I’ve personally tried and tested a range of different black bean sauce substitutes to find the best one.
Whatever your reason for avoiding black bean sauce is and whatever dish you’re cooking.
Here’s the quick answer.
The best substitutes for black bean sauce are fermented black beans and chunjang. Hoisin, miso paste and soy sauce, and oyster sauce are convenient options. You can also try sweet bean sauce or regular black beans mixed with things like fish sauce, tamari, vinegar, dark miso paste, and ginger.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I made fried rice to test 12 black bean sauce substitutes.
Black bean sauce is a staple in Chinese cooking. It has a savory, earthy flavor and is chock-full of umami goodness to will elevate your dish.
I was looking for a substitute with a similar depth of flavor and moreishness.
Here’s what I tested and the verdicts:
|Substitutes||How to Substitute||Verdict|
|Fermented black beans (douchi) or homemade black bean sauce||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Chunjang||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Hoisin sauce||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Miso paste + soy sauce||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||7/10|
|Oyster Sauce||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||7/10|
|Sweet bean sauce (tian mian jiang)||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Black beans with condiments and aromatics||Replace in a 1:1 ratio, adjust to taste||7/10|
Common uses for black bean sauce and the best substitutes
Here are some common use cases for black bean sauce and the best substitutes for those situations:
- As a condiment – homemade black bean sauce, chunjang
- For sauces, marinades – fermented black beans, chunjang, hoisin sauce
- For stir-fries, soups, and stews – fermented black beans, chunjang, hoisin sauce, miso paste + soy sauce
Fermented black beans (douchi)
Fermented black beans are the foundation of black bean sauce, making them an ideal substitute.
They pack an extra salty, umami punch, which works wonderfully in in fried rice.
Just make sure to rinse them before use, because they can easily overpower your dish!
Or you can use the black beans to make black bean sauce from scratch if you’re feeling adventurous.
My favorite recipe from Pickled Plum only takes 20 minutes to prepare, and the resulting sauce can last up to a month.
It’s extra work, but making your own black bean sauce allows you to adjust the flavors to suit your liking.
How to substitute: replace black bean sauce in your recipe with a handful of rinsed fermented black beans (douchi) or make your homemade black bean sauce
Chunjang is another solid substitute for black bean sauce.
This Korean condiment is also made from douchi, so you can expect similarly earthy, pungent flavors.
But it has a milder savory taste and a smoother, thicker consistency than black bean sauce.
Pro tip: to make it an even better substitute, add a little extra salt and garlic to the mix.
You can find chunjang in many Asian grocery stores, and it’s commonly used in Korean-Chinese cuisine, particularly in dishes like jjajangmyeon (noodles with black bean sauce).
How to substitute: replace black bean sauce in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with chunjang.
Hoisin sauce may not taste exactly like black bean sauce, but it can save the day in a pinch.
It offers similar savory umami notes but has a prominent sweet flavor.
Don’t worry, though – you can balance out the sweetness with a splash of rice vinegar or lime juice.
Or you can use slightly less sauce if you don’t want the flavors to be overwhelming.
How to substitute: Replace black bean sauce in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with hoisin sauce.
Miso paste + soy sauce
This is another substitute, with a different taste but that works well with Asian flavors and has loads of umami.
The miso brings an earthy flavor (kind of similar to black bean sauce), while the soy sauce brings salt.
I recommended using red miso because it’s got the most intense flavor. But you can also try white or yellow varieties for a milder flavor.
And if you find regular soy sauce too salty, consider using light soy sauce or tamari for a more balanced dish.
How to substitute: replace black bean sauce in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with a mixture of miso paste and soy sauce.
Oyster sauce has a distinct umami taste with a hint of brininess from the oysters, which sets it apart from the more earthy and pungent black bean sauce.
But it still works well in many recipes that call for black bean sauce.
Plus oyster sauce is available anywhere, making it a convenient substitute.
How to substitute: replace black bean sauce in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with oyster sauce.
Sweet bean sauce (tian mian jiang)
Despite its name, this sauce doesn’t contain soybeans, but it has a salty, umami kick that will remind you of black bean sauce.
The main difference is its sweetness, but just like with the hoisin and oyster sauce, you can always fix this with a splash of rice vinegar.
I thought I would have difficulty finding this substitute, but I got a bottle at my local Walmart – Lee Kum Kee is a popular brand that makes this!
How to substitute: Replace black bean sauce in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with sweet bean sauce .
Black beans with condiments and aromatics
With a little creativity you can turn plain old black beans into something vaguely similar to black bean sauce.
I didn’t have much faith in this when I came across it on a forum, but I was glad to be proven wrong!
Combining black beans with fish sauce, tamari, vinegar, dark miso paste, ginger, garlic, and orange zest mimics black bean sauce’s salty, umami goodness.
I recommend starting with cooked black beans, then adding small amounts of the condiments and aromatics to build up the umami and saltiness.
Taste as you go and adjust the condiments and aromatics to your preferences!
How to substitute: replace black bean sauce in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with your customized mixture of black beans, condiments, and aromatics.
Other substitutes to consider
The list above are my top substitutes for black bean sauce, but these are other options you can use if you have them:
- Different varieties of black bean sauce – brands like Lee Kum Kee sell a spicy version and a garlicky version that you can use instead of the regular version. You’ll have to adjust your recipe to accommodate the added flavors.
- Thai bean sauce – this condiment is milder than black bean sauce, so you may need more to achieve that salty, umami flavor. The downside with this is it’s difficult to find.
- Chee hou sauce – another fermented soybean condiment that’ll bring savory, umami goodness to your dish. But it is sweeter than black bean sauce.
Substitutes to avoid
These were substitutes I encountered during my research that I thought were worth trying, but I wasn’t impressed when I tried them. So I wouldn’t recommend them to you!
- Teriyaki sauce – this is very tasty (especially when slathered on chicken wings), but I thought sweet-savory flavor profile strays too far from black bean sauce’s salty, umami kick.
- Kecap manis – this is also known as sweet soy sauce. It tasted nothing like black bean sauce but it would make a good dipping sauce.
Read next: the best replacements for teriyaki sauce in any recipe
Best Black Bean Sauce Substitutes [2 To Avoid]
- 1 tbsp fermented black beans/homemade black bean sauce
- 1 tbsp chunjang
- 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tbsp miso paste + soy sauce
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp sweet bean sauce
- 1 tbsp black beans with condiments and aromatics
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen black bean sauce substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe