Hoisin sauce is a sweet and spicy soybean-based sauce that is widely used in Chinese cooking as both an ingredient and a condiment. It regularly accompanies Peking duck in the United States.
A Cantonese specialty, the Chinese name of hoisin sauce is haixian (Cantonese hoisin), which translates confusingly to “sea-delicious” even though it contains no seafood ingredients and is used more in meat dishes or as a barbecue sauce or glaze.
Hoisin is made from a paste of yellow soy beans seasoned with sugar, vinegar, chiles, garlic, sesame oil, salt, and spices. It may also contain red coloring and thickeners.
Different brands may contain different amounts of ingredients and different spices so that the flavor of Hoisin sauce varies quite a bit but is always spicy and sweet. The texture of hoisin can vary from thin to thick and creamy.
There are many fermented yellow bean sauces used in Chinese cooking. Hoisin can be thought of as similar to a type sweet bean sauce called tin min jeong in Cantonese or tin mian jiang in Mandarin. These are typically a pureed soybean sauce mixed with sugar and various flavorings. Most of these “sweet bean” sauces, however, are not actually as sweet as Hoisin, and can actually be quite salty.
Best Brands of Hoisin Sauce
Avoid the typical grocery store brands of hoisin sauce with vaguely Chinese sounding names. Instead, look for more authentic brands in specialty stores, Asian markets, or online. Two widely recommended brands are Koon Chun Hoisin and Lee Kum Kee Hoisin.
This article contains one or more Amazon affiliate links. See full disclosure.