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What Is Cantonese Sauce?

Have you heard of, or seen a recipe call for Cantonese sauce? Are you wondering what it is, what it is made of, and what it tastes like? Then you’ve come to the right place. Here is everything you will want to know.

So, what is Cantonese sauce? Cantonese sauce, otherwise known as Chinese brown sauce, is a dark brown sauce that is predominantly made up of soy sauce. Although there are variations. It is commonly used across many different Chinese dishes, particularly those that include meat and vegetables. It is sweet, sour in taste with notes of umami.

It’s actually a foundational sauce in many recipes.

In fact, it is commonly used in Cantonese-style cooking (which is the most common type of cooking you will find in Chinese restaurants across the globe).

It is due to staple sauces like Cantonese sauce that many Chinese dishes have their signature flavor we have all come to enjoy.

But what is this sauce made of exactly? Let’s find out!

What Is Cantonese Sauce Made Of?

Canontese sauce is mostly made of soy sauce, oil, salt, and sugar. Although there are variations of the recipe and other ingredients are sometimes used to introduce new flavors and complexities.

For instance, Oyster Sauce, Hoisin Sauce, Fish sauce, and Rice vinegar are sometimes added; sometimes alone or something in combination with one another.

Then you will often find other additions too; onion, garlic, and ginger are perhaps the most commonly used.

What Cantonese sauce is made of, ultimately depends on the cook and the dish in question.

What Does Cantonese Sauce Taste Like

Cantonese sauce is often sweet and sour in taste. It also typically provides Umami notes. Sometimes it may be spicy, other times it may have other flavors too such as garlic.

For the most part, you should expect a sauce similar to that of soy sauce.

However, it can vary depending on the recipe and what other ingredients are added.

Nevertheless, it tends to be quite a thick, sweet, and salty sauce.

Can You Buy Cantonese Sauce?

There are Cantonese sauce products, and variations available for purchase on the market. You can often find these in Asian markets, and some of the major grocery/supermarket stores, specifically those with an Asian food/world food section.

There is also the ability to buy this sauce online, from sites such as Amazon.

When it comes to brands, there are several different available – and you will soon notice that many are not made from a true, natural or authentic recipe.

Generally, making your own from scratch is not too difficult, expensive, nor does it require too much time or ingredients.

As we shall now see below.

Cantonese Sauce Recipe

The following Cantonese sauce recipe is quick, easy, tasty, and can be easily tossed in a wok or frying pan with meats and vegetables.


  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Onions, chopped
  • 2 Tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 Teaspoon of Minced Fresh Ginger
  • 1 Teaspoon of Garlic, minced
  • 1 Teaspoon of Sugar
  • ½ Teaspoon of Salt
  • 3 Tablespoons of Soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon of Fish sauce (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon of Cornstarch (optional thickener)


Step One: In a bowl, stir together the olive oil, prepared onions, tomatoes, ginger root, and garlic. Season with sugar, salt, soy (and fish) sauce.

Step Two: Place in a Wok/frying pan, to begin cooking with your other ingredients.


  • If you want a thicker sauce, you can always add cornstarch.
  • To do so, you will need to mix equal amounts of cornstarch and water in a separate cup first, and then add to the sauce when it is in the wok/frying pan.
  • You will also need to add the cornstarch mixture slowly until it thickens and stir continuously. It should thicken in 5-10 mins.