Hoisin sauce and oyster sauce are common ingredients in Asian cuisine, and both sauces have similar appearances and flavor profiles. However, hoisin sauce has a thick consistency and a reddish tinge, while oyster sauce has a thin consistency and a dark brown color.
The flavor of hoisin sauce is slightly salty and predominantly sweet, while the oyster sauce is predominantly salty with mild sweetness. Hoisin sauce has a fruity smell, and the oyster sauce has a rich, slightly fishy smell.
Comparison Chart: Is Hoisin Sauce the Same as Oyster Sauce?
|Hoisin Sauce||Oyster Sauce|
|Ingredients||Fermented soybean paste, vinegar, garlic, chilies, sesame oil, sweetener||Oyster extract, sugar, water, salt, corn starch|
|Flavor||Sweet, slightly salty||Salty, slightly sweet|
|Smell||Fruity||Rich, slightly fishy|
|How to serve it||Use as a dipping sauce or glaze||Use in noodle stir-fries like chow mein|
|Origin||Southern China||Southern China|
|Price||$2.50–$3.50 for an 8-ounce jar||$2.50–$4.00 for an 8-ounce jar|
|Is it healthy?||No, high in sugar and sodium||Moderately healthy but high in sodium|
|Shelf life||Up to two years in the fridge||Up to three years in the fridge|
Hoisin Sauce Explained
Hoisin sauce is a sweet, reddish-brown sauce that’s used as dip and glaze. This sauce is also known as Peking sauce because it’s commonly used to glaze Peking duck. Hoisin sauce has a sweet, fruity smell and a thick, honey-like consistency.
Traditional hoisin sauce recipes include soybean paste, garlic, chili, salt, water, starches, vinegar, sesame seeds, sugar, and spices. Commercial recipes sometimes add extra flavorings and preservatives like caramel, citric acid, plum purée, and xanthan gum. The sauce contains no animal products and is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
How to Serve It
Hoisin sauce is a popular ingredient in Vietnamese, Cantonese, and Thai dishes. This sticky sauce can be served as a dipping sauce or incorporated into a dish. Hoisin sauce is sweet and should be added 1 teaspoon at a time. Taste the dish after stirring in each spoonful of sauce to determine whether more is needed.
The most popular hoisin sauce dish is duck pancakes.
Ingredients (serves 4):
- 4 duck breasts
- ½ teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 3 ounces hoisin sauce
- 15 Chinese pancakes, warmed (to serve)
- 2 spring onions, sliced (to serve)
- Cut the duck into thin strips and coat with the five-spice powder
- Put a wok on medium heat and add the sesame oil. When the oil begins to hiss, add the duck
- Stir for 5 minutes, or until the duck is fully cooked
- Add the hoisin sauce to the wok and stir to incorporate about 1 minute
- Switch off the heat and serve the duck in the warmed pancakes, topped with a sprinkling of spring onions
Hoisin sauce was traditionally used in Cantonese cooking, but not much is known about the sauce’s origins or history. The word “hoi” means “sea” and the word “sin” means “delicious” or “fresh,” suggesting that early versions of the sauce contained fish.
Price & Where to Buy It
Hoisin sauce costs $2.50–$3.50 for a standard 8-ounce jar. The sauce is available in the oriental section of most supermarkets. Asian grocery stores often sell hoisin sauce in large bottles at a lower cost per ounce.
The nutritional information for a single 2-teaspoon serving of Dynasty brand hoisin sauce is:
- 50 calories
- 410 mg sodium
- 9 g carbohydrates
- 9 g sugar
- 1 g fat
- 1 g protein
Hoisin sauce is unhealthy because it’s high in calories, salt, and sugar. Stick to a single serving of this sauce.
Oyster Sauce Explained
Oyster sauce is a salty, dark brown sauce that’s used as an ingredient in noodle and vegetable stir-fry dishes. This sauce has a rich, slightly fishy smell and a thin, watery consistency.
Traditionally, oyster sauce is made with oyster extract, salt, sugar, water, and corn starch. Wheat flour, MSG, and caramel color are often added to commercial oyster sauce. Oyster sauce is a fish-based product that isn’t suitable for vegetarians or vegans. Some brands offer vegetarian versions of oyster sauce made from oyster mushrooms.
How to Serve It
Oyster sauce is best used to add flavor and saltiness to noodle stir-fries and Chinese-American dishes like beef and fried vegetables. One of the most popular dishes that contain oyster sauce is chow mein.
Ingredients (serves 2):
- 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons cornflour
- 1 ½ tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoons Chinese cooking wine
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ½ tablespoon sesame oil
- Combine the soy sauce and cornflower in a small bowl
- Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk with a fork
- Stir-fry your preferred meat and veggies in a wok, then add the chow mein sauce and stir to incorporate
- Remove the wok from the heat when the sauce is hot, about 1 minute, and serve
Oyster sauce may have been invented by Lee Kum Sheung, the owner of a tea and oyster stall. The sauce was originally made following a lengthy process of boiling oysters in iron basins then removing the oysters and reducing the water to a “blackish sauce.” Now, oyster sauce is much cheaper and faster to make. The sauce was first sold commercially in the 1870s.
Price & Where to Buy It
Oyster sauce is priced similarly to hoisin sauce, at $2.50 to $4.00 for a standard 8-ounce jar. This sauce is available in most supermarkets and online and can be purchased in bulk or in large bottles at a lower cost per ounce.
One 15-gram serving of oyster sauce has the following nutritional information:
- 15 Calories
- 670 mg sodium
- 3 g carbohydrates
- 1 g sugar
- 0 g fat
- 1 g protein
Oyster sauce is healthier and lower in calories, sugar, carbohydrates, and fat than hoisin sauce, but it has more sodium than hoisin sauce. The ingredients in the oyster sauce are nutritious and have been linked to healthy brain function, boosted immunity, increased energy, and improved blood sugar regulation.
Choosing Oyster Sauce vs. Hoisin Sauce
Oyster sauce and hoisin sauce are two similarly-colored sauces that are both used in Asian cooking.
You should choose hoisin sauce if you want to introduce a sweet, slightly salty flavor and a thick, honey-like texture to a dish, or if you’re a vegetarian or vegan looking to add authentic Asian flavor to a dish. Choose oyster sauce as a salty, low-calorie ingredient for vegetable and noodle stir-fries. Similar sauces that may better suit your dish are soy sauce, fish sauce, and black bean sauce.