4 Best Substitutes for Oyster Sauce

Pouring oyster sauce from a bottle

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If you like eating oysters, there is a good chance you will like oyster sauce. It’s an aptly named liquid ingredient made by boiling oysters to a reduction. Salt, sugar, and thickening ingredients like corn starch may be added to make oyster sauce. The result is a thick, syrup-like condiment that adds a fishy, salty, and sweet flavor to savory meals.

Oyster sauce is most commonly associated with Asian-style cooking and can be used to enhance the flavors in recipes like stir-fries, noodles, and other dishes. It is mainly salty and fishy but also adds a hint of sweetness.

Though oyster sauce has its place in many commercial and home kitchens, you may find yourself in need of a substitute. Whether you avoid fish products or do not have oyster sauce on hand, you may have success with these oyster sauce substitutes.

Why Use an Alternative?

Fish is part of a well-balanced diet. In fact the American Heart Association recommends eating fish two times per week. Foods like salmon are especially nutritious sources of omega fatty acids. However, some people do not consume fish products for various reasons, including vegans, vegetarians, and those with seafood allergies.

Vegan and vegetarian diets do not include fish, though a pescatarian diet does. Those who omit some animal products from their diet, such as foods that contain fish, would likely seek a substitute for oyster sauce. They must also check product labels and ingredient lists for fish-based ingredients and byproducts. Because oyster sauce is made from cooking oysters, it is not a vegan- or vegetarian-friendly food. 

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, fish and shellfish are among the top eight most common food allergies in the U.S. If you have an allergy to fish or shellfish or suspect you may be allergic to certain ingredients in oyster sauce, you may need to find an allergy-safe substitute for oyster sauce.

Condiments are a popular and easy source of flavor. Because oyster sauce is not as common as ketchup and mustard, for example, you may seek an alternative simply because you do not have it in your pantry. The ingredient can also be difficult to find in some areas. To find oyster sauce, check the Asian or ethnic food section in most supermarkets. It is also typically available at specialty Asian grocery stores. 

Oyster Sauce Nutrition

This nutrition information for 1 tablespoon (18 grams) of ready-to-serve oyster sauce is provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 9.18
  • Fat: 0.045g 
  • Sodium: 491mg
  • Carbohydrates: 1.96g
  • Fiber: 0.054g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 0.243g

Oyster sauce is added to food in very small amounts, so it is not a significant source of protein, fat, or carbohydrates. However, the sodium content adds up quickly if you add multiple tablespoons of oyster sauce.

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day for adults, and the recommended serving size of oyster sauce contains approximately 21% of that.

Popular Substitutes

Oyster sauce adds a sweet, salty, and fishy flavor to recipes. Substitutes for oyster sauce will attempt to replicate those flavors. However, it’s difficult to replicate the flavor of fish with fish-free vegan and vegetarian substitutes. 

Soy Sauce

Both oyster sauce and soy sauce are salty condiments, making the two a go-to source of salty flavor in cooking in many dishes. They are also both liquid ingredients, so soy sauce can be used as an oyster sauce substitute at a one-to-one ratio. Vegans and vegetarians looking for a fish-free alternative to oyster sauce may have the most success with soy sauce, which is also a plant-based ingredient.

Nutritionally, soy sauce is higher in sodium and protein but lower in carbohydrates. Soy sauce contains nearly double the amount of sodium compared to oyster sauce. If consuming too much sodium is a concern, look for low-sodium varieties of soy sauce.

If a recipe calls for both soy sauce and oyster sauce, adding additional soy sauce to substitute the oyster sauce may result in an overwhelming amount of sodium. You may need to adjust the recipe to get the balance of saltiness just right.

Fish Sauce

Oyster sauce can be used as a fish sauce substitute, so naturally, fish sauce can be used as an oyster sauce substitute. Fish sauce is a fish-based condiment made from salted, fermented fish. Like oyster sauce, fish sauce adds salty, fishy, and slightly sweet flavors to recipes. 

Fish sauce tends to be thinner and fishier than oyster sauce but can be used in equal amounts in cooking. For sauces and marinades, you can add a thickening ingredient like cornstarch to thicken the recipe so it more closely resembles oyster sauce.

The nutritional differences between fish sauce and oyster sauce for fat, sugar, fiber, and protein are negligible, but fish sauce contains fewer calories, fewer carbohydrates, and more sodium. In fact, fish sauce contains nearly three times the amount of sodium as oyster sauce.

Worcestershire Sauce

Though difficult to pronounce, Worcestershire sauce is a common ingredient that is easier to find than oyster sauce. For those having difficulty accessing oyster sauce, Worcestershire sauce is sure to be found in the condiment aisle.

Worcestershire sauce is not traditionally used in Asian-style cooking where oyster sauce is likely to be needed, but it can add a salty and sweet flavor. It is an ingredient that is often used to deepen the flavor of foods like meats, marinades, and more.

Nutritionally, Worcestershire sauce is higher in calories, carbohydrates, and sugar than oyster sauce but lower in sodium. Because it is lower in sodium, Worcestershire sauce may be preferred by those looking for a low-sodium alternative.

With its liquid consistency, Worcestershire sauce can be used to replace oyster sauce at a one-to-one ratio. Traditionally, Worcestershire sauce contains fish, such as anchovies or fish sauce, but fish-free versions may be available in some stores. Vegans and vegetarians should check the product label before purchasing Worcestershire sauce.

Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin sauce is a thick condiment made from fermented soy beans. It is commonly used in Asian-style cooking, so it is a suitable substitute for oyster sauce. Like oyster sauce, hoisin sauce offers salty and sweet flavors, though it lacks the fishy aspect. However, this makes most varieties of hoisin sauce suitable for those looking for a fish-free alternative.

To substitute oyster sauce with hoisin sauce, replace oyster sauce with equal parts of hoisin sauce. You may want to add the hoisin sauce slowly because it has a more potent flavor than oyster sauce, so you may need less of it depending on your preferences.

Hoisin sauce contains about 15 calories per tablespoon and although it contains more calories than oyster sauce, it is still very low in calories. It also contains more vitamins and minerals as well as less sodium.

A Word From Verywell

Oyster sauce is a staple ingredient in Asian-style cooking. However, not everyone consumes fish-based foods for dietary or allergy reasons. Some people may also have difficulty locating this less common condiment.

For times when an oyster sauce substitute is needed, consider using ingredients like fish sauce, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and worcestershire sauce. All are liquid-based ingredients that can be used at one-to-one ratios. Some are even vegan- and vegetarian-friendly. When using any substitutes in cooking, results may vary and you may need to adjust the recipe accordingly.

If you do not have any dietary restrictions or allergies, oyster sauce can be part of a balanced diet and flavorful source of saltiness and sweetness.

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8 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Heart Association. Fish and omega-3 fatty acids.

  2. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Food allergies.

  3. USDA. FoodData Central. Sauce, oyster, ready-to-serve.

  4. USDA. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025.

  5. USDA, FoodData Central. Soy sauce made from soy and wheat (shoyu).

  6. USDA, FoodData Central. Sauce, fish, ready-to-serve.

  7. USDA, FoodData Central. Worcestershire Sauce.

  8. USDA, FoodData Central. Sauce, hoisin, ready-to-serve.