What is oyster sauce, what does it taste like, what is it eaten with and where is it added? 6 sauce recipes for cooking at home

Types of oyster sauce

What is oyster sauce

In Thailand, China, Japan and many neighboring countries, this sauce is added almost anywhere. From noodles to salads, soups to tempura meats, it goes with everything.

And domestic gourmets have already learned to add it to more familiar dishes. Therefore, oyster sauce is in demand and is sold in most large stores.

The phrase oyster sauce refers to a dark brown liquid with a subtle and unusual aroma. It is prepared either from whole oysters or from oyster extract with the addition of several other ingredients.

There are different varieties available in the mass market, but good brands have them prepared using real shellfish in one way or another.

Legend has it that the sauce was invented not so long ago – just in the 19th century. Chinese chef Li Kum Shen, the owner of a small restaurant (they say he worked there alone) worked so hard during the day that he accidentally fell asleep.

And the pan in which he wanted to cook oyster stew for dinner remained simmering over low heat.

When the cook woke up, he discovered that the liquid in the pan had caramelized and became thick, like sugar syrup. And the aroma turned out to be so pleasant that our hero could not resist and tried the “dish”.

Turns out he made a great sauce! The delighted man began adding it to most of the food in his restaurant, and soon the place became very popular.

The same legend also describes the recipe for the sauce. It is still in use today. The sauce, prepared according to the teachings of Lee Kum Shen, is now called classic. This recipe, like several others, will be given later in the article.

Types of sauce

Properly prepared oyster sauce always contains either a decoction of real shellfish or a powdered extract. It must be said that the second option is not a fake at all.

Oriental cooks learned how to ferment fish and seafood many centuries ago, so their dry extracts are nothing more than a processed original product with an enhanced taste.

There are 4 varieties of this popular supplement:

  • classic sauce (considered universal – it can be added almost anywhere);
  • oyster-pepper (Japanese version, used mainly with seafood);
  • Thai (for chicken and noodles);
  • creamy (popular in combination with vegetables).

What it looks like, photo

Oyster sauce looks like a syrupy, thick liquid of a dark brown, almost black color. Visually, it is very similar to teriyaki and concentrated soy sauce. Most often there is a caramel shine.

What does it taste and smell like?

People who have not tried this additive often wonder what does oyster sauce taste like? First of all, oyster sauce tastes like a cross between soy sauce and fish sauce (but much less harsh and pronounced).

The taste is spicy and delicate, perfectly complementing the dishes’ own flavors, and the saltiness is balanced by sweetness, forming the so-called umami taste. The salty flavor in the sauce is closer to ocean water than table salt.

In addition, oyster sauce tastes similar to Worcestershire. More precisely, a mixture of Worcestershire and soy. Often, in order to reduce the cost of production, this mixture is even used to replace real sauce.

Having decided what oyster sauce tastes like, you should pay attention to the aroma. It is weakly expressed, practically not similar to the specific smell of sea fish.

Aromatically, it is closest to fresh oysters, but it is also vaguely similar to other shellfish – shrimp, scallops.

Benefits and harms

Having understood what oyster sauce is, it would be logical to move on to its beneficial properties. After all, the natural composition of this supplement has a good effect on human health. Of course, only with regular and moderate use.

When nutritionists and doctors talk about oyster sauce, the beneficial properties they usually mean are:

  • promotes the removal of cholesterol;
  • normalizes metabolism;
  • improves appetite (a common feature of seafood);
  • normalizes digestion;
  • increases immunity;
  • relieves stress and, according to anecdotal evidence, even helps get rid of depression;
  • stimulates brain function;
  • improves liver secretion (useful for a number of diseases and when drinking alcohol);
  • improves the functioning of the circulatory system;
  • charges with vigor.

Of course, nothing is completely harmless, and oyster sauce is no exception. It cannot harm healthy people, but it is quite capable of harming carriers of a number of diseases. It is better not to use it when you have any of the following diagnoses:

  • serious diseases of the gastrointestinal tract (acute gastritis, any gastrointestinal ulcers, pancreatitis);
  • diabetes;
  • obesity;
  • allergic reaction to seafood.

What’s in it and how it’s made

Over the long history of the additive, several variations of what oyster sauce is made from have appeared. Therefore, recipes often differ, and quite significantly. But the traditional composition of oyster sauce includes the following ingredients:

  • oysters;
  • water (less often fish broth);
  • salt (sea or rock);
  • sugar (not always);
  • wheat flour or corn starch;
  • caramel color (dye added for color and does not affect the taste at all).

The combination of oysters, salt and sugar creates a unique taste that the Japanese call umami. This means that the dish does not have its own distinct flavor, but instead brings out the flavor qualities of other foods.

Like many seafood, oysters are a natural source of the mineral MSG.

There is also a vegetarian method of preparation. Instead of shellfish, it contains shiitake mushrooms, and instead of water, it contains soy sauce. It turns out very similar to oyster, although not exactly the same.

Oyster sauce is prepared in 2 main stages:

  • first boil chopped shellfish in water;
  • then add sugar with other ingredients and continue cooking.

The preparation method will be discussed in more detail below in the oyster sauce recipes. But the general principle is always the same and does not depend on the exact list of ingredients. The dish is boiled for at least 15-20 minutes to achieve the required taste and thickness.

Use in cooking

When approaching the question of where oyster sauce is added, it is worth remembering its origin once again. This supplement comes from China, but is popular in all countries of the Far East.

To understand how oyster sauce should be used, you just need to pay attention to the national cuisine of these countries. There it is put, without exaggeration, in most dishes, excluding desserts.

Most often, oyster sauce is added to prepared dishes as a dressing. But sometimes oyster sauce is a marinade, and it also copes with this function very well.

How to use

An important nuance of using oyster sauce is that traditionally it is never served in its pure form (like, for example, soy sauce for rolls and sushi). The sauce can be added to a dish, or it can be combined with other seasonings and then used as a dip.

There are 4 main principles for using this supplement:

  • put in the dish at the very end of cooking, right before turning off the heat;
  • before adding the sauce, reduce the heat to a minimum – due to the high temperature, it risks becoming bitter and simply losing its taste;
  • add a little – from 0.5 to 1 tbsp. l. per serving;
  • The sauce is quite salty, so initially the dish does not need to be salted at all (or just a little salt).

But traditions are traditions, and lunch is on schedule. That’s why fast food establishments often serve pepper-oyster sauce with French fries. Oyster sauce is also suitable for potatoes prepared according to other popular recipes – Idaho, Country style, etc.

Next, it’s worth considering in detail what oyster sauce is used for and what oyster sauce goes with. After all, the best qualities of this supplement can only be appreciated if it is used correctly.

What is it eaten with?

Many countries around the world prepare a wide variety of dishes with oyster sauce. And if you ask chefs from different countries where you can add oyster sauce, they will name different options. But the average list of suitable dishes looks like this:

  • seafood soups;
  • fried seafood (especially squid, mussels, shrimp);
  • rice dishes;
  • noodles (especially udon and funchose);
  • fish (baked and boiled);
  • stews from anything (fish, seafood, meat and even vegetables);
  • any grilled food;
  • fried and baked meat (any kind, although the most popular is poultry);
  • mushroom snacks;
  • salads with seafood or seaweed (usually the dressing is made by mixing the sauce with olive oil).

As you can see, oyster sauce is poured not only on fish and seafood, but also on seemingly completely inappropriate dishes. It is also often used as a base for marinades and more complex sauces.

Look how our respected chef Ilya Isaakovich Lazerson uses oyster sauce.

What to replace

Fish, Garum and Worcestershire sauces

Due to the presence of oysters in the composition, the sauce is quite expensive. Therefore, many are rightly interested in how to replace expensive oyster sauce in a recipe. In short, there are only 2 options here:

  • preferred – a combination of soy sauce with Worcestershire (the latter only needs a few drops);
  • as a last resort – fish sauce (much saltier and with a distinct aroma, but very similar in texture);
  • the rarest is Garum sauce (an ancient Roman version of fish sauce).

Some people prefer to use mushroom sauce (especially shiitake sauce) instead of oyster sauce. But the taste is very different, so the mushroom version is not a complete replacement for the oyster one.

Its main advantage is that it goes well with the same dishes as oyster, although of course the principles of their production are significantly different.

What doesn’t go with

This versatile additive is not suitable for just one type of dish. If the recipe includes a lot of spices (especially spicy and hot ones), then the delicate taste of the oysters will simply be overwhelmed.

Therefore, it is not suitable for dishes of Indian and Caucasian cuisines. It also gets lost when combined with Chinese sweet and sour sauce.

Otherwise, the additive is universal. Of course, it is not included in desserts, but it is easily included in alcoholic cocktails and even baked goods. Everything is limited only by the imagination of the cook.

Classic recipe

The traditional recipe, which is easy to make oyster sauce at home, includes fresh oysters. Of course, in domestic stores they are always sold frozen (or defrosted). The main thing is that shellfish should not be canned.


  • oysters (with liquid) – 300 g;
  • water – 2 tbsp. l. (if there is no liquid in the oysters, then 200 ml);
  • soy sauce – 100 ml;
  • corn starch – 0.5 tsp;
  • ground black pepper.


  1. Chop the shellfish as small as possible.
  2. Place in a small saucepan or saucepan. Add clam liquid and water.
  3. Place on fire and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce the heat to low – this will prevent the oysters from sticking. To cover with a lid.
  5. Cook for 10 minutes.
  6. Strain through a regular flour sieve.
  7. Oysters can be thrown away. And return the liquid (now it looks more like puree) back to the heat.
  8. Dissolve starch in soy sauce. Add to the pan and stir thoroughly.
  9. Cook for another 10 to 15 minutes until it thickens to a sugar syrup. Then remove from heat.

The prepared sauce can be used immediately without cooling or leaving to infuse. Can be added to dishes directly while hot.

Simple recipe

An easy and inexpensive (though time-consuming) recipe for making oyster sauce that doesn’t use the oysters themselves. The imitation of taste is not perfect, but very good.

Plus, the recipe is completely vegetarian. It is often used in Asia in fast food restaurants – it turns out economically, and when added to a fatty and hot dish, the difference is almost unnoticeable.


  • dried shiitake mushrooms – 50 g;
  • water – 200 ml;
  • soy sauce – 50 ml;
  • olive oil – 1 tbsp. l.;
  • sesame oil – 1 tsp;
  • sugar – 1 tsp. l.;
  • ginger root;
  • salt

How to make oyster sauce:

  1. Soak shiitake mushrooms in cold water.
  2. After 3 hours, rinse and chop finely. Also finely chop the ginger root.
  3. Place both ingredients into the pan. Fry in olive oil for 1 minute (over low heat).
  4. Add chopped mushrooms and sesame oil. Fry for another 2 minutes.
  5. Pour in soy sauce and salt. Mix. Leave for another 1 minute.
  6. Add sugar and water.
  7. Cover with a lid and simmer for 20-30 minutes (until thickened).

The finished dish can be served like this, or you can beat it in a blender to obtain the desired consistency. After all, initially there are pieces of mushrooms and ginger in the sauce.

Pepper-oyster sauce

Pepper-oyster sauce

No less popular recipe than the “classic” – oyster sauce with pepper. It is used to season rice dishes, as well as when serving sushi and rolls (as an alternative to soy).


  • oysters – 200 g (or extract – 25 ml);
  • water (or fish broth) – 500 ml;
  • corn starch – 20 g;
  • sugar (it’s better to take brown – for color) – 10 g;
  • ground black pepper – 1 tsp.

How to make oyster sauce:

  1. Pour water (or broth) into the pan.
  2. Turn on the heat and heat up high. Without bringing to a boil, add sugar.
  3. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  4. Add oyster extract. Mix again.
  5. Pour about half of the mixture into a separate bowl. Add starch there and dissolve.
  6. Pour from the bowl back into the pan.
  7. Boil and simmer over low heat until thickened.
  8. Turn off the fire. Cool slightly. Add pepper and stir.

It is advisable to add ground pepper at the moment when the sauce can already be comfortably touched with your hands, but at the same time it has not yet completely cooled down. Then the prepared product will be the most fragrant.

Thai recipe for fresh oysters

Thai oyster sauce includes several unusual ingredients – cream, onion and garlic. Therefore, it tastes completely different, but also wonderful.


  • oysters – 400 g;
  • water – 400 ml;
  • soy sauce – 70 ml;
  • butter – 70 g;
  • cream – 50 ml;
  • chicken broth – 100 ml;
  • wheat flour – 40 g;
  • white onion – 40 g;
  • garlic – 1 clove;
  • ground ginger root – 20 g;
  • lemon juice – 1 tsp;
  • basil;
  • thyme.

Cooking process:

  1. Place whole clams in shells in a saucepan along with water.
  2. Turn on the heat and heat until the water is about to boil.
  3. Before the boil begins, remove the oysters. Cool slightly, remove from shells and finely chop.
  4. Also chop the onion and garlic. Fry in butter until half cooked.
  5. Add ginger to the pan and fry for another 2 minutes.
  6. Add shredded oysters, spices and lemon juice to the pan. Mix. Fry for another 5 minutes over low heat.
  7. Add soy sauce, chicken broth and about 70 ml of broth left over from boiling the oysters.
  8. Stirring constantly, simmer until thickened.

In Thailand, this sauce is served hot. But if you wish, you can cool it a little and beat it in a blender so that there are no pieces of onion and garlic left.

Chinese oyster sauce

This Chinese oyster sauce differs from the classic recipe in the presence of vegetables and sake (can be replaced with dry white wine). Despite the unusual composition, this recipe for Chinese oyster sauce with soy sauce is also very tasty.


  • oysters – 300 g;
  • water – 600 ml;
  • soy sauce – 100 ml;
  • rice vinegar – 100 ml;
  • sake – 100 ml;
  • white onion – 300 g;
  • radish – 250 g;
  • corn starch – 25 g.

How to make the sauce:

  1. Finely chop the oysters (or put them through a blender). Add to water and boil for 10 minutes.
  2. Grind the onion and radish into a paste.
  3. Add all ingredients to oyster broth. Boil.
  4. Place on low heat and simmer for about 1 hour.
  5. Add starch, first diluting it with cold water. Mix.
  6. Boil for another 15 minutes.

Add it little by little to burger sauces with beef patty and you will be happy!

Canned Oyster Sauce

Canned oysters

This dish can be prepared in different ways – from fresh shellfish, from their extract, and even from substitutes. Canned oyster sauce is another worthy option. Soy-oyster sauce prepared according to this recipe goes well with a wide variety of dishes.


  • oysters (canned) – 250 g;
  • soy sauce – 100 ml;
  • water – 2 tbsp. L.;
  • sugar (preferably brown) – 1 tbsp. l.;
  • lemon juice – 2 tbsp. l.;
  • corn starch – 1 tsp;
  • salt;
  • ground black pepper.


  1. Pour all the marinade from the can of clams into a small saucepan.
  2. Finely chop the oysters (you can also grind them in a blender).
  3. Add chopped clams to marinade. Pour water in there.
  4. Place on low heat. Cook for 10 minutes.
  5. Strain in any way. Return the resulting liquid after straining to low heat.
  6. Add all other ingredients. To stir thoroughly.
  7. Boil for another 10 minutes, stirring constantly. It is advisable that the mixture does not reach a boil.

The supplement made according to this recipe does not last long. Therefore, it is better to use it in the next 3-4 days – fortunately, it goes with almost everything.

Where to buy, how to select and store

Asian cuisine is now popular in all corners of the planet. Therefore, oyster sauce is found on the shelves of most large supermarkets and hypermarkets. There’s probably a bottle or two in the regular seasoning aisle.

To choose a good sauce, you should carefully study the composition on the package. This can be problematic, because the goods are almost always imported, and not all stores affix a sticker with the translation. But it is still advisable to investigate the composition. Ingredients of a good product include:

  • eat oysters (or oyster powder);
  • no flavorings;
  • there is water (if there is broth instead of water, most likely it is intended to compensate for the lack of oysters);
  • no soy sauce (serves the same role as broth).

If the ingredients list oysters and there are no flavorings, you can ignore the other components. This is already a good real sauce.

It is worth understanding that a quality product will not be cheap. The best option is at least 2-3 times more expensive than ordinary soybean. If the product is suspiciously cheap, then most likely there will be practically no oyster taste in it.

After purchasing the sauce, you should leave it in the bottle. The “factory” container always has an airtight lid, under which the sauce is stored for at least 3-4 months. If there is no sealed lid (or it is damaged), you should pour it into a securely closing container.

It is very easy to determine that a product has gone bad. It stops shining, becomes dull and begins to smell weaker. Teriyaki, unagi and other Asian sauces of similar color show similar signs of spoilage.

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