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What Does Hoisin Sauce Taste Like? All You Need To Know

Hoisin sauce is a popular ingredient in many Asian dishes. It has a sweet yet savory flavor that adds depth of flavor to the food. So what does hoisin sauce taste like? Let’s find out.

If this is the first time you’ve heard of this sauce, you’re not alone. Not a lot of people are familiar with this ingredient. The good news is that this post will answer your questions about it.

small dish filled with hoisin sauce

What Is Hoisin Sauce?

Hoisin sauce is a dark and thick condiment. Its color and texture are comparable to thickened soy sauce.

This sauce is versatile. You can use it as a dipping sauce, glaze, or marinade for meats. It is not usually served with and used on seafood, though.

You can buy hoisin sauce in large grocery stores, in the Asian aisle. Hoisin sauce is also available in Asian specialty stores and online marketplaces. The most popular brands of hoisin sauce are Kikkoman, Lee Kum Kee, and Koon Chun.

What Is Hoisin Sauce Made Of?

A traditional hoisin sauce has fermented soybean paste as its base. Sesame oil, vinegar, chili, and garlic are added to enhance the flavor. Other recipes also add sugar or another kind of sweetener.

Commercially-prepared hoisin sauce has additional preservatives, of course. Some brands also add starch and salt to their recipes.

Most store-bought hoisin sauces do not have animal products in them. So this sauce is vegan and vegetarian.

But be cautious if you are following a gluten-free diet. Most hoisin sauce blends include wheat flour as a thickener. This makes it unsuitable for those with gluten sensitivity.

What Does Hoisin Sauce Taste Like?

So, what does hoisin sauce taste like? By looking at its ingredients, you’d know that no one word can describe it. It tastes salty, tangy, sweet, spicy, and savory at the same time.

Hoisin sauce is like barbeque sauce but with a more pronounced salty flavor. You’ll also get hints of an umami taste from the soybeans.

Hoisin sauce is so intense that it can easily overpower other ingredients in your recipe. That said, we suggest using it in small amounts.

You can also try adding some water to mellow its taste. Doing so thins the sauce, so remember not to add too much, or you’ll end up with a runny sauce.

Does Hoisin Sauce Taste Like Oyster Sauce?

Another condiment that looks like hoisin sauce is oyster sauce. They’re both dark and thick sauces.

You may wonder, does hoisin sauce taste like oyster sauce? The answer is no. They taste very different as they don’t have the same ingredients.

For starters, oyster sauce is made from oyster extracts. Naturally, the sauce would taste like oysters and saltwater. On the other hand, hoisin sauce is primarily made of soybean paste. It will not have any fishy taste.

Fun Facts About Hoisin Sauce

The word hoisin is the Chinese word for “seafood.” But the hoisin sauce does not have any seafood in it. It does not taste like seafood, nor is it served with seafood. Because of this, most people believe that the original recipe must have some seafood.

Hoisin sauce is also called Chinese barbeque. This is no surprise, as it shares many similarities with American BBQ sauce. This sauce also goes by Peking Sauce, as it is commonly served with Peking Duck.

How to use Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin sauce is used in many recipes worldwide. It is a staple in Asia, especially in Chinese cuisine. Hoisin sauce is a popular ingredient in Moo shu and char siu pork recipes. 

This delicious sauce also tastes good with beef. Take a look at this Stir-fried Beef with Hoisin Sauce recipe if you are a beef lover. Its flavor also blends well with chicken. This Amazing Hoisin Chicken with Brocolli recipe is worth a try.

Stir-fries also get better with hoisin sauce as an ingredient. For a quick meal, see this Vegan Stir-Fry With Hoisin Sauce and Coconut Rice recipe.

As with this Peanut Hoisin Sauce recipe, you can also create a dipping sauce for spring and paper rolls.

Homemade Hoisin Sauce Recipe

Although hoisin sauce is widely available, there are times when you’d need to whip your own at home.

Here is a quick homemade hoisin sauce recipe.

You will need the following:

  • 4 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely crushed
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil or sesame paste
  • 3 tablespoons molasses or honey
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce or sriracha sauce
  • Chinese five spice powder, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cold water


  1. In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except cornstarch and water.
  2. Put the saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Continuously stir until ingredients are well-combined.
  4. Check the consistency. If it is thick enough, remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool.
  5. If it is too thin, mix water and cornstarch in a small container.
  6. Add cornstarch mixture in small amounts until you achieve the desired consistency.

How Do You Store Hoisin Sauce?

Due to its pungent taste, you’ll only need a little hoisin sauce each time you cook. This means you’ll need to store the rest of your sauce for future use.

Keeping your hoisin sauce in the refrigerator will extend its shelf life. An opened bottle will most likely stay good for 18 months when stored in the fridge. But be sure to keep the bottle tightly sealed.

If you know you won’t cook with your hoisin sauce for a while, consider freezing it. This way, it’ll last for at least two more months than if just refrigerated. A good trick is to freeze it in a covered ice cube tray.

In doing so, you won’t have to thaw the entire bottle the next time you need to use it. After all, a little goes a long way when it comes to this sauce.

Is Hoisin Sauce Vegan?

Hoisin sauce is vegan, as it doesn’t contain any animal products. But it is always best to check the label. Some brands would add non-vegan ingredients to their recipe. Vegan hoisin sauce tastes exactly like its non-vegan versions. It will be difficult to tell the difference just by the taste.

Is Hoisin Sauce Spicy?

Yes, hoisin sauce is spicy because it contains an assortment of spices. Note that the terms spicy and hot are not the same. But in terms of heat, hoisin sauce is just mildly hot due to the inclusion of chilis.

Is There Seafood In Hoisin Sauce?

Hoisin Sauce translates to “Seafood Sauce,” but there is no seafood in it. Researchers suspect that early hoisin makers used seafood for an umami flavor. But modern recipes of hoisin sauce no longer contain animal products and seafood.

What Is The Difference Between Soy Sauce And Hoisin Sauce?

Soy sauce and hoisin sauce are salty condiments that differ in many ways. Soy sauce has a thinner consistency compared to hoisin sauce. Plus, soy sauce is made with only a few ingredients. It mainly consists of fermented soybeans, wheat, and a fermenting agent. On the other hand, hoisin sauce has vinegar, chilis, and other spices. That said, hoisin sauce has a more complex flavor profile than soy sauce.

Is Hoisin Sauce The Same As Barbecue Sauce?

Even though this sauce is called Chinese barbecue sauce, it is not the same as barbecue sauce. Hoisin sauce has a more pronounced salty taste and is less sweet than BBQ sauce. Nevertheless, in most recipes, you can use hoisin sauce as a substitute for barbeque sauce.


Hoisin sauce is a widely used condiment in Asian cooking. In fact, it is as popular as ketchup or barbecue sauce. It adds a pleasant flavor to dishes, which is why many recipes require it. 

What does hoisin sauce taste like? It has a sweet and salty flavor with tangy and spicy notes. Hints of umami are also present. Hoisin sauce is a versatile ingredient you can use on its own too. You can use it as a marinade, a glaze, and even a dipping sauce.

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!
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