Teriyaki sauce and hoisin sauce are both sweet Asian sauces that have made names for themselves in the West. Aside from their sweetness, they have quite distinctive properties that you should consider when choosing one or the other for a dish. Let’s compare them in this SPICEography Showdown.
How does teriyaki sauce differ from hoisin sauce?
Teriyaki sauce and hoisin sauce have different origins. Teriyaki sauce is Japanese and hoisin sauce is Chinese. Teriyaki sauce began as a sauce for grilled meat in Japan. It would eventually become a staple of Hawaiian cooking brought to that state by immigrants. Hoisin sauce started as a dipping sauce for deep-fried seafood. It has also been used as an accompaniment for Peking duck.
While teriyaki and hoisin sauces do both contain sweeteners, the rest of the ingredients differ. Most teriyaki sauce recipes are simple. The main ingredients are sugar, soy sauce, and ginger. Some versions will contain garlic along with mirin and/or pineapple juice. The soy content in hoisin sauce comes from soybean paste rather than soy sauce, and it will contain chili pepper and other spices to go with the ginger and garlic.
The different ingredients result in somewhat different flavor profiles since teriyaki sauce is usually somewhat acidic. Hoisin sauce is usually mostly sweet with little to no acidity. The hoisin sauce flavor profile is spicier because of the use of chili peppers and other spices that don’t typically show up in teriyaki sauce recipes.
Teriyaki sauce is usually relatively thin with some versions being runny and watery. Hoisin sauce is usually thick and viscous with some varieties having the texture of a paste.
Can you use teriyaki sauce as a substitute for hoisin sauce and vice versa?
Teriyaki sauce and hoisin sauce can be interchangeable if all you need are all-purpose Asian dipping sauces for fried foods or stir-fry sauces for meat or vegetables. If you are trying to replace one sauce with the other in specific dishes, you will need to account for the different flavor profiles and consistencies. Neither sauce will be an ideal substitute for the other.
Five-spice powder, chili flakes, and Shaoxing rice wine are some of the ingredients that you can add to teriyaki sauce to make it taste more like hoisin sauce. If your teriyaki sauce is particularly runny, you may need to add corn starch or another thickener to give it the consistency of hoisin sauce.
Nothing can be added to hoisin sauce to make it more like teriyaki besides water to thin it out and dilute the flavor. Keep in mind that hoisin sauce can have a viscous but runny consistency like molasses, or it can be a paste similar to peanut butter.
Hoisin sauce won’t be a good substitute for teriyaki sauce if you want the simple, clean flavors of a teriyaki dish. The chili peppers and other spices will make it too complex. That said, using hoisin sauce shouldn’t ruin the food, but it won’t taste like a traditional teriyaki dish either.
When should you use teriyaki sauce and when should you use hoisin sauce?
Use thick teriyaki sauce for dipping if you want a sweet but mildly seasoned dipping sauce. You can also use the thin version as a glaze for grilled or roasted meats.
Use hoisin sauce when you want a more complex and spicy flavor profile that includes notes from spices like cinnamon and star anise. Hoisin sauce may also have a mild heat from chili peppers that you won’t get from teriyaki sauce.