Chinese Brown Sauce

Thick Chinese brown sauce in a white bowl

The Spruce Eats / Eric Kleinberg

Prep: 3 mins
Cook: 2 mins
Total: 5 mins
Servings: 2 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
33 Calories
0g Fat
6g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2
Amount per serving
Calories 33
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 789mg 34%
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 10mg 1%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 66mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

A lot of Chinese stir-fry dishes for takeout include "brown sauce." One of the best-known dishes that uses brown sauce is the takeout classic beef and broccoli. The sauce usually contains beef stock or beef broth to give the dish extra flavor, but you can use chicken broth or stock if you like.

Brown sauce is typically a Western Chinese takeaway thing. In some cultures, brown sauce isn't used at all. The whole purpose of the flavorful mixture is to thicken a stir-fry sauce and add savory flavor.

Look for dark soy sauce for this recipe since it adds a richer flavor. Oyster sauce is commonly used in Chinese food and adds a savory, salty, umami flavor. Both can be found in most grocery stores. If you like, you can add grated or minced ginger or garlic. Serve your homemade brown sauce with a beef, chicken, or pork stir-fry or chow mein dish.


Click Play to See This Easy Chinese Brown Sauce Recipe Come Together

"This is a good basic brown sauce. I used it to make a beef and broccoli stir-fry (for 2). To flavor the stir-fry I added some ginger, garlic, a teaspoon of sesame oil, and a bit more sugar. It was excellent." —Diana Rattray

Chinese Brown Sauce Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 3/4 cup beef broth

  • 1 1/4 tablespoons oyster sauce

  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch (corn flour or potato starch)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Chinese brown sauce recipe gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Eric Kleinberg

  2. Add the broth, oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, and cornstarch to a saucepan.

    Broth, oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, and cornstarch added to a saucepan

    The Spruce Eats / Eric Kleinberg

  3. Mix evenly and make sure there are no lumps of cornstarch.

    Sauce being whisked smooth and lump free with a metal whisk

    The Spruce Eats / Eric Kleinberg

  4. Bring it to a boil while stirring. Simmer until the sauce reaches the desired thickness. 

    Sauce thickening while simmering and being stirred with a metal whisk

    The Spruce Eats / Eric Kleinberg

How to Use

Use this basic brown sauce as a base sauce for dishes such as beef and broccoli, chicken and broccoli, and other beef, pork, and chicken stir-fries.

Recipe Variations

  • Chicken Broth Version: Combine 1 cup chicken broth (or chicken stock), 1 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce, 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon cornstarch (or potato starch) in a saucepan. Mix evenly and make sure there are no lumps. Bring to a boil and keep stirring during cooking. Simmer until the sauce reaches the thickness you like.
  • Add 1 grated garlic clove.
  • Add 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger.
  • Add chile sauce or chile oil if you'd like your brown sauce spicy.

Is Chinese Brown Sauce Healthy?

Chinese brown sauce is low calorie, making it a decently healthy choice when saucing your stir-fries. It does not contain much in the ways of vitamins or nutrients. To reduce the sodium, use low-sodium beef broth and soy sauce. Because brown sauce contains cornstarch it is not appropriate for a keto diet.

Is Hoisin Sauce the Same as Brown Sauce?

Hoisin sauce is a flavorful condiment made of a variety of ingredients depending on the maker. It's often made with soybeans, garlic, chile, sugar, and spices. Brown sauce is a slightly thinner, simpler sauce that is broth-based. It has a less complex flavor than hoisin sauce.