Can I use hoisin sauce instead of fish sauce?

In this article, we will answer the following question: Can I use hoisin sauce instead of fish sauce? We will speak about the differences between hoisin sauce and fish sauce, how to identify and use housing sauce.

Can I use hoisin sauce instead of fish sauce?

You can use housing sauce instead of fish sauce in some dishes, but you need to be aware that the two sauces each have their characteristics. If we can easily suggest replacing fish sauce with soy sauce, I cannot say the same thing for hoisin sauce.

Hoisin sauce is a very thick sauce, very dark in color, and has a very peculiar flavor. It is a sauce widely used in Cantonese cuisine and Vietnamese cuisine. Some people know this sauce by the name of Chinese barbecue sauce. Although, as we will see, it has little to do with a barbecue sauce.

It is used both to glaze meats and to cook different types of food in the wok. It is also served as an accompaniment to dipping meats, vegetables, dumplings, or jiaozis in it.

Its flavor is similar to that of the bittersweet sauce, although with a sweeter, salty, and less acidic flavor than fish sauce.

Fish sauce, on the other hand, not only gives a salty taste but also the umami flavor and depth of seasoning are difficult to recreate with plant ingredients. The recommended substitute for the fish sauce is soy sauce, although while it gives us the salty aspect and umami, it does not offer us the deep, earthy character of the original fish sauce.

What is hoisin sauce made of?

The main ingredient in hoisin sauce is fermented soybean paste. Other common ingredients are:

  • Garlic
  • Red pepper.
  • Vinegar.
  • Sugar.
  • Fennel seeds.
  • The Chinese 5 spice mix.

Chinese 5 Spice Mix is a spice mix that is also widely used in Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine. It is also used in other Arab and Asian cuisines.

This mixture is composed of:

  • Star anise.
  • Pin.
  • Chinese cinnamon.
  • Sichuan pepper.
  • Fennel seeds.

There are different regional varieties of hoisin sauce. Each of these varieties can include small variations in its ingredients.

Thus, in the Beijing area it is common to add to this sauce:

  • Sesame seeds.
  • Yams.
  • Rice or even wheat.
  • Water.

The hoisin sauce that is marketed may also contain sweeteners, colorants, preservatives, and stabilizing agents.

How does hoisin sauce look like?

Its color is very dark and reminiscent of soy sauce. Although the texture of hoisin sauce is much denser and thicker than that of soy sauce and is more reminiscent of the texture of a jam.

What does hoisin sauce taste like? Is it sweet or spicy?

Its flavor is very salty and with a slightly sweet touch. The fermented soybean paste used in its preparation gives it an intense umami flavor.

The flavor of hoisin sauce is reminiscent of plum sauce, another sauce widely used in Chinese cuisine. Its flavor and texture are similar to those of a plum jam. Although the flavor of hoisin sauce is similar, it is also much stronger and spicier.

Hoisin sauce also tastes similar to soy sauce, but sweeter. Its flavor is also reminiscent of barbecue sauce, but incorporating acid notes and combining sweet and salty flavors. Although chili peppers are usually used in its preparation, it is not a spicy sauce.

How much hoisin sauce should I use?

Keep in mind that the flavor of this sauce is strong and intense. If you’ve never used it, you’d better be careful.

Start by adding a small amount and testing how intense the final flavor is. Progressively adjust the amount to your tastes and those of your guests based on the results.

Do not forget that this sauce has a very dark color. If you add a lot of quantity you will also modify the color of the ingredients of your recipe.

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Uses of hoisin sauce in the kitchen

Despite what it may seem, hoisin sauce is not as widely used in Chinese cuisine as soy sauce may have in other oriental cuisines.

Its use in Chinese cuisine is quite limited to Cantonese cuisine, typical of the Guandong region. As you know, Cantonese cuisine is considered one of the most varied, surprising, and delicious cuisines in the world. Outside of the Guandong region, it is used as a condiment in one of the best-known dishes in Chinese cuisine: the lacquered duck or Peking duck.

This sauce is also widely used to prepare marinades with which to dress meats before being cooked. It is one of the main ingredients in Char Siu, also known as Chinese pork barbecue. This dish is a barbecue of pork typical of Cantonese cuisine.

To prepare the Char Siu, the pork is cut into long strips that are marinated with hoisin sauce, soy sauce, honey or sugar, and a Chinese mixture of five spices, among other ingredients. This marinade gives the meat a very characteristic dark color.

In Vietnamese cuisine, hoisin sauce is used to prepare phở. It is a noodle soup widely consumed in the south of the country. In this recipe, hoisin sauce is usually combined with Sriracha Sauce.

It is also often used to glaze roast chicken or as a sauce to accompany Vietnamese spring rolls.

Hoisin sauce is also the ideal accompaniment to:

If you’re not a big fan of veggies, add some hoisin sauce to them and sauté them in a wok or skillet. Thanks to this delicious sauce, it will surely be much easier for you to incorporate all kinds of vegetables into your diet.

Hoisin sauce is also a good pairing for some fish and shellfish. Especially for those especially fatty like salmon. The slight acid touch of this sauce is the ideal counterpoint to salmon and other fatty fish.

What can I use if I don’t have hoisin sauce?

If you have plum sauce, you can use it in place of the hoisin sauce as both sauces have similar flavors.

You can add some soy sauce and Chinese 5-spice mix to the plum sauce if you want to make it even more like hoisin sauce. If you don’t have plum sauce either, try using barbecue sauce. Add soy sauce, molasses or brown sugar, sriracha sauce, and a little Chinese 5-spice mix.

The flavor of any of these substitutes is not the same as hoisin sauce, but it is quite similar. These substitutes will allow you to successfully get out of a tight spot in case you forget to buy hoisin sauce.


In this article, we answered the following question: Can I use hoisin sauce instead of fish sauce? We spoke about the differences between hoisin sauce and fish sauce, how to identify and use housing sauce.

If you never used hoisin sauce before we recommend trying it before replacing the fish sauce. Of course, if your recipe allows you to use either soy sauce, plum sauce, or hoisin sauce, you can use it instead of fish sauce.

If you have any questions or comments on the content, please let us know. 

References – The Best Simple Fish Sauce Substitutes – Hoisin Sauce – Hoisin Sauce