The Pantry Staples To Easily Substitute Hoisin Sauce In A Pinch

While it originated in China, different Asian culinary traditions incorporate hoisin sauce into many recipes, from stir-fries and marinades to dipping sauces. The basis of hoisin sauce's appeal is its complexity. It has a sweet and savory flavor profile with a spicy finish. But what happens when you've forgotten this ingredient during your grocery run?

Sriracha and molasses are two household pantry items that can be substituted for hoisin sauce in a pinch. A classic hoisin sauce recipe contains soybean paste as the base ingredient, elaborated with numerous spices, chilis, sugar, and salt. And a glance at the list of ingredients on the back of a sriracha bottle reveals it contains much of the same, including chilis, vinegar, salt, and sugar. It also has a similar Asian flavor profile, so you don't have to compromise the integrity of an Asian recipe like Peking Duck or spring roll dipping sauce.  

While sriracha covers the salty, spicy, and tangy flavors you encounter in hoisin sauce, molasses supplies a rich sweetness and syrupy consistency. Commercial hoisin sauce brands blend sugar with plum puree or sweet potato powder to add depth of flavor and texture. Molasses provides the same complexity in one single ingredient.

How to use Sriracha and molasses

Sriracha and molasses work well in a ratio of one part Sriracha to two parts molasses. However, the two ingredients alone will only get you two-thirds of the way to the desired trifecta of sweet, spicy, and savory. If you want to get even closer to hoisin sauce's flavor and texture profile, you might want to dig a little deeper into your pantry. Fermented soybean paste is probably not a household staple, but you're likely to have some soy sauce or peanut butter lying around. These two ingredients are a great way to add savory flavors to a sriracha and molasses blend, especially if you're using this hoisin sauce substitute as a dipping sauce or glaze. 

Ideally, you would use both peanut butter and soy sauce together. But if you only have peanut butter, you can add extra salt. You won't get as intense an umami flavor, but peanut butter has enough savory punch to compensate. If you only have soy sauce, you could always add extra molasses to tamper with the sodium. Heating these ingredients together in a saucepan will blend the flavors efficiently and create a more cohesive sauce for dips, glazes, and stir-fries.