Oyster Sauce Vs. Hoisin Sauce – What’s The Difference?

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Making food can be quite overwhelming for some people because of all the ingredients in one dish. There are herbs, spices, and sauces that you have to remember. In Particular, if you are making something from Chinese cuisine, things can get more complicated as most of us are not that familiar with Chinese ingredients and sauce (except if you are a professional chef or hardcore Chinese food lover). The sauces, in particular, have an important role in the Chinese cuisine and understanding them better is a critical step to becoming a better cook. 

But with so many options out there, it can be not easy to get a grip on each of the sauces. But the most effective way to deal with this problem (like all other problems, is to start small and learn the basics. Two of the most popular sauces in this category are Hoisin sauce and Oyster sauce. Both of them have a distinct flavor that can add complexity and depth to your dishes. 

Many people might have heard about them, but not all of us are sure what separated the one from the other. In this article, we will talk about their differences in detail. So please keep reading to find all you need to know about Hoisin and Oyster Sauce!

Oyster Sauce

This Sauce can be considered the central sauce used in making Chinese food. Many chefs love this sweet sauce because of its strong flavor and versatility. As you might have guessed by its name, the Oyster sauce is produced from oysters, usually abundant in China and Asian countries. 

Making the Oyster Sauce is an incredibly easy task; First, you extract the oysters and then caramelize them in a pan or any other utensil of your choice. Then, you add all the other ingredients to it to add flavor. If you want your sauce to have a thicker consistency, you can choose to add Corn starch, which will make the sauce thicker and slightly gooey.

The most common ingredients used in this sauce are sugar and salt because the main flavor comes from the oysters. But if you think that this sauce might have a fishy flavor or smell, then you are wrong. Oyster sauce doesn’t have a fishy taste or smell; Rather, it has an earthy, somewhat salty, and more sweet flavor. The consistency of Oyster sauce is usually thick, and with the addition of corn starch, it is usually made even thicker.

But this doesn’t mean that all Oyster sauce tastes and smells the same because if you buy your oyster sauce from a low-quality producer, it will usually have a fish smell and taste that can be a bummer and make your food essentially inedible. So, whenever buying Oyster sauce, always ensure that you go for the higher quality ones; it will be worth the extra amount you pay.

Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin Sauce can be a breath of relief for all the vegans who want to enjoy a savory flavor and eat Chinese-style food while maintaining their vegan status. This sauce is completely meat-free because it is usually made with soybeans that are fermented with the help of bacteria.

Making this sauce is not that difficult, although it is not as easy as making Oyster Sauce. This process involves forming a thick paste with the Soybeans and then adding all the other ingredients, including salt, sugar, oil, garlic powder or paste, vinegar, sweeter, and various other ingredients. These ingredients give Hoisin sauce a complex and deep flavor that can be best described as an umami flavor.

This flavor is heightened because of the fermentation involved in the production process. Hoisin sauce can be used in many different ways with many different foods, but the most popular type of food that goes well with this sauce is food from the Cantonese Cuisine. So far, you have an idea about both of these sauces, so let’s talk about their differences now.

So What’s the Difference Between Hoisin Sauce and Oyster Sauce?

Now that we have talked about these sauces individually let’s talk about their differences.


Due to the difference in ingredients used to make these sauces, their smell tends to have some differences. Hoisin Sauce (as you already know) is made from fermented soybeans, so it has none of the fishy smell; instead, it has a sweet and fruity smell because of the fermentation involved. On the other hand, the Oyster sauce might have a mild fishy odor because of the Oyster extract used in making it; This can be more prominent in Oyster sauces of low quality.

Flavor and Texture

Taste is a crucial factor that can help you decide when and how to use these sauces. Generally, both sauces have a sweet and slightly salty flavor in different proportions, with the oyster sauce containing a saltier flavor as it is usually made with seafood which is usually salty, on the other hand, Hoisin sauce has a sweeter taste as it is usually made with soybeans. Both sauces have different textures as well, with hoisin sauce having a much thicker consistency and Oyster sauce is slightly thinner, but keep in mind that most manufacturers like to add corn starch in it to make it thicker.


Due to the variation in smell, taste, and texture, Hoisin sauce and Oyster sauce are used for different purposes. The most frequent use of this sauce is seen in south China and certain parts of North China as well. Because of this, many of the Cantonese and Chinese dishes have integrated Hoisin sauce in them.

Oyster Sauce can be used in the same dishes as Hoisin sauce, but as it has a saltier taste with hints of Oyster taste, people usually use it in dishes where it won’t overwhelm the whole dish. The most popular food which uses Oyster sauce includes noodles and Vegetables stir-fried in a pan; it is also used in chow mein and Sichuan noodles.