Oyster sauce has become a staple ingredient in Asian cooking. It is used in a variety of dishes and is extremely popular, not only in restaurants but for people to use at home.
For vegans, it can be difficult in restaurants to tell if certain sauces are suitable for vegans, especially if the rest of the dish contains vegetables or tofu.
Oyster sauce comes from the oysters themselves or a fermented mixture of soybeans, wheat, salt, sugar, and sometimes other ingredients such as rice wine or vinegar.
This can make it even more difficult for vegans as there isn’t a set recipe for oyster sauce, it can sometimes be vegan but most of the time, it isn’t.
If you want to find out more about oyster sauces, we have lots of information below so that you can be sure that you are following a vegan or vegetarian diet whilst enjoying delicious tasting food. Here is everything you need to know about oyster sauce!
What Is Oyster Sauce?
Oyster sauce is a thick, salty, dark brown liquid with a sweet taste. The main ingredients are soybeans, wheat, cornstarch, water, salt, and sugar.
The sauce can be a confusing one to vegetarians and vegans as although it is made with fish, it doesn’t taste like fish and tastes like it should be vegan.
As oyster sauce doesn’t taste like it contains fish, you can create an authentic vegan version.
How Is Oyster Sauce Made?
Traditional oyster sauce is not vegan as oysters are simmered in water to create the sauce.
After a while, the juices from the simmered oysters caramelize and form a thick consistency that resembles hoisin sauce.
The flavor is entirely formed from the oysters and it is a lot healthier than store-bought oyster sauce.
Brands that mass-produce oyster sauce have found a quicker way to produce an oyster sauce, but it isn’t a very healthy recipe.
Lots of companies use cornstarch, salt, and sugar to form the thickness of the sauce before adding oyster extracts to resemble the taste of the traditional oyster sauce.
To make sure that the appearance of the sauce is authentic, soy sauce and MSG are usually added to provide the dark, rich color of oyster sauce.
Is Oyster Sauce Similar To Fish Sauce?
Although they are both made from fish, oyster sauce is very different from fish sauce.
Oyster sauce is much thicker and darker in color compared to fish sauce as it is made with caramelized oyster juices, whereas fish sauce is made from salt and fermented fish.
If you find a restaurant that serves vegan oyster sauce, you will be able to tell the difference between vegan oyster sauce and fish sauce.
Fish sauce is lighter in color and smells and tastes just like fish. With oyster sauce, you won’t be able to taste any fish, especially not in a vegan one.
Is Oyster Sauce Vegan Or Vegetarian?
As oyster sauces are made from oysters, it isn’t suitable for vegans or vegetarians.
However, as it doesn’t have a strong fish flavor when you taste it, it is very easy to replicate the taste of the sauce with a vegan recipe.
Most vegan oyster sauce recipes contain oyster mushrooms.
Despite their name, they do not contain any oysters but work great in a vegan oyster sauce as they have a strong umami flavor.
Oysters also have an umami flavor, making them the perfect vegan alternative for oysters.
If you are a pescatarian, traditional oyster sauce is suitable for you to eat as it only contains seafood.
If you do not eat any meat at all, then oyster sauce is easy to avoid as you can easily get the same taste from a vegan recipe.
How To Make Vegan Oyster Sauce
If you want to make a vegan oyster sauce at home, it is very easy to do and doesn’t take long at all.
You can use it the same way as traditional oyster sauce, and you know exactly what is in the recipe as you will have made it yourself!
Firstly, soak dried shiitake mushrooms in water overnight to make sure that they are completely rehydrated when you use them to make your oyster sauce.
Alternatively, you can use oyster mushrooms to make the sauce.
Once your mushrooms are soft, drain them in a sieve and save the water to use in the sauce. Put the mushrooms to one side to use later.
In a pan, heat avocado oil and add mushrooms, chopped ginger, and salt, and fry them for around 5 minutes. Add the coconut aminos and continue to fry the mixture for another minute.
Once they’re done, add the mushrooms, ginger, coconut aminos, salt, pitted dates, and mushroom water into a blender and blend until the mixture is smooth.
There should be no pieces of mushroom in the sauce, so make sure to blend until they all disappear.
As soon as the mixture has become completely smooth, your vegan oyster sauce is finished!
You can store the sauce in the fridge for 2 weeks in an airtight container to prevent any moisture from getting to the sauce and keep the sauce fresh to use.
Is Oyster Sauce Gluten-Free?
As many oyster sauce recipes use soy sauce in them, lots of store-bought oyster sauces may be unsuitable for those who are gluten-free.
The caramel coloring that is used in oyster sauce can contain wheat in some cases, which needs to be avoided by people who are gluten intolerant.
The recipe above is suitable for people who are gluten intolerant.
The benefit of making your sauce at home is that you are aware of what you are putting in it.
For vegans and people who are gluten-free, it can be difficult to find products that are suitable and trustworthy.
Making your sauce allows you to easily replicate the taste of oyster sauce without being worried about the consequences.
Is MSG Vegan?
MSG isn’t considered to be a healthy ingredient to consume, but it is vegan.
It has a high level of umami, which means that it works very well in vegan sauces, but it isn’t the healthiest ingredient to add to oyster sauce and you can use healthier alternatives like oyster mushrooms.
Although MSG is found in cheese, it is usually plant-based as it is derived from fermented starch.
MSG is often found in store-bought sauces, so it is healthier to make your own when you can.
To conclude, oyster sauce isn’t considered to be vegan as it contains oysters.
Oysters are simmered until their juices form a thick sauce that is the traditional oyster sauce that is very popular around the world.
However, as oyster sauce doesn’t have a strong fish taste, it is very easy to replicate the flavor in vegan recipes.
Oyster and shiitake mushrooms are very popular vegan alternatives to use in the vegan oyster sauce as they contain umami, the same as oysters.
The sauce only contains a handful of ingredients and only takes 15 minutes to make.
When making homemade sauces, it is very settling for vegans as you know exactly what you are putting into your sauce to know that it is suitable for you to eat.