hoisin sauce substitute

What Can I Substitute for Hoisin Sauce?

Also referred to as Chinese barbecue sauce, Hoisin sauce is a deliciously sweet, salty, and slightly sticky condiment, with a similar consistency to ketchup. Popular in many Asian dishes, you’ll often need it in recipes for stir-fry or marinated meat, pork, and duck.

If you don’t have any hoisin, there is a range of items you probably already have in the pantry that you can use instead, so keep cooking and grab one of the alternatives below. We’ll guide you through the best choices according to the recipe you are making.

What Is Hoisin Sauce?

Similar to regular barbecue sauce or ketchup, hoisin is a commercially bottled product with a sweet and tangy Asian flavor profile and red-brown color. It is used in Cantonese cooking as a meat glaze and dipping sauce for roast pork and Peking duck.

Hoisin is made from fermented soybean paste, garlic, fennel, red chili peppers, and sugar. If you are trying to reduce sugar in your diet, this might be a reason to opt for one of the alternatives below. There are also regional varieties that have different spice additions, but they generally have the same base of ingredients.

The Best Hoisin Sauce Replacement

#1. Oyster Sauce

Oyster sauce is probably the best hoisin sauce substitute since it is all about umami and used in the preparation of similar dishes. The dark brown condiment tastes like a combination of BBQ and soy sauce and is made from oyster extracts, sugar, and thickeners such as corn starch.

Oyster sauce is slightly thinner but used in recipes such as stir fry, meat, and noodle dishes. One great thing about this substitute is that it doesn’t contain soy which makes it one of the few alternatives suitable for people with allergies.

Substitute quantity: Replace in equal quantities

#2. Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is also of Chinese origin and is made from fermented soybean paste. Traditionally the production process involves soaking and cooking soybeans, mixing them with other ingredients to ferment in brine, and then pressing, straining, and pasteurizing the brown salty liquid for bottling. It is available in sweet, dark, light, thick, and low-sodium varieties.

Soy sauce is a lot thinner, saltier, and less sweet than hoisin. However, it adds great depth of flavor and is versatile for use in marinades and as a seasoning. From steamed rice and stir-fry vegetables to seafood, poultry, broths, and curry, it is a handy ingredient to have around.

Since it has no sweetness, you can add brown sugar or honey to taste when using it as a substitute. Some people don’t feel the need to add a sweetener at all. Reduced and flavored soy sauce varieties such as thick sweet and sour soy can be an ideal substitute providing the sticky, salty, and somewhat sweet properties you are looking for.

Substitute quantity: Use half soy sauce to hoisin. If your recipe requires four tablespoons of hoisin sauce, use only 2 tablespoons of soy. If you are using regular unflavored thin soy, add honey to taste.

See more: Soy sauce replacement

#3. Miso Paste

Miso is a Japanese ingredient, also made from fermented soybeans in a paste form. It has a strong salty taste with complex savoriness. Since it is saltier and thicker than hoisin you should start with a small amount and add to taste if needed. If sweetness is what you are after, you can add honey, brown sugar, or palm sugar to balance it out for a sweet-salty combo.

Substitute quantity: Use only a quarter of the amount required in your recipe, and add in small amounts to taste if necessary.

#4. Kecap Manis: Sweet Soy Sauce

This Indonesian fermented and sweetened soy sauce has a dark color and thick syrupy consistency. The high palm sugar content gives it a molasses-like taste. It is similar to Chinese sweet bean sauce and often used in satay. Since it is even sweeter than hoisin it is not a good substitute if you are trying to avoid sugar, however, if you don’t mind the sugar it is a wonderful, flavorful option.

Substitute quantity: Replace in equal quantities

#5. Char Siu Sauce

Hoisin is actually an ingredient in char siu sauce together with five-spice and sweeteners, which gives it a similar flavor profile with sweet and umami notes. Char siu is also a Cantonese ingredient, mainly known for its use as a pork glaze. 

If you are making a recipe that requires some sweetness such as a pork or duck dish, this can be a good match, but be aware that it is sweeter than hoisin.

Substitute quantity: Replace in equal quantities

#6. Fish Sauce

This is often used together with oyster sauce to flavor stir-fry. It is made from salt fermented fish or krill and although it lacks the sweetness of hoisin it has a salty and pungent flavor that will offer umami complexity in your dish.

Substitute quantity: Start with half the amount required and adjust to taste.

See more: Best Substitutes for Fish Sauce

#7. Tamari

Tamari is very similar to soy sauce, with the main difference being that it does not contain wheat. It is made with fermented soybeans and also has a high salt content and low sweetness. You can always adjust this by adding some honey or brown sugar for a closer match to hoisin.

Substitute quantity: Use half tamari sauce to hoisin. If your recipe requires four tablespoons of hoisin, use only 2 tablespoons of tamari. Add honey or brown sugar to bring the level of sweetness you require.

#8. Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire sauce is dark brown with a very thin consistency. It is made from a blend of vinegar, spices, sugar, anchovies, garlic, onions, molasses, salt, and tamarind extract. It adds a great complexity of flavor to dishes and is often used in marinades and stews. 

It has a strong vinegar taste with less sweetness and saltiness than hoisin. To get a closer profile when using it as a substitute, you can add a little thickener and honey or sugar.

Substitute quantity: Use half the recommended amount to start with. Add honey or brown sugar and adjust to taste.

See more: worcestershire sauce replacement

#9. A1 Steak Sauce

With a similar taste to Worcestershire sauce, A1 Steak Sauce is a little thicker, which makes it a better substitute. It also has sweet and sour notes, with a similar dark color to hoisin. It’s ideal for meat marinades and can be served as a dipping sauce.

Substitute quantity: Replace in equal quantities

#10. Barbecue Sauce

Since hoisin is an Asian form of barbecue sauce, regular Western-style barbecue sauce is not a bad substitute. It may lack the Asian flair but has similar sticky, sweet, and salty properties and is of course ideal as a marinade and for basting meats.

Substitute quantity: Replace in equal quantities

Homemade Hoisin Sauce

A great option if you have the time and prefer to have control over the ingredients in your marinade is to make your own hoisin sauce. In this case, you can reduce the sugar content or sodium levels as needed. There are multiple versions, so pick ingredients you already have in the pantry for a quick solution and adjust the quantities according to your preference.

If you do not like the authentic hoisin taste, mixing molasses and peanut butter can give you a different flavor but with the same sweet, salty, and sticky properties.  

For a more authentic solution, combine either miso paste or black bean sauce with Chinese five-spice powder, sesame oil, and just a little soy sauce. 

Be careful with the salt level if you are using miso and soy. Both ingredients are high in sodium and can easily overpower your mixture, however, they provide delicious umami notes. Sweeten the mixture with palm sugar or brown sugar. Yum!


FAQs

Conclusion

Hoisin is a delicious flavor bomb and takes any stir-fry or marinated meaty dish to the next level. It can also be used as a dipping sauce. When choosing the best replacement for hoisin sauce for your dish, consider consistency.

Options like Worcestershire and soy sauce are not nearly as thick, so won’t be suitable in all applications. However, a few additions such as honey or molasses can partly solve that problem.

Make your own sauce exactly as you like it and adjust to taste. It may take a bit of trial and error to get the balance of ingredients to your liking, but once you have a recipe that works for you and meets all your dietary requirements, you probably won’t settle for a bottled version again.

Whichever alternative you use, it is always best to start with smaller amounts to prevent overpowering your dish with too much salt, sweetness, or a flavor you didn’t intend your dish to have. Small amounts will give you the umami and thereafter adjust sugar, salt, and thickness.

*image by AndreySt/depositphotos

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