Oyster sauce is an incredible way to season your food. You either know about it, or you don’t. Oyster sauce adds a delicious flavor to every bite of food that you season. It also has a wonderful aroma that is quite hard to describe unless you experience it for yourself.
Oyster sauce is both a seasoning and a condiment. It’s a dark brown color and quite thick. It is both salty and sweet, with a hint of earthiness. It has an extremely high level of umami, which we know is vital for creating deep flavor profiles in dishes. Oyster sauce is used by professional chefs, but also passionate at-home chefs.
Oyster sauce is especially great for seasoning stir fries, but it goes well with many other dishes as well. There are two ways to make oyster sauce – the old way and new way.
The old method of creating this delicious sauce is to simmer many oysters in water. Once the juice from the oysters turns into a caramel-like, thick and brown sauce, it’s done!
The modern-day way to make Oyster sauce is much quicker, and cheaper too. All you do is combine sugar and salt, then add cornstarch for thickness. Then add oyster extracts to this base and you’re done. Some manufacturers also add ingredients like soy sauce and even MSG to make it taste better.
Oyster sauce doesn’t have a fishy smell like some fish sauces do. It’s not overly salty like fish sauce is either. Many people think oyster and fish sauce are the same, but they’re completely different things. Some companies are even making vegan oyster sauces now out of mushrooms, since they have a similar texture and flavor profile.
The Sauce Made by Accident
Many people don’t know this, but oyster sauce was actually created completely by accident in 1888. A man named Lee Kum Kee first created oyster sauce without even knowing what he was doing. He always cooked oysters for his many guests, but one day, he did things differently. He placed the oysters on a heat source, but then he forgot to check on them. He accidentally left the stove on while he was busy with his guests.
After a while, he got a whiff of a very strong scent coming from the kitchen. He immediately thought he overcooked the oysters, and quickly rushed to the kitchen. What he saw then truly amazed him. There was a layer of thick, dark brown paste on his wok. It tasted so good, and he knew he did something right without even realizing it.
Now, oyster sauce is created and enjoyed by cultures all across the globe.
The 10 Best Oyster Sauces, Reviewed
With hundreds of different oyster sauces out there, we know how overwhelming it can be to choose the perfect one. In this article, we will outline some of the best oyster sauces so that you can get straight to cooking your delicious dishes faster.
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Kikkoman Oyster Sauce Green
Kikkoman Oyster sauce is very thick. It’s made from the natural oyster extract combined with a few other ingredients for more flavor. This sauce contains no MSG. It is primarily savory with a touch of sweetness. If you don’t like typical fishy flavors, you’ll like this sauce because there’s none of that.
Kikkoman doesn’t sell true traditional Asian oyster sauce. It’s suited more for Americans, which isn’t a bad thing! It’s great for American-Asian dishes. This sauce is recommended to use in rice bowls, salads, wraps, and even sandwiches.
Here are some positive features of this oyster sauce:
- Pre-thickened which helps with adding body to sauces
- Rich with umami flavor (the fifth taste)
- Low in calories
- Made in USA, truly showing how it’s more of an American-Asian inspired sauce
- Zero fat, ideal for those on fat-free diets
Lee Kum Kee Panda Brand
This oyster sauce is an essential ingredient for Chinese cooking. It’s made from different oyster extracts that have been carefully selected for taste. It has a rich color and deep flavor profile.
This oyster sauce isn’t gluten-free, and it does contain MSG as a flavor enhancer. It also has added sugar and salt for more flavors. There are no added preservatives in this sauce. It’s meant to be an overall all-purpose seasoning sauce, and it works well in basically any dish.
Wan Ja Shan Vegetarian Mushroom
This vegetarian oyster sauce still gives you the chance to make authentic Asian vegetarian dishes at home. Instead of oysters, it’s made out of soybeans, wheat, sugar, mushrooms and salt. The soybeans combined with mushrooms provide the earthy flavor that traditional oyster sauce has. The wheat helps to thicken the sauce.
This oyster sauce is great for those who have allergies to seafood, or those who choose not to eat seafood for religious or ethical reasons. This sauce is ideal for stir-fries, dips, and marinades. It also goes well over any noodles or rice.
This vegetarian oyster sauce was made in Taiwan, so it’s as close to the real thing as possible. The preserving period is three years. Even though it’s not gluten-free, it doesn’t contain any MSG.
Thai Oyster Sauce Maekrua Brand
This is a premium Thai brand of oyster sauce. Some even say it’s Thailand’s finest oyster sauce. You can use this oyster sauce generously on stir-fries or other Asian dishes. The manufacturer has been producing oyster sauce for a decade, so they are very experienced and knowledgable about what works and what doesn’t.
The ingredients in this oyster sauce are oyster extract, sugar, salt, soy bean, wheat flour and corn starch. The manufacturer gives a tip of marinating crushed garlic cloves with this oyster sauce for phenomenal flavor.
It comes in a glass bottle which is great for those who are trying to follow a low-waste lifestyle. This Thai oyster sauce was actually made in Thailand. The company even makes a vegetarian oyster sauce alternative for those who can’t eat seafood.
Asamurasaki Oyster Sauce
We already know that Oyster sauce comes from Thailand and Chinese cultures, but this specific oyster sauce comes from Japan. It comes in a 600 ml bottle. It has a higher content of soy sauce compared to other oyster sauces, and some don’t even include soy sauce.
The interesting thing about this oyster sauce is that it doesn’t actually contain any oysters. The main ingredient is soy sauce, and after that the other ingredients include sugar, salt, and rice wine vinegar. The soy sauce is naturally brewed, but what makes this classify as an oyster sauce is the oyster essence that is added towards the end.
This oyster sauce works well in almost all Japanese dishes. It has a savory light taste that’s full of umami. You can use this sauce for tofu, fried rice, soup, and stir-fries.
Wok Mei Gluten Free
This is the first gluten-free oyster sauce that we’ve included in this list. They’re surprisingly hard to come by. If you or anyone in your family has a gluten-intolerance, this oyster sauce is for you. This oyster sauce is great for Vietnamese, Thai, and Chinese cooking. It’s especially delicious in chow Mein dishes.
This is a high-quality oyster sauce, containing no unnecessary fillers. There are no refined sugars or modified starches in this sauce. There’s also no MSG in here. The ingredients include filtered water, dried cane syrup, caramel color, salt, non-GMO corn starch, vinegar, maltodextrin, and oyster extract.
The fact that this company uses non-GMO cornstarch truly shows their commitment to high-quality food. They care about their customers and make sure that none of the ingredients they use are even potentially harmful.
If you purchase this oyster sauce from Amazon, it will come in 2 8oz glass jars. These glass jars are great because they can be reused for anything else you’d like. This is appealing to those following a zero waste lifestyle.
Wok Mei Oyster Sauce is great for adding umami to Asian dishes without taking away or overpowering their natural flavors. This company even recommends using their oyster sauce in gravies, which is something that we haven’t seen recommended before.
The name Wok Mei is Chinese for “Perfect Wok Flavor.” When you want to compliment a Chinese chef, you say “Ho Wok Mei.” This means that all five aspects of cooking (temperature, smell, color, texture and taste) are all at perfect levels.
Finally, this Asian-inspired oyster sauce is made in the USA. That’s likely why it’s gluten-free. It also has a lower sodium and sugar content compared to other oyster sauces. This is great for those with diabetes or high blood pressure.
Lee Kum Kee Premium
The Lee Kum Kee brand is known for producing high-quality Asian sauces. The inventor of oyster sauce itself was Lee Kum Kee, so that on its own says a lot. This sauce is made out of original oyster extracts (water, oyster, salt), wheat, sugar, water, corn starch (for thickening), and MSG as a flavor enhancer.
This oyster sauce will taste different from all the rest due to secret recipes and techniques that only the inventor of oyster sauce knows. It’s recommended for use on all meat and vegetable dishes, and even egg dishes such as omelettes. It makes the perfect finishing touch to steamed bok choy. This oyster sauce is full of umami and flavor, so you only need a few drops to enhance the entire flavor of a dish.
It’s a bit on the sweeter side compared to other oyster sauces, but not overwhelmingly sweet because the salt balances it out. You’re supposed to use 4 tablespoons of this oyster sauce for every 1 pound of meat, seafood, vegetables, pasta, or rice. Like all other oyster sauces, it should be refrigerated after opening in the glass bottle that it comes in.
Finally, this oyster sauce was made in Hong Kong.
Dynasty Oyster Sauce
Dynasty oyster sauce has the perfect savory balance of both sweet and salty. It doesn’t have a strong one, but there is a very mild fish flavor. This is seen as a good thing to many because it adds a twist to dishes that otherwise wouldn’t be there.
The mild fish flavor comes from the fish protein extract which is one of the ingredients in this oyster sauce. This is the first oyster sauce on this list to have this unique ingredient. The oyster flavor in this sauce comes from oyster extract that has been mixed with water and salt. Other ingredients in this sauce include water, salt, sugar, modified tapioca starch (used as a thickening agent) and soy sauce extract.
Thai Oyster Sauce Maekrua Brand – Thai Original
This Thai oyster sauce is great for adding seasoning and flavor to any food. The 300 cc bottle of thick and rich sauce was made in Thailand. You can use generous amounts of this oyster sauce at a time and it will only improve the flavor of your dishes. The only downside of this oyster sauce is that it’s typically hard to find in stores, but thankfully you can get it on Amazon.
The ingredients in this oyster sauce are oyster extracts, soybeans, cornstarch (for thickening), wheat flour, and sodium benzoate (as a preservative).
Dragonfly Premium Oyster Sauce
Dragonfly Premium Oyster sauce truly is premium. It doesn’t contain any harmful additives. It doesn’t contain any MSG and it also has a lower sodium content compared to other brands. Even with the lower sodium content, the oyster flavor is still enhanced and rich.
The sauce comes in an easy-to-use plastic squeeze bottle. It’s recommended to use for any meat or veggie dishes. You can also simply top rice or noodles with this oyster sauce. This sauce is best for Chinese-style cooking. The ingredients in this oyster sauce are water, oyster extract, sugar, salt, corn starch, soy sauce (soy bean, wheat), and preservatives (sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate).
What Dishes Can Oyster Sauce be Used In?
Oyster sauce goes great in a variety of Asian dishes. Here are some ways that you can apply different oyster sauces to your culinary creations.
- As a finishing sauce – After you have cooked seafood (whether its by grilling or boiling) you can drizzle the oyster sauce on as a final touch. This also works for cooked meat and poultry. It also works as a finishing sauce on any stir fried or steamed vegetables, or on rice.
- As a flavor enhancer – Any dish that has deep layered flavors can use some oyster sauce. It can help make soups, stews, and sauces taste better.
- Marinades – You can add soy sauce to any marinades for seafood, meat, poultry, or even plant-based protein sources like tofu or tempeh.
- Noodle dishes – Adding oyster sauce to any noodle dish adds a splash of unique flavor and can change the color of the dish as well.
- Glazes – Oyster sauce makes a good addition to glazes. It boosts their flavor, can change the color, and adds a nice layer of appealing sheen.
- Stir fries – If you’re making a stir fry and want a touch of Asian flavor, oyster sauce will be your new go-to addition.
Tips for Incorporating Oyster Sauce into Dishes
Sometimes simply adding oyster sauce into whatever dish you’re cooking isn’t the best way to do so. There are specific tips you can follow to get the best taste possible out of the oyster sauce. Here they are!
- Don’t heat the oyster sauce for a very long time. This can destroy the natural taste. Heating the sauce for too long will remove any umami flavor that the oyster sauce has, automatically making the dish less flavorful. In order to avoid this, simply add the oyster sauce at the very end, when the dish is almost done. Then the sauce won’t get overheated, it will be heated enough but still retain its umami properties.
- Try not to expose oyster sauce to high heats. Too intense of a heat can cause the oyster sauce to lose its umami flavor. Using intense heat can even cause the sauce to taste bitter.
- If you have smelly fish or meat, try marinating it with oyster sauce. This can help eliminate any unpleasant scents that exist. For best results, keep the marinade on throughout the night.
- If you’re using oyster sauce in a dish, you likely won’t need to add any salt. Adding salt in addition to oyster sauce can make the dish way too salty.
What Brands to Go With?
There are so many different companies out there that make oyster sauce, it’s difficult to know what one is best. To determine what brand is best for you, you first need to decide what cuisine you primarily cook. Do you cook lots of Japanese food? What about Thai food, or Chinese food? Every Asian culture has different techniques and ways of cooking food. Once you figure that out, it’s time to look for brands of oyster sauce made in those countries.
If you enjoy Thai food, first make sure that the oyster sauce says “made in Thailand.” Each oyster sauce will differ depending on the country it was made in. For example, oyster sauce made in Japan usually has high levels of soy sauce in it.
Understanding the Difference Between Types of Oyster Sauce
Many people don’t know this, but there are actually two types of oyster sauce that exist. One of them is bottled oyster sauce, which is commonly referred to as oyster-flavored sauce. The second type of oyster sauce isn’t as strong, it’s a cooked sauce that simply contains osyter-flavored sauce, but that’s not the only thing in it.
To differentiate them, we’ll refer to one as bottled oyster sauce, and the other as cooked oyster sauce. So, bottled oyster sauce, as we know, contains oyster extracts or essences, soy sauce, brine, salt, and usually sugar. It’s rich, full of umami, thick, salty, and brown in color.
Cooked oyster sauce, on the other hand, has many more ingredients. Some of these ingredients can include sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, meat-based broths, fortified wine, and more. These ingredients are all in addition to any oyster extracts or essences used. The cooked sauce is thickened with cornstarch.
Should Oyster Sauce Have a Fishy Taste?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Most oyster sauces simply taste like oyster, but some do have a fishy undertone. When it comes down to it, it’s totally personal preference whether you prefer a fishy flavor in your oyster sauce or not. Usually, if an oyster sauce has fish protein extract, you can expect it to taste somewhat “fishy.” If you don’t like this taste, simply look for an oyster extract without this ingredient.
Where to Buy Oyster Sauce?
This article includes links to all the oyster sauces we reviewed on Amazon. If for some reason Amazon doesn’t deliver to your area, you can find oyster sauces at Asian markets. There’s usually a very large section of them to choose from. Some large supermarkets that have an international aisle will carry oyster sauce too, but they might be lacking in variety.
How to Store Oyster Sauce
How you store oyster sauce will determine its lifespan and taste over time. After opening the bottle of oyster sauce, keep it refrigerated in the airtight bottle. The sooner you consume it, the better. On average, oyster sauces keep fresh in the fridge for around 3 to 6 months. The shorter lifespan is due to how fresh the sauce is.
We hope this article opened your eyes to the world of oyster sauce. Hopefully, you now have insight on where oyster sauce originated from, how it’s made, how to cook with it, where to buy it, how to store it, and more. We even included the best tips for making your dishes taste delicious with oyster sauce.
Oyster sauce is something that every household with passionate cooks should have in its cupboards. We know how hard it can be choosing the perfect one, so we hope this list narrowed down your options and made the decision easier for you.