Oyster sauce is everything you need for your stir fry, meat dishes, or that Chinese dish you are trying to bring to life! Did you know that oyster sauce delivers umami goodness for days? The sauce is the perfect balance of sweet and salty. In this article we explore substitutes for oyster sauce.
You probably already know that oyster sauce is made from oysters, but the process is more interesting. The mollusks are first cooked in water by simmering until some sort of soup is achieved. The soup is then strained to remove the mollusks and then cooked in sugar and salt until it caramelizes into a dark brown syrup. Now you know why the sauce is dark brown. Technology has also seen many other ways of making this sauce arise, like using salt and sugar as a base and thickening it with some corn starch. Instead of real oysters, you can also use oyster extract or essences to simplify the process. Oyster sauce for vegans, on the other hand, is made using oyster mushrooms for a similar fantastic flavor.
The sauce also adds a very distinct flavor to food, challenging to find in other sauces. Since oysters are mostly used in Chinese dishes, they are not readily available and maybe a bit expensive compared to typical sauces. Besides adding the sauce to dishes, you can also use it as a dip or topping for the salty flavor.
What happens if you don’t have oyster sauce and your spicy Sichuan or kung pao shrimps calls for oyster sauce? Worry not because that’s not the end of your cooking. Don’t toss your food just yet because several perfect oyster sauce substitutes will provide the same flavor and color to the dish. These substitutes also come through if you have never heard of oyster sauce or are not a fan of oyster sauce. So, what are some oyster sauce substitutes?
Substitute For Oyster Sauce
When looking for a substitute for the oyster sauce, you need to pay attention to the flavor and the dark caramelized color.
1. Soy sauce
Soy sauce is the best substitute for oyster sauce you will come across. Soy sauce has a great balance of salt and sugar, where the flavor is concerned. Soy sauce is relatively salty, but oyster has more sugar. You will have to add half a tablespoon of sugar to every tablespoon of soy sauce to match the sweetness of the oyster sauce.
The two sauces are also very similar in color. They both add a dark brown color to the dish. However, soy sauce lacks in the thick texture of oyster sauce but compensates with the umami flavor. You can also use the same measurements of oyster sauce the recipe needs. Soy sauce is a vegan-friendly substitute for oyster sauce.
2. Sweet soy sauce
This is just an Indonesian variation of soy sauce that is sweeter but carries the same umami goodness. The sweet soy sauce is as salty as oyster sauce and also sugary. It’s a viable option if you want to skip on adding brown sugar to your regular soy sauce to achieve the sugary flavor of oyster sauce. Sweet soy sauce has the same color and flavor that you will not even feel the difference. Ensure you use it sparingly because of the high sugar content.
3. Fish sauce
The first similarity fish and oyster sauces have is that they are both made from sea creatures. Oyster sauce is made from oysters, while the fish sauce is made from dried or raw fish that has been fermented. The fermentation happens in a wooden box that is pressurized to create the fishy juices.
Fish sauce is similar to the oyster sauce inconsistency. It’s also dark brown to add the same vibrant color to all your dishes. Fish sauce is also savory as the fish is heavily salted before fermenting. The only difference is the fishy smell that comes with the fish sauce. You can mix it up with another sauce like Worchester or hoisin to mask the sharp smell.
You can also use the sauce in the same measurements as the oyster sauce amount the recipe calls for or reduce the measures if you are afraid of the smell and fishy flavor. The good thing is fish sauce is locally available in your nearby grocery store.
4. Hoisin sauce
Hoisin is a Cantonese word, meaning seafood. Hoisin sauce is typical in Asian cuisines. It’s also referred to as pecking sauce or Chinese barbeque sauce. Hoisin sauce has an equal measure of sweetness and salty creating a perfect balance. It can be used in the same measure your recipe requires to follow your recipe step by step to the end. It can be used for glazing, dipping, or marinating dishes.
Hoisin sauce can also be combined with soy sauce in a 1:1 ratio if you have both condiments. The combo checks all the boxes when you are looking to substitute oyster sauce, of course, except for the lack of oysters!
5. Mushroom sauce
Mushroom sauce is referred to as the vegetarian soy sauce. It’s an excellent substitute for oyster sauce, given the flavor and color. It’s made by combining different mushrooms with some vegetable proteins and some salt to create the umami flavor.
6. Mushroom soy sauce
The sauce also makes an excellent substitute for oyster sauce. The sauce is made by fermenting some mushrooms with soybeans. The mushrooms contribute to the deep flavor, while soybeans add the savory and deep brown color. The sauce is an excellent alternative for vegans and vegetarians.
How To Make Oyster Sauce at Home
You can always make some oyster sauce at home, though do expect it to be as good as a ready-made sauce. All you need is some oysters, oyster essence, salt and oyster sauce to give it flavor.
i. Drain your oysters from the shucked oysters and keep the liquid aside.
ii. Mince the drained oysters.
iii. Add some water to the minced oysters. Add back the liquid you kept aside to add flavor.
iv. Bring the mixture to a boil then allow it to simmer for 10 minutes.
v. Remove the mixture from the heat and add some salt and brown sugar. Allow it to cool.
vi. Sieve the mixture to remove the oysters.
vii. Add two-three tablespoons of light soy sauce for every half a cup of the mixture.
viii. Add dark soy sauce to add color. Add half a tablespoon for every cup of mixture.
ix. Allow the mixture to simmer with the added soy sauce for about 10 minutes.
Don’t cancel out on the recipe because of oyster sauce. With the oyster sauce substitutes we have discussed, you will enjoy the same great benefits as when using the oyster sauce. You can also make your oyster sauce at home with simple ingredients. Try out these substitutes anytime and enjoy a delicious dish.