Learn how to make umami packed vegetarian oyster sauce with this easy step by step recipe! This vegan mushroom stir fry sauce is perfect substitution for any recipe that calls for oyster sauce.
Vegetarian oyster sauce is an ingredient I use in many of my dishes so I often get asked if there is a way to make it at home as its not readily available in some countries. After a few test batches, I’ve finally come up with a recipe worth sharing that not only tastes BETTER than store bought, but also made with easy to find ingredients.
How to Make Vegetarian Oyster Sauce
Ingredients (+ Substitutions)
When developing this recipe I first started by looking at the ingredients in store bought vegetarian oyster sauce (Lee Kum Kee) which contains the following: water, sugar, soy sauce, salt, modified corn starch, yeast extract, caramel color, natural and artificial mushroom flavour. I took the same ingredients and tested out different ratios and added a few additional ingredients to make (IMO) the best tasting stir fry sauce that really reminds me of the real oyster sauce I used to use! Here’s what you’ll need:
- Dried shiitake mushrooms: This is the key ingredient that replaces the ‘oyster’ flavour and packs in a lot of umami flavour.
- Miso paste: Another ingredient that I think really adds an additional umami element and saltiness. I find red miso paste to work better here but any miso paste you have on hand will do.
- Cane sugar: Sweetness to balance out the saltiness. The sugar gets caramelized for an extra depth of flavour, too! More on that below.
- Soy sauce: For colour and saltiness.
- Dark soy sauce: Gives that ‘oyster’ sauce appearance by darkening the sauce.
- Corn starch: To thicken the sauce.
In addition, you can also add other seasonings such as garlic, ginger, Chinese five spice, mushroom seasoning powder or msg for a boost of flavour.
Step by Step Directions
I first made this recipe simply by blending all the ingredients and thickening it over the stove. While it tasted good, it was missing something. A deep flavour that I couldn’t quite put my tongue on. I went over three brands of vegetarian stir fry sauce again and ‘caramel colour’ stood out to me.
I had some leftover caramel sauce from my Japanese purin recipe I was testing and tested a small batch with it. THIS was the missing component! Japanese caramel sauce for purin has a bittersweet complex flavour to it that adds another depth of flavour that truly ties this sauce together. Making caramel sauce can be slightly tricky at first so here are some tips and tricks to make it easy:
- Mushroom mixture: Pour the soaking water through a fine mesh sieve to remove any excess dirt. Cut the softened rehydrated mushrooms with scissors (optional, you can skip this step if you have a high speed blender). Blend the soaking water and mushrooms until smooth.
- Caramel: In a saucepan over medium heat add sugar and water. Do not mix or swirl the pan. Let the mixture bubble until amber in colour. As soon as it begins to change colour, do not take your eyes off of it as it can over-thicken or burn in a matter of seconds. Turn off the heat and then add in the hot water. Be careful as the water may splash due to the vigorous bubbling. Stir the caramel– at this point it should be slightly runny and smooth.
- Finishing the sauce: Add the blended mushroom mixture to the saucepan and stir with the caramel sauce. Turn the heat back on over low to medium low. Add the soy sauce, dark soy sauce, miso paste, salt and any additional seasonings of choice and whisk until well combined. Then drizzle in the corn starch slurry while continuing to whisk until thickened to desired consistency. The mixture will thicken more as it cools. Taste and adjust the saltiness to your liking.
How to Store Homemade Stir Fry Sauce
- Remove from heat and once cooled, transfer to an air tight container.
- Refrigerator: Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
- Freezing: Store in the freezer for up to 3 months. I recommend keeping it in ice cube trays for easy removal.
Recipes & Ways to Use Vegetarian Stir Fry Sauce
- Perfect for any kind of stir fries
- Add it to sauces for quick noodles or for vegetables
- Add it to marinades for vegetable and tofu (or other proteins) dishes
- Vegan Poke Bowl with Crispy Tofu
- Vegan Kaki Fry (Japanese Fried Oysters)
- Eggplant Kabayaki (Vegan Unagi Don)
- Vegan Teriyaki ‘Salmon’
- Spicy Stir Fried ‘Squid’
- Vegan Mentaiko (Spicy Cod Roe)
- Vegan Dashi – coming soon!
If you recreate this Vegetarian Oyster Sauce recipe let me know how you liked it by leaving a comment and rating below or by tagging me on Instagram @Okonomikitchen, I love seeing all of your tasty recreations!
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