Is Hoisin Sauce Suitable For Vegans

Chinese cuisine is one of the most widespread types of food, and for a good reason. It’s incredibly diverse and has many different spices, flavors, textures, and tastes.


Some of what makes Chinese food so delicious is all the different sauces. Some of the famous sauces include:


  • Soy Sauce
  • Oyster Sauce
  • Chili Sauce
  • Chili Bean Sauce
  • Fermented Bean Curd
  • Black Vinegar
  • White Vinegar


However, my personal favorite is hoisin sauce. Hoisin sauce is a tasty and savory sauce that goes well on practically everything.


It can be challenging to know what sauces are fine to eat if you’re a vegan. Many of the labels on Chinese sauces aren’t written in English and may leave you wondering: is hoisin sauce vegan?


Well, have no fear. I’ve got you covered. I’m going to break down the history and origins of hoisin sauce and answer the question: is hoisin sauce vegan? As a bonus, I’ll teach you how to make homemade vegan hoisin sauce.

What Is a Hoisin Sauce?

Hoisin sauce is a thick, dark-colored sauce made from soybeans, garlic, chilies, and sugar. You commonly find this sauce used in Chinese cuisine as a marinade or dipping sauce.


Unfortunately, the origins of hoisin sauce have been lost, beyond the fact that it’s Cantonese. It has been used for centuries, and its history likely dates back far beyond that.


Even though it’s commonly associated with meat, the name “hoisin” comes from the Chinese words for “seafood.” Despite this origin, the sauce has no seafood ingredients. You don’t often serve it with seafood either. Hoisin sauce got this name because of the standard Chinese phrase “seafood flavor.”


This sauce gets its distinct flavor from fermented soybean paste, the primary ingredient. In the past, hoisin sauce used toasted mashed soybeans instead of fermented soybean paste.


Additionally, it includes starch as a thickener. These starches include:


  • Sweet potato 
  • Wheat
  • Rice


The strong umami flavor comes from the mix of:


  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Soybeans
  • Sesame seeds
  • Distilled vinegar
  • Salt
  • Garlic
  • Red chili peppers


The combination of fermented soybean paste and spices gives hoisin sauce a distinct fragrance. While this flavor is intense, it’s robust and delicious. What makes hoisin sauce so popular is the mix of umami flavors with sweet, tangy, and spicy notes.


The dark color adds a nice contrast to many dishes and turns a beautiful caramelized golden brown when grilled. It has a delicious salty flavor and a slightly sweet finish. It tastes similar to American-style BBQ sauce but is saltier and not as sweet.

How Is Hoisin Sauce Used?

Hoisin sauce is frequently used in Cantonese cuisine and is frequently associated with meats like char siu. Its also often used as a dipping sauce for egg rolls.


Hoisin sauce is sometimes also called Peking sauce or Chinese barbecue sauce. You may be wondering: if hoisin sauce is vegan, why is it called Chinese barbecue sauce?


Well, hoisin sauce is often used as a marinade for meats that will be barbecued. The sauce is also a dipping sauce for Peking duck, a type of Chinese roast duck and one of the most famous dishes in Chinese cuisine.


Hoisin sauce has become popular worldwide and adopted in countries such as America and Vietnam. This sauce gives the Chinese-American classic moo shu pork its tasty flavor.


In Vietnam, hoisin sauce is called tuong den and is commonly used as a condiment for pho. It’s also a dipping sauce for Vietnamese spring rolls or a glaze on chicken.

Is It Vegan Friendly?

Ah, the answer you’ve been waiting for. Is hoisin sauce vegan?


Yes! Hoisin sauce is vegan. The primary ingredient is fermented soybean paste, made from soybeans, water, salt, and flour. The other ingredients are also vegan-friendly.


So, hoisin sauce is a great option if you are looking for a delicious vegan-friendly sauce to add to your meal. And, if you want to take things a step further, you can make homemade vegan hoisin sauce.

How To Make Homemade Vegan Hoisin Sauce

While store-bought hoisin sauce is vegan, it’s also super easy to make homemade vegan hoisin sauce.


Since you can adapt a homemade version to your personal taste, it’s often even tastier than the store-bought version. Plus, you avoid the preservatives included in bottles you buy in the store.


Making your hoisin sauce is pretty simple and only requires a few ingredients. You probably have most, if not all, of these ingredients in your kitchen.


To make homemade vegan hoisin sauce, you will need:


  • One cup of fermented soybean paste
  • Two tablespoons of rice vinegar
  • Three tablespoons of dark brown sugar
  • One teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of five-spice powder
  • 1/4 cup of water


You’ll need to combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Once you’re happy with the flavor, pour the mixture into a jar or container and store it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.


Your homemade hoisin sauce will last for several weeks due to the amount of sugar, salt, and vinegar in the sauce. However, it would be best to refrigerate your homemade hoisin sauce to prevent it from going bad. If your sauce changes color, has an odd smell, or mold is growing, it’s time to throw it out.

Raw Vegan Hoisin Sauce

If you eat a raw vegan diet and are craving hoisin sauce, you’re in luck. You can also make this recipe without any cooked ingredients. All you need is:


  • One cup raisins
  • 1 1/4 cup of water
  • Two cloves garlic
  • One tablespoon of sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • One teaspoon of dulse flakes
  • One teaspoon of barley miso


You’ll need to soak the raisins in water for at least an hour – you want them to be quite mushy. Then, put the soaked raisins, the raisin water, and all the other ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Pour into a jar and serve or store in the fridge for up to a week.

Cooking with Hoisin Sauce

Now that I’ve answered: is hoisin sauce vegan? You might be wondering how to cook vegan food with it.


The good news is that hoisin sauce is easy to cook with. It’s a great dipping sauce for vegetable spring rolls and dumplings. It also goes well in your favorite stir-fry or on grilled veggies. 


Don’t be afraid to experiment. This sauce is versatile and can also be added to boost the flavor of most meat alternatives and other protein sources.

Substitutes for Hoisin Sauce

There are some reasonable substitutes if you run out of your homemade hoisin sauce. Peanut butter, miso, and black bean paste are all passable substitutes. However, Chinese brown bean sauce is the best replacement.


You can even make a hoisin sauce substitute with your favorite American BBQ sauce. All you need to do is add some sriracha and Chinese five-spice, and you have an almost identical sauce. The only difference is this substitute is a little sweater than hoisin sauce.

set of several different sauces in ceramic saucers. Mushroom, Adjika, cheese, garlic, barbecue

Final Thoughts

Now that I’ve answered the question: is hoisin sauce vegan? You’re free to enjoy this delightful sauce to your heart’s content.


I hope this article has helped you understand hoisin sauce a little better. It’s the perfect sauce for marinating and dipping all your favorite savory vegan foods. Now go out and enjoy all the deliciousness that hoisin sauce offers!


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Jason Hughes
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