Oyster sauce is a thick, salty brown sauce made from, you guessed it, oysters. The sauce is Chinese in origin and used in many Asian cuisines, including stir-fry and sweet chicken.

If you want to try your hand at a traditional Chinese, Thai, Cambodian or Vietnamese dish, you're going to need plenty of oyster sauce. But what if you think you're well-stocked with sauce, but come up short? There are several substitutes to turn to, including:

  • Making your own oyster sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Fish sauce
  • Vegan sauce

All can be substituted at a 1:1 ratio.

oyster sauce in a bowl
successo images/Shutterstock

Make Your Own

Making your own oyster sauce might sound like a daunting task, but it's simple and quick. So if you lack oyster sauce but have actual oysters on hand, this is a great option. All you need is half a pound of shucked oysters, water, salt and soy sauce.

  • Drain the oysters, saving the liquid
  • Mince the oysters
  • Add the oysters, liquid and 1 tablespoon water to a saucepan, bring to a boil
  • Remove from heat and add 1 teaspoon salt
  • Allow the mixture to cool completely
  • Pour the mixture through a fine sieve into a saucepan
  • For every half cup of the mixture, add 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce
  • Add 1/2 tablespoon of dark soy sauce
  • Bring the mixture to a boil
  • Reduce heat, simmer for 7 minutes
  • Cool to room temperature

If you have extra oyster sauce left over, you can store it in the refrigerator for up to one month.

close up of oysters with a lemon

Substitute Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is a main ingredient in oyster sauce, which makes it a good substitute. The two sauces have similar colors and flavors, so this substitute doesn't alter the original dish's appearance or taste much at all. If you taste a difference, try adding a few drops of Worcestershire sauce to the soy sauce to give it a flavor a bit closer to oyster sauce.

soy sauce being poured on a spoon

Substitute Fish Sauce

Fish sauce is a good oyster sauce substitute, but it works better for some dishes than others. Fish sauce is thinner and lighter than the dark oyster sauce, and although both are salty, fish sauce tends to have a nuttier flavor while oyster sauce is more sweet. If you're using the sauce to marinate fish or meat, fish sauce is definitely an option for a substitute.

fish sauce in a white bowl on wood
sucesso images/Shutterstock

Go Vegetarian

If you're a vegetarian you can still enjoy the taste of oyster sauce by using an ethically-friendly mushroom substitute. You can buy mushroom sauce at the store, or make your own. All you need is dried shiitake mushrooms, peanut or vegetable oil, garlic cloves, ginger, light and dark soy sauce, sesame oil and five spice powder.

wanida tubtawnee/Shutterstock

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