What can I substitute for oyster sauce?

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “What can I substitute for oyster sauce?” with an in-depth analysis of oyster sauce and some possible substitutes for soy sauce along with their benefits and disadvantages.

What can I substitute for oyster sauce?

Oyster sauce can be best substituted with fish sauce, soy sauce, coconut amino, Worcestershire sauce and vegan mushroom sauce. 

The condiments market has been growing continuously over the last few years, with the quantity of products sold under the category of sauces, dressings, and condiments during the period 2008–2013 increasing more than 12% from 31,749,000 to 35,795,000 metric tons (1).

What is oyster sauce? 

Oyster sauce is prepared by the sauces that are made by cooking oysters. Most used oyster sauce is a viscous dark brown condiment that is prepared by utilizing oyster extracts, sugar, salt, and water thickened with cornstarch. The natural colour of oyster sauce is dark while some versions are darkened with caramel.

Commercial oyster sauces are produced from oyster extract with brine, flavor enhancers, caramel coloring and chemical preservatives. Oyster, as a raw material, contributes towards the unique flavor, which is derived from its free amino acids and 5′-nucleotides. The free amino acids can be divided into umami amino acids, bitter amino acids and sweet amino acids based on the taste characteristics (3).

Substitutes of oyster sauce

Oyster sauce has multiple alternatives. Following are some substitutes for oyster sauce.

Fish sauce 

Fish sauce is a liquid condiment. It is made from those fish that are killed and have been coated with salt and fermented for up to two years. Its flavour does not resemble fish much. Fish sauce has a savoury flavour.

Fish sauce is a clear brown liquid produced by spontaneous fermentation of diverse fish such as anchovies, sardines, and menhaden. During fermentation, protein hydrolysis is caused by endogenous proteinases in the fish muscle and digestive tract as well as proteases produced by halophilic bacteria. The species most commonly used for fish sauce production is Indian anchovy (Stolephorus spp.). Anchovies are normally caught and kept on board (2).

There are many health benefits of using fish sauce as it contains a lot of nutrients. Besides this, it also provides amino acids to our body. The iron content of fish sauce is very beneficial for our growth. Studies found a good fatty acid composition in fermented fish sauce, with the presence of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which have health-promoting advantages, in relation to serum cholesterol levels and prevention of cardiovascular diseases (5).

There are also some shortcomings of this fish sauce like its regular use can cause high blood pressure

Soy sauce

The origin of Soy sauce is Chinese. The traditional way to make soy sauce is by using a fermented paste of soybeans, roasted grain, and brine. The flavour of soy sauce is strong umami. Alanine, glycine, and threonine are associated with a sweet taste, whereas glutamic acid and aspartic acid are associated with umami (3).

Soy sauce has multiple uses. It contains a lot of nutrients that are essential to maintain proper body functions. The anti-inflammatory properties of soy sauce are very good to prevent inflammation. The antioxidant capacity of soy sauce helps the body to fight against the free radicals generated in the body. Many studies reported that antioxidant activity is correlated with secondary metabolites, and major compounds of soybean such as flavonoids and isoflavonoids with a B-ring structure are well-known antioxidants (3).

Soy sauce also has some disadvantages like it has a high quantity of histamines. Histamines are harmful to the body if they are present in high quantities like it can cause sweating and headache. Besides this itching, rashes and allergy has also been noticed after the consumption of soy sauce (6).

Coconut amino

Coconut amino is a healthy substitute for oyster sauce and is made by the fermentation of coconut water and sap of coconut palm by Saccharomyces cerevisiae (8). Coconut amino is utilized to make various food products. As its consistency and colour resembles much of soy sauce, so it can easily replace soy sauce

Coconut amino has many advantages like it has a good content of phenolic compounds and organic acids, such as citric acid, malic acid, tartaric acid, acetic acid, and lactic acid resulting from the fermentation, which are beneficial for health (8). Coconut amino is in fact coconut vinegar and it contains gallic acid that helps to prevent diabetes and some other diseases like heart issues. Coconut amino is anti-carcinogenic and thus protects us from the risk of cancer (9).

Coconut amino also has some drawbacks like their cost is very high and there is also an availability issue as it is available in all regions. Besides this, coconut amino can act as an allergen in certain people and cause itching and redness of the skin. Reports of immunoglobulin E (IgE)-mediated coconut allergy are rare and only a handful of cases have been reported in the literature in adults and children (7). 

Worcestershire sauce

Worcestershire sauce is a fermented liquid condiment. It was made in the city of Worcester in Worcestershire, England for the first time.

Worcestershire sauce is a fermented product, and if made with distilled vinegar rather than malt vinegar, it should be gluten-free, and the elimination of anchovies or oysters should make it vegan (10).

Its benefits are that it contains a lot of nutrients and vitamins which are good to maintain a healthy life. Worcestershire sauce contains acetic acid, garlic, black pepper, and a variety of other spices (11), and garlic  has been reported to reduce blood lipids and to have anticancer effects. The strength of the immune system can be improved by using Worcestershire sauce, due to the presence of garlic (12).

One of the main disadvantages of Worcestershire sauce is that it can cause allergies in certain people. Unless you have an allergy to one of the ingredients in Worcestershire sauce, you’re not likely to experience any adverse effects from the savoury sauce. However, a high intake of this sauce can lead to chronic renal failure (11).

However, those who are salt-sensitive may want to be careful about using too much of the condiment, unless opting for the low-sodium varieties (10).

Vegan mushroom sauce

Vegan mushroom sauce is very versatile and exhibits large flexibility. Its common use is that it is served along with pasta and roasted veggies. This Creamy Mushroom sauce with caramelized mushrooms, herbs, wine, and creamy base is versatile and delicious.

Vegan mushroom sauce is well known for its high fibre content which helps to keep the body full for a longer period. Besides this, they also provide calcium, iron, and sodium. This is a low-calorie food that aids in losing weight.  

They may also mitigate the risk of developing serious health conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. They’re also great sources of Selenium (13).

Other FAQs about Sauces that you may be interested in.

How to thicken the sauce without flour or cornstarch?

What Can I Use Instead of Louisiana Hot Sauce

Can you freeze bearnaise sauce?


In this brief article, we have answered the question, “What can I substitute for oyster sauce?” with an in-depth analysis of oyster sauce and some possible substitutes for soy sauce along with their benefits and disadvantages.


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  2. Tran, Quang Hieu, Thanh Tan Nguyen, and Kim Phuong Pham. Development of the high sensitivity and selectivity method for the determination of histamine in fish and fish sauce from vietnam by UPLC-MS/MS. Int j analyt chem, 2020.
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  4. Song, Da Hye, et al. Comprehensive metabolite profiling and microbial communities of Doenjang (fermented soy paste) and Ganjang (fermented soy sauce): a comparative study. Foods, 2021, 10, 641.
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  8. Malakul, Wachirawadee, et al. Novel coconut vinegar attenuates hepatic and vascular oxidative stress in rats fed a high-cholesterol diet. Front nutr, 2022, 156.  
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  10. Smith, J. Can you say Worcester? 2021. University of Illinois. 
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  12. Mutabazi, Aubry Juste. Garlic and some bioproduct. 2021.
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