Oyster sauce is one of those ingredients that are useful in pretty much every recipe you can think of, particularly in many East Asian cuisines.
This humble little condiment and sauce can add all the extra savory and salty flavors you need in a dish or any sweet flavors that you feel your recipe may currently be lacking.
Which makes it a very frustrating ingredient to drop if you are trying to make a vegan-friendly dish. It is still an animal product, so if you’re trying to create an animal product-free meal, it has to go with the rest.
However, this doesn’t mean that oyster sauce is irreplaceable. Far from it, actually.
There are quite a few sauces and ingredients that are more than capable of meeting your needs when the oyster sauce is a no-go, or simply isn’t in the cupboard.
What are they? Well, we’ve collected a few for you to hear to help with that question!
Qualities Of Oyster Sauce
Before we start discussing what to replace the oyster sauce with, it may be helpful if we first break down what qualities exactly you need to replace. This way, you’ll know what textures and flavors you’ll need to be looking for.
Generally speaking, most people that taste oyster sauce will note how similar to caramel it is, both in texture, with its slow-running consistency, as well as its flavor, having elements of both salty and sweet.
This makes it an excellent ingredient to use in Cantonese recipes, as well as many Vietnamese and Japanese dishes, too.
So, when it comes to a substitute, you want to make sure that the result is syrupy in some measure, and/or savory and sweet flavor, that has a slightly briny quality to it for the best result.
So, on to your options!
- Hoisin Sauce
- Mushroom Soy Sauce
- Soy Sauce
- Homemade Oyster Sauce
- Sweet Soy Sauce
- Black bean Sauce
- Teriyaki Sauce
- Tamari Sauce
So, as far as a good vegan substitute for oyster sauce goes, you’re probably going to struggle to find one better than good old hoisin sauce.
Even though the name hoisin comes from ‘seafood’, this sauce contains no amount of seafood in it whatsoever, meaning that it is perfect for use in vegan meals!
As a substitute, hoisin sauce covers many of the same aspects as oysters, at least in terms of things such as consistency, texture, and a balance of sweet and salty flavor.
Hoisin sauce tends to use more spices for flavor, however, so it often has a stronger, perhaps even hotter flavor to it, so keep that in mind when using it as a substitute.
Another popular sauce that is often used in a similar recipe to oyster and hoisin sauce is soy sauce.
In terms of flavor, you can often find a wide range of both salty and sweet flavors that can be used together as an oyster sauce substitute.
The main issue you may run into when substituting with this ingredient, however, is texture and consistency. Most soy sauces are very liquid and run easily, which means that you’ll likely need to add some kind of thickening agent to get the right consistency.
If you can find good cornstarch, flour, salt, or even sugar, however, you’ll find soy sauce works excellently.
Mushroom Soy Sauce
Traditional soy sauce does work as a pretty good substitute, but the consistency isn’t quite as syrup-like as an oyster sauce.
This is an aspect where, interestingly, the mushroom-based version does better as a substitute, having a much slower flow and thicker consistency and texture to it, all while maintaining the distinct flavor of soy sauce.
You may also find this type of sauce under the name ‘shiitake soy sauce’.
Homemade Vegan Oyster Sauce
Now, is it cheating to include what is still effectively oyster sauce in our list for vegan oyster sauce substitutes?
We’ll let you be the judge of that.
However, this is still an excellent choice in terms of substitutes for your food, nothing will beat the original, even as a vegan version!
Black Bean Sauce
Contrary to what some people may believe, black bean sauce is made from black soybeans, rather than the black turtle beans that many people assume this sauce is made from.
This vegan-friendly substitute has a lot of the same qualities as oyster and soy sauce, making it a very good substitute, should the need arise.
However, the flavor of this sauce tends to be noticeably more intense than oyster sauce tends to be, so make sure that you use it in limited quantities before immediately throwing the same amount in as you would for a normal oyster sauce dish.
So, there we have it!
While oyster sauce is a valuable ingredient, vegans can rest easy knowing there are good substitutes out there!