What Is Hoisin Sauce?

Ingredients, flavor, uses, storage, and where to buy.

Hoisin Sauce
Hoisin Sauce. Photo by Bethany Moncel

Hoisin sauce is a dark, reddish-brown, thick sauce used for dipping, glazing, and marinating. Hoisin is often referred to as Chinese barbecue sauce, not because it has a similar flavor, but because it is used for a variety of purposes, similar to American barbecue sauce. Hoisin is also sometimes referred to as Peking sauce because it is used to create the thick glaze on the popular dish, Peking duck.

The name hoisin is a Romanized version of the Cantonese word for seafood. Hoisin sauce itself contains no seafood but it is used in a variety of seafood dishes.

What is Hoisin Sauce Made Of?

Hoisin sauce is made with soybean paste, garlic, chilies, vinegar, and sugar. A starchy ingredient, such as sweet potato, wheat, or rice, is also used to create the glossy, thick consistency of the sauce. Depending on the brand or recipe, other spices or seasonings may be added.

What Does Hoisin Taste Like?

Hoisin sauce has a balanced mix of salty, sweet, and tangy, with a hint of spicy heat. This perfectly balanced mixture of flavors makes hoisin the perfect base for many sauces and allows it to be used with a variety of different meat and seafood.

How is Hoisin Used?

Hoisin is a common Chinese ingredient that is used in a variety of classic dishes such as Peking duck and mu shu pork. Hoisin can be used as a base to create other, more complex sauces, or used straight as a dipping sauce.

Hoisin is a very popular dipping sauce for meat, seafood, and egg rolls.

Hoisin is often served alongside Vietnamese Pho and can be stirred into the broth of the soup or used as a dip for the soup’s meat.

Hoisin is also sometimes added to stir fry or noodle dishes for an added touch of flavor. Hoisin is truly an all-purpose sauce for Asian cooking.

Where to Buy Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin sauce is so popular that it is now stocked in most major grocery stores across the United States. Hoisin can be found in the international aisle, with the other Asian ingredients. Ethnic markets, especially those specializing in Asian ingredients, will offer a larger selection of brands and varieties of this all-purpose sauce.

Hoisin sauce can be purchased in a bottle, jar, or can. When purchasing hoisin in a can or any other container that cannot be resealed, it should be transferred to a resealable container before storage. Hoisin sauce should be stored in the refrigerator after opening and will remain safe to consume for several months, although the flavor quality may deteriorate with prolonged storage.