Brown sauce is a favorite on Chinese menus, but is it vegan? What's in it?
We'll be your guide and tell you what you need to know below.
Is Chinese Brown Sauce Vegan?
Apparently, brown sauce is as ambiguous as it is famous, and you can't count on it being vegan.
Brown sauces are thought to start with soy sauce and broth, but they get pretty diverse from there. Because common ingredients include oyster sauce, chicken stock and beef stock, a tofu stir-fry with brown sauce might not be a vegan option when you're ordering takeout.
The same goes for bottled brown sauce, which we'll get into below...
What is Chinese Brown Sauce Made out of?
While you can find out if there are any animal products in the brown sauce served at your favorite Chinese spot, you may have a tough time learning all the ingredients. Proprietary secrets abound.
However, we found a Chinese brown sauce recipe by famous chef and television personality Martin Yan that could approximate the ingredients in a typical brown sauce.
Read on for the ingredients...
Martin Yan's All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce
The primary ingredients for Martin Yan's brown sauce include chicken broth, Chinese rice wine or dry sherry, sesame oil, sugar and light soy sauce (see recipe linked above for full details).
Chicken broth is an animal product and therefore not vegan.
We'll check a store-bought Chinese brown sauce next for vegan status.
Oriental Secrets Savory Brown Sauce
Here are all the ingredients in Oriental Secrets Savory Brown Sauce (linked above, non-veg items in bold):
Ingredients: water, soy sauce (water, wheat, soy beans, salt, sodium benzoate as preservative), food starch-modified, sugar, garlic, hoisin sauce (sugar, sweet potatoes, water, salt, soy beans, garlic, modified cornstarch, sesame seeds, spices, chili pepper, acetic acid, caramel color Red 40), oyster sauce (water, sugar, salt, oyster extractives, cornstarch, hydrolyzed soy protein, caramel color), citric acid, ground bean sauce (water, soy bean, salt, wheat flour, sugar, sesame oil, spices), vinegar, rice wine, spices.
Side Note: Trying to figure out how to go vegan in a healthy and sustainable way?
Check out this vegan starter kit
Oysters are not vegan, so Oriental Secrets' brown sauce isn't vegan, either.
See Also: Is Oyster Sauce Vegan?
Our investigation turned up some fairly nebulous answers about the sauce in question, but fret not! We got enough solid information to answer the vegan question.
Here's what we say about Chinese brown sauce:
It's not safe to assume that it'll be vegan whether you're going to shop for it, order it for takeout, or follow a standard recipe for it. Your best bet is to find a vegan recipe or, if you're eating out, ask if there's any chicken broth, beef stock, oyster sauce or animal product of any kind in it.
Tofu is a common ingredient in Chinese cuisine and if you want to level up your dish, consider pressing the tofu before cooking it. If you're looking for a guide on what tofu press to buy, you can check out our picks for best tofu press.
Armed with this knowledge, you can go forth and find the truly vegan brown sauces out there and then let us know what you think!
Vegan Condiments galore
If Chinese brown sauce strikes your fancy, there are tons of vegan condiments to discover.
See our list of essential vegan condiments for a taste.
While you're at it, you might want to check these out, too...
Want to learn more about living a sustainable vegan lifestyle? Check out our shopping list with tips on food prep, nutrition and more.
See Also: Is Teriyaki Sauce Vegan?