If you’re making a dish that calls for oyster sauce but you don’t have any on hand — or, conversely, don’t eat seafood — you can substitute other condiments.
Oyster sauce is a sweet and salty condiment made primarily from oyster juices, salt, and sugar. It also boasts umami, which is a savory, tangy flavor.
It’s commonly used in Asian cuisines, including Chinese and Thai dishes, for stir-fries, meat marinades, and dipping sauces.
Oyster sauce’s flavor is somewhere between a fish sauce and soy sauce. Its consistency is thick and syrupy, and it’s dark brown. A good substitute should capture these flavors and textures as much as possible.
Here are 6 scrumptious oyster sauce substitutes.
1. Fish sauce
Although it’s not a perfect substitute, you can use fish sauce in place of oyster sauce in some recipes.
This sauce, made from fermented fish, has a thinner consistency and fishier taste than oyster sauce. It’s also saltier and less sweet.
Fish sauce may be particularly suitable for flavorful dishes that wouldn’t be overpowered by it, or which already have a fishy taste, such as stir-fried fish.
2. Soy sauce
Soy sauce is an easy substitute for oyster sauce since it’s a common pantry staple. It’s also vegan and vegetarian, making it suitable for those who don’t eat seafood.
However, soy sauce is saltier and thinner than oyster sauce. If you use it in a recipe that calls for oyster sauce, consider adding sugar to sweeten it. You should also use less of it than what is specified for oyster sauce to avoid making the dish too salty.
Sweet soy sauce, also known as Indonesian kecap manis, is an even more fitting substitute and can be found at specialty stores or Asian food markets. If you need a gluten-free option, tamari is a gluten-free soy sauce made from fermented soybeans.
3. Hoisin sauce
Hoisin sauce is a delicious Chinese condiment with a thick consistency and hints of umami, sweet, and tangy tastes. It’s reminiscent of barbecue sauce and can be made with varying ingredients, such as vinegar, chili paste, and garlic.
Since it has a similar consistency to oyster sauce, hoisin sauce can usually be substituted in a 1-to-1 ratio. However, it may have a more potent flavor depending on its ingredients, in which case you may want to use a smaller amount.
Consider using hoisin sauce in place of oyster sauce for stir-fries and marinades. It’s typically suitable for vegan or vegetarian recipes.
4. Worcestershire sauce with soy sauce
Worcestershire sauce is made from anchovies, while oyster sauce is made from oysters. Both have an umami taste from these ingredients and can be used interchangeably, with some modifications.
To make it a suitable substitute for oyster sauce, mix Worcestershire sauce with soy sauce and sugar and use it in small amounts.
If you’re making a stir-fry or marinade, start with mostly soy sauce, mix in a little sugar, then add a few drops of Worcestershire to finish it off. This mixture should contribute a burst of flavor without overpowering the dish.
5. Teriyaki sauce
Since it has a similar consistency, teriyaki sauce works in place of oyster sauce in a pinch. It’s sweeter than oyster sauce because it’s made with sugar, soy sauce, and sake or mirin.
In particular, teriyaki sauce makes a good substitute for oyster sauce in noodle dishes and stir-fries. You can also use it in marinades and dipping sauces.
6. Vegan mushroom sauce
For an oyster sauce substitute that doesn’t use fish or animal products, try making one with mushrooms since they provide a delicious umami flavor.
Soy and hoisin sauces are also usually vegan, but some people enjoy making their own mushroom-based “oyster” sauce. In addition, you may be able to find premade mushroom “oyster” sauces in specialty stores.
Suggested read: Soy sauce: How it's made, benefits, and potential health risks
These sauces typically call for dried mushrooms or mushroom broth cubes, soy sauce, sugar, and cornstarch.
Oyster sauce is a delicious addition to numerous Chinese, Thai, and other Asian dishes. However, you may not always have it on hand.
Luckily, there are several possible substitutes for this condiment. Some offer similar textures, while others almost match the taste of oyster sauce. There are also options for vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free diets.