I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of oyster liquor substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion.
Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry swap, or want a substitute that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
Bottled clam juice is the best substitute for oyster liquor. Shellfish stock is also a great option for a richer soup base. Or you can try pantry staple chicken broth with a dash of fish sauce if you have it. In a pinch, you can use a bottle of dry white wine.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I made small batches of corn chowder to put different oyster liquor substitutes to the test.
Despite the name, don’t expect oyster liquor to taste alcoholic. It’s actually the natural juices you’ll find in raw oysters that keep them fresh when they’re out of the water.
This special liquid has a briny, salty flavor with a subtle sweetness and lots of umami goodness.
It’s a unique ingredient, so finding an exact substitute was challenging, but I did find a few decent substitutes!
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Substitutes||How to Substitute||Verdict|
|Bottled clam juice||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Shellfish stock||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Fish broth||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Dashi||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Diluted chicken broth||1 cup oyster sauce = ½ cup chicken broth + 1 cup water||7/10|
|Vegetable broth||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||7/10|
|Oyster sauce||1 cup of oyster liquor = 2 tbsps of oyster sauce + 1 cup of water||8/10|
|Dry white wine||1 cup oyster liquor = ½ cup dry white wine + ½ cup water||6/10|
Common uses of oyster liquor
Here are some popular ways to use oyster liquor and the best substitutes for those situations:
- As a base for stews and soups: Try using bottled clam juice, shellfish stock, or fish broth. Chicken broth also works, but you’ll need to mix it with an equal amount of water.
- As a flavor enhancer: Try using bottled clam juice, shellfish stock, or dashi. Oyster sauce mixed with water is another good option.
- For marinades: Try using bottled clam juice, shellfish stock, or diluted chicken broth.
- For deglazing: Try using bottled clam juice, shellfish stock, or dry white wine.
Bottled clam juice
Taking the top spot on our list is bottled clam juice.
This is the liquid you get when you steam clams, and it’s the easiest substitute for oyster liquor.
It’s readily available and costs less than five bucks for an eight-ounce bottle.
The only downside with clam juice is it has a milder flavor, so I like to skip the salt and add about two tablespoons of fish sauce for every cup.
It’s a quick fix that really makes a difference. Pssst… minced anchovy filets will also work.
How to substitute: replace oyster liquor in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with bottled clam juice.
Shellfish stock is another great replacement for oyster liquor.
Its flavor is rich and complex, because it’s made from a variety of shellfish shells plus lots of vegetables and herbs.
And it packs more umami flavor that will instantly elevate your dish to the next level.
Shellfish stock is less briny than oyster liquor, but it didn’t matter too much with my chowder.
Pro tip: you can easily make your own shellfish stock from leftovers.
How to substitute: replace oyster liquor in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with shellfish stock.
This is the go-to substitute if you’re allergic to shellfish but still want to stay in the seafood realm.
It has a more delicate seafood flavor than oyster liquor, but like with bottled clam juice, a few drops of fish sauce can quickly solve this problem.
And this time I really recommend saving and fish scraps you have to make your own fish stock.
It’s super easy and the result is so fresh and healthy tasting.
It means less waste too!
How to substitute: replace oyster liquor in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with fish broth.
Miso soup is the first thing that comes to mind when I hear dashi, but this traditional Japanese broth also works as a substitute for oyster liquor.
It’s typically made from kelp and bonito flakes, which give it a robust umami flavor and a delicate seafood undertone.
But for my vegan friends out there, you’ll be glad to know there are kombu-only varieties you can use.
And even dashi made with shiitake mushrooms!
Psst… I used instant dashi in my experiment because I was struggling to find kombu.
How to substitute: replace oyster liquor in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with dashi.
Diluted chicken broth
Pantry staple chicken broth is a good substitute if you want to skip the seafood.
It doesn’t carry the same sea-salty taste as oyster liquor, its savory flavor will add depth and complexity to your dish.
Be mindful though – chicken broth tends to be very salty and can easily become too much.
I diluted my chicken broth with water to balance the flavor. A quick squeeze of lemon juice also does wonders in brightening the flavor somewhat.
My chowder tasted very different with chicken broth, but it was still delicious!
How to substitute: replace oyster liquor in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with a diluted mixture of chicken broth and water.
Vegetable broth doesn’t taste like oyster liquor, but it’s an easy vegan-friendly replacement.
It has a milder flavor than oyster liquor, but that doesn’t mean you can’t jazz it up.
A splash of soy sauce or a dash of vegetarian fish sauce can help elevate its taste.
And you’re making your own vegetable broth, consider borrowing a page from the dashi playbook. Add some kombu or dried kelp into your mix to infuse that oceanic twist, all without using any seafood.
It’s a simple tweak but one that can make all the difference.
How to substitute: replace oyster liquor in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with vegetable broth.
This Chinese condiment is made from oyster extract, so it’s no surprise that it carries a briny undertone similar to oyster liquor.
But oyster sauce is much more concentrated, so you can’t swap it out in a 1:1 ratio – you only need a small amount!
To match the volume, you can mix it with water.
The resulting liquid was still a bit sweet compared to oyster liquor, so I added in a spoonful of vinegar.
How to substitute: replace 1 cup of oyster liquor with 2 tbsps of oyster sauce dissolved in 1 cup of water.
Dry white wine
When all else fails, dry white wine can step in as a last-resort substitute for oyster liquor.
Sure, it doesn’t share the same taste, but its light, crisp flavor will add an extra layer of depth to your dishes.
If you intend to use it as a base for your recipe, mix 1/2 cup of dry white wine with an equal amount of water, clam juice, or chicken broth.
Pro tip: the alcohol in the wine cooks off during the cooking process, leaving behind only trace amounts. So no need to worry about getting your dinner guests tipsy!
How to substitute: replace oyster liquor in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with a mixture of dry white wine and water.
Best Oyster Liquor Substitutes [Tested]
- 1 cup bottled clam juice
- 1 cup shellfish stock
- 1 cup fish broth
- 1 cup dashi
- ½ cup chicken broth + ½ cup water
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce + 1 cup water
- ½ cup dry white wine + ½ cup water
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen oyster liquor substitutes at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.