One of the valuable properties of hoisin sauce is its versatility. It is one of the few Chinese seasonings that can seamlessly transition into western applications. It might even be as versatile as soy sauce. The sweet-and-savory (and sometimes spicy) flavor profile of this Cantonese condiment makes it a fantastic complement for a vast range of foods. If you are not familiar with it, hoisin sauce tastes like a richer and sweeter soy sauce with nuance and complexity you won’t get from soy sauce. It also does not have the bitterness of the darker soy sauces.
The consistency of hoisin sauce can vary dramatically from thick and paste-like to thin and syrupy. Which you choose depends on how you plan to use it. We offer six excellent uses cases below, and if you’re ready to make your own spicy hoisin sauce, take a look at our recipe here. Or check out this hoisin BBQ sauce recipe that can be used in many of the same ways below.
1. For marinating meat
You can greatly improve pork, chicken, and duck with the use of hoisin sauce. Use hoisin sauce either by itself or in combination with other flavorful ingredients. You don’t have to limit its use to just Chinese and Chinese-style dishes either. Hoisin sauce can make an excellent marinade for ribs, pork shoulders to be smoked or grilled American-style. Use it instead of or along with a dry rub, or add it to your barbecue sauce.
2. To make a glaze
Hoisin sauce can make an attractive and flavorful glaze for roasted or baked meat. It is what is used to glaze the famous Peking duck. Hoisin sauce is responsible for much of Peking duck’s flavor profile as well as its deep honey-colored sheen.
3. As a dipping sauce
You can use hoisin sauce by itself for dipping Chinese or Vietnamese egg rolls or dumplings. Using it as a dipping sauce is actually one of the many traditional ways to use it. It is an excellent complement for fried foods. You can add other ingredients to it as well for an even more complex flavor profile.
4. In stir-fry
Hoisin sauce can be used to make up the liquid component of a vegetable or meat stir-fry. Its sweet and salty character goes well with many vegetables as well as with poultry beef and pork. Not only will hoisin sauce help to tie all the other flavors in the dish together, but it is also subtle enough to remain in the background.
5. As a wing sauce
Hoisin sauce goes well with crisp, fatty foods and chicken wings are no exception. Wings that have been deep-fried, baked or grilled will have their flavor and texture enhanced by the sweet and umami nuances of hoisin sauce. The thick, molasses-like texture of hoisin sauce allows it to coat the exterior of fried wings perfectly and to give them an attractive glossiness besides enhancing their flavor.
6. With seafood
Yes, hoisin sauce is versatile enough that you can use it with fish and shellfish. The use of hoisin to season or accompany seafood may be the most traditional of all the applications since the word hoy (or hoi) translates to sea. Sin means fresh so the word hoisin may indicate that it is to be served with fresh seafood. The seafood dishes that use hoisin sauce include Chinese shrimp in hoisin sauce and salmon with hoisin sauce glaze. The latter is less traditional but just as flavorful.