Is there any Oyster Sauce Substitute? Well, Yes!

Written by Luisa Davis on . Posted in food

Substitute for the oyster sauce is what everyone seeks because of their special health orientations. Have you ever looked into the ingredients of the oyster sauce? Or have you ever made it yourself at home?

It is made using the liquid extracted from the canned oysters or brine of its shells, that is why it has a fishy taste and hence named after it. Where this flavor is essential for many recipes whether it is the stir-fry’s or Chinese or Japanese soups or different marinades, it cannot be enjoyed by everyone because of its oyster-like taste , some of its nutrients, or simply because of personal allergies.

So, it needs to be altered with some substitute which could infuse similar taste to the recipes and sometimes even the similar consistency.

My first experience of seeking oyster sauce substitute came when I was preparing dinner meal for a bunch of my friends, and one of them couldn’t have oyster sauce in any form possible. So, I had to think of any other way to cook the same menu for all while replacing the oyster sauce.

It is then; I found different suitable alternatives. And all of them are even super quick and easy to make at home. all such substitutes are brought together in this article. However, before discussing these alternatives, it is important to know about the oyster sauce itself, the ingredients used in it and how they can be replaced to get a suitable alternative.

You can find some of the alternatives at the grocery store, but they can also be made easily at home, which is a much better choice if you want to avoid all the preservatives. And that is what I exactly do! I have homemade sauces in my refrigerator which can be used as oyster sauce replacement.

What is an Oyster Sauce?

Well, to be clear the oyster sauce is basically the essence of the oysters. It has this base which is mixed with the liquid obtained from the oysters. This sauce is usually available in bottle packed form in most of the store, especially the Asian one. From beef broccoli to fish marinades or soups and hundreds of other recipes, oyster sauce is added in a small amount.

Its fishy flavor is loved for its distinct feel and the aroma it adds to the meal. Here are all ingredients which are needed to make the basic oyster sauce.

  • 8 ounces oysters, shucked with liquid
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • soy sauce, tamari, as much needed

To make the sauce, start by draining the oysters to obtain their liquid and preserve this liquid in a container. Chop the oysters finely in a food processor then transfer them to a saucepan. Boil the oysters in its own liquid then let it cook for 12 minutes on a simmer after covering the lid.

Once the oysters are cooked, turn off the heat and stir salt into the oyster stock. Mix it well then allow the mixture to cool down completely. Now strain the cooled mixture using a fine sieve and return the liquid to the saucepan. Discard all the solid particles from the sieve. Pour in 2 tablespoons of soy sauce per each half cup of the oyster liquid.

Again, cook this mixture first on a boil then reduce it to a simmer and cook it for 10 minutes. After cooling the sauce pour it into a clean and a sterilized mason jar. Preserve the sauce in the refrigerator and use it within a month.

Culinary Uses of Oyster Sauce:

I have been frequently asked by many people about the need of oyster sauce in the food. Prescribing a certain alternative does not mean that oyster sauce does not has a significance of its own. Many recipes are incomplete without the use of oyster sauce, so you cannot simply omit it. However, if there is no other choice but to avoid its use, because of any reasons, then you can try substituting it. I normally do not recommend substitutes if there is not a genuine need.

Anyhow, let me share some of the ways in which oyster sauce is used in different cuisines. The use may vary; that is why you need to pick the substitute according to the type of the meal you are preparing. Sometimes it is ok to replace oyster sauce with fish sauce if you are making a stir fry, for salads you use soy sauce instead of oyster sauce.

  1. Marinades:

Oyster sauce is used in several marinades, whether it is the beef steaks, or chicken fillets or seafood including shrimp, and fish. With oyster sauce in the marinade, the meat gets a strong and distinct flavor. It also leaves a glaze over the meat when it is cooked with oyster sauce marinade.

The stick texture of this sauce looks great over the grilled meat. I often try adding a few drops of oyster sauce to the BBQ seasonings. While usually it can be paired with some basic spices like pepper, salt, lemon juice, garlic ginger powder to prepare a perfect and well-tasted marinade.

  1. Toppings:

A drizzle of oyster sauce on a freshly cooked meal sounds absolutely delightful. Oysters sauce makes a good topping for soups, fried fish fillets, steaks, and BBQs. Keep a bottle of oyster sauce on the table, especially when you are serving Chinese or Vietnamese food at the table. I use the oyster sauce to top freshly cooked butter lobsters, steamed crabs, broiled fish, and seared scallops.

Since all these dishes are lightly seasoned, so serving them with oyster sauce greatly highlights the unique taste. Next time you serve a delicious meal, don’t forget to drizzle some oyster sauce and find out how the blend comes out.

  1. Salad Dressing:

To enjoy a new twist to every salad, oyster sauce is used in the salad dressing. 1 teaspoon of oyster sauce to plain vinegar dressing gives a distinct taste to a salad. Fresh tuna salad or shrimp salad are probably two great servings to use oyster sauce in it. After preparing the salad, add a drizzle of sauce and toss it well. Avoid using soy sauce or other black sauce along as oyster sauce is itself quite strongly tasted.


  1. Stir fry:

Whether it is the vegetable stir fry or the mushroom Sautee or meat and vegetable medley, some amount of oyster sauce adds great taste to all of them. From Cantonese to Shandong, Sichuanese, Zhejiang and Jiangsu cuisines, all of them make use of oyster sauce in most of the stir fry recipe. Beef broccoli is my favorite recipe which makes excellent use of oyster sauce.

Oyster Sauce Alternatives

Oyster sauce being an indispensable ingredient of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and other Asian cuisines cannot be entirely avoided if you allergic to its taste, what you can do is replace it with something else?

What can actually substitute condensed oyster broth mixture?

Substitution for the oyster sauce is not difficult to find. I know there are not many sauces which can offer such a taste, but you can get a bit close to it by using the following substitutes. The best I find so far is the fish sauce, but it is not definitely for vegetarians, so there has to be some vegetarian substitute for oyster sauce too. This may call for soy sauce or other plant-based black sauces.

While we are at it, why shall we not discuss them in detail and find out ways through which you can make these alternatives right at home and preserve them for routine use? Remember the intensity of each of these sauces varies significantly, so I always prefer to use them as per own taste preference, if you directly substitute the amount of oyster sauce in the recipe with exactly the equal amount of other sauces, this may terribly ruin the balance of flavors.

Soy Sauce as a Substitute

Soy sauce is usually the easiest option available when you are out of oyster sauce or simply can not use it. Since it can be found at any store and usually you have it right in your refrigerators.

By mixing soy sauce with half a teaspoon of sugar and some drops of Worcestershire sauce, you can create your very own Oyster sauce. And if you are not comfortable to use the market bought soy sauce then here is one basic recipe which is used commonly to make the sauce at home. For this you will need the following few ingredients:

  • 16 ounces organic, high-quality soybeans
  • 12 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 16 tablespoons salt
  • 1-gallon fresh water

Instructions

With the state amount of ingredients, you will have enough soy sauce to use for an entire month. Soak the soybeans in 3 cups of water in a pot and boil the beans. Then cook the beans on a simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Once the beans are tender, remove their pods partially. You can also cook the beans in the pressure cooker for quick and fast cooking.

Transfer the cooked soybeans to a food processor and blend it into a smooth paste. Mix the beans paste with the flour in a suitable bowl. Once combined, press the mixture into a log over a working surface and slice it up into thick pieces.

Wrap the slices in a cling wrap and place them at a warm place in your kitchen for 7 days until the slices are covered in mold. When you can see the molds covering the soybeans slices, remove the plastic wraps and arrange the slices on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet directly in the sunlight to turn the discs brown in color.

After browning, the soybeans slices are turned into Koji.

To make the soy sauce out of these discs, you need to try fermentation. Take a pot and fill with water. Stir in salt and place the soybeans discs in the water. Cover the pot and allow the discs to dissolve in the salty water. Leave this mixture for months and continue stirring it daily until the discs are completely dissolved.

Now strain this mixture through a fine sieve or a cheesecloth and pour the sauce into a bottle or a jar. Cover the sauce and preserve in the refrigerator. This sauce can be used for marination, vegetables, soups, seafood, and any other recipe.

To skip this long process of fermenting soybeans to get the sauce you can try by simply mixing 1 cup Beef Broth (can be homemade), 1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar, 1 tablespoon Blackstrap Molasses, 1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder, 1/4 teaspoon Ground Ginger and 1 teaspoon Salt and Voila! Your very own soy sauce is ready to use. I use this method when I am out of time.

Fish Sauce as a Substitute

Substitute oyster sauce for fish sauce, it has more seafood like the taste, so it gives a similar intensity and aroma to the food.  Now grocery stores also offer a variety of fish sauces, especially the Asian stores. A fish sauce is made out of fish extracts which are further seasoned and cooked with other ingredients. Here is the list of items you will need to make this sauce at home.

  • 6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • zest from 1 small lemon
  • 3 tablespoons finely ground sea salt
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 2-3 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 pounds small whole fish (smelt, herring, etc.)
  • 1-2 cups non-chlorinated water, as needed
  • 2 tablespoons sauerkraut brine

Instructions

Add garlic, lemon zest, and sea salt to a small mortar and mix everything using a pestle to get a roughly smooth paste.

Clean the fish fillets and dice them into half inch pieces. Add the garlic mixture to the fish pieces and mix them with your hands to coat them well with the mixture. then add bay leaves and peppercorns to the fish. After gently mixing it all, transfer the mixture to a 1-quart glass mason jar. Press this mixture to release the juices of the fish.

Pour the brine or whey into the jar then fill the remaining jar with water while one inch of the headspace in the jar. Space allows the mixture to ferment and expand in the processor. Now cover the jar with its lid tightly and leave it at room temperature for about 3 days then transfer the jar to the refrigerator for 4 to 6 weeks.

Once the mixture is fermented, pass it through a cheesecloth or a fine sieve to remove all the solids. Strain the mixture twice to completely clean it from any solid particles. After that pour the sauce into the bottles and seal them. Keep the sauce in the refrigerator and use it within 6 months. Use this sauce a substitute for oyster sauce in stir fry.

Vegan Substitute

Fish sauce option is not suitable for vegetarians, so a vegan substitute is a better alternative to oyster sauce. It can be made using mushroom broth instead of fish broth. Along with the broth, molasses is used to add the peculiar oyster sauce color and a sweet taste.

Further, the taste is enhanced by using white vinegar, fenugreek seeds and ginger powder. It’s not too intense and not too fishy in taste, and unlike soy sauce, this one does not have high sodium content. So, keep your meal healthy, low on sodium and free from oyster sauce, here is one quick and simply recipe.

  • 2 tablespoons mushroom/ vegetable bouillon powder
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar white
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 3 – 4 fenugreek seeds
  • Dash ground black pepper
  • 1 cup of water
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

Start by taking a suitably sized saucepan and place it over medium-high heat. Start adding all the ingredients except the fenugreek seeds to the pan while stirring them well using a wooden spatula. Stir cook this mixture to boil then reduce the heat to add the fenugreek seeds. Let this cooking liquid on a simmer until it is reduced to half.

Once the sauce starts thickening, it resembles more to soy sauce. When such consistency is achieved, place a sieve over a bowl and pass the sauce through this sieve to strain all the solid particles and remove them to get a smooth sauce. Pour the strained the sauce into a clean glass jar and seal the jar to store the sauce in the refrigerator for not more than 2 weeks.

Conclusion

Several cuisines and meals from east to west now do make use of oyster sauce in one way or another, so not always you can move ahead without using any amount of it, if you want to avoid specific shell-based ingredients, that is why you need oyster sauce substitutes to enjoy the similar taste while changing the nutritional values.

Now you can prepare those substitutes right at home to suit your needs. Remember that none of the alternatives can completely replace the original soy sauce, but they do serve the purpose when it comes to seasoning the stir-fries, soups sauté and marinades.

Tags: , , ,

Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis is a frelance writer and foodie based in Portland, California. Though raised on her mother's homestyle Italian cooking, she has spent most of the last five years traveling and immersing herself in other countries' cuisines. Her work have been published in various publications, both online and offline.

Leave a comment

//