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I've recently developed a shellfish allergy, and I'm not sure what the best substitute for oyster sauce would be. I've read that the flavor of it is not really easily substitutable.

What is the best way to substitute the flavor without inducing an allergic reaction?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The most widely-accepted substitute seems to be various sauces made from mushrooms. I don't want to say "mushroom sauce" because most products don't have that exact name. For example:

Mushroom Sauces

Here you have "Vegetarian Mushroom Flavored Stir-Fry Sauce" on the left, and "Premium Shitake Mushroom Flavored Soy Sauce" on the right. I'm actually not familiar with the one in the middle and not sure what the whole label says - it might be the same as the first.

If you go to a specialty Asian food store, you might actually find a product called "vegetarian oyster sauce", which is pretty much the same thing.

Failing that, you can always substitute soy sauce, or hoisin sauce if you want a less watery texture. They won't be exactly the same, but it's the same general idea (dark, fermented, salty sauce rich in glutamates).

"Fish sauce" will be very close to oyster sauce in taste, but may still contain shellfish, so be careful.

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Personally, I think there's a pretty big difference between oyster sauce and fish sauce, which tends to be saltier and subtly sweeter. –  logophobe Jun 7 at 20:39
    
@logophobe: There is, but certainly less of a difference between oyster sauce and soy sauce, or oyster sauce and almost any other sauce. –  Aaronut Jun 8 at 18:33

Try black bean sauce. The body and color of the sauce is similar, though there are coarse bits of bean in it (where oyster sauce is usually smooth).

Add a shake of fish sauce to taste.

Fish sauce alone may be too thin. Most fish sauces are fermented anchovies with added salt (and maybe sugar).

I just taste tested this (have all the ingredients) and it's a good substitute.

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