Even though I love oysters, the thought of ‘oyster sauce’ isn’t that appealing. And while I have cooked with it in the past, these days I prefer to use these oyster sauce substitutes instead.
What is Oyster Sauce?
It’s a Chinese / Thai commercial sauce that has a sweet, salty umami flavour. Most oyster sauces do contain a small amount of oyster extract but the flavour is more like a sweet version of soy sauce than anything like oysters.
It’s a dark brown product that has a similar consistency to ketchup.
The ingredients on my bottle include an appetizing (or not) list of water, sugar, salt, thickener, flavour enhancer (621, 655), yeast extract, flavours, citric acid, colours (150c), oyster extract (0.4%), preservative 220.
Oh and from a nutritional perspective it’s 28.5% sugar.
A good reason to look for alternatives!
The Best Oyster Sauce Substitutes
1. Soy sauce
Naturally fermented soy sauce is much thinner and saltier than oyster sauce, but it’s my go-to substitute because it adds those lovely savoury / umami flavours. I generally substitute a little less soy sauce than oyster.
For example in a stir fry using 3-4 tablespoons of oyster sauce, I’d substitute 2 tablespoons soy sauce and add more if needed.
If you want some sweetness you could add some extra white or brown sugar or honey but I don’t bother.
2. Sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
This Indonesian sauce is even sweeter than oyster sauce. But will work well. Consider using less at first rather than going for a 1:1 substitution.
3. Hoisin sauce
Another sweet and salty, commercial Chinese sauce. Use in a similar quantity to oyster sauce.
4. Fish sauce
Fish sauce is often used in conjunction with oyster sauce to flavour stir fries. It’s not sweet and quite salty and sharp in flavour. I have used it instead of oyster sauce with good results. As per soy sauce, start with less and add more as needed.
Is Oyster Sauce vegetarian?
Most oyster sauces do contain some oyster extract so they’re not vegetarian. There are vegetarian ‘oyster’ sauces available. My local supermarket stocks one which just contain an oyster flavour. If I wanted a vegetarian alternative to oyster sauce I would go with a traditionally fermented soy sauce.
Favourite Oyster Sauce Recipes
- Classic Simple Dinners: The Stir Fry
- One Pot Beef, Zucchini & Cashew Stir Fry
- Asian Pork & Broccoli
- Asian Beef & Zucchini ‘Noodles’
- Beef & Broccoli Stir Fry
Delicious Oyster Sauce Flavour Pairings
- Chicken & Oyster Sauce
- Chilli & Oyster Sauce
- Ginger & Oyster Sauce
- Green Onion & Oyster Sauce
- Fish & Oyster Sauce
- Cashews & Oyster Sauce
- Broccoli & Oyster Sauce
- Chinese Broccoli & Oyster Sauce
- Bok Choy & Oyster Sauce
- Peanuts & Oyster Sauce
More Ingredient Substitutes
- The Ultimate Guide to Vegetable Substitutes
- Collard Greens
- Miso Paste
- Oyster Sauce
Also see see the Simple Ingredients Substitutes Index.
Have fun in the kitchen!