Acceptable substitute for oyster sauce?

I am allergic to oysters and don't want to risk it but I also don't want to compromise flavor in my Asian dishes that call for it.

  • Posted by: emilysev
  • February 24, 2013


Arne Y. April 22, 2017
The perfect solution - if you can tolerate bonito (fish) - is to take a teaspoon or two (depending on the degree of fishy taste you want) of dashi, which are granules made from bonito fish and kelp, dissolve them in 2 tablespoons soy sauce, a tablespoon and a half of brown sugar, two tablespoons of potato (or corn) starch until they are all dissolved into a paste. Next, chop up four cleaned and washed medium sized shiitake mushrooms with the end of the stems cut off and discarded, and boil them in two cups of spring water until the water gets brown from the mushrooms. Combine the dashi mixture and stir until it thickens, then boil for a couple of minutes until it is the consistency you would like (syrupy and thick is best for most recipes). Pour mixture to a cool dish and cover for at least one hour (two or three is better) and then use in place of oyster sauce. This is so delicious that I even substitute oyster broth for water to make my own. Commercial oyster sauce is nowhere near as tasty!
Windischgirl April 22, 2017
Arne, that sounds fantastic! Could you post that as a recipe so we could save it? Thanks so much!
Eric B. November 16, 2019
My wife is deathly allergic to seafood so we tend to use either Soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce or a combination of the 2.
Windischgirl August 15, 2015
I get a vegetarian oyster sauce, made with mushrooms.
You want a deep umami flavor--soy or tamari are part of that, maybe try some mushroom stock base (Better than Bullion has one) added in. Perhaps Black Bean sauce would work, just know that some are spiked with chili or garlic and that becomes the predominant flavor. Miso also has some of the flavors you are looking for.
Hoisin is too sweet and Worchestershire too acidic. Fish sauce Dan also be sharp, but a bit mixed in adds a depth of flavor.
Windischgirl August 15, 2015
*can. (Where the heck did 'Dan' come from? Silly autocorrect!)
Heather W. August 15, 2015
Question: my daughter is allergic to wheat dairy eggs and walnuts. We want to fix lo mein for her but both soy sauce and oyster have wheat in them what is best to use. Ill try and find the The vegetarian oyster sauce
Susan W. August 15, 2015
Most Tamari is wheat free and easy to find. Check the label for ingredients just to be sure, but typically, they contain no wheat. I prefer it over soy. It's darker and richer. I have a jar of Sun Luck Hoisin and a jar of Wok Mei Oyster Sauce and neither contain wheat. I bought them both at Albertsons, so easy to find.

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Elizabeth R. February 24, 2013
Oyster sauce is thick, which fish sauce is not. And Worcestershire is too piquant. Maybe a more reasonable facsimile would be to mix a bit of hoisin and dark soy sauce, since the soy would temper hoisin's sweetness but also impart umami while not compromising its thickness too much. Though it really depends on what you're trying to cook (stir-fried vegetable vs braise).
Demington February 24, 2013
I do not think there are oysters in oyster sauce. Worcestershire sauce is a good substitute, but try reading the list of ingredients on the oyster sauce bottle.
HalfPint February 24, 2013
Oyster sauce does indeed have oysters in it, at least in the extact form. Also there might be scallops. Worcestershire sauce is not a good substitute because it does not taste anything like oyster sauce. I know that you can get a vegetarian "oyster" sauce made with mushrooms. Hopefully the poster is not allergic to mushrooms.

One other thing I would suggest as a substitute is dark soy sauce. You would not need as much, but the flavor is closer than Worcestershire or fish sauce.
minibakersupreme February 24, 2013
Are you allergic to fish? If not, you could try subbing fish sauce if you're sure it's not contaminated with oysters.
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