Hoisin sauce is the Chinese equivalent of barbecue sauce, used to flavor grilled and roasted meats. It is a sweet, savory and salty condiment made from fermented soybeans. Most large supermarkets sell hoisin in the Asian section. If you don't have any hoisin, other items will stand in for this complex condiment.
Barbecue Sauce Base Replacement
Make a homemade version of hoisin sauce from bottled barbecue sauce. Opt for a brand without added smoke flavor for the closest substitution for hoisin sauce. Mix 3 parts barbecue sauce with 1 part molasses, add Chinese five spice powder and dark miso to taste. If you have access to the thick, brown, salty yeast extract condiment, use that instead of the miso in the recipe. Miso is available in Asian markets in the refrigerated foods section. It is a thick paste made from fermented soybeans and is used as a soup base and condiment. If you cannot find it, use soy sauce and nutritional yeast or soy sauce alone.
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Make a natural replacement for hoisin in a food processor. Using warm water for the puree will keep the prunes from sticking to the food processor blades. Puree together 2 parts warm water and 1 part pitted prunes and add soy sauce, crushed garlic and dry sherry to taste. If you do not have dry sherry, use any cooking wine or unsweetened juice.
Sweet Bean Paste
Taiwanese cooks use a sweet fermented soybean paste, called sweet bean paste. This is similar to Chinese brown bean paste. Both of these condiments have a stronger flavor than hoisin. Decrease the amount of sweet bean paste by one-half, and taste the dish. Add more bean paste in small increments if you want a stronger flavor.
Chee Hou Sauce
Chee hou sauce is an Asian condiment made from soybeans, ginger and garlic. Aside from the ginger, it has the same ingredients as hoisin sauce. Chee hou sauce is spicier. Use up to one-half the amount of chee hou in your recipe and slowly increase it to taste.
For the same viscosity and sweetness, replace the hoisin sauce in your recipe with an equal amount of apple butter. This replacement will not be as salty or garlicky. Add garlic powder and soy sauce to taste, if you want those flavors in your dish.