Black bean sauce is a thin sauce made from fermented black beans, garlic and sometimes ginger. Bean sauces, especially black bean sauce, are popular in Asian cuisines. The fermented black beans are the difference between fresh black bean sauces and prepared Chinese black bean sauces. While difficult to find, most Asian markets carry fermented black beans.
Brown Bean Sauce
Brown bean sauce, sometimes called bean sauce, is a salty brown sauce made from fermented yellow soybeans rather than fermented black beans. Brown bean sauce is the most similar to black bean sauce in texture, flavor and spice. The only major difference between the two is color.
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Chile Bean Sauce
Chile bean sauce, sometimes called hot bean sauce, is a thick sauce made from black beans, chilies, garlic and sugar. An extremely spicy sauce, chile bean sauce should be used sparingly. It is similar to chile paste, or sambal oelek, with added black beans.
Brown miso, also called brown bean paste, is a Japanese sauce with a thick consistency made from soybeans. The process of making brown miso includes injecting the soybeans with a koji, or mold. The color of the miso depends on the amount of soybeans used and the length of aging, which can range from six months to three years.
Other replacements can be used, and while they are perfect for giving a dish an Asian flair, they may not resemble the flavors of black bean sauce as well as the other substitutions. These options include Shinshu miso, a golden miso, Sendai miso, a red miso and sweet bean paste made from fermented soybeans and sugar.