What Are Fermented Black Beans And How To Cook With Them

Douchi and how to cook it
Douchi and how to cook it. Getty Images

Fermented black beans are a very popular ingredient in Chinese cooking and these “black beans” are not the black beans you’ll find in Mexican cooking. Fermented black beans are also called Douchi and are salted or dried black beans. The Chinese name for these is: 豆豉.


Fermented black beans are made from soybeans that have been dried and fermented with salt as well as spices like chilies and/or wine and possibly ginger. Because of their strong flavour, fermented black beans are frequently paired with other strong seasonings, such as garlic and chilies. They often appear in Cantonese cooking and you’ll find them in dishes like Shrimp with Lobster Sauce. I really like to use fermented black beans to steam fish or shellfish like razor clams or scallops. You can also use fermented black beans or black bean sauce in stir-fry dishes.


Fermented black beans are normally rinsed before being used in cooking, otherwise they will impart too much of a salty flavour to the dish. Often you will find recipes calling for the beans to be mashed with garlic.


There is another way I like to prepare fermented black beans before cooking which is to soak them in rice wine for 5-10 minutes. This will reduce the salty flavour of the fermented black beans and because they have absorbed the rice wine they will be full of the aroma of the rice wine. This will make dishes that are cooked with black beans taste even better.


Fermented black beans are sold in plastic bags in Asian and Chinese supermarkets. At home, remove the beans from the package and store in a sealed container in a cool, dark place. The beans will last for several months. You can also find fermented black beans sold in jars – these can be used instead if necessary but they don’t have as much flavor.


If you don’t live near an Asian market / Chinese supermarket, premade black bean sauce is often available in the international or ethnic section of many supermarkets. You can also purchase both fermented black beans and premade black bean sauce at several online stores specializing in Asian ingredients.


Fermented black beans are also known as: Chinese black beans, dried black beans, salted black beans, dul see, tausi


Examples: Recipes using fermented black beans or premade black bean sauce:

Beef and sweet bell peppers are cooked with a savory black bean sauce in this Cantonese home cooked dish. Serves 2 as a main dish, or 4 as part of a multicourse meal.


A famous Sichuan recipe - the name Ma Po Tofu is roughly translated as “pockmarked grandmother bean curd,” named for the old woman who supposedly invented the dish. This recipe added fermented black bean to give it a little bit of kick. Traditional mapo tofu recipe does not include fermented black bean. You can have a look of this recipe “Authentic Mapo Tofu Recipe” if you want to try an authentic version of this delicious Sichuan dish first.


This bitter melon recipe pairs two strong flavours – Chinese black beans and bitter melon, a vegetable with a strong chalky flavour. Bitter melon is a bit of an acquired taste – part boiling it makes it less overpowering.


Pork with bitter melon could serve 3 to 4 as part of a multicourse meal, or make a main meal for 2 when served over rice.


Serves 3 to 4. You can substitute with prepared black bean sauce.


Tender chicken thighs lend flavour to this stir-fry made with pungent fermented black beans. You can prepare the vegetables while the chicken is marinating, or earlier in the day so that they are ready to use in the stir-fry. This recipe can serves 3 to 4 people.


Edited by Liv Wan