What Are The Best XO Sauce Substitutes?

XO sauce in addition to various Chinese dishes

XO Sauce is made of mixed ingredients that provide a delicious herb that is salty, sweet and smoky at the same time. A combination of chilli, garlic, jinhua ham, dried scallops and shrimp is processed into a sauce that resembles jam. It gives chips their taste appeal and is ideal for cooking pasta and rice with seafood, fish or tofu. The herb is also excellent as a dip sauce for dishes such as meatballs or meat.

XO sauce can be quite expensive, depending on where you buy it, and it’s not a common ingredient like barbecue or tomato sauce. If you can’t get a bottle, you need a good replacement for XO sauce. We have put together several options so that you can make your next recipe without the original ingredient.

What can I use to replace XO sauce in my recipe?

If you need an XO substitute, you can use oysters or teriyaki sauce in equal quantities. These alternatives are easily available in the Asian part of the supermarket or in Asian grocery stores. Although each of these options has its own flavor and texture, you will find that they both bring the salty taste of the mind in chips and other ready-made meals. For a more authentic XO sauce, it is better to make the homemade version. Most recipes require you to stand for a few hours, which is not necessarily advisable if you are in a hurry. Check out the recipe on this page to make your own recipe.

1. Oyster sauce

Oyster sauce is often used in Chinese cuisine to add colour and flavour to foods. The dark brown spice gives the recipes a strong umami and salty taste thanks to the addition of oysters. There is also a subtle hint of caramel, which gives the dishes a delicate sweetness.

The taste and texture of the oyster sauce will probably be different from that of XO. But for those who have never eaten the original sauce, the change of ingredients will go unnoticed. You can use oyster sauce as an extra ingredient in any recipe that needs XO, and it also works as a dipping sauce.

Beef ice cream with oyster sauce Oyster sauce is very tasty mixed with beef.

A few small changes in the sauce will help you achieve a more authentic taste. First add a few sweet and fresh chillies at the beginning and sprinkle lightly with paprika powder. The sauce should not be spicy, so avoid hot peppers. These extra ingredients have a stronger smoky taste.

Another important addition to the XO sauce is Jinhua ham. Many people will not have access to this meat in the local shop, so instead add another meat that is more common in your area. Virginia ham, prosciutto or Iberian ham is a good choice to be chopped before it is added.

Looks like a lecture: A practical comparison of oyster and hazelnut sauces.

2. Teriyaki sauce

Teriyaki sauce is another popular spice found in shops around the world. This thick, dark liquid gives each food to which it has been added a powerful dose of sweet, salty and savoury flavour. It also makes a delicious dip, ideal for dumplings, Peking duck, beef or any other fried dish you like to dip.

Many common ingredients used in teriyaki sauce, such as garlic, brown sugar, ginger and soy sauce, are also used in XO. But as an oyster sauce you can, if time permits, add a few extra ingredients such as chilli, garlic and smoked ham cut into small cubes.

Boiled salmon fillet with teriyaki sauce The teriyaki sauce gives the fish an aromatic punch.

Tip: If you decide to add pepper, remove all seeds and the white membrane before adding it to the sauce. This is the hottest part of the spices, and you don’t want it to dominate the other flavors in the sauce.

Looks like a lecture: Learn how the teriyaki sauce and the tonkatsu sauce differ from each other.

3. Create your own

Developing a rich XO sauce at home is a fascinating task, but it will take you several hours. Keep in mind that Chinese chefs like to keep a little rough texture in their sauce instead of mixing it or passing it through a finer liquid; this helps the eater distinguish the different ingredients of the star in the sauce.


  • 2 ½ Dried scallops us
  • 2.5 ounces of dried shrimp
  • A 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and shredded.
  • 2 shallots, quarters.
  • 2 Anaheim peppers, spread out and coarsely ground.
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 glass of vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ ounce of Jinhua ham (or prosciutto ham), ground
  • ¼ Cup of Shaoxing wine (or Mirin)
  • 1 glass of chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 star anise


  1. Pour the scallops and dried shrimps into separate bowls and cover them with boiling water before soaking them for 1 to 2 hours.
  2. Drain most of the liquid from the scallops and leave about 2 tablespoons in the bowl.
  3. Drain the shrimp completely. Heat the scallops in the microwave for two to three minutes until they dissolve easily and become tender. Drain the rest of the juice.
  4. Place the scallops and shrimps in a food processor and pulse them 5 to 10 times until they are coarsely chopped. Put the seafood in the bowl.
  5. Mix the ginger, shallots, peppers and garlic in a food processor and pulser until the ingredients are finely chopped but still retain some texture. Never mind.
  6. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven on medium heat until it boils. Carefully add the meat and cook until it is crispy, stirring regularly. Add the seafood and cook for six to eight minutes or until golden brown.
  7. Mix the vegetable mixture with the oil and let it turn golden.
  8. Use Shaoxing wine to ignite the kettle and make sure you scrape off all the delicious brown slices from the side of the kettle. Pour brown sugar, soy sauce, oyster sauce and star anise into the chicken stock. Cook on high heat for 10-12 minutes or until thickened.
  9. Remove the sauce from the heat and allow it to cool before pouring into suitable glass or airtight containers. If kept in the fridge, it lasts up to a month.

Brief information about XOsauce

  • The name XO comes from various luxury cognacs; the sauce got its name because a number of expensive ingredients are used such as dried scallops and jinhuaham.
  • It is revered for its quality and depth of flavour and is relatively expensive compared to many other Asian spices.
  • XO sauce does not have a long history and probably originated in Hong Kong in the 1980s.

Interesting reading:
What are the good alternatives to black soy beans?
Comparison between Ponzu and soy sauce.
What are useful substitutes for black bean sauce?


XO is a flavoured sauce that derives its unique flavour from a variety of relatively expensive ingredients. As their popularity increases outside Asia, big brands of cheaper sauces emerge. A good example is Lee Kum Ke Xo sauce.

If you can’t afford a bottle of XO sauce, you can use oyster sauce or teriyaki sauce, or make your own version for the more authentic Asian cuisine. Don’t forget that by buying an alternative sauce on the shelf, such as the one we mentioned, you will give your food a different taste. But if your guests don’t eat the sauce regularly, most of them won’t even notice the difference.

What’s your favorite Asian spice? Please let us know in the comments below.

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