, and cornstarch until all these juices caramelize.
They turn into the fishy, sweet, and salty molasses-like sauce that we adore in our foods. Until we run out of it. If this happens, you can create your own concoctions, mixing a couple of ingredients. Discover how to substitute oyster sauce with these mixes:
1. Soy Sauce + Worcestershire Sauce + Sugar
What can you use instead of oyster sauce to replicate its aroma? Try mixing these ingredients! ½ a teaspoon of sugar to 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and a couple of drops of Worcestershire sauce and ta-da, your oyster sauce replacement is done.
2. Hoisin Sauce + Soy Sauce
Do you have soy sauce and hoisin sauce around the house? Well, then you have a great alternative to oyster sauce! It’s easy-peasy! Mix equal amounts of the two aforementioned ingredients and you’ll get a blend that replicates both the consistency of oyster sauce and its sweet-salty-tangy flavors. Uuu-mami!
3. Fish Sauce + Mushroom Soy Sauce + Molasses
If you’re wondering how to make oyster sauce at home, this mixture will really hit the spot. Mixing equal amounts of these ingredients will get you a similar flavor to oyster sauce and a close enough texture.
How to make oyster sauce at home: DIY recipes
Just a dollop of oyster sauce can enrich the taste of your dish. Noodles, meats, soups, seafood, marinades, veggies, and stir-fries can all become better with a hint of oyster sauce. And if you fancy making your own, here’s how to prepare a DIY oyster sauce in your kitchen. This homemade oyster sauce is not hard to make, and it will add the umami taste you’re looking for to your dishes.
Ingredients for your homemade oyster sauce recipe:
- 10 ounces of oysters, shucked with liquid
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- Soy sauce and tamari sauce as needed
- Optional: 150 grams of sugar**
- You have to drain the oysters and keep the liquid.
- Chop the oysters or add them to a food processor to obtain a finely chopped mixture.
- Put the chopped oysters into a saucepan.
- Add the liquid you kept before and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat, cover, and let it simmer for at least 15 minutes. If you want an intense flavor, add more water to the mix and let it simmer for longer.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat, add salt, and let it cool.
- Drain the mixture to obtain a liquid.
- To every ½ cup of broth, add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and tamari sauce as needed.
- Bring to a boil over high heat. After that, let it simmer for 10 more minutes, reducing the heat.
- Remove from the heat and let it cool down to room temperature before pouring it into a jar that has been boiling in water for 15 minutes.
- Seal the jar and store it in the refrigerator. You can use it for the next month.
** If you decide to add some sugar as well, make sure to melt it over low heat to obtain a brown, caramel-like paste. Add in some lemon juice (half a lemon will suffice) and mix it in with the already boiled mixture obtained at the 10th step above.
As you can see, even a multiflavored ingredient like oyster sauce can be replaced. It’s like Beyoncé said: “Don’t you ever for a second get to thinking you’re irreplaceable!” We’re pretty sure she wasn’t talking about oyster sauce substitutes, but she was right on the money!