7 Best Oyster Sauces of All Time, According to a Taste Test

Love Asian food, but not confident about making it? You are not alone. Many of us aim for that sweet and salty flavor that is characteristic of every Chinese and Thai dish but often end up disappointed. There is indeed a quick, easy, and sure-shot way to make your chicken stir-fry taste like a restaurant takeout. All it takes is a few drops of oyster sauce.

best oyster sauce

Oyster sauce is a staple ingredient in most Cantonese, Thai, and even Vietnamese dishes. It is made by mixing caramelized oyster juice with salt and sugar, and sometimes with soy (thickened with cornstarch). Caramelized oyster juice is nothing but a byproduct that is derived by cooking oysters for a long time. Oyster sauce is thick, like sugar syrup, and looks almost black, like barbecue sauce.

Though made with boiled down oyster juice, it doesn’t taste heavily like oysters or fish. It’s sweet and salty and adds a strong umami flavor to the food. Be sure not to cook the sauce for long, as high heat can make it lose its flavor, and sometimes, turn it bitter.

Oyster sauce is generally used in stir fry, but you can simply add it over steamed vegetables, in stews and soups, or even use it as a dip! Just a drizzle is enough to enhance the flavor of the food. When we say ‘a drizzle’, we mean it. The sauce has a strong flavor, and can be a bit overpowering and salty, if you use it in large quantities.

The sauce does contain a great amount of sodium in it, and it’s almost rare that you would find one without the taste enhancer, MSG. However, it has zero cholesterol and low calories per serving. You can boldly add it to your dishes without the fear of gaining extra pounds.

We have rounded up the seven best brands of oyster sauce that are out there in the market today. Read on to find out which suits you the best.

1. Lee Kum Kee Premium Oyster Sauce

A popular brand among oyster sauce fans, this sauce has a deep savory flavor with a dash of sweetness, making it a must-have for Asian cooking. Be it fried rice or chicken wings, a drop or two of the sauce is enough to make it taste like authentic Chinese take-away.

lee kum kee premium oyster saucebuy now

Features:

  • Available in 18-ounce bottle (pack of 2) and  9-ounce bottle (pack of 4)
  • Comes in a glass bottle
  • Sodium content: 820 mg per tablespoon
  • Ingredients include oyster extractives (oysters, water, salt), sugar, water, Monosodium Glutamate as a flavor enhancer, salt, modified corn starch, wheat flour, caramel color
  • Product of USA

Pros

  • Rich taste
  • Made with finest oyster extracts
  • Long shelf life of over a year
  • No added preservatives

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Has MSG
  • Not gluten free

A few drizzles of the sauce on stir fried Chinese greens like yu choy (a green leafy vegetable used in South-East Asian cooking) or Chinese broccoli can elevate its flavor. You can take it up a notch by adding some sweet chilli sauce.

If you are allergic to soy, this could be a blessing, as it makes for an excellent replacement. Try Jap Chae with Lee Kum Kee Oyster Sauce instead of soy sauce and see the significant difference in taste for yourself.

The brand continues to be a top choice for oyster sauce lovers because of its good consistency, fresh taste, and mess-free packaging. However, it does contain MSG, and since it includes wheat flour in its ingredients, it is not gluten-free.

Often customers tend to confuse this particular sauce with another non-premium version that Lee Kum Kee brings out. The latter, though less expensive, has less flavor than the premium version.

2. Lee Kum Kee Panda Brand Oyster Sauce

If you are new into the world of oyster sauce, this is the product for you. Get your comfort food ready in no time, with this sweet and salty sauce. Works great as a dip for your chips, or as a seasoning on your boiled broccoli.

lee kum kee panda brand oyster saucebuy now

Features:

  • Made with select oyster extracts
  • Thick in consistency
  • Comes in 18 oz. bottle
  • Sodium content: 980 mg per tablespoon
  • Ingredients include water, sugar, salt, oyster extractives, monosodium glutamate as a flavor enhancer, modified corn starch, wheat flour, caramel color
  • Product of USA

Pros

  • No added preservatives
  • Value for money

Cons

  • Contains MSG
  • Not gluten-free
  • Less flavor
  • A little too salty

This is a good and inexpensive sauce to stock up if you are a fan of Chinese cuisine. A large bottle of it comes at a reasonable price. Use it as a key ingredient to whip up a sinful shrimp lo-mein. Add a few drops of it into your bowl of white noodles and mix it with sesame oil, to get a restaurant-style meal.

This sauce does have a high sodium content. Use it very sparingly in your dishes. Start with half a teaspoon and mix well, add more only if needed.

Lee Kum Kee’s Panda Brand oyster sauce, however, is not as flavorsome as its Premium version. The fresh oyster flavor is not that apparent in this version. Having said that, customers have vouched that this can easily turn their chop suey into tasting and looking like an authentic South Asian dish.

It is preferred that you refrigerate the sauce after opening, even though the requirement is not mentioned on the label. There have been cases where the sauce has gone bad when kept at room temperature.

3. Thai Oyster Sauce Maekrua Brand – Thai Original

If you are looking for a low sodium version of oyster sauce, then this is your best option. Maekura’s Thai oyster sauce is neither too overpowering, nor too mild. Use it in a stir-fry, marinade, or simply add a few drops in your lemongrass shrimp rice noodle salad, and you won’t be disappointed.

thai oyster sauce maekrua brandbuy now

Features:

  • Ideal for all seasoning purposes
  • 10.58 oz bottle
  • Sodium content: 500mg per tablespoon
  • Ingredients include oyster extract, soy sauce (soybean, wheat flour, salt), water, sugar, salt, modified starch, corn starch, glucono-delta-lactone, sodium benzoate
  • Product of Thailand

Pros

  • Aromatic and rich in flavor
  • No MSG
  • Long shelf life

Cons

  • Not gluten-free
  • A few customers have complained of damaged packaging

This sauce is slightly sweet and thick like real oyster sauce is supposed to be. Some of the best dishes to try with this are drunken noodles, or a Chinese Moo Goo Gai Pan — a stir-fried dish consisting of sliced chicken, mushrooms and other vegetables. Since it has a deep and full flavor, one tablespoon is usually enough to make a meal that serves a family of three.

Maekura’s oyster sauce happens to be one of the most favored in the market today. It can be used as a lower sodium alternative to fish sauce. Because of its flavor and aroma, you need just half the amount of what you would use if you were using the fish sauce.

This is one of the rare oyster sauces available in the market that’s MSG-free. However, it does contain gluten and is not suitable for those who are allergic to soy.

The bottle comes in a thick bubble wrap. But despite the secure packaging, there have been cases where the bottle has arrived broken. Sometimes the bubble wrap rips off the label when unpacked quickly. So it would be wise to handle it slowly, and with care.

4. Mama Sita’s Oyster Sauce

A product of the Philippines, this sweet and savory sauce has a sharp taste and works as a good flavoring agent for steamed vegetables or stir-fries.

mama sita's oyster saucebuy now

Features:

  • Available in 14.3 oz, 11 oz bottles
  • Sodium content: 1040 mg per two tablespoons
  • Ingredients include water, real oysters, modified starch, cane sugar, salt, hydrolyzed corn and soy protein, caramel color, monosodium glutamate (flavor enhancer), sodium benzoate added as a preservative
  • Imported from the Philippines

Pros

  • Rich and flavorsome
  • Contains real oysters

Cons

  • Has preservatives
  • Contains MSG
  • A little too salty

Mama Sita’s oyster sauce boasts of an intense flavor. It can be used as a sauce by itself for Asian dishes or can form a base for other sauces. It adds unbeatable flavor to a plate of broccoli beef, or bowls of soups and stews.

The brand also offers different flavors of oyster sauce such as garlic oyster and mushroom oyster sauces. Between the two, mushroom sauce is more popular.

If you are a fan of soy sauce, you are sure to like this one. Be guaranteed that there is no flavor or smell of fish in it. However, it does contain MSG, and added preservatives. Use it judiciously, as even an extra drop can make your dish overwhelmingly salty.

5. Megashefu Oyster Sauce by Megachef

Megachef Premium Oyster sauce has a smoky flavor that compliments the sweet and salty taste combo. A great option to elevate the taste of regular stir-fries, braises and marinades.

megashefu oyster sauce by megachefbuy now

Features:

  • Available in 8.5 oz bottle
  • Smoky, sweet and salty flavored
  • Ingredients include oyster powder, water, salt, sugar, corn powder
  • Made in Thailand

Pros

  • Rich taste of oysters
  • Gluten free
  • No artificial flavors
  • No MSG
  • No artificial preservatives

Cons

  • Expensive

This sauce is made using large fresh oysters harvested from the Gulf of Thailand. They are smoked over wood and then mixed with sugar and salt to create a deep-flavored, syrupy sauce.

Use this to make braised chicken, pork or mushroom. Or simply pour out a few drops straight from the bottle onto your bowl of salad. With no preservatives, MSG or gluten, this seems to be the ideal option if you are ready to shell out some extra money for a relatively small bottle.

6. Kikkoman Oyster Sauce Green Label

This sauce is an exceptionally good marinade for your meats and vegetables. The rich umami flavor in it enhances the taste of everyday Asian food, be it rice bowls, wraps, sandwiches or salads.

kikkoman oyster sauce green labelbuy now

Features:

  • Available in 12.6 oz bottle
  • Sodium content: 830 mg per tablespoon
  • Ingredients include water, sugar, salt, oyster juice concentrate, modified corn starch, caramel color, yeast extract, oyster extract
  • Product of USA

Pros

  • No MSG
  • No preservatives
  • Gluten-free
  • Value for money

Cons

  • A few customers have complained about damaged packaging

Kikkoman’s oyster sauce is made from the natural liquor that’s extracted from fresh oysters. Oyster liquor refers to the liquid that’s found inside raw oysters. Once you take oysters out of seawater, this is the juice that keeps it alive and fresh. The sauce made with this, such as Kikkoman’s, has a balanced flavor that’s strong but not overpowering.

Unlike most other oyster sauces, this one does not use high fructose corn syrup or MSG. It’s also free of gluten and soy, making it a more viable option to a larger section of oyster sauce fans. It is thick in consistency, and adds a nice sheen to your stir-fried Chinese broccoli, wok-fried green beans, or chicken wings!

7. Vegetarian Mushroom Oyster Sauce

How many times have you had to avoid eating Chinese food because it wasn’t vegan? No more. The mushroom oyster sauce is made from the essence extracted from the mushrooms. It brings in all the flavors of the oyster sauce, minus the shellfish.

vegetarian mushroom oyster saucebuy now

Features:

  • Vegan
  • Thick and concentrated
  • Available in 35 oz (1 litre) bottle
  • Sodium content: 710 mg sodium per tablespoon
  • Ingredients include water, soybeans, wheat, salt, sugar, starch, sucralose, mushroom flavour, Benzoic acid less than 0.1% as a food preservative
  • Made in Taiwan

Pros

  • A good alternative for those who don’t eat shellfish
  • No MSG

Cons

  • Not gluten-free
  • Comes in a plastic bottle
  • A little too salty

Kimlan’s vegetarian oyster sauce is infused with rich condiments and is good for stir-frying, dipping and grilling. Use it to add a fresh umami flavor to your vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, or a quick dipping sauce for fried tofu. Just add a little arrowroot powder, rice vinegar and cooking wine to it, and your dip is ready.

Be careful about the amount you use, because a little goes a long way. And a generous amount can sabotage the dish – it might turn out a tad too salty.

This is a great alternative for those who are allergic to shellfish but love Chinese cuisine. It brings in all the taste of authentic Chinese food, though it doesn’t use oysters in the sauce. It’s hard to find the difference.

It’s a huge bottle and might be in your kitchen for a long time. It is preferred that you refrigerate it after opening if you want to ensure long shelf life.

Concluding thoughts…

If you are buying your first bottle of oyster sauce, you are unlikely to be disappointed with any of the above options. If you have already made your pick, get ready to binge on some lip-smacking Asian delicacies. For, even a plate of boiled broccoli can seem like one.

Almost every brand of oyster sauce uses MSG as a flavor-enhancing agent. However, if you are specific that your sauce should not contain MSG or preservatives, we have listed the best options for you that fulfill those conditions.

Oyster sauce is a great alternative for those who are allergic to soy. But if you are allergic to shellfish, and still want to enjoy the flavors of oyster sauce, we have you covered. We have listed a vegan option for those who have been keeping away from a good Cantonese stir-fry because they can’t have shellfish.

Using oyster sauce in food is probably the quickest way you can enhance its flavor, without having the know-how of a skilled chef. Buy your bottle of sauce today, and turn your every meal into a classic Chinese takeaway.

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