Oyster sauce is a savory and sweet condiment made from sugar, salt, and, of course, oyster juices. It is mostly used in cuisines from Asia, including most Chinese and Thai dishes.
If you are making a dish that requires oyster sauce but do not have any at home or you’re allergic to seafood in general, worry not. Finding a substitute for oyster sauce is quite easy. Read on to see all your options.
1. Soy Sauce
Soy sauce is a staple ingredient in many dishes, and it is present in most kitchens around the world. What’s more, it is also usually suitable for vegans and vegetarians, something that regular oyster sauce is not.
However, these two sauces do have certain differences. Namely, soy sauce is a lot thinner and saltier. If you use it as a substitute for oyster sauce, you will need to do so in the following ratio:
1 Tbsp oyster sauce = ⅔ Tbsp soy sauce.
When you add the sauce, be careful not to oversalt your dish later on. Try it out and see if you actually need more salt than what the soy sauce already contains.
2. Indonesian Kecap Manis
Indonesian Kecap Manis, popularly known as sweet soy sauce, is another great substitute for oyster sauce. As its name suggests, it is the sweeter version of regular soy sauce, meaning that it is not as salty. You can use it in the same ratio as soy sauce:
1 Tbsp oyster sauce = ⅔ Tbsp sweet soy sauce.
Since it is not too salty, you will definitely need to add more salt to your dish. As always, it is best to try it out and gauge how much you need. If you need a gluten-free alternative that will taste just as savory, you can try tamari. It tastes similar, and it is a great alternative for anyone that’s gluten-intolerant.
3. Fish Sauce
Though it is not a perfect option, fish sauce can serve as a fitting substitute for oyster sauce in certain recipes. It is thinner and has a stronger flavor, so you should use it in moderation:
1 Tbsp oyster sauce = ½ Tbsp fish sauce.
Of course, you can use the substitute in a 1:1 ratio if you don’t mind the fishy taste. Fish sauce is saltier than oyster sauce and a lot less sweet, so you might want to add a bit less salt to your dish when using it.
It is best to use this substitute in dishes that already have a rather strong flavor or contain fish. In such dishes, the sauce will not overpower all the other flavors. So, use it when making stir-fried fish or any fish stews.
4. Hoisin Sauce
Hoisin sauce is a popular Chinese condiment with a sweet and tangy flavor. When you try it, it tastes somewhat similar to barbecue sauce. Though it is possible to make it with different ingredients, it mostly contains chili paste, vinegar, and garlic.
This sauce has an almost identical consistency to oyster sauce. Thus, you can, most of the time, substitute it like this:
1 Tbsp oyster sauce = 1 Tbsp hoisin sauce.
However, you should bear in mind that the substitute has a more potent flavor than oyster sauce. So, you might need a bit less of it to achieve the same effect. It is best to give your dish a try and gauge for yourself. Another way to reduce the potency of the substitute is to mix it with soy sauce.
Hoisin sauce is a great substitute in all stir-fries and marinades. It is also a vegan option, so you can use it if you don’t consume seafood or are allergic to it.
5. Teriyaki Sauce
Teriyaki sauce is made with soy sauce, sugar, and either sake or mirin. It has the same consistency as oyster sauce, but it is a lot sweeter. You can use it as follows:
1 Tbsp oyster sauce = 1 Tbsp teriyaki sauce.
Since teriyaki sauce is sweeter, you might need to add more salt to counter it. If you dislike the sweetness, you can always add a little less of the substitute than you usually would.
This substitute is especially suitable for noodle dishes and all stir-fries. You can also add it to different marinades and dipping sauces, as long as you don’t mind the sweetness.
6. Worcestershire Sauce and Soy Sauce
Oyster sauce is known and loved for its umami flavor. If that’s what you’re chasing, then Worcestershire sauce can help you. It is made of anchovies, which give it a rather potent taste.
To achieve an effect similar to oyster sauce, you need to mix it with soy sauce and some sugar. If you are making a marinade or stir-fry, start with soy sauce and sugar (a pinch or two). Then, add in just a few drops of Worcestershire sauce and mix it all together until it’s smooth. You can use this mixture as follows:
1 Tbsp oyster sauce = ½ Tbsp sauce mix.
It is important that you don’t add too much of Worcestershire sauce to the mix, as it could overpower everything else in the dish. Thus, always keep it at a drop or two. It’ll do the job nicely, and you’ll be able to enjoy that oyster sauce-like flavor you love.
7. Vegan Mushroom Sauce
If you are looking for an oyster sauce substitute that uses zero animal or fish products, making one with mushrooms is always a great idea. Just like oysters, mushrooms also provide that unmistakable umami flavor, making them a perfect choice.
You can either make your own mushroom sauce or buy it. To make it, you will need either dried mushrooms or mushroom broth cubes. You will also add in some sugar, cornstarch, and soy sauce. Of course, you can include any other seasoning you prefer and love. As long as you like the taste, anything is allowed. Substitute the sauce as follows:
1 Tbsp oyster sauce =1 Tbsp vegan mushroom sauce.
Alternatively, many specialized stores offer mushroom oyster sauces. Buying one of these is the best choice if you need a vegan substitute for oyster sauce but have no time or resources to make one by yourself. The taste will be the same, and you’ll have a bottle of the sauce ready anytime you need it.