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Oyster sauce is an ingredient found in a number of traditional Chinese, Thai, Malay, Vietnamese, and Khmer cuisine. It is one of the most popular condiments used by restaurants and you can find it in many grocery stores as well. But what if you are vegan, sensitive to gluten, or allergic to seafood? Fear not! There are plenty of substitutes for oyster sauce out there that will make your mouth water in the same way. Whether store-bought or homemade, let’s check out what can you substitute for oyster sauce in your next delicious Asian-inspired dish.
What is in oyster sauce?
Oyster sauce is a thick, brown sauce used in Asian cooking. It’s made from oysters and brine or water thickened with cornstarch that has been reduced to a syrupy consistency, with sugar as the sweetener. The saltiness of this ingredient balances well with soy sauces that are also often used for seasoning Asian dishes.
The most popular brand of oyster sauce is Lee Kum Kee, which has been making it for more than 100 years. It’s the go-to product in many Chinese households and restaurants.
Oyster sauce is available at any grocery store that carries a variety of Asian ingredients, or online retailers like Amazon.com or Walmart.
This sauce is often used as a condiment, like soy sauce or hot sauces are in other cuisines—it can be drizzled over noodles, rice dishes, or many types of food before serving to add flavor and umami. It’s also an important ingredient for many quick stir-fries that don’t require marinating. So, if you’ve ever asked yourself: “what can I use in place of oyster sauce in stir-fry?”, keep reading.
What can be used in place of oyster sauce?
Due to the ingredients traditionally found in oyster sauce, it may not be appropriate for folks with seafood allergies, gluten intolerance, or who follow a vegan diet pattern.
For example, many oyster sauce brands contain soy sauce made from wheat (or may contain wheat flour as a thickener), which is not suitable for those who need to follow a gluten-free diet plan.
Fortunately, there are many substitutes for oyster sauce that you can buy at the store. You can also make your own homemade oyster sauce with a few simple ingredients. Let’s take a look.
Homemade vegetarian substitute for oyster sauce
You can make oyster sauce substitutes from all sorts of different ingredients. These are just a few of the most popular ones, in order to make vegetarian and vegan oyster sauce substitutes. FYI, these options are not gluten-free–we will look at those later on below.
Ingredients for oyster sauce replacements
- Stir fry 1 tbsp minced onion, 2 minced garlic cloves, and 1/2 tsp minced ginger together in a neutral oil, like canola, until they are fragrant, for about 1 minute. Then add a tablespoon of dark soy sauce, tamarind paste, sugar or honey (to taste), 1/2 tsp white vinegar, a drizzle of sesame oil, and maybe some chili pepper to spice things up! Cook these ingredients for a few minutes.
- Mix up a sauce from soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and dark brown sugar or honey (to taste). Whisk in some cornstarch to thicken if needed. This is excellent for dipping fried wontons in!
- Use vegetable broth, soy sauce, and ginger. In a small pot bring the vegetable broth to boil with a dash of dark soy sauce (or light) and minced ginger if desired. Simmer for about two minutes before using in your favorite recipe that calls for oyster or fish sauces.
Homemade gluten-free substitute for oyster sauce
- Make an oyster sauce substitute with applesauce, gluten-free soy sauce and a little brown sugar.
- Mix up some equal parts of peanut butter, light corn syrup (or honey) and sesame oil in a pan over medium heat for about five minutes to make an excellent alternative to oyster sauce. This is perfect as a dipping sauce for dumplings or potstickers.
- Miso paste is another great oyster sauce replacement. Add a tablespoon of white miso paste to your favorite stir-fry recipe or marinade, and it’ll be just as flavorful!
Store-bought substitutes for oyster sauce
If you’d rather have ready-made oyster sauce substitutes on hand, here are some great options you can order from Amazon. They’re all vegan friendly, and the Kikoman option is gluten-free as well:
Another vegan and gluten-free alternative option is Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, which can replace both soy sauce and oyster sauce in recipes that call for them. One teaspoon is equal to one tablespoon of soy sauce.
Bragg’s Liquid Aminos is a product made from soy beans and water that contains 16% protein. It was originally called “Maneo,” but changed its name to Bragg’s when the company moved into producing other products like apple cider vinegar, red wine extract, and liquid aminos with no added salt or sugar. The product is GMO-free, gluten free and has no added MSG.
It’s a popular alternative to soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce because it contains 16% protein which can help you get additional protein in your diet without having to rely on animal products like eggs and meat. It also tastes very similar to oyster sauce, so those who are familiar with the taste will find it easy to use in their recipes.
Bragg’s also contains many vitamins and minerals which are not found in other substitutes like tamari or hoisin sauces.
Additional oyster sauce alternatives
Can I replace oyster sauce with hoisin? Yes! Hoisin sauce is typically vegan, making it a great alternative to oyster sauce. The texture is also similar to regular oyster sauce, and the taste is a similar blend of sweet, salty, and mildly “fishy”. You can use the same amount of hoisin sauce in a recipe that calls for oyster sauce. If it’s too sweet, you can also try mixing equal parts hoisin and soy sauce, however, since soy sauce may contain gluten, always check the label first.
A lot of people like substituting soy sauce for oyster sauce because it tastes similar, although the texture is much thinner.
Some brands of low-sodium soy sauce are gluten free as well. One tablespoon of soy sauce should be enough for a dish that calls for oyster sauce.
Sweet Soy Sauce
Also known as kecap manis, This is an Indonesian version of soy sauce, and makes a great substitute for oyster sauce. You can use it in stir fries and soups just as you would use oyster sauce, with no need to adjust any ingredients or cooking times. It’s a bit sweeter than oyster sauce, so you may have to adjust the amounts of sugar in the recipe.
Sweet soy sauce is vegan, and gluten-free options are also available, making it a great substitute for oyster or fish sauces in any recipe!
You can also try tamari, which is made primarily from soy beans and usually contains no wheat.
Tamari is a type of soy sauce that has the same salty flavor as oyster sauce. It comes in both gluten-free and non-gluten free varieties, so be sure to read labels before purchasing!
Some brands are more watery than others – I recommend Thai Kitchen or San J Tamari for their thicker consistency.
Though it’s not a perfect substitute, you can also use mirin as a replacement for oyster sauce. Mirin is an East Asian rice wine used in both sweet and savory dishes. One teaspoon of this should be enough to replace one tablespoon of oyster sauce when adding flavor to your dish, but the sugar content in the recipe might need to be adjusted accordingly.
FAQs about other oyster sauce substitutes
Here are the answers to some other common questions with regards to what to use in place of oyster sauce in a recipe.
Can I substitute teriyaki sauce for oyster sauce?
Yes, you can. However, teriyaki sauce is typically thicker and saltier than oyster sauce so if the recipe doesn’t call for oil or water to thin it out then your dish may be too salty.
Since the flavor of soy sauce in teriyaki sauces are not as strong when compared with oyster sauces, you may need to add a little more soy sauce for the dish.
Can I use Worcestershire sauce instead of oyster sauce?
Some recipes call for Worcestershire to substitute for a light, salty base. It has an umami flavor that is similar to the savory taste in oyster sauces. However, this will change the entire dish so it’s not necessarily recommended as a substitution
If you have Worcestershire sauce and want to use it as a substitute for oyster sauce, mix a few drops with soy sauce and sugar. However, Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies, so it’s not a vegan option. And not all brands are gluten-free, so make sure to check the label.
If you don’t want to use oyster sauce for your recipe, there are plenty of other alternatives. You can choose from homemade or store bought substitutes that will work just as well in any dish needing a little of the umami flavor it adds. Which option would you try?
PS. If you like Asian inspired dishes, try this Homemade Vegan Dumplings recipe. It even shows you how to make the wrappers and the dipping sauce!
Hi! I’m Melissa, Registered Dietitian and mother of two dragons. When I’m not talking nutrition you can find me rolling around the floor with my kids, sewing, crafting, cooking or missing the 90s (seriously, music just isn’t the same). Read More…