Ground bean sauce is a condiment made from fermented yellow soybeans. It can be thin, smooth, chunky, or thick in texture. It often has other ingredients for extra flavoring like garlic or chilies. It’s used to add flavor and color to main courses like tofu, stir-fries, pork, duck, fish, and vegetables. It also makes for a good condiment.
Bean sauce is called for in many Asian recipes. It’s a pretty everyday popular ingredient, but maybe you aren’t too fond of the taste or can’t find any. There are plenty of replacements that work just as well. Similar sauces are hoisin sauce, chee hou paste, miso paste, chili bean sauce, and oyster paste. You can also make it from home, if you prefer.
1. Hoisin Sauce
Hoisin sauce is also a paste made of fermented soybeans. Its consistency is thick and it is dark in color. The flavor of hoisin sauce is pretty strong and salty, with added sweetener. It’s been compared to American barbecue sauce, but less sweet and more rich. Some people even make hoisin sauce by adding sriracha and Chinese five spice powder to barbecue sauce.
Because of the distinct taste, it’s recommended to only use a little at a time or dilute it with water. This is usually the first choice if you’re looking for something that replicates ground bean sauce as an all-purpose ingredient. Due to its texture, it’s most ideal for a thickener in noodles or dipping sauce for appetizers.
2. Chee Hou Sauce
Chee Hou paste is also made of fermented soybeans. It’s similar to hoisin sauce but has different seasonings added in. It usually contains some less conventional ingredients like salted plum, salted lemons, and bean curd. It’s also known for its sweeter taste.
It works best when used for braising, whereas hoisin sauce is best for dipping, but the two can be used interchangeably. After the jar is opened, chee hou sauce should be stored in the fridge and it has a shelf life of at least three months.
3. Miso Paste
Miso paste will give your food the similar fermented soy flavor that ground bean sauce gives it. Adding some soy sauce to the miso paste will create a more pasty texture. Some also like to add molasses to make it sweeter. Its flavor stands out when compared to hoisin sauce or ground bean paste. It’s made with soybeans, rice, or barley, so it is more unique than the previous two on this list.
When buying miso paste, there will likely be a red variety and a white variety. If both are available to you, opt for the red variety because it has a longer fermentation process. This means it has a more intense flavor, which is perfect for Asian cuisine.
Although it can be used as a replacement, its taste and texture is pretty different from that of ground bean sauce. So if you’re looking for something different, this one’s for you. It’s most commonly used to marinate chicken or pork. In the same way tomato sauce adds to meatballs or sausage, miso paste adds an extra layer of tastiness.
4. Oyster Paste
The main difference between oyster paste and bean sauce is, well, oyster paste is made from oysters. It’s a sufficient replacement for any occasion when bean sauce is necessary. It has the familiar, but not overpowering, saltiness and is a little sweeter. Many consider it a step up from ground bean sauce.
The creation of oyster sauce was accidental. A chef in the 19th century, Lee Kum Sheung, left a pot of oyster soup boiling for too long. He discovered it when it was turned to gravy, and found out that it made a delicious sauce.
The difference between the flavors of oyster sauce and ground bean sauce isn’t strikingly noticeable. Seasoned Asian food lovers will notice it, but anyone else isn’t likely to take note. Regardless, oyster paste makes for a good substitute as its flavor has far more similarities than differences to ground bean sauce.
5. Chili Bean Sauce
There are two main types of chili bean sauce. One is Thai, and made from water chestnuts, and the other is made from fermented beans. Whichever you choose, it makes for a good ground bean sauce alternative, texture wise.
While there is chili bean sauce, there is also chili bean paste. These are two different things. The sauce is made from fermented black beans and the paste is made from red ground chili peppers. Both taste like an intense mix of oriental spices and chili. Its spiciness is not too hot and great for dishes that need an extra flare. The level of spice is comparable to that of salsa.
Chili bean sauce’s main ingredients are garlic, chili peppers, and navy beans. The texture of it is great for using instead of ground bean sauce, but its flavor is much less mild.
6. Making Your Own Ground Bean Sauce
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can make bean sauce at home. It will have a fresher taste than sauce from the bottle, and stays truest to an authentic meal.
- One cup of fermented black beans
- 8 crushed garlic cloves
- ¼ cup sugar
- One piece of ginger
- ½ minced white onion
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- Run beans, garlic, and onion through a food processor until it becomes chunky and paste-like.
- Heat the oil and put your bean paste into a saucepan on medium low heat setting.
- Add the soy sauce and wine, let sit for ten minutes or until the onions become translucent. Stir constantly.
- Grate ginger and add to the pan. Once the oil begins to float over the sauce, pour everything into a large bowl so it can cool.
- Once cooled, resettle it into a jar or another airtight container. This homemade sauce can be stored in the fridge for up to one month.
Many types of Asian recipes call for ground bean sauce. It is a popular and often a staple ingredient. Ground bean sauce is a paste made of fermented soybeans that adds more flavor to popular foods.
It’s mainly used as a dipping sauce, or added to vegetables and meat to create an extra layer of savoriness. If there’s none available to you, or you want to try something different, there are plenty of alternatives that work just as well.