This easy hoisin sauce recipe is a natural, low sugar and gluten-free alternative to shop-bought sauces that often contain gluten and a whole host of additives and excess sugar. It only takes 2 minutes to prepare and tastes delicious. Keep it in the fridge for up to 3 weeks and use it for all your Chinese cooking at home, like vegan Char Siu mushrooms or vegan San Choy Bau.
What is hoisin sauce?
A classic Chinese sauce, hoisin is a thick, dark brown sauce with strong sweet and salty flavours, almost like a Chinese barbecue sauce.
This popular Chinese sauce originates from Cantonese cuisine but is also used in Vietnamese cooking and is commonly served in Chinese restaurants around the world. Its distinctive rich flavour is highly recognisable and adds a wonderful depth of flavour when cooked in Chinese dishes or used as a dipping sauce or marinade.
Hoisin sauce is made using fermented soy bean or black bean paste. However, these Chinese fermented bean pastes are quite hard to find in supermarkets outside of Asia (you would need to search in your local Asian grocery store). So, I have substituted this for the more easily found Japanese fermented soy bean paste, miso.
Why should you make your own homemade sauce?
If you’re gluten-free, you’ll probably already know how hard it is to find a gluten-free hoisin sauce in the shops! I learnt how to make this homemade version during the first lockdown when I simply couldn’t find it anywhere! Once I realised how easy it is to make and how tasty it is, I’ve stopped buying the commercial hoisin sauce altogether!
The other great thing about making your own hoisin sauce is that it gives you complete control over the ingredients. So, as well as making it gluten-free by avoiding wheat ingredients, you can also:
- use all natural good quality ingredients rather than the additives and fillers (e.g. modified corn starch or caramel colouring) found in the shop-bought versions.
- limit the sugar content or change the type of sugar used. I find shop-bought hoisin sauce desperately sweet whereas this homemade hoisin sauce recipe has a more balanced flavour, letting the sweet, salty, tangy and umami flavours all shine through in equal measure!
- make it a vegan hoisin sauce by avoiding any animal product ingredients (as is the case for this gluten-free hoisin sauce recipe).
How do you use this sauce?
Hoisin sauce is ubiquitous in Asian cuisine, particularly in Chinese or Cantonese cooking. Use it sparingly (it has a strong flavour so a little goes a long way!) when cooking your favourite Asian recipes. Here are some examples of the many ways you can use homemade hoisin sauce:
- as a stir-fry sauce;
- in marinades (see this vegan char siu mushroom recipe for an amazing char siu marinade using this hoisin sauce!);
- mixed in with noodles;
- braised Chinese dishes;
- as a dipping sauce for spring rolls;
- vegan san choy bau (Chinese lettuce wraps filled with a tasty mince filling);
- spread inside wraps filled with a pulled jackfruit mixture and chopped cucumber (think of it like a vegan duck and pancakes);
- as a sauce for quick and easy air fried meals – brush some tofu and broccoli with a little hoisin sauce and air fry for 8 minutes at 180°C/350°F then serve with rice.
- Tamari – this is basically a Japanese naturally gluten-free version of soy sauce. You could also use a gluten-free soy sauce or coconut aminos if you prefer that.
- Tahini – this is a Middle Eastern ingredient made from crushed sesame seeds. You could use peanut butter or almond butter instead but I prefer tahini as it seems a more natural fit with the sesame oil and all the Asian flavours of hoisin sauce and it’s so full of calcium too!
- Dark Muscovado Sugar – I like to use this sugar because it is less refined. It’s also great in this recipe because it dissolves very easily so that it is very quick to make this sauce. (You could use plain dark brown sugar as a substitute.)
- Miso Paste – Traditional hoisin sauce is made with fermented black bean paste. However, that is not widely available outside of Asia so I use miso paste instead. Miso paste is fermented soybean paste so it makes a reasonable substitute that also gives an umami richness but it is much easier to find in the shops! Make sure to use gluten-free miso (some is made from barley which is not gluten-free). I like to use the sweet white miso paste which has a lovely mellow flavour.
- Blackstrap Molasses – this is an unrefined sugar product that is high in iron. You could substitute for coconut or date syrup instead or, at a push, maple syrup (but this will not give the same depth of flavour).
- Toasted Sesame Oil – try to use toasted sesame oil rather than plain sesame oil since it has a much stronger flavour which will add to the richness of your sauce overall.
- Chinese Five-Spice Powder – this is a generic spice blend often used in Chinese cooking. It is usually a mixture of star anise, cinnamon, fennel seeds, cloves and ginger (or Sichuan peppercorns for a spicy version). You can use your own combination of these spices if you don’t have the blend.
- Garlic Powder - I use the powder purely out of laziness so that this is a super easy quick recipe. You can substitute for a minced garlic clove if you prefer using fresh ingredients or even a teaspoon of garlic puree.
Note, this sauce is very similar to real hoisin sauce but if it is too sweet for your liking, you could balance out the sweet flavour with a teaspoon of rice vinegar to add a touch of sharpness. This is not truly authentic but it does taste nice!
Please see the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for quantities of ingredients and full instructions.
How do you make Gluten-Free Hoisin Sauce?
This is so easy to make. Since I swapped fresh garlic for dried garlic powder, there isn’t even any chopping to do! It’s literally a case of measuring ingredients into a small saucepan, giving it a quick stir over a medium heat for a couple of minutes, then pouring it into a jar for use whenever you need it!
Here is a video showing how to make hoisin sauce:
If you want to make the recipe even quicker, you could even forego the heating in a pan bit as the dark muscovado sugar dissolves very easily. So you could mix the ingredients straight in the jar and then it will thicken up in the fridge as the sugar dissolves. Just be sure to give it a really good stir when you come to use it.
Please see the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for step-by-step cooking instructions.
Homemade Hoisin Sauce FAQs
Store this homemade hoisin sauce in an airtight container (like a jar) in the fridge for up to 3 weeks or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Even though this recipe is for quite a small amount and it keeps for a while in the fridge, the sauce is so strongly flavoured that you use it quite sparingly, so it can take a while to use the whole lot! You could keep half the batch in the fridge and freeze the other half. Then you can bring the frozen batch out when you’ve finished the fridge batch. It keeps in the freezer for up to 6 months. Just defrost it in the fridge and give it a good shake to stir it up after it’s defrosted.
Yes! In fact a bit of chilli would help to balance out the flavours even more! I keep mine without chilli because my children won’t tolerate chilli but if you want to make a hot sauce version, you could add some ground Szechuan pepper or some Sriracha sauce when you’re making it. Add enough to your taste.
Hoisin sauce is naturally a thick sauce because of the ingredients used to make it. If you prefer it to be a little more runny, like a pouring sauce, you could let it down (make it thinner) with a little more water (perhaps another tablespoon or two).
Conversely, if this sauce seems too thin, you could thicken it up with some corn starch mixed with a touch of water. You would have to whisk this into the sauce while cooking and then heat for a few minutes to cook out the flour flavour. I find this unnecessary though as the ingredients I use tend to give quite a thick dolloping consistency. It also thickens a little in the fridge so be careful not to thicken it too much!
Commercial hoisin sauce often contains wheat flour as a thickener and also soy sauce (which contains wheat). So, these shop-bought hoisin sauce is often not a suitable choice for those with celiac disease or those who are sensitive to gluten. If you cater for anyone who can't eat gluten, if is a good idea to make your own gluten-free hoisin sauce to ensure that there is no wheat content.
It should be vegan. However, some commercial hoisin sauces contain animal products like oyster sauce or fish sauce, making it non-vegan. It is always sensible to check the ingredients list on the bottle. By making this homemade hoisin sauce, you can ensure that there are no animal products so that it is indeed vegan.
The sugar content in hoisin sauce makes it not paleo. However, you could substitute the dark muscovado sugar for soaked and drained medjool dates. It would give a slightly different flavour and makes it a slightly longer recipe to make, but it would then be paleo.
📖 Recipe 📖
Homemade Hoisin Sauce (Gluten-Free)
- 75 g tamari (or gluten-free soy sauce)
- 50 g tahini (or peanut butter)
- 30 g dark muscovado sugar
- 1 tablespoon white miso paste (or Chinese fermented bean paste)
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Mix together all the ingredients in a small pan and heat gently for a few minutes until the sugar dissolves. Use a whisk to ensure the powders are mixed in well.75 g tamari, 50 g tahini, 30 g dark muscovado sugar, 1 tablespoon white miso paste, 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses, 1 tablespoon water, 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Pour into a jar, close the lid and leave to cool.
- Store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
- Keep for up to 3 weeks in the fridge or up to 6 months in the freezer.
- I use garlic powder rather than fresh garlic only because it avoids any potential issue with listeria. If you are only making a small batch to keep for a week or so then it’s fine to swap to fresh minced garlic instead, if you prefer.
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a ⭐ star rating ⭐ on the recipe card!
More Gluten-Free Sauce Recipes
If you like this easy homemade hoisin sauce recipe, you may like these other delicious vegan and gluten-free sauce recipes too: