9 Best Substitute For XO Sauce

Xo Sauce Substitute

Welcome to the flavorful world of XO sauce and its potential alternatives! Whether you’ve stumbled across a recipe that requires XO sauce and you can’t seem to find it in your local store or you’re in the midst of a culinary adventure and want to explore similar tastes, this article is your trusty guide. You will get to know the essence of XO sauce, its flavor profile, and why it holds a prime position in the hearts of food enthusiasts. We’ll also delve into numerous substitutes for XO sauce that can bring comparable tastes to your dishes, so that you’re never stuck in your cooking journey. Each substitute is described in detail, with practical examples and tips on how to best use them in your recipes.

What is Xo Sauce?

Originally from Hong Kong, XO sauce is a cherished condiment that has graced many a Cantonese dish. Named after XO (extra-old) cognac, a symbol of high quality, XO sauce is a premium blend of dried seafood (scallop, shrimp), Jinhua ham, garlic, chili peppers, and oil. This exquisite, umami-packed sauce is often used as a condiment or a flavor enhancer in stir-fries, noodles, or simply tossed with rice, adding a burst of flavor and a spicy kick. The savory and slightly sweet undertones of XO sauce make it a versatile addition to a wide variety of dishes.

The Quick XO-change – Substitutes For Xo Sauce

  • Hoisin Sauce
  • Oyster Sauce
  • Doubanjiang
  • Teriyaki Sauce
  • Fish Sauce
  • Shrimp Paste
  • Miso Paste
  • Soy Sauce
  • Gochujang

Let’s explore each of these alternatives in detail, understanding their unique flavors, and how they can step into the shoes of XO sauce in your culinary exploits.

Best Substitutes For Xo Sauce

Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin sauce, a thick, fragrant sauce frequently used in Chinese cuisine, is our first substitute for XO sauce. The two sauces share a rich umami quality and a hint of sweetness, albeit Hoisin leans more towards the sweet side.

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This sauce is made from soybeans, fennel, red chili peppers, and garlic, forming a delectable blend that can serve as a marinade, a glaze for meat, or a flavor-boosting stir-fry sauce. It also works wonderfully as a dipping sauce. Despite lacking the seafood component of XO sauce, Hoisin still brings depth and complexity to your dishes, and its sweetness can be balanced by the addition of other ingredients like soy sauce or vinegar.

Should you need to replicate XO sauce in a stir-fry or noodle dish, try mixing Hoisin with a bit of fish sauce to emulate the seafood undertone. Its versatility and wide availability make it a practical and accessible substitute for XO sauce.

Oyster Sauce

Next on our list is Oyster sauce, another Chinese culinary gem. As the name implies, it’s made from oyster extracts, sugar, salt, and water, thickened with cornstarch. The flavor profile is sweet and salty with a profound umami character, not unlike XO sauce.

Oyster sauce doesn’t have the spicy kick of XO sauce, but this can be fixed by adding a bit of chili to your recipes. Given its rich, savory flavor, Oyster sauce is frequently used as a seasoning in stir-fries and marinades, or as a glaze for grilled meats.

Keep in mind that while Oyster sauce does provide some seafood essence, it’s more mellow compared to XO sauce. Hence, using it as a substitute might require additional seasonings to bring out a stronger flavor.


Also known as broad bean paste, Doubanjiang is a staple condiment in Sichuan cooking. Made from fermented broad beans and chili peppers, Doubanjiang adds a uniquely deep, spicy, and savory flavor to dishes.

While it doesn’t possess the seafood undertones of XO sauce, Doubanjiang offers a similar heat level, alongside a rich umami flavor. Its intense flavor can be moderated by combining it with other ingredients like soy sauce or hoisin sauce.

Doubanjiang works exceptionally well in hot and spicy dishes, stir-fries, and stews. It’s the backbone of many Sichuan dishes, such as mapo tofu, infusing them with a burst of flavor that’s both spicy and full-bodied.

Teriyaki Sauce

Teriyaki sauce, native to Japanese cuisine, is a mixture of soy sauce, sake (or mirin), and sugar. It possesses a distinctive sweet and salty flavor that can offer a different twist when used as a substitute for XO sauce.

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Although Teriyaki sauce lacks the spiciness and seafood nuances of XO sauce, it is a versatile condiment that can be used in a variety of dishes, from glazing grilled meats to enhancing stir-fries. To emulate the heat of XO sauce, a dash of chili flakes or hot sauce can be added.

If you’re searching for a substitute that’s readily available in most stores and adds a flavorful punch to your dishes, Teriyaki sauce is a viable contender.

Fish Sauce

Fish sauce, a fermented condiment made from fish coated in sea salt, is commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisines. It has a strong, salty flavor and a noticeable umami character, which make it an effective substitute for the seafood element in XO sauce.

Given its intense flavor, it’s best to use fish sauce sparingly. It can be diluted with water or combined with other ingredients like sugar or lime juice to balance its taste. Fish sauce can add depth to stir-fries, soups, and marinades, and can even be used as a dipping sauce.

Bear in mind that fish sauce does not provide the sweetness or spiciness of XO sauce. You might need to incorporate other ingredients to achieve a similar overall flavor.

Shrimp Paste

Next, we have shrimp paste, a popular ingredient in Southeast Asian and Southern Chinese cooking. Made from fermented ground shrimp, it has a strong, salty flavor and a distinct aroma that can replicate the seafood essence of XO sauce.

Shrimp paste is versatile and can be used in a wide range of dishes, including stir-fries, curries, and soups. It’s also a key ingredient in many dipping sauces. Similar to fish sauce, shrimp paste has an intense flavor that should be used sparingly.

While shrimp paste can cover the seafood component of XO sauce, it lacks its sweetness and spiciness. Hence, additional seasonings may be required.

Miso Paste

Miso paste, a traditional Japanese seasoning, is made from fermented soybeans, salt, and a type of fungus called koji. It offers a complex flavor that’s both savory and slightly sweet, much like XO sauce.

Miso paste is commonly used in soups, marinades, and glazes. It brings a robust umami flavor to dishes, although it doesn’t provide the spiciness or seafood elements found in XO sauce.

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When substituting for XO sauce, you might consider adding some chili and a bit of fish sauce to your recipes to replicate its unique taste.

Soy Sauce

Soy sauce, made from fermented soybeans and wheat, is a universal condiment used across various cuisines. Its rich, salty, and slightly sweet flavor can work as a base when trying to replicate XO sauce.

Although it lacks the spiciness and seafood hints of XO sauce, soy sauce is extremely versatile and can be paired with a multitude of ingredients. When using it as a substitute, you might need to combine it with other condiments like chili sauce or fish sauce to fully mimic the flavor of XO sauce.


Last on our list is Gochujang, a spicy and slightly sweet paste made from chili powder, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, and salt. Hailing from Korean cuisine, Gochujang brings a balance of sweet, spicy, and umami flavors to dishes.

While it lacks the seafood component of XO sauce, Gochujang’s rich flavor profile can still provide a depth of flavor in many recipes. It can be used in marinades, stews, and stir-fries, or as a base for dipping sauces. If you’re after a punchy, spicy, and versatile condiment to substitute for XO sauce, Gochujang can be a great choice.

Substitutes for Xo Sauce: Nutritional Profile

Sauce (¼ cup)GlutenCaloriesFat (g)Carbs (g)Fiber (g)Protein (g)
Hoisin SauceYes10012421
Oyster SauceYes6001501
Teriyaki SauceYes7001701
Fish SauceNo300204
Shrimp PasteNo200104
Miso PasteYes602723
Soy SauceYes350503


Finding a perfect substitute for XO sauce might seem like a challenge given its unique and complex flavor profile. But as you’ve seen, there are several alternatives available that can fill the gap quite well. Whether you’re looking for a sauce with a similar umami depth, or you want to capture that hint of spiciness or sweetness, one of these sauces will serve as a reliable stand-in. Remember, cooking is a journey full of experiments and learning. Embrace these substitutes and see how they can transform your dishes, adding their own unique touch to your culinary creations.

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