What Is Hoisin Sauce? Definition and Ingredients

Hoisin sauce
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Definition: Hoisin sauce, sometimes called Chinese barbecue sauce, is a fragrant, pungent sauce used frequently in Asian vegetable stir-fries and marinades and Asian-style grilled dishes such as this grilled tofu with hoisin sauce. Made from a combination of fermented soy, garlic, vinegar, and usually chili and sweetener, hoisin is dark in color and thick in consistency. It has a very strong salty and slightly sweet flavor, which, if you're not used to authentic Asian flavors, you may find slightly objectionable.

Hoisin sauce is a key ingredient in many traditional Chinese food and some Vietnamese food recipes. 

See also: Vegetarian Chinese Food Recipes to Try at Home

What does hoisin sauce taste like?

Hoisin sauce does taste a bit like an American-style barbeuce sauce, but much saltier, richer and less sweet. The flavor is unique.

Because the unique flavor can be overpowering, particularly if you’re new to Asian cuisine, it’s recommended that you use only a bit at a time to experiment with the flavor. Or, dilute the flavor by adding water or oil to the hoisin sauce before using in a recipe. 

Hoisin sauce is a great way to add an authentic Asian flavor and thickening color to a stir-fry or noodle dish, and it can also be used as a dipping sauce for egg rolls, spring rolls, or other vegetarian appetizers.

Many grocery stores stock hoisin sauce. Look for it in the ethnic foods section of most grocery stores near the noodles, soy sauce and Thai curry pastes.

Got some extra Chinese hoisin sauce on hand? Here are a few ways to use it up:

Hoisin Sauce Recipes

Also Known As: Chinese Barbecue Sauce

Looking for more simple, healthy and nourishing vegetarian recipes? You can browse through our collection of vegetarian recipes here, or vegan recipes here.