You’re cooking an Asian-style dish, and you’ve just finished seasoning it with soy sauce, garlic, and ginger – but the flavor is lacking something.
Have you ever heard of oyster sauce before?
This would add the perfect taste to any dish. It adds a sweet, saltiness to any dish and gives it that extra oomph.
You may be wondering what this magical sauce is? What exactly is oyster sauce?
What is oyster sauce?
Oyster sauce is made from – you guessed it – oysters. It is actually a combination of oyster juices that have been caramelized.
Once the sauce is ready and being put in the bottle – it’s a sweet, salty, thick sauce that can be used for cooking.
The oysters add a very slight fishiness – it blends well with the rest of the ingredients, so it’s not overly fishy.
It is used in many different Chinese and Japanese style dishes, and it’s easy to use this sauce in homemade dishes.
Well, what if you don’t have oyster sauce?
The Best Oyster Sauce Substitutes
If you’re in the middle of cooking a recipe that requires oyster sauce and you’ve realized that you, unfortunately, don’t have oyster sauce.
What do you do? Here are the best oyster sauce substitutes that you can use in a pinch.
- Soy sauce. If your dish is lacking salt, you can use soy sauce both for flavor and saltiness. It is a much thinner sauce, so the consistency will be different. However, if you add a small amount of brown sugar, it creates a similar sweetness as oyster sauce.
- Sweet soy sauce. You’ll still be missing the thickness in this sauce. However, you’ll get the sweetness and saltiness without adding any brown sugar in.
- Hoisin sauce. This is a great alternative to oyster sauce. You’ll get both the sweetness and saltiness that you would normally get with oyster sauce. However, you will still be missing the slightly fishy taste that comes with oyster sauce.
- Soy sauce + hoisin sauce. Combining soy sauce and hoisin sauce gives you sweet, salty, and slightly fishy. It’s very close to oyster sauce and is a great replacement, but still lacking a slight taste difference.
What about if you have diet restrictions, like being a vegetarian? Can you still eat oyster sauce?
Is oyster sauce vegetarian?
The short answer is no. However, it depends on how strict of a vegetarian diet you follow.
Some vegetarians avoid all meat except for fish. If this is the case for you, then you can eat oyster sauce and still keep your vegetarian diet.
If you’re on a more strict vegetarian diet where you don’t even eat seafood, then this sauce is not for you.
So, what kind of dishes can you create with oyster sauce? Let’s take a look below for some inspiration.
Oyster Sauce Recipes
This delightful, easy recipe for one-pan roasted chicken only requires a few ingredients.
You’ll need chicken thighs, salt and pepper, vegetable oil, ginger, scallions, Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, and oyster sauce.
This recipe takes 50 minutes total, with 40 minutes reserved for cooking the chicken in the oven.
The ginger will need to be fried in vegetable oil. After that, you’re going to fry the chicken in the oil with the ginger. This will create delicious, crispy skin.
Add the scallions into the pan and stir with the chicken. You’ll need to mix the remaining ingredients and then add them to the pan.
It will take another 25-30 minutes for the chicken to cook through. You now have delicious roasted chicken in oyster sauce.
Stir fry is one of the best dishes – it’s so easy to make, and you can take whatever leftover vegetables you have and throw them in.
For this recipe, you’ll be creating a delicious marinade with sherry, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and white pepper. Add this to the chicken, and you’ll already have a great flavor base.
This recipe calls for oyster sauce which is added during the cooking process.
You’ll be adding it to the stir fry with hoisin sauce, black and white pepper, and sesame oil.
The green onions will be the final ingredient thrown in before the meal has finished cooking.
Yaki Udon is a super tasty dish that is super easy and quick to make.
This recipe will take you about 20 minutes from start to finish and will leave you with a yummy meal.
Pre-made udon noodles are boiled and then combined with shrimp, vegetables, and sauce to create a stir fry.
The sauce for this recipe is where all of the flavors come from, and it creates a super tasty meal.
You’ll need oyster sauce, of course, dark soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, black pepper, toasted sesame oil, and salt.
Combine everything together, then mix with pan-fried shrimp, noodles, and vegetables. Voila! You’re ready to eat your stir fry.
Yakisoba is known as a dish you can find and purchase on the street in Japan.
There are thin noodles that are fried together with some form of protein (in this case, beef) and vegetables.
This recipe is very easy and quick. You’ll need the following ingredients – onion, cabbage, green onion, carrots, bell pepper, beef, yakisoba noodles.
For the sauce, you’ll need sugar, soy sauce, oyster sauce, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce.
Slice the vegetables and cook them in an oiled wok. Then, add thinly sliced beef and more oil to the wok. Fry until the beef is cooked.
Mix all of the ingredients for the sauce in a separate bowl, then pour over the beef and vegetables in the pan.
Cook for about 3-5 minutes and then add in the noodles and stir to combine. Yum!
If you’re vegan and want to enjoy the delightful taste of oyster sauce in dishes, don’t worry.
You can make your own version at home in no time! Here’s a super simple recipe that will leave you with a yummy sauce in about 15 minutes (not including prep time).
The only ingredients you’ll need are dried mushrooms (soaked in hot water until rehydrated), soy sauce, agave syrup, miso paste, ginger, corn starch, and water.
The mushrooms in this recipe are what create the base/replacement for oysters.
They will be blended after soaking, then added to a pan and cooked with the sauce ingredients.
You’re left with a vegan sauce replacement that can be used in any dish that would normally use oyster sauce.
Beef broccoli stir fry is one of my go tos when I order Chinese food takeout.
With this recipe, you can recreate it at home and save money on takeout.
Plus, you’ll know exactly what’s going into the dish, so you can modify and make it healthier if needed.
This recipe is simple and easy – it will only take about 25 minutes from start to finish.
The sauce (the best part) only needs pan-fried garlic, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and dried wine.
You’ll add in a slurry of corn starch to thicken the sauce once the ingredients are combined.
You’ll be eating an amazing dish that tastes better than takeout in no time.
Shrimp in oyster sauce is another incredibly easy – and yummy – meal that can be made in minutes.
The ingredients are minimal yet incredibly tasty. You’ll need shrimp, cornstarch, oyster sauce, soy sauce, water, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, olive oil, and red chili.
Take the shrimp (peel on) and coat it with cornstarch. Mix the other ingredients (except olive oil, garlic, ginger, and red chili) in a separate bowl and set aside. Heat oil in a wok and pan fry the shrimp until it is pink.
You’ll need to remove the shrimp and then add in oil, garlic, ginger, and red chili flakes.
Fry until fragrant, then pour in the sauce. Simmer for about a minute, and then add the shrimp back in.
Cook the shrimp and sauce for another few minutes until you have fully cooked the shrimp.
You’re ready to serve the shrimp over rice and enjoy.
Is oyster sauce and hoisin sauce the same thing?
Although Hoisin sauce is a good alternative to oyster sauce, it is not the same thing.
Each sauce is made with different ingredients and produces a slightly different taste.
Oyster sauce, as mentioned, is created out of oysters, cornstarch, salt, and sugar.
Hoisin, on the other hand, uses soybean paste, garlic, vinegar, sesame oil, chilies, and sweetener.
Hoisin is saltier than oyster sauce. You also won’t have the same slightly fishy taste that oyster sauce is known and loved for.
So how can you get that same slightly fishy taste for dishes?
Can I use fish sauce instead of oyster sauce?
Fish sauce will definitely add a fishy flavor, but it’s quite a bit different than oyster sauce. With fish sauce, you’ll get a fishy, salty sauce that has a much sharper taste.
In some recipes, it could be a potential substitute. However, you’ll be lacking the sweetness that usually comes with oyster sauce.
If you use fish sauce, make sure to use a minimal amount of salt; otherwise, it will be salt overload.
What if you are a strict vegetarian, is there a way to recreate that yummy oyster sauce flavor?
What is a vegetarian substitute for oyster sauce?
Suppose you’re recreating an Asian-inspired dish but want a vegetarian spin on it.
You should try hoisin sauce. As mentioned, this sauce is the closest alternative to oyster sauce.
The sauce includes different seasonings with soybean paste as the base.
The best part about hoisin sauce is that you can substitute it 1:1 with oyster sauce. Meaning, you can use the same amount of hoisin as you would oyster sauce in a recipe.
I bet you’re wondering how oyster sauce is made; let’s take a look.
How is oyster sauce made?
Oysters are caramelized first. They are caramelized by cooking the oysters in a pan for a long time.
The oysters and juices are separated, with the oyster pieces being discarded.
The oyster juices are then mixed with salt and sugar. Cornstarch is added to the sauce to create a thicker consistency. Occasionally, soy sauce is also added for more flavor.
Add the sauce to a bottle, and you’ve created a homemade oyster sauce. Now that you’ve been using oyster sauce – is it actually healthy?
Is oyster sauce healthy?
Yes, this is a low-calorie sauce that is a great way to add flavor without a lot of additional calories.
You’ll find nine calories per tablespoon in this sauce. This is much less than barbeque sauce or other thicker sauces.
There is a good amount of salt in this sauce, so if you’re worried about salt intake, this might not be a good option for you.
Otherwise, go ahead and add that oyster sauce to your delicious recipes.
Still, hunting for vegan alternative oyster sauces? Check for some options below.
Vegan Alternative Oyster Sauce
Finding vegan alternatives to use in everyday recipes can be a bit tricky, especially when the original ingredients call for an animal product.
If you’re not interested in recreating your own version of oyster sauce at home, there are some additional alternative options.
You can, of course, swap out the oyster sauce for hoisin sauce. This will be the easiest alternative. Hoisin sauce is pretty easy to find at local grocery stores.
Another option is using soy sauce with brown sugar or sweet soy sauce for additional flavor. Both of these options are already vegan, so you can go ahead and purchase them from the store.
The above options will ensure you are able to stick to your vegan diet without worry.
Take your newfound knowledge of oyster sauce and start cooking your at-home recipes.
You’ll be glad you started using oyster sauce more often with the flavor it adds to each dish.
Try out the recipes featuring oyster sauce at home and impress all of your friends and family. Happy cooking!
You’re cooking an Asian-style dish, and you've just finished seasoning it with soy sauce, garlic, and ginger – but the flavor is lacking something.
- What is oyster sauce?
- The Best Oyster Sauce Substitutes
- Is oyster sauce vegetarian?
- Oyster Sauce Recipes
- One-Pan Roasted Chicken In Oyster Sauce
- Chicken and Bok Choy Stir Fry
- Yaki Udon Soup with Shrimp
- Vegan Oyster Sauce
- Beef Broccoli Stir Fry
- Shrimp In Oyster Sauce
- Is oyster sauce and hoisin sauce the same thing?
- Can I use fish sauce instead of oyster sauce?
- What is a vegetarian substitute for oyster sauce?
- How is oyster sauce made?
- Is oyster sauce healthy?
- Vegan Alternative Oyster Sauce
- Choose your favorite dish!
- Prepare ingredients according to the recipe.
- Be ready in 30 minutes or less!