Not just for Peking duck, hoisin sauce is popular in many recipes and although it is used more in Chinese cuisine, it is also found in some Vietnamese dishes.
Also called Chinese barbeque sauce or Peking sauce, hoisin sauce is also commonly used in grilled dishes, stir-fries and marinades.
Table of Contents
About Hoisin Sauce
Hoisin sauce is a condiment made from fermented soybean paste with garlic, chilis and spices. It may also contain vinegar and sugar and can contain preservatives, colors and stabilizers.
Hoisin sauce is reddish brown colored and pungent and fragrant. Like a more complex, richer and sweeter soy sauce, hoisin sauce has flavors of salt, spicy and sweet and because it contains fermented soybeans, it also has umami flavor.
Because it is not made with any animal products, hoisin sauce is usually suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets although it is always worth checking the label before buying.When hoisin sauce developed is unclear, although it is known that it is Cantonese. The name hoisin comes from the Chinese for seafood, although hoisin sauce is used in few seafood dishes. It may be that earlier forms of the sauce contained fermented or dried seafood for extra umami, but these were then removed to cut the cost of producing hoisin sauce.
Buying Hoisin Sauce
The majority of grocery stores stock hoisin sauce but for more traditional hoisin sauces, then you may want to visit to a specialty Chinese grocers. There are many varieties of hoisin sauce available but look for one that is thick, dark brown and rich in soy, garlic and chili flavor. When tasting, the saltiness and sweetness of the sauce should also be balanced.Store bought hoisin sauce is shelf-staple when unopened but once opened it should be refrigerated where it can last for around 12 months or so. Just check the sauce for any off-odors or mold before using. If the hoisin sauce is canned, then once opened, move the unused contents to a plastic or glass airtight container and store it in the refrigerator.
Using Hoisin Sauce
Hoisin sauce should usually be used in small amounts to prevent it from overpowering either the dish or taste buds! It can also be diluted with a little water or oil before using.
As a core ingredient in Peking duck and moo shu pork, hoisin sauce can be used undiluted as a glaze on other meats and poultry but when using it in this way, do add salt and pepper to the poultry or meat before adding the hoisin sauce to help balance out the sweetness of the sauce.
It can also be used as is or alongside other ingredients as marinades or barbeque sauces and it goes especially well with ribs and fried wings.
It can also be used as dipping sauce for appetizers such as dumplings, spring rolls or egg rolls and when using as a dipping sauce, you can dilute it with some yellow bean sauce or soy sauce and sesame oil.It can also add richness to stews but avoid adding more than two or three tablespoons of it to the pan. You can also use hoisin sauce to make a glaze for salmon or add it to shrimp dishes.
Substituting Hoisin Sauce
If you have run out of hoisin sauce or would prefer not to buy a large jar as you only need a small amount; then depending on what you have in your kitchen cabinets, you may be able to make up one of the following substitutes, or even develop your own from the ingredients we have listed here.
When considering substitutes for hoisin sauce, it is important to recognize that some of the flavor of hoisin comes from the fermented soybeans, and unless you have miso paste or doenjang paste to hand, this can be a difficult flavor to replicate.
It is also worth noting that a number of these substitutes will take time to make up, so you may need to factor in additional cooking time.
1. Barbecue Sauce
A very easy way to substitute hoisin sauce with barbecue sauce is to just add a little sugar to barbeque sauce, mix and use in place of hoisin sauce.
You can also mix three quarters of a cup of thick barbecue sauce with three tablespoons of molasses, one tablespoon of soy sauce and half a tablespoon of Chinese five spice powder. If this is a little thick when made, then use water to dilute it to a better consistency.
Another option is to mix a sweet barbecue sauce with sriracha and Chinese five spice powder.Barbeque sauce substitutes are better used to replace hoisin sauce in meat dishes.
2. Peanut Butter
Perhaps not the first ingredient that comes to mind when making a hoisin sauce substitute, but peanut butter can work very well in a homemade hoisin sauce substitute.
To make this substitute, you will need two tablespoons of soy sauce, a tablespoon of a natural and creamy peanut butter and one teaspoon each of sesame oil, white vinegar and hot pepper sauce.Blend these together into a paste along with a quarter teaspoon of honey and a quarter teaspoon of brown sugar and around a sixteenth of a teaspoon (or a ‘pinch’) of garlic powder and ground black pepper.
Although the difference in taste between hoisin sauce and plum sauce means that plum sauce as it is does not make an ideal substitute, you can actually make hoisin sauce substitutes that use plums along with other ingredients.
You will need to chop two large plums and cook them until tender with two tablespoons of water and quarter of a cup of brown sugar.
You will then need to add three tablespoons of black bean and garlic sauce to the plums and place this mix into a blender or food processer. Finally, add two tablespoons of soy sauce, a tablespoon of rice wine vinegar, one and a half teaspoon of sesame oil and half a teaspoon of Chinese five spice powder and blend until the sauce is at the consistency you require.If you do not have fresh plums, then you can use plum jam instead. A plum jam or preserve is better as these are not usually as sweet as a jelly. Mix two grated garlic cloves with around an inch of grated ginger root, a tablespoon of teriyaki sauce and half a teaspoon of crushed red pepper. To this, you can then add just two tablespoons of plum jam and blend it together well.
If you have no fresh plums, then you can use prunes instead.
To make this hoisin sauce substitute you will need to boil three quarters of a cup of pitted prunes with two cups of water until the prunes are soft. This should take around 20 minutes or so and once soft, remove the prunes from the water and set aside to cool.
Once cool, use a blender or food processer to blend the prunes with two tablespoons of soy sauce two gloves of garlic and one and a half tablespoons of dry sherry.If you want a little extra heat, you can also add some crushed red pepper flakes to it.
5. Heart-Healthier Hoisin Sauce
The following recipe is produced by the American Heart Association as a heart-healthier substitute for hoisin, soy and other Asian sauces that are naturally high in sodium.
One cup of low sodium vegetable or beef broth should be mixed with a tablespoon of cider, rice or balsamic vinegar and two teaspoons of molasses/brown sugar/brown sugar substitute. The ingredients should be placed into a pan along with eighth teaspoons of garlic powder, ginger powder, salt and black pepper.
The mix should be brought up to boil and left boiling for one minute. The heat can then be reduced to medium and allowed to cook for a further ten minutes before taking off the burner and being left to cool.
6. Other Ingredients for Hoisin Sauce Substitutes
Other ingredients you may have in your cabinet or refrigerator that you can use to blend up a hoisin sauce duplicate include miso paste. Like hoisin sauce, miso paste is made with fermented soybeans along with salt and koji - the mold used to produce sake. Miso paste often includes rice, barley or other grains unlike doenjang paste, which is a traditional Korean paste only made with fermented soybeans and salt.
Other possible ingredients for homemade hoisin sauce substitute blends include Chinese brown bean or chee hou sauce.
If you do make up a homemade substitute, then place any leftover sauce in a clean airtight container in the refrigerator and use within a couple of weeks or so.As you can see in this post, there is no easy sauce switch for hoisin sauce, instead, various ingredients need blending. If you do not have the time or are missing ingredients to blend up a substitute hoisin sauce, then for vegetable dishes you could just use soy or tamari sauce, while oyster sauce can replace hoisin sauce in seafood recipes. For dipping, you could just use soy sauce, or even an orange or duck sauce.
The distinctive umami flavor of hoisin sauce does make finding substitutes more difficult, but in this post, we have considered various recipes for hoisin sauce substitutes, all of which are well worth trying out if you do have a little spare time.