This Chinese-inspired condiment has the perfect balance of sweet and salty, with garlic and five-spice flavors! It's naturally-sweetened, vegan, and delicious used as a glaze or marinade!
Learn how to make your own Char Siu sauce at home!
📘 What is Char Siu Sauce
Char Siu sauce (叉烧酱), also called Chinese barbecue marinade, is a popular condiment commonly used in Chinese cooking. It is thick, sweet, quite salty, and is flavored with five-spice powder. It is often used to glaze braised or grilled meats, but can also be used as a marinade or to add flavor to noodle dishes, stir-fries, etc.
The most popular brand of Char Siu sauce is Lee Kum Kee, unfortunately I recently discovered this sauce is not vegan as it contains honey. Time to make our own, it's not only healthier, but also cheaper!
🥣 How to Make Char Siu Sauce
Preparing the sauce takes just 10 minutes and requires only 7 ingredients!
First, we blend all the ingredients together:
- Agave syrup - We will be using agave syrup to replace the honey used in the authentic version. I do not recommend using maple syrup as the flavor would be overpowering. If not vegan, simply use a neutral liquid honey.
- Hoisin sauce - For that sweet, salty, and tangy flavor. Hoisin sauce is a key ingredient in this recipe.
- Soy sauce - Use regular soy sauce, tamari, or coconut aminos. It adds extra saltiness and umami.
- Garlic - Use fresh garlic for the best flavor.
- Five-spice powder - This Asian spice blend is also essential to get that specific char siu flavor. Five spice powder brings an anise and cinnamon-y flavor to the sauce.
- Cornstarch - To thicken the sauce. If you don't have cornstarch on hand, tapioca starch or potato starch can be good alternatives, just be aware the consistency will be slightly different.
Once blended, transfer to a saucepan and heat over medium-heat until the sauce thickens. Let it cool and transfer to a clean jar. The sauce is now ready to use!
I tried to make this sauce as close as possible to the Lee Kum Kee one: quite sweet, salty, with notes of garlic and five-spice. If you want it less sweet, use brown rice syrup, or dilute the sauce with water when using it as a marinade for example.
🍜 How to Use Char Siu Sauce
Char siu sauce can be used in many different ways, here are some of my favorites:
- As a glaze: Brush the sauce over baked tofu, seitan, burgers, vegan ribs, or your plant-based meat of choice!
- As a marinade: for tempeh, jackfruit, vegan chick'n, and more.
- In stir-fries: Stir in a tablespoon of the sauce at the end of cooking for a sweet and salty dish.
- In noodle dishes: Dilute a couple tablespoons of the sauce with a tablespoon of the noodles cooking water. Add some chopped chili and coat the noodles with the sauce! I personally love these Vegan Char Siu Beef Noodles!
- How long does char siu sauce keep? This char siu sauce will keep for up to 2 weeks stored in the refrigerator.
- I am not vegan, can I use honey instead of agave? Definitely! If using honey, try going with one with a mild flavor.
This Char Siu sauce is so good! It is garlicky and packed with five-spice powder, giving it hints of cinnamon, anise, and sichuan pepper!
Homemade Char Siu Sauce
- Add all of the ingredients to a blender and blend for 5-10 seconds, or until fully combined.
- Transfer to a medium sauce pan and heat over medium heat. Whisk constantly until it starts to thicken, about 5 minutes.
- Once the sauce has thickened, transfer to a clean jar and let it cool completely at room temperature before storing in the refrigerator. The sauce will thicken a bit more as it cools down.
- Use as a glaze for tofu, tempeh, seitan, burgers, or stir in noodles, stir-fries, etc! Char siu sauce will keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.