Black bean sauce is also known as black bean paste, black bean garlic sauce, or Tochidjan. This sauce is prepared from douchi, garlic, soy sauce, ginger, and sugar. Chilly peppers can be added optionally. Douchiis fermented and salted black soybeans are often confused with black turtle beans because of the same color, but they are completely different.
Douchiis used as a seasoning in many Chinese dishes, and also for making black bean paste and black bean sauce. They are salty with a lightly sweet-bitter taste. Fermented black beans used as paste are packed in jars, and those used as a sauce in bottles.
Black bean sauce is used as a condiment in cooking to add flavor and color to dishes. You can use it in stir-fries, noodles, steamed dishes, dishes with chicken and beef meat, on vegetables, fried rice, and in many other recipes.
If you want to have a dish with a unique umami flavor you can use black bean sauce. It pairs well with almost any ingredient and any way of preparing food including baking, stir-frying, grilling, steaming. You can also use it as a dipping sauce, marinade, or in salads.
Black bean sauce is an aromatic sauce. But you can add some other aromatic ingredients for better flavor such as onion, shallot, green onion, dried chili peppers, Sichuan peppercorns, and ginger. It all depends on your taste.
If you don’t have this sauce on hand, you can use hoisin sauce, miso paste, tianmian sauce, or some of the following substitutes.
Black Bean Sauce Substitutes
There are many sauces in Asian cuisine. You only have to find the right sauce to match your dish. Sometimes black bean sauce can be a good match with any dish. You can find it in the section for sauces in your market. Or in Asian markets.
However, if you forget to buy it or they don’t have it in your store you can use some ingredients from your pantry to make a variation of black bean sauce. Some of the sauces mentioned below can be a pretty good substitute for black bean sauce.
1. Hoisin sauce
Hoisin sauce is made of fermented soybeans, garlic, sesame oil, red chili peppers, vinegar, and sweetener. There are other regional alternatives made with added starches, spices, fennel, sesame seeds, and salt.
Hoisin sauce has a dark color, a salty and slightly sweet flavor. You can use it as marinade sauce for meats, dipping sauce, in stir-fries, or added to soups. It’s one of the better substitutes for black bean sauce.
2. Miso paste
This paste is also made from fermented soybeans. First, you mix the soybeans with salt, rice, barley, rye, or some other grains and a mold called koji.
Then the mixture is left to ferment for a few months or even years. If the paste ferments longer it will get a darker color and more complex flavor.
There are 3 different types of miso paste including white with mild and sweet flavor, red which is fermented longer and has high salt content, and mixed with red and white miso paste together.
The mixed miso paste has a unique sweet, salty, umami flavor. There are many other types of miso paste depending on the region and ingredients added they all have a different flavor. Miso paste is used for marinades, sauces, dips, soups, ramen, or in-sauteed dishes.
3. Tianmian sauce
Tianmian sauce is made with 19 portions of wheat flour and one portion of soybeans. This mixture is fermented until it gets a sweet flavor. It is also known by other names like sweet bean sauce, sweet wheat paste, and sweet flour sauce.
It has a mild savory or sweet flavor and dark brown or black color. You can use this sauce in noodles, stir-fries, and fried rice.
One of the well-known dishes made with this sauce is Peking duck. This sauce is sweeter than black bean sauce. Therefore, when you are using it as a substitute you can use soy sauce to add more saltiness to the dish.
4. Oyster sauce
Traditional oyster sauce is made by slowly cooking the oysters until the liquid caramelizes into a dark brown thick sauce. This sauce has salty-sweet and umami flavor.
You can use it for flavoring meat and vegetables, in stir-fries, as a glazing sauce, or as a marinade. Oyster sauce has a strong flavor so first start with a small amount and add more if needed.
5. Teriyaki sauce
Teriyaki sauce is made with boiling soy sauce, sugar (honey), and sake (mirin). You can add other ingredients like garlic, sesame, pineapple juice, and ginger for enhanced flavor.
Boil the sauce until it gets thick. It is perfect for stir-fries, marinating meat, veggies, fish, and poultry. Or as a dipping sauce. It has a sweet and salty flavor with a hint of sake.
6. Light soy sauce
Light soy sauce gives a salty flavor to foods. It’s ideal for noodles, rice, sushi, for marinating, in dressings, and as a dip. This sauce has red-brown color and a salty flavor. It’s not thick like a black bean sauce. However, you can use it as a substitute.
7. Soy sauce and plums
If you have plums you can make your sauce similar to black bean sauce. Boil the plums with brown sugar and water and add the soy sauce. Mix them with garlic, 5-spice powder, sesame oil, and vinegar. You will get sweet and salty sauce with a similar flavor to black bean sauce.
8. Tamari sauce
Tamari is a Japanese soy sauce with a special flavor that makes it different than ordinary soy sauces. It’s made of the liquid of the fermented soybeans when it is draining. It is less salty than soy sauce and with a thicker texture. Tamari sauce is ideal for soups, marinades, stews, sauces, and stir-fries.
9. Kecap Manis (sweet soy sauce)
Kecap Manis is an Indonesian soy sauce made from a fermented paste of boiled soybeans, water, salt, roasted grain mold fungus, and palm sugar. You can add spices like cinnamon, clove, black pepper, or coriander for better flavor.
You can use it as a marinade, dipping sauce, salad dressing, or with grilled meats. Kecap Manis is thicker and sweeter than regular soy sauce and gives fine umami flavor to dishes.
In case you can’t find any of these 9 substitutes, consider making black bean sauce from scratch. It’s easy to make and tastes just as good as the original store-bought black bean sauce.
Is hoisin sauce the same as black bean sauce?
Hoisin and black bean sauce have similar ingredients, but they are not the same sauce.
What is black bean sauce made of?
Black bean sauce is made of fermented black beans, garlic, soy sauce, and ginger. You can add some other spices optionally.
Black bean sauce is common in Chinese cuisine as a cooking sauce than as a table sauce. It has a unique salty-sweet umami taste and pairs well with many dishes adding them wonderful flavor.
However, if you cant find it in your store, you can make it yourself or use some of the substitutes mentioned in this article. Feel free to share your, cooking tips, questions, and suggestions in the comments.
- 1 tablespoon green onion chopped
- 2 tablespoons fermented black beans
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1/4 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon corn starch dissolved in 1 tablespoon of water
- 1/2 cup of broth
- Soak the fermented black beans for an hour.
- Rinse them drain and mash with a fork.
- Heat the oil add the garlic and ginger and cook them until they become soft. Then, add the chopped onion.
- When soft add the mashed black beans along with the rest of the ingredients (except for the corn starch).
- When they start to boil reduce the heat to medium and cook until the liquid reduces by half.
- Add the corn starch and simmer until it gets thick.
- Then, put it in a jar and use it in the future.
- Keep it in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.
- You can use hot red peppers finely chopped, add them to cook together with the garlic and ginger.