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Is Hoisin Sauce Vegan? Everything You Should Know

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: April 1, 2023

Perhaps some of you know that ‘’hoisin’’ means seafood in Chinese, but don’t let the name throw you off - hoisin sauce is actually vegan-friendly.

Unlike Oyster Sauce, which it’s sometimes confused with, hoisin sauce doesn’t contain any animal ingredients, making it perfectly suitable for both vegan and vegetarian diets.

So, dear vegans, if you're a fan of Asian or fusion cuisine, and those sweet, tangy, and spicy elements - you can dig right in.

Quick Summary

  • Hoisin sauce is vegan because its essential ingredients are vegan-friendly.
  • Ingredients used to prepare Hoisin sauce are garlic, chili, salt, vinegar, plant-based artificial food colors, and Xanthan gum.
  • Pay attention to some Hoisin sauce brands that contain natural flavors, and synthetic colors that might involve animal testing.

What is Hoisin Sauce Made of?

Close up shot of a Hoisin Sauce

The essential ingredients include fermented soybean paste combined with a collection of spices, which usually consist of:

  • Chili – Always vegan-friendly
  • Salt – Always a yes for vegans
  • Garlic – Always vegan
  • Vinegar – Always vegan (including the white distilled vinegar)
  • Xanthan Gum – Made by fermenting glucose and sucrose (sugars)
  • Artificial food colors (sometimes non-vegan) – Some may involve animal testing
  • Caramel Color - Caramel color is usually vegan

The basic hoisin sauce recipe may also include white sugar, soybeans, water, sesame seeds, and sometimes preservatives like sodium benzoate.

Potential Non-Vegan Ingredients

Some vegans avoid consuming foods containing synthetic colors and natural flavors since they may involve animal testing [1]:

“Most “natural” food coloring is vegan, as they are derived from plants, but the most common type of food coloring that you'll see in food are artificial colors; this includes names like Red 40, Blue 1, and so on. Artificial colors are controversial among vegans”

- Dale Cudmore, 

This also applies to caramel color, which can be vegan, but it depends on the sweetener used to make the color. If it’s produced by using refined sugar, it can be considered non-vegan.

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Homemade Hoisin Sauce

A plate full of Hoisin Sauce and spoon with a spoon beside

To make sure there's no trace of artificial colors or non-vegan sweeteners, you can go for a homemade hoisin sauce.

Just combine the following ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 3-5 dates, pitted
  • 1/3 cup brown miso
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp white rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/8 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/16 tsp ground anise
  • 1/16 tsp cinnamon
  • A pinch of chili or some hot sauce to taste

Does It Contain Gluten?

A hoisin sauce on top of a saucer plate

This usually depends on the brand, so be sure to check the label before purchasing.

Although some varieties contain starches such as sweet potato, wheat, and rice, there are plenty of gluten-free hoisin sauce options, including major brands like Kikkoman, All-natural Wok Mei, and Lee Kum Kee hoisin sauce - all of these are suitable for those who are gluten-intolerant.

Some brands, like Lee Kum Kee, offer both vegan and vegetarian-friendly versions, and the one that does contain artificial colors, like R40.

So, be sure to check the ingredients before adding it to your shopping cart.

Is Hoisin Sauce Vegan? Final Verdict

So, is hoisin sauce vegan? Yes, its main ingredients are vegan-friendly.

However, you should pay attention to artificial colors added to some types of this popular condiment. Although it’s traditionally served with Peking duck, it also goes great with a variety of vegan dishes.

Be it a store-bought or DIY hoisin sauce, it will make your tofu chunks more aromatic, add depth to your vegetable stir fries, or jazz up noodles or a rice bowl. It also works great on its own as a dipping sauce.

What’s your hoisin sauce of choice? Tell us about it in the comments below


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