10 Best Oyster Sauce Substitutes To Use Instead

Oyster sauce: If you know, you know. According to Bon Appétit, legend has it that this sauce was born in China in 1888 when Lee Kum Sheung, the operator of a food stall, accidentally left oyster soup cooking for too long until it cooked down into a rich, flavorful sauce. When he tasted it, he realized that he had discovered something incredible. Thus, one of our favorite sauces was born.

It's bold, it's sweet, it's complex. It adds an umami punch to meats, veggies, and even spaghetti sauce. Honestly, if you like rich, intense flavors, you can add it to pretty much any savory dish and end up with something way more delicious than you would ever expect. We like to keep oyster sauce stocked in our kitchen at all times to add a punch of salty-sweetness to whatever we happen to be cooking. But every once in a while, the supply runs out, and we're left wondering what to do.

No fear. The following list of oyster sauce substitutions will get you through even the tightest of culinary pinches. These substitutions don't taste exactly like oyster sauce, but they're close enough that you can get by without the good stuff. Plus, several of the options on this list are vegetarian-friendly, so even if you don't usually partake in oyster sauce itself, you can capture some of those same notes. Let's take a closer look.

Fish sauce

Perhaps the most obvious oyster sauce substitution is fish sauce, another umami-rich ingredient we love to have on hand. If you're not familiar with either sauce, you may be confused about which is which. Oyster sauce is on the thicker side, and it has a dark brown color to it. It also features a touch of sweetness. On the other hand, fish sauce is thinner, lighter in color, and lacking in sweetness. Some say it has a touch of nuttiness to it.

According to Taste Essence, oyster sauce is made from oysters, obviously, but it usually contains salt and sugar as well. On the other hand, fish sauce is made only from fermented fish and salt. Therefore, it's understandable how there would be distinct differences between the two. However, if you're using a recipe that features a lot of different ingredients, it may not be too obvious if you switch out the oyster sauce with some fish sauce instead. Adding a touch of sugar to the dish could help round out the rough edges of the fish sauce.

Moral of the story? Not only should you stock up on oyster sauce, but you should add some fish sauce to your cart while you're at it.

Teriyaki sauce

While fish sauce is likely to be bolder and more intense in dishes than oyster sauce, teriyaki sauce is sweeter and has a slightly less concentrated taste (via Kitchen Bar). However, it too works well as a substitution for oyster sauce. This is partly due to its texture: Like oyster sauce, teriyaki sauce is quite thick, which can make it an even better swap for oyster sauces than fish sauce in some dishes. Teriyaki sauce starts with a base of soy sauce, but it gets its sweetness from added sugar. It generally also contains sake or mirin. You may already have some in your kitchen if you ever make teriyaki dishes — this is also a great ingredient to  have on hand for when you want to take your cooking up a notch.

According to Gourmet Sleuth, if a recipe calls for oyster sauce but you only have teriyaki sauce on hand, simply substitute 2 teaspoons of the teriyaki sauce for 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce. If you also have canned or jarred oysters in your kitchen, throw in a teaspoon of liquid. 

Soy sauce

If you're looking for a salty, flavorful addition to your dish when you're all out of oyster sauce, soy sauce may seem like one of the easiest swaps. That's because there's a good chance that you already have soy sauce at home. Even if you don't have a bottle of it (though you should totally get one, by the way), you likely have those leftover soy sauce packets from the last time you ordered Chinese food. Well, you're in luck, because soy sauce can be used to replace oyster sauce ... in some situations.

PureWow notes that there are some definite differences between these two types of sauce. For one, soy sauce is much thinner than oyster sauce, which oozes out of its bottle slowly. Therefore, if the recipe you're consulting calls for oyster sauce because of its texture, soy sauce won't necessarily be the best swap. It also lacks the sweetness of oyster sauce. However, that can be rectified by simply adding a pinch of sugar to your dish. While this may not be the most accurate-tasting substitute, chances are, you already have it at the ready, making it a clear choice when you're in a pinch.

Kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)

If soy sauce is lacking the sweetness of oyster sauce, wouldn't it be better if you could simply find a sweet soy sauce? Well, you're in luck if you have Indonesian kecap manis, or sweet soy sauce. Kecap manis is a sweeter and thicker type of soy sauce, which is perfect if you want something closer to the texture of oyster sauce as well. That's why kecap manis is one of our favorite oyster sauce substitutes.

However, there's just one problem here: There's a good chance that, unless you cook Indonesian food often, you probably don't have any kecap manis at home. If you live close to an Asian market or a specialty store, you may be in luck — check to see if they carry this delicious condiment. If you can't find it at a store near you, you can always turn to the internet and order it. Of course, this may be more work than simply picking up some more oyster sauce, but it doesn't hurt to give this Indonesian staple a try. You may just like it in its own right as much as oyster sauce!

Hoisin sauce

Here's one sauce that you may have already thought of if it's hanging out in your pantry. Hoisin sauce is another Chinese sauce, and if you like barbecue sauce, we think it'll be your thing. Like oyster sauce, it has a complex flavor. You'll get plenty of that umami punch you're looking for, but you may also pick up on some tangy flavors. It's got a touch of sweetness to it, but it's generally not that intense. Keep in mind that not all hoisin sauce is created the same way. Some may feature garlic, chili paste, or even vinegar. It's a good idea to take a look at the list of ingredients in the bottle before you add it to any recipes in place of oyster sauce.

Because hoisin sauce has a kind of thickness to it just like oyster sauce, it can be used just like you'd use oyster sauce. Just keep in mind that the flavor of hoisin sauce is less concentrated, so you may be missing some of that kick you're used to, which is why Cuisine Vault recommends adding a splash of fish sauce.  

Black bean paste

Another Chinese alternative to oyster sauce is black bean paste (also known as black bean sauce). It's made from fermented black beans, which impart a deep, rich flavor to everything they touch. This is one substitution that has just as much zing as oyster sauce. And the best part? In most cases, it just happens to be vegetarian and vegan-friendly as well. 

According to Valuable Kitchen, while the taste isn't identical to oyster sauce, black bean paste shares those key salty and umami notes, and it works as a substitution if you don't mind a slightly different flavor profile. It also has a similar texture to oyster sauce, though it can sometimes be thicker. Because of this consistency, black bean paste works well in a one-to-one ratio with oyster sauce. However, if you're not familiar with the ingredient, then you may want to taste it before you add it to your dish. This way, you will get a better idea of how intense the flavor is going to be and adjust accordingly.

Black bean paste isn't available everywhere, but if you have an Asian or Chinese market somewhere near you, you shouldn't have a problem finding it.


This one may be a stretch in some recipes, but in other cases, it'll work perfectly as an oyster sauce substitute. Anchovies make some people hesitate — especially those who aren't too fond of fish. But we're here to tell you that anchovies are delicious, and they're not even particularly fishy ... especially when you work them into a sauce or a stir fry. They melt in oil, so you're not going to get big chunks of fish in your dish. Rather, the ingredient will add a salty, umami flavor that's somewhat reminiscent of oyster sauce.

Serious Eats notes that fish sauce is traditionally made from fermented anchovies, so it makes sense that, like fish sauce, anchovies would serve as a great oyster sauce substitute. Our recommendation? Get the jarred kind, and keep some in your kitchen at all times. You'd be amazed at what you can add anchovies to. Even if they're not a perfect substitute for oyster sauce in every instance, they are delicious in their own right, and they deserve the spotlight from time to time.


If you like the idea of using soy sauce as an oyster sauce substitute but don't have any on hand, you may be able to get away with using tamari. Substitute Cooking says that oyster sauce can replace tamari in a recipe, so it can work the other way as well. Wondering how tamari differs from soy sauce? Great question. They're quite similar in that they're both made from soybeans. However, tamari is significantly less salty than soy sauce. Additionally, it's made with twice the number of soybeans that soy sauce is, according to MasterClass, so it has a richer, deeper flavor than you might expect from soy sauce. Tamari is more commonly found in Japanese cooking.

We love that you get a richer flavor from tamari, but it could use a little more salt if you're trying to use it as a replacement for oyster sauce. That's a quick fix though, which is why it's still a solid oyster sauce sub.

Mushroom broth

Calling all vegans and vegetarians! This one is for you, and you won't believe how easy it is. Instead of using oyster sauce, you're just going to grab some mushroom broth instead. According to Hungry Huy, mushrooms and oyster sauce have a rich umami flavor in common which makes them ideal candidates to trade places. You can simply buy premade stock at the grocery store or you can make your own shitake mushroom & herb broth at home (feel free to skip the herbs if you feel they won't work well with your recipe).

While this is already a great start flavor-wise, you may be searching for a similar consistency to oyster sauce. If that's the case, you can mix some cornstarch with the mushroom broth to make it a bit thicker. And just like that, you have the vegan oyster sauce replacement of your dreams.

Worcestershire sauce with soy sauce and sugar

If you're interested in doing a little mixing in the kitchen, you can come up with a pretty accurate replacement for oyster sauce. Even if it doesn't taste just like the real thing, this sauce mixture is good enough that you'll want to use it in your cooking anyway. It's a blend of Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and sugar, per Hungry Huy

We've covered the similarities in color and flavor between soy sauce and oyster sauce. Just like fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce is made with anchovies, so you know you're going to get plenty of that umami flavor you love. The addition of a touch of sugar will help replicate the sweetness found in oyster sauce. Plus, since there's a good chance that all this stuff is already in your kitchen cabinets, you don't even have to run out to the store to get anything new. Don't you love a simple swap?