Before I went gluten-free and started to read labels like a hawk I used Hoisin sauce for barbecue, slathering it over grilled chicken or seared scallops. Store brands are often filled with unhealthy ingredients and sometimes gluten and GMO ingredients. It’s what inspired me to create this recipe. It’s healthier than commercial brands and with all of the terrific flavor you’d expect. There are a few ingredients but it tastes great and is easy to make. Use it on chicken, shrimp, scallops, and burgers. Toss steaming hot vegetables with a spoonful to give them a lovely glaze and flavor. Think of it like Chinese ketchup.
Homemade Hoisin Sauce
Hoisin is a thick reddish-brown sauce that is sweet, sometimes spicy, and widely used in Chinese cooking. My introduction to Hoisin came years ago at a favorite Chinese restaurant. It was served as a dipping sauce with chicken and vegetable Moo-shoo pancakes. The server smeared Hoisin inside a thin Chinese pancake, like a crepe, then topped it with the filling and deftly rolled it to serve table side. It had a delicious sweet-sour-tangy flavor that was unmistakable.
Once I figured out what that sauce was I started buying commercial versions at the market. Unfortunately the ingredients were poor quality and not gluten-free. Reading labels on many commercial brands, the first ingredient was sugar followed by artificial flavors or colors, caramel coloring, FD&C Red No. 40, and modified corn starch (often wheat-based and likely to be GMO). The bottles went into the trash.
Homemade Hoisin Sauce – The Best!
I thought about my old favorite sauce and decided to come up with my own, healthier and gluten-free recipe. Like a mad chemist, I began measuring, mixing and stirring with a counter full of potential ingredients in front of me until I nailed it. All of the flavor and texture I wanted without any poor quality ingredients. I was so excited to have Hoisin again. Since then I have used it on grilled chicken and shrimp.
If some of these ingredients are unfamiliar, don’t be swayed from trying it. It’s fun to try new things and experiment, expanding your tastes and recipes. There are many good things you can do with these ingredients individually to make them a valuable add to your pantry.
- Tamari is wheat-free soy sauce. I buy San-J Tamari lite which is 50% less sodium.
- Tamarind paste has a unique, bright, sour-tart taste, made from the tamarind fruit. It’s optional but worth finding. I use Neeras brand. It’s pure and thick with no additives and no seeds. Find it at Whole Foods, ethnic markets and online. Makes a refreshing drink too. It’s common in Indian, Thai and Latin-American cuisines. Tamarind paste in blocks is handled differently. The jarred paste is the easiest to work with.
- Chinese Five Spice is a marvelous spice blend of Szechuan pepper or black pepper, cinnamon, clove, fennel, star anise or other warm spices. Blends vary. If you are a cinnamon fan, I bet you’ll love Five Spice.
- Fish sauce might smell terrible for the average American palate, but adds a depth of flavor that tastes fantastic and not fishy. Trust me. I use Red Boat. Its traditionally made, organic, first press “extra virgin” Vietnamese fish sauce made on Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam.
- Cashew butter gives this sauce it’s its rich, creamy, thick consistency. I use Artisana brand. The best price can be found on ThriveMarket.com. If you have never had cashew butter, beware, it is totally addictive. As in just take the jar away from me.
Homemade Hoisin Sauce
- 1/4 cup low sodium Tamari wheat-free soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons raw cashew butter
- 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 1 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce nước mắm
- 1 tablespoon tamarind paste optional but delicious
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice Powder
- 1/4 teaspoon granulated or powdered garlic
- Combine all ingredients into a large measuring cup or bowl. Whisk until smooth. You could even toss all of the ingredients into a blender and whirl to blend. Taste, and if you want it sweeter add a little more honey. Store covered and refrigerated in a jar for 30 days.