No oyster sauce ever again for the vegan? Make your own vegan “oyster sauce” or shiitake sauce that is at least as tasty. And also 100% free from all kinds of flavour enhancers!

Recipe for a long-life shiitake sauce that you can use in all your Chinese vegan recipes.

Why make vegan oyster sauce yourself?

Oyster sauce: a dark, shiny, thick sauce in a thin bottle that makes you wonder if it actually contains oyster. The label of the well-known brand Lee Kum Kee (who also invented the oyster sauce) states: oyster extract 40% (OYSTER, water salt), sugar, water, flavour enhancer E621, salt, modified corn starch, wheat flour, colour E150a.
It tastes salty, slightly sweet, stinging, slightly chemical perhaps? Hard to describe and even harder to do that in tasty terms. And yet: CHINESE CANNOT DO WITHOUT! They use it when marinating, as part of a dipping sauce, as stir-fry sauce, as, as… everything!

“Is there a Chinese who can cook without oyster sauce?”

And one day the bottle appears empty … and that is, to say the least, very annoying. I no longer have a restaurant kitchen with bottles in stock. And I don’t have an Asian grocery shop in the tiny village where I live either.

Recipe for a long-life shiitake sauce that you can use in all your Chinese vegan recipes.

So make it yourself, and preferably vegan. A vegan “oyster sauce” contains mainly shiitake. Logically, dried shiitake is an umami bomb. Much more than some extra soy sauce, salt and caramel (gives a deeper, fuller taste than regular sugar) is not needed. I have replaced the phantom oyster with fermented chili tofu.

ingredients: sea salt, chili tofu with moisture, soy sauce (Kikkoman or light soy sauce) ,dark soy sauce, cooking wine

What does the vegan “oyster sauce” taste like?

I’ve been using it for two months now and very happy with it. The ultimate test was the lettuce test. In China you can order al dente cooked lettuce or other vegetables everywhere with just a little oil and oyster sauce. The oyster sauce is used pure (without diluting with soy sauce or chili oil), so the taste is very important. And my shiitake sauce passed the test: salt, a light sweet and that umami explosion!

“Oddly  enough, the taste of the shiitakes is not predominant in a dish.”

Dried shiitakes are widely used in Asian vegan cuisine because of the umami.


Make your own vegan oyster sauce or shiitake sauce

Nooit meer oestersaus gebruiken als je vegan eet? Maak zelf vegan 'oestersaus' of shiitakessaus die minstens zo smaakvol is. En ook nog eens 100% vrij van smaakversterkers!

No oyster sauce ever again for the vegan? Make your own vegan “oyster sauce” or shiitake sauce that is at least as tasty. And also 100% free from all kinds of flavour enhancers!

  • Author: Kamwoj
  • Prep Time: 4,5 hours (soaking time included)
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 4,75 hours
  • Yield: 600 g/ 0,5 l 1x
  • Category: Vegan, Saus, Chinees
  • Method: koken
  • Cuisine: Chinese


For 600 g/ 0.5 l shiitake sauce:

300 g/ ml of water

  • 5 pieces of dried shiitakes (rinsed clean)


  • 80 g sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • A drop of vinegar or lemon juice 1


  • 35 g of sea salt
  • 15 g chili tofu with moisture (optional) 2
  • 75 g soy sauce (Kikkoman or light soy sauce) 3
  • 25 g dark soy sauce 3
  • 15 g cooking wine


  • 10 g rice flour or cornflour
  • 1 tbsp cold water


  1. Soak the rinsed shiitakes in 300 ml of cold water for at least four hours. Cut the largest in half and check if the inside is soft. If not, let them soak for another hour. I always put them in the fridge overnight to be sure they’re totally soaked.
    If you are in a hurry, cut the shiitakes into large pieces and soak the shiitakes for an hour in boiling hot water. Usually I don’t do that because sometimes the mushrooms turn bitter.
  2. Puree the shiitakes INCLUDING the cooking liquid. This is easier if you first squeeze the shiitakes (collect the squeezed out liquid) and then cut into small pieces. Put the sliced ​​shiitakes pieces back in the liquid. With a (hand) blender you puree shiitakes and soak.
  3. Make the caramel. Use a small stainless steel pan. Add the sugar, water and vinegar. Turn the pan a few times so that all the sugar is moist. Caramelize the sugar over low heat. This takes a few minutes. Caramelized sugar is very hot, so be very careful! If it turns dark brown in colour, turn off the heat and remove the pan from the heat source.
  4. Using a long heat-resistant spoon, carefully add some shiitake puree to the caramel. Mix well so that the caramel cools slightly. Pour the rest into the caramel. Avoid hot caramel splashes: don’t hold the puree too high above the pan.
  5. Now also stir the flavourings into the pan. Finely chop the chili-tofu. Warm it up again and let it simmer for 5 minutes over a low heat, stirring. Test: do you want more salt or more sugar? I like salty oyster sauce with a bit of sweetness. But tastes differ, so do what you think is good. My recipe has a fairly strong taste. Remember that oyster sauce is a flavouring and therefore you only need a little of it. It may be strong in taste.
  6. If you like the taste, stir the cornflour and water into a paste. Pour the porridge into the pan and let it simmer for a minute.


  1. The drop of vinegar and/or lemon juice prevents the sugar from crystallizing.
  2. You can buy fermented tofu in a Chinese grocery shop. There’s also red fermented tofu, which you should NOT have. The latter has a very distinct and strong taste. I love it but it doesn’t give this shiitake sauce that subtle kick as the white chili-tofu does.
    Chili tofu is optional. Without it the sauce is still very tasty.
  3. Gluten-free: If you replace both soy sauces with the same amount of gluten-free tamari, this recipe is in gluten-free. To be sure, check the ingredients list of other brands if they are gluten free.

Keywords: vegan sauce, shiitake, oyster sauce, shiitake sauce, substitute, seasoning, flavouring



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