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Is Hoisin Sauce Vegan?

Eyeing up that thick, fragrant hoisin sauce but not sure whether it is safe to eat as a vegan? I know the feeling. So I spent some time researching to find out if this is something we can enjoy. Here is what you need to know.

So, is hoisin sauce vegan? Most hoisin sauce is vegan, being made almost exclusively of soybeans and spices. However, some brands of hoisin sauce may not actually be vegan – particularly if any artificial colors or additives that use animal testing practices in the process of production are included.

So, the quick and easy way to find out for sure is to check the ingredients list of any hoisin sauce.

That is if you can.

Otherwise, you may need to politely ask.

Let us now take a closer look at what makes up this popular sauce before turning to why it’s not always a vegan-friendly option!

What Is Hoisin Sauce Made Of?

Hoisin sauce is primarily made of fermented soybean paste. Sometimes this is replaced with date/raisin or plum paste. Other than this, spices, water, sugar, salt, vinegar, sesame seeds, soy sauce and chili peppers are widely used.

Some hoisin sauce brands will use starches in their recipes too, such as wheat, rice or even sweet potato.

And then, you will sometimes find hoisin sauce that includes preservatives and coloring agents too.

Now of course, for the latter two, that’s where it can get tricky.

As we will now see in the following sections.

Are All Hoisin Sauce Vegan?

While the majority of hoisin sauces are vegan, not all are. This is more likely in sauces from jars and those that include preservatives and other colorings.

For instance, if we take a look at the popular brand Lee Kum Kee. This is the full list of their ingredients:

Sugar, water, fermented soybean paste (water, salt, soybeans, wheat flour), salt, sweet potato powder, caramel color, modified corn starch, sesame paste, dehydrated garlic, spices, salted chili peppers (chili peppers, salt), acetic acid, red 40.

You see that Red 40 there.

That’s food coloring.

And unfortunately, it is mostly tested on mice and rats.

Absolutely not vegan friendly.

If we then look at the other popular Kikkoman brand.

Sugar, water, miso (water, soybeans, rice, salt, alcohol), plum puree, naturally brewed soy sauce (water, wheat, soybeans, salt), garlic, vinegar, caramel color, modified corn starch, fermented wheat protein, salt, spices, xanthan gum, citric acid, natural flavors.

Looks pretty good to me.

So what can we learn from all this?

Look at the ingredient labels closely!

Of course, you can always contact Kikkoman, or any other brand to ask them directly.

That’s probably your best bet in every instance.

Or make your own.

The following recipe is quick, simple, and will ensure that you only consume an entirely vegan sauce.

How To Make Your Own Vegan Friendly Hoisin Sauce

Making your own vegan-friendly hoisin sauce takes a mere 5-10 minutes and does not require too many ingredients.

Here is all you need to do:

Recipe

  • 4 Tablespoons of Date Paste/ 2 Medjool Dates (blended)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Fermented Soybean Paste/ Peanut Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon of Maple Syrup
  • 2 Teaspoons of Soy Sauce
  • 1 Teaspoon of Sesame Oil
  • 1 Teaspoon of Hot Sauce
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of 5 Spice Powder

Notes

If you cannot find date paste in your local store, thankfully you can make it instead!

All you need to do is soak a few Medjool dates in warm water, to soften them up, drain the liquid away. Then transfer to a blender or food processor.

In regards to the Fermented Soybean Paste – it can also be tricky to find and buy. While this make it authentic hoisin sauce, peanut butter can be used instead.

Instructions

  1. Add the date paste, soybean paste/peanut butter and maple syrup to a bowl and whisk together until smooth in consistency.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk together.
  3. This should create a relatively thick sauce; although transferring to a pan and simmering for around 1 minute will thicken the sauce further.
  4. Taste and assess the hoisin sauce. You may want to add more maple syrup, soy sauce, hot sauce etc depending on your preferences.
  5. Enjoy!

Finally

Here is the confusing thing: the word hoisin derives from the Chinese word for “seafood”.

But, this sauce does not contain any seafood ingredients.

It is mostly eaten alongside seafood, hence the name.

Phew.

And as long as you do your due diligence or prepare from scratch, you should be fine!

And you can add some of this fragrant sauce to your stir fry, or use it as a dipping sauce without guilt!