If you love to make Chinese food, or even perhaps order some over, then there might be a range of special sauces that you like to add to the meal.
Sauces are essential to cooking, bringing out new and delicious flavors, improving on what you have already made. One of the very best sauces for Chinese food is hoisin sauce, down to its wonderful taste and mix of sweetness and spiciness.
However, there are plenty of different brands of hoisin sauce available on the market. It can be difficult to narrow the choices down. Which is best?
Well, we’ve done the work for you! In our handy guide below, we’ve compiled a list of the best hoisin sauces that you can buy.
Alongside each, we’ll give our reasons for why it’s such an important addition to your meal, as well as provide links to purchase them from simply. Read on!
What Is Hoisin Sauce?
Before we get to the list, let’s have a look at what hoisin sauce actually is - and why it’s such an essential addition to your kitchen refrigerator.
Hoisin sauce is one of the most essential sauces in Cantonese cooking, which is essentially food from China. It is notably thick, as well as being heavily fragrant, which makes it very appealing when you spoon into it and take a smell.
Its appearance is very dark colored, almost jet black - in fact, in Vietnamese cuisine, it is known as “black sauce”. Combined with its thickness, this makes it very remarkable and almost hypnotic to look at.
Yet, obviously, it tastes great too! It will typically involve a blend of fennel, garlic, soy beans, red chili pepper and five-spice powder (for a kick), vinegar, and sugar. It can also include sweet potato, rice, wheat, and even sesame seeds.
As you can guess, five-spice powder is a mixture of five or more different spices, and it is heavily used in almost every branch of Chinese cuisine - which shows its quality and popularity.
The most defining feature of hoisin sauce is that it’s spicy and sweet. Spices such as anise and cinnamon help to give it a subtle and warm flavor beneath its intensity and sweetness.
The very best hoisin sauces will balance all these contrasting flavors, providing something that is sweet, spicy, and even salty into one perfect equilibrium.
For these reasons, hoisin sauce is perfect for both savory and sweet dishes, which makes it particularly versatile. Whatever Chinese meal you’re making, it would likely benefit from some hoisin sauce.
The Best Hoisin Sauce
In the list below, we’re going to narrow down the best hoisin sauces that you can buy. With each, we’re going to provide details on the sauce, as well as reasons as to why it’s so great.
Finally, we’ll include links to where you can buy it, making it extra easy for you - and allowing you to be enjoying it with your Chinese cuisine in no time!
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
This is a delicious and popular hoisin sauce from Lee Kum Kee, and a great addition to your Chinese meals. You can buy it here.
Its ingredients contain a wonderful blend of soy sauce, chili peppers, wheat, and a little garlic, among other things.
However, you will also have noticed from the name of this particular hoisin sauce that it contains lemongrass in it.
With the addition of lemongrass puree into the mix, it lends this special sauce a hint of lemon and citrus, as well as a splash of mint. It doesn’t overtake the other flavors, but instead gives them an extra depth and twist.
On top of that, it smells very fragrant, making the overall sauce even nicer and making it particularly effective as a dipping sauce.
This hoisin sauce also contains less than 2 percent of spices, which achieves a similar result to the lemongrass in the sense that it doesn’t overwhelm.
By having just a small kick of spice, it gives the whole sauce that extra level of warmth, without making it unbearable to eat. Even if you’re a spice lover, spice can easily take over a sauce and remove all the other flavors.
By having a little, but just enough, spice included, then it makes it accessible and delicious.
You will get about 15 servings from each container, but you can purchase them in packs of multiple bottles to avoid running out.
It’s renowned for working well with loads of Chinese recipes, as well as tasting great and being very good value for money.
This is a supremely tasty and fragrant hoisin sauce from the June Moon Spice Company, and you can buy it here.
As for its ingredients, it has a perfect and varied blend of delicious things, which all come together to make a sauce that tastes great.
These include soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, salt, spices, and miso, among others. Miso is a Japanese seasoning which provides a salty umami (savoriness) flavor.
However, we can’t ignore an ingredient that really sets this hoisin sauce apart, and that is the inclusion of plum puree in the mix.
You may not have thought about something like plum when it comes to hoisin sauce, but it can be a wonderful addition. With plum included, it lends the sauce an extra (but subtle) bit of fruitiness to it.
When you’ve got all these different flavors coming together in the ingredients, each giving a little bit of something different, it’s essential to have variety and texture. The addition of plum into the mix really works.
The result of all of these ingredients is a sauce that is both thick and fragrant, as well as being filled with flavor. This makes it perfect for your meals, whatever you’re choosing to eat.
There’s lots that this June Moon Spice Company sauce will go with: a stir fry, some ribs lettuce wraps, fried rice, a serving of shrimp, brisket, and many more. You can even use it to finish some wings.
Whatever your pick, you’re guaranteed flavor.
On top of that, you’re also guaranteed freshness, because a double freshness seal is included immediately after the sauce is made. This means that it will taste as if it’s just been made when you open it.
The sauce has certainly proven popular with happy customers, with many thinking it’s delicious. However, a few found it a little too salty, so keep that in mind.
This authentic hoisin sauce from Sun Luck is a great addition to your Chinese meals, and you can buy it here.
As for its contents, it has a wide variety that all blend together to get you that signature flavor. Among its ingredients are miso, salt, spices, vinegar, and sugar.
Interestingly, Sun Luck also includes some pumpkin into the mix, which sets it apart from many other hoisin sauces. This extra addition will give the overall sauce a nice and subtle layer of earthy sweetness.
On top of that, soybeans are also included, as are molasses to sweeten it.
This particular hoisin sauce is also free of gluten, making it accessible to more people. Additionally, its ingredients are all high quality and the jar features a resealable lid.
This means that you can try to seal the freshness back in, making sure that the sauce doesn’t get vital and delicious over time once it’s been opened for the first time.
Sun Luck Traditional Hoisin Sauce is a great addition to lots of different Chinese dishes.
Whether you’ve got rice or some stir fry, this will undoubtedly add to the flavor. Similarly, if you’ve got a vegetable dish or some meat, it will also help to enhance the overall deliciousness of the meal.
Customers are particularly happy with the taste, as well as the fact that it is all natural with no preservatives. However, like the last hoisin sauce we spoke about, some have found it a little too salty.
This hoisin sauce from Premier Japan is great for people with wheat allergies, because it has no wheat included in it. You can buy it here.
The sauce is made up of a wide range of ingredients, and many of them are organic.
A selection of the ingredients include, wheat free tamari, apple cider vinegar, molasses, miso, chili pepper, ginger puree, cinnamon, and fennel. Notably, there is also some orange juice concentrate added, which is also organic.
This touch of orange juice gives the overall flavor a little bit of citrus and fruitiness - although not too much to overwhelm it, just to enhance it and give it texture.
This particular hoisin sauce has become popular with customers, who praise it as something that is delicious and has great flavor.
On top of that, they appreciate that it’s so organic and wheat free. In addition to that, it doesn’t have lots of sugar. And if that wasn’t enough? It’s vegan too.
This dark and delicious hoisin sauce from Koon Chun is a delicious addition to many Chinese dishes, and you can buy yourself some here.
This contains a good range of ingredients with it. For example, vinegar, sugar, garlic, salt, and spices are all blended together to create a great tasting flavor with plenty of fragrance.
If you’re a chili lover and want that added kick, don’t worry, there is some chili included too!
On top of that great list of contents, there are no flavor enhancers or preservatives added to the sauce.
This keeps it nice and natural, rather than making it a little artificial for some tastes. It allows it to keep a sense of authenticity, which really helps to improve your meal.
Whether you want to have it with a meat dish or something that’s heavier with vegetables instead, the Koon Chun Hoisin Sauce will provide that added sweet and spicy kick to your meal.
As you might expect, it’s also great for adding to stir fry dishes too. You can use it to marinate your meat, or simply include it as a dipping sauce for your meal - for example, with some salmon and green salad spring rolls.
This particular hoisin sauce has grown particularly popular with chefs and customers alike.
They praise it for its delicious and complex taste, which isn’t too sweet to overwhelm it. Instead, it has a beautiful well-balanced flavor, and is an essential addition to any Chinese meal.
This hoisin sauce from Wok Mei is perfect for people with gluten allergies or a diet that is deliberately low in gluten, because this contains none - making it a lot more accessible to people. You can buy some for yourself here.
Not only is it gluten free, but it’s all natural too. On top of that, it doesn’t have refined sugars or modified starches either. This keeps it natural and authentic, rather than letting it become artificial.
This hoisin sauce has a lovely sweet and spicy flavor that is achieved through its great variety of ingredients.
These include: miso, non-GMO vinegar, spices, salt, onion powder, garlic, and GMO-free corn starch, among other things. Naturally, it also includes gluten-free soy sauce.
These all combine to make a sauce that is perfect for marinating your meat in, or even basting or glazing.
And if you’re a vegetarian? It doesn’t have to be meat, you can cover your vegetables in it too. Whether you’ve got some Mu-Shu Pork or a serving of Peking Duck to enjoy, this will go with almost any Chinese dish that you’ve been cooking up.
This has gone down a treat with customers, who love its delicious flavor as well as its naturalness.
Not only is it free of gluten, but it’s also wheat-free and MSG-free. Many have expressed that it is difficult to find gluten-free products that still taste great, but this is a wonderful exception and proves very tasty.
Best Hoisin Sauce Buying Guide
Where Did Hoisin Sauce Come From?
Interestingly, not much is known about where hoisin sauce specifically was invented, or how, but it is definite that it is Cantonese.
The best clue as to its original existence is its name, because “hoisin” actually comes from the Chinese term for “seafood”. Nowadays, though, hoisin sauce actually contains no seafood in it.
It is typically suitable for vegetarians and vegans, despite being served with a lot of meat dishes. However, you can buy special hoisin sauces that notably include types of meat in them, so always be careful when buying.
This original origin of the name suggests that the first hoisin sauces might have had some sort of seafood (You might want to check out What Is Calamari here) within them as one of the ingredients, and the overall recipes have changed a lot since then.
How Is Hoisin Sauce Used?
We mentioned that hoisin sauce is regularly used with meats, and this is true. In Cantonese cuisines, hoisin sauce is used either as a sauce to marinate meat in (to soak it in during cooking) or as a sauce for dipping food in as you eat.
These meats for marinating include ones such as char siu, a type of barbeque pork. As for dipping, the sauce is used alongside meals like rice noodle rolls (which are often filled with different meats).
When it comes to American cuisine, hoisin sauce is also used. However, it isn’t so much used as a marinating sauce, instead just being used as a dipping sauce.
Meals like Peking duck with lettuce wraps, or a serving of moo shu pork will go really well with hoisin as a dipping sauce - among others.
As you’re looking through the list above, you might notice similar traits between hoisin sauce brands popping up again and again.
These are good indications of what you should look for when you’re picking the hoisin sauce that’s best for you. With that being said, we’re going to go into some of the features that you should look for when you’re making your decision.
An Equal Flavor
Hoisin sauces are made up of lots of ingredients, but you will ideally want one that has all its ingredients blended together to create an equal flavor.
Unless you like a certain flavor, then you don’t want any one thing overwhelming the taste of all the others.
Free Of Certain Things
If you’re gluten-free or have an intolerance to wheat, or conditions like those, then you’ll want to make sure that your sauce is free of them.
Vegetarian Or Vegan
Ensure that your sauce has no meat included in it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Hoisin Sauce Like Soy Sauce?
Hoisin sauce is much thicker and sweeter. However, soy sauce is actually used to make hoisin sauce.
Hoisin sauce is essential to your Chinese cuisine - use our guide to find your favorite!