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Hoisin Sauce vs Oyster Sauce: How do they Compare?

Lisa Price
Last Updated on
by Lisa Price

Hoisin sauce and oyster sauce are two legendary Chinese sauces that are not as popular as soy sauce. However, they are often used in Chinese and Thai cuisine to provide a great flavor.

When comparing hoisin sauce and oyster sauce, it is easy to confuse the two as they are similar in appearance and have a silky texture. Both these sauces give a boost of umami to all kinds of recipes.

Is hoisin sauce the same as oyster sauce? The answer is a no. These sauces have a unique flavor, and unlike what many people believe, they are not identical.

If you are looking forward to making a delicious Chinese dish, you should know the difference between hoisin sauce and Oyster sauce. We are here to help you get to know these sauces better. So read on to learn more.

Difference Between Hoisin and Oyster Sauce

The main difference between hoisin sauce and oyster sauce is in the flavor. Hoisin sauce is sweeter and slightly salty, whereas oyster sauce is more salted and mildly sweet.

If you take some time out to taste both these sauces, you will notice the differences between these two unique Chinese sauces. Getting a traditional flavor to your dish is next to impossible without them.

Here are additional differences between both the sauces:

Flavor: Hoisin sauce is sweeter and slightly salty, and oyster sauce is more salted and somewhat sweet.

Appearance: Hoisin sauce has a rich reddish-brown color, and oyster sauce is brown.

Texture: Hoisin sauce has a thick consistency, while the oyster sauce is watery.

Smell: Hoisin sauce smells fruity, and the oyster sauce has a strong smell.

Shelf Life: Continuously refrigerated hoisin sauce can last in the fridge for up to two years. Oyster sauce, when refrigerated, can last up to three years.

Use Cases: Hoisin sauce is used as an ingredient and as a dipping sauce. Oyster sauce is commonly used in stir-fries and for glazing Peking duck.

Hoisin vs Oyster Sauce Comparison Table

 Hoisin SauceOyster Sauce
IngredientsSoybeans, chili, garlic, sesame seeds, vinegar, sugar, spices, starches salt, and water  Oyster extract, salt, sugar, flavors, thickeners, starches, and water
ColorReddish-brown  Brown
FlavorAdds sweet, spicy, and salty elements to a dish, Tastes like a rich barbecue sauce,  Sweetness dominates the saltiness  Has a briny flavor , Offers a blend of salty and mildly sweet flavors.
SmellSweet and fruity as there are no non-vegetarian ingredients such as fish or oysters    Has a mild odor of fish as it is made of oysters
Popular usesUsed as seasoning, Dipping sauce with spring rolls, dumplings, and duck pancakes, Glaze for fish and meat, Used in noodles and stir fry, Used in Hoisin mayonnaiseGlaze for beef, mushrooms, and vegetables such as broccoli , Used in dishes such as Szechuan noodles, chow mein, Pad Thai, and beef stir fry  
NutritionHas high sodium content (400 mg per serving for two tablespoons) because of the presence of salt  It is saltier and has a higher sodium content (490 mg in one tablespoon)

Can you substitute Hoisin for Oyster Sauce?

The answer to this question is a yes. You can use hoisin sauce in place of oyster sauce, but you need to keep their uniqueness in mind.

As both sauces provide a somewhat similar consistency, you can substitute them in a 1 to 1 ratio when making a seafood dish or a leafy stir fry.

Remember that the flavor of hoisin sauce is sweeter in comparison to oyster sauce. So, if you choose to add hoisin sauce in place of oyster sauce, it will make your dish sweeter. If you do not want a sweet flavor, it is better to use other substitutes, such as fish sauce or soy sauce.

If you are cooking your favorite meal and suddenly realize that you are out of oyster sauce, then don’t worry, as we have a solution for you. You can add some fish sauce to hoisin sauce to replicate the taste of the oyster sauce, provided you like the taste of fish.

Also, if you are a vegan and don’t want to use fish, you can mix hoisin sauce with soy sauce in the ratio of 1 to 1, and voila! The substitute for oyster sauce is ready.

Soy sauce balances the sweetness of hoisin sauce, and this combination works well for most dishes.

If you are using the oyster sauce in place of hoisin sauce, you should keep in mind that the saltiness of the oyster sauce needs to be balanced. For instance, adding some sugar to the oyster sauce is a good idea to reduce the salt content.

What Is Hoisin Sauce?

Hoisin Sauce
Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin sauce is sometimes referred to as ‘Peking” sauce as it is traditionally served with Peking duck, a Cantonese dish. It is made up of soybean paste, chili, garlic, sesame seeds, vinegar, sugar, spices, starches, salt, and water.

Commercial hoisin sauce brands also include ingredients such as caramel, plum puree, citric acid, xanthan gum, etc. Hoisin sauce is traditionally used in Cantonese, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisine.

As this sauce does not contain any animal products, vegans and vegetarians can use it. It is also available in a soy-free version for people who have soy allergies or want to eliminate soy from their diet for other reasons.

It is interesting to note that the word hoisin in Chinese means ‘seafood’, which is quite contradictory as hoisin sauce is entirely vegan.

How to Use Hoisin Sauce?

There are several ways that you can use hoisin sauce. It has a sweet and tangy flavor and is usually used as a dipping sauce for spring rolls, dumplings, and duck pancakes. You can mix the sauce with ground beef or turkey patties for burgers.

It is also commonly used as a glaze for chicken, fish, other meats, and vegetables. If you want a simple glaze, you can use the sauce by itself; otherwise, you can combine the sauce with your favorite glaze and get that extra burst of flavors.

Hoisin sauce is a popular ingredient of all Chinese and Thai stir fry dishes. When cooking chicken, beef, pork, or vegetable stir fry, you can add it to the wok and get a kick of sweet and spicy flavors.

It is used with soy sauce in all stir fry recipes. Many people prefer having hoisin sauce on the side to enjoy their favorite Chinese or Thai cuisine.

If you are looking to make your wings or French fries more interesting, you can use hoisin as a dipping sauce and get a unique Asian-inspired taste. If you plan to use hoisin sauce for dipping, you should buy the one that comes in a jar rather than a bottle. It is because jarred hoisin sauce is relatively thicker in consistency and easier to use as a dip.

What Is Oyster Sauce?

Oyster Sauce
Oyster Sauce

Did you know that oyster sauce was created by accident?

In the 19th century, Lee Kum Sheung of China was believed to have left a boiling pot of oyster soup. When he returned, the soup had reduced to a thick brown taste.

Sheung liked the flavor of the thick reddish-brown paste and decided to serve it to people as a seasoning. It later became the Lee Kum Kee empire of Asian sauces.

Oyster sauce is a salty and sweet sauce made primarily with oyster extract, sugar, salt, modified corn starch, MSG, wheat flour, caramel color, and water.

Initially, the use was limited to traditional Cantonese cuisine and southern Chinese cooking because this region was close to the oyster beds alongside the coasts of Guangdong and Hong Kong.

But today, it is also used abundantly in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine.

How to Use Oyster Sauce?

To add a finishing touch, you can use oyster sauce as a glaze for beef, mushrooms, and steamed vegetables such as broccoli. When used as a garnish, it is used straight from the bottle.

However, you should remember that oyster sauce has a unique and assertive flavor, so it is good to use it in moderation until you get acquainted with the flavo

Oyster sauce is most popularly used as a stir fry sauce when making dishes such as Szechuan noodles, chow mein, Pad Thai, and beef stir fry. Because of its silky and smooth texture, it makes the dish look glossy.

Generally, it is combined with other ingredients such as brown sugar, rice vinegar, and soy sauce when used in a stir-fry dish.

Oyster sauce can be added to soups to get a burst of flavors. Any kind of soup, such as chicken soup or ramen soup, tastes better with a generous dripping of oyster sauce. Also, you can finish any noodle dish with oyster sauce, and you would be happy to get a rich and tangy flavor.

Make sure that you add oyster sauce toward the end of your cooking session. It is because this sauce loses its flavor when cooked for a long time.

Related Comparison: Fish vs Oyster Sauce

About Lisa Price
Lisa Price
Lisa is Food Champ's resident fitness enthusiast and nutrition expert. She holds a nutrition degree in her home state of Florida and works for a large health system to ensure sound nutrition and dietetics information is passed on to all members.
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