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Oyster sauce

Vegetarian Substitute for Oyster Sauce

If you frequently eat Chinese noodles or Chow Mien, you may be familiar with the dark oyster sauce. It is even present in some Asian American cuisines like beef with stir fry vegetables or can be used as toppings for some dishes.

Oyster sauceThe umami-rich condiment adds a savory flavor when incorporated into dishes. Still, not everyone accepts this rich, savory sauce, certainly not vegetarians and vegans. So if you need a good substitute for an oyster sauce without causing harm to oysters, there are some alternatives you should consider.

What Is Oyster Sauce?

Any sauce fabricated by cooking oysters can be called an oyster sauce. Modern oyster sauces appear as a dark brown condiment with a savory flavor. Most oyster sauces add sugar and salt to oyster extracts and thickened water from corn starch.

Oyster sauce is believed to have been invented accidentally in the Guangdong province, China, in 1888 by Lee Kum Sheung. It is a trendy sauce in China and is commonly used in Malay, Thai, Khmer, and Vietnamese cuisines. Some Western dishes now make use of oyster sauce as a seasoning.

Oyster Sauce Nutrition Facts

Oyster Sauce

Uses of Oyster Sauce in Recipes

Despite being made from oyster extracts, oyster sauces are savory and have a salty, earthy, and slightly sweet flavor; this can add that needed umami to meat and vegetable dishes. It also works well as a sauce for stir fry dishes, and this is why you’ll find it in most Chinese noodles.

Not only does it pack tons of flavors to your food, but it also gives your dish that dark brown color that tells you you’re about to eat a richly flavored meal. You can find this color in foods like Chow Mien, Lo Mien, stir fry broccoli, and Cantonese beef chow fun.

Here are some delicacies that use oyster sauce;

  • Bok choi with oyster sauce and chili
  • Stir fry beef with oyster sauce
  • Cantonese beef chow fun
  • Aubergine with prawns in oyster sauce
  • Chilli beef with broccoli chicken and oyster sauce
  • Beef stir fry with broccoli and oyster sauce
  • Skewered beef with oyster sauce
  • Stir fry greens with oyster sauce
  • Stir-Fried Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Chili
  • Oyster Sauce Glazed Asparagus and Mushrooms
  • Shrimp and Broccoli Stir Fry
  • Baby Kale Stir-Fried with Oyster Sauce
  • Oyster Mushroom Stir Fry
  • Napa Cabbage & Carrots with Rice Wine-Oyster Sauce
  • Chicken Lo Mein

Oyster Sauce Substitutes for Vegetarians

Oyster sauce is common in Asian cuisines. They are really good if you’re looking to add some flavors to your dish. They are rich in umami or savory flavor, but not everyone enjoys this great-tasting condiment.

Vegetarians are concerned about the well-being of animals; a vegetarian is someone who does not eat meat, seafood, poultry, or the flesh of any other animal. This also includes the by-product of animal slaughter. So a vegetarian is sure to abstain from using the oyster sauce in cooking because it involves the slaughtering of one or more oysters.

But suppose you still want to enjoy some savory flavor without risking the well-being of any oyster. In that case, there are some substitutes you should know about.

Soy Sauce

Soy Sauce

Being a common pantry staple, soy sauce can easily substitute oyster sauce; it is also good for people who don’t eat seafood because it does not contain animal extract. Most soy sauces are salty except for Indonesian kecap manis, which can be called sweet soy sauce and are normally sold at Asian food markets.

Soy sauce has a dark brown color and mild umami, but the salty taste is the dominant taste of the sauce. It also has a sweet taste and a very little bitterness, which isn’t noticeable. So if you’re going to use soy sauce in place of oyster sauce, you will need to add some sweetener and use a reduced quantity where the recipe asks for oyster sauce.

Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin sauce can also be a good substitute for oyster sauce because it also has the thickness of the oyster sauce. It has a salty and slightly sweet flavor, tasting like barbecue sauce but is saltier, less sweet, and richer with more umami than typical American barbecue sauces.

Hoisin sauce is a good oyster sauce replacement for vegetarians and vegans because, just like soy sauce, it doesn’t contain any animal content. Instead, it is made from fermented soybean paste with additional ingredients like sugar, water, salt, red chili peppers, garlic, white distilled vinegar, and sometimes preservatives and coloring agents.

Hoisin sauce is also common in Chinese cuisines for adding those aromatic sweet and savory flavors. When adding hoisin sauce in place of oyster sauce, use a 1 to 1 ratio because they both have the same consistency.

Mushroom Sauce

Mushroom Sauce

If you’re lucky enough, you may get a premade mushroom oyster sauce in specialty stores. Well, if you’re unlucky, make your sauce.

Mushrooms have a delicious umami flavor and can match the distinct flavor of oyster sauce if manipulated correctly; they are also good for vegans and vegetarians. I don’t even need to mention the numerous health benefits of eating mushrooms.

To make a mushroom sauce replacement for oyster sauce, you will need dried porcini mushrooms or mushroom broth, cornstarch, sugar, and soy sauce. Vegans’ mushroom sauces are popular on the Internet, so finding different recipes would be easy.

Use the exact measurements when substituting. Unless you specifically added more flavoring to your sauce, you can substitute with that in mind.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can Worcestershire sauce substitute oyster sauce?

Worcestershire sauce has an umami flavor like oyster sauce, but it is better to mix Worcestershire sauce with soy sauce to make a new sauce before using it as a replacement.

Is oyster sauce healthy?

If you’re trying to lose some weight, the oyster sauce isn’t bad for you. It contains no cholesterol, and one tablespoon of oyster sauce contains just nine calories and 0.1g of fiber.

What are the health benefits associated with consuming oyster sauce?

The oyster sauce is a high protein diet, and high protein diets can regulate blood sugar and reduce the risk of heart disease in people with type 2 diabetes.


Oyster sauce is a healthy condiment that can deliver mouth-watering aromatic flavors to your meal. Still, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, no need to feel left out of the fun because there are so many other options that can take your breath away. There are plenty of suitable substitutes for you to choose from.