- 1 What Is Oyster Sauce?
- 2 Best Oyster Sauce Substitutes: What are They?
- 3 How to Make an Oyster Sauce at Home?
- 4 Conclusion
As the name suggests, Oyster sauce contains cooked oysters, drained and caramelized to obtain the final product. However, since it’s made from a mollusc, a common allergen, many people tend to avoid it. This article contains detailed information about sweet soy sauce, fish sauce, hoisin sauce, and teriyaki sauce – your best go-to options for oyster sauce substitute.
What Is Oyster Sauce?
Traditionally speaking, oyster sauce is a reduction-type sauce created by simmering oysters slowly in water. The product obtained is then caramelized to make a sweet, dark, and thick paste-like ingredient that forms the base of most stir-fried dishes. Additionally, ingredients like soy sauce or sugar are also added to it to enhance the sauce’s flavour. However, nowadays, many companies produce and market oyster sauce substitute that tastes similar but doesn’t contain any allergen.
How is Oyster Sauce used in Culinary?
Oyster sauce indeed contains oysters, or at least it’s extracts, but it doesn’t taste fishy at all. Instead, it has a rich, sweet flavour with salty undertones. It’s highly viscous and adds a glossy, velvety finish to tossed recipes, especially meat. Oyster sauce is traditionally used to make food items like:
- Chow mein and Lo mein
- Thai soups
- Bok Choy
- Asian Stir-fried recipes
- Kung Pao Chicken/Shrimp
- Broccoli and Beef
- Spicy Sichuan Noodles
- Thai-style Grilled Chicken Wings
Is Oyster Sauce Used for Vegetarians?
Oyster sauce is anything but vegetarian since it contains a certain amount of shellfish essence. Even the ones manufactured these days contain additives that are not suitable for vegans and vegetarians likewise. In such cases, an oyster sauce replacement comes in handy as it gives you the necessary flavour without the oyster extracts.
For example, you can opt for a special substitute for oyster sauce made from shiitake mushrooms while making a vegetarian dish. This product does not contain any form of raw oyster, is entirely animal-free, and has a similar taste. Another excellent alternative for vegetarians is the hoisin sauce which is also devoid of seafood or any animal products.
Why Substitute an Oyster Sauce?
Although an Oyster Sauce is exceptionally delicious when added to Chinese or stir-fried cuisines, people often replace it with substitute oyster sauce. Some of the common reasons why people cannot (or choose not to) have oyster sauce is:
- Allergies: Many people are allergic to seafood, and oyster sauce is basically made from a mollusc, which again falls under seafood. So if you want to enjoy your favorite stir-fried noodles without triggering your allergies, you’ll need a good oyster sauce alternative.
- Availability: Oyster sauce is a common ingredient in Asian cuisine. However, in other countries, you might have to search for hours for an Asian grocery store before you can lay your hands upon this product. This sauce is not readily available in most supermarkets, and a replacement for oyster sauce is your next best option.
- Diet: Both vegans and vegetarians cannot opt for the oyster sauce as it contains oyster extracts or other similar additives. So they have to sub for oyster sauce with products that are seafood and animal-free.
Best Oyster Sauce Substitutes: What are They?
If you are looking for a substitution for oyster sauce, then take a look at the products given below:
Mushroom Stir-Fried Sauce
If you are allergic to seafood or vegetarian, and wondering- “what can i use instead of oyster sauce” then this stir-fried mushroom sauce is an excellent option. This sauce is typically made of a soybean base. It contains sugar, cornstarch, flour, salt, and mushroom flavouring as additives and caramel preservatives. However, it is not gluten-free as it has wheat-based products. Kimlan, Lee Kum Kee, and Wa Jan Shan are some popular brands that manufacture this product.
|Suggested Conversion||1:1 ratio|
|Flavor Notes||Sweet, salty, umami|
|Suggested Dishes||Any recipe made with oyster sauce|
A few drops of fish sauce adds plenty of authenticity to Cantonese or Thai recipes. So if you ever run out of oyster sauce, the fish sauce will definitely come in handy. However, it does not have a similar taste or texture. If you’re wondering- “Can i substitute fish sauce for oyster sauce”- then the answer would probably be a no. Adding it, your dish can often alter its taste.
|Similarities||Both contain sea creatures or animal extracts|
|Suggested Conversion||A few drops|
|Flavor Notes||No similarity exists between the flavours of these two sauces|
|Suggested Dishes||Mixed and stir-fried dishes|
Teriyaki sauce is a common ingredient in Japanese cuisine. It contains brown sugar, soy sauce, mollusks and has a flavour and texture similar to oyster sauce. However, make sure to opt for good teriyaki sauce brands for optimum taste and texture.
|Similarities||Texture, flavour, consistency|
|Suggested Conversion||Same as oyster sauce|
|Flavor Notes||Sweet with salty undertones|
|Suggested Dishes||Stir-frying chicken and vegetables|
This is a poor substitute for the oyster sauce as it does not have that shiny, syrupy richness or sweet undertones. It’s not thick enough to coat your stir-fried ingredients and has a watery texture. However, it’s salty and adds a savoury flavour to your dish.
|Suggested Conversion||30-50% of the required oyster sauce|
|Flavor Notes||Umami, salty|
|Suggested Dishes||Dripping, drizzling|
Black Bean Paste
This plant-based alternative is quite dense and creamy. You can use black bean paste to coat noodles, meat and vegetables before stir-frying them. It has a dark colour and a constituency similar to oyster sauce. However, it lacks sweetness and hence cannot mimic the flavour of oyster sauce.
|Suggested Conversion||1:1 ratio|
|Flavor Notes||Salty, savoury|
|Suggested Dishes||Meat/vegetable dishes|
Sweet Soy Sauce (Kecap Manis)
Kecap manis is essentially soy sauce that has been sweetened with additives like palm sugar. Thus it has a thick molasses-like texture and flavouring. Although the flavour is quite similar to oyster sauce, it lacks the saltwater funkiness. Sweet soy sauce is an excellent substitute for oyster sauce in stir fry.
|Suggested Conversion||1:1 ratio|
|Flavor Notes||Salty and sweet|
|Suggested Dishes||Coating, stir-frying|
How to Make an Oyster Sauce at Home?
Although buying an oyster sauce or using its substitute is more convenient – you can always make some of your own. Oyster sauce might not be readily available in the market, but molluscs like oysters are. Given below is a simple recipe to make the oyster sauce at home:
- Add oysters to a food processor and process until chopped.
- You can also chop them up using oyster knives.
- Add the chopped mixture to a small saucepan.
- Add water to the saucepan and simmer it until it boils.
- Add the chopped mixture to the simmering water.
- Cover the pan and heat it for 8-12 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat source, add salt and let it cool.
- Once it cools down, drain the mixture using a sieve to remove unwanted pieces of the oyster.
- To the clear liquid, add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce.
- Boil this liquid for 10 minutes.
- Cool it down to room temperature and store it in a tightly sealed jar for future use.
If you are a vegetarian, you can make a special vegetarian version of the oyster sauce using oysters or shiitake mushrooms:
While choosing an oyster sauce substitute, make sure to go through the ingredient list before deciding upon a product. Different substitutes have different kinds of flavours, textures and consistencies. Then, depending on the type of food item you’re planning to make, you can choose your replacement from the wide range of available options. Or you can simply substitute this sauce by making your own version of it at home.