Fish Sauce vs Hoisin Sauce: The Battle of Flavors

As a food lover with an insatiable curiosity for flavors, I often find myself entangled in delicious dilemmas like fish sauce vs hoisin sauce. These two culinary items have divided food lovers into two groups when it comes to choosing the better one.

Fish sauce is a powerful condiment with a strong umami flavor that is prepared from fermented fish. On the other side, hoisin sauce is a savory and sweet sauce created from soybeans, garlic, and several spices. Both sauces are used extensively in Asian cuisine and have distinctive characteristics.

As we explore the fascinating world of fish sauce and hoisin sauce, get ready to take your taste senses on a trip that will leave you wanting more.

Fish Sauce vs Hoisin Sauce: An Overview 

Allow me to give you a comparative overview of the two sauces:

AspectFish SauceHoisin Sauce
Flavor ProfilePungent, strong umamiSweet, savory, with a hint of tanginess
Key IngredientsFermented fish, salt, waterSoybeans, sugar, vinegar, garlic, various spices
OriginSoutheast AsiaChina
Culinary UsesMarinades, dipping sauces, dressings, soupsStir-fries, glazes, dipping sauces
Umami IntensityHighModerate
Salty LevelSalty, but can be adjusted in recipesModerately salty
Common DishesPad Thai, Vietnamese Pho, Thai saladsPeking duck, spring rolls, barbecued meats
AvailabilityWidely available in Asian grocery storesWidely available in Asian grocery stores
Fish Sauce vs Hoisin Sauce

Fish Sauce vs Hoisin Sauce: Detailed Differences 

Fish Sauce vs Hoisin Sauce

The two sauces have vast differences. Let me break them down for you.

Flavor Profile

  • Fish sauce: Offers a pungent, salty, and intensely umami flavor. 
  • Hoisin sauce: Presents a sweet and savory profile with a hint of tanginess. It combines ingredients like soybeans, sugar, vinegar, garlic, and various spices to create a harmonious flavor.

Key Ingredients

  • Fish sauce: The main components of fish sauce include fermented fish, salt, and water. The fish undergoes a fermentation process, imparting its distinct flavor to the sauce.
  • Hoisin sauce: Contains soybeans, sugar, vinegar, garlic, and a blend of spices like five-spice powder. It is thickened to achieve a smooth consistency.

Culinary Uses

Umami Intensity

  • Fish sauce: Provides a high umami intensity due to its fermentation process, lending a robust and savory flavor to dishes.
  • Hoisin sauce: Offers a moderate umami intensity with a balance of sweetness and savory notes.

Salty Level

  • Fish sauce: Inherently salty, but the intensity can vary depending on the brand and recipe.
  • Hoisin sauce: Has a moderately salty taste that contributes to its overall flavor profile.

Common Dishes

  • Fish sauce: Used in dishes such as Pad Thai, Vietnamese Pho, Thai salads, and many traditional Southeast Asian recipes.
  • Hoisin sauce: Found in Peking duck, spring rolls, stir-fries, and as a dipping sauce for various Chinese dishes.

Similarities Between Fish Sauce And Hoisin Sauce

Although Fish Sauce and Hoisin Sauce have distinct flavors and origins, they also share some similarities:

  • Both sauces are widely used in Asian cuisine, particularly in Southeast Asian and Chinese dishes.
  • Both are versatile and can be used in various culinary applications
  • Fish sauce and hoisin sauce are considered staple condiments in their respective cuisines, adding depth and flavor to dishes.
  • They are commonly paired with ingredients like meats, noodles, vegetables, and spring rolls to enhance their taste.
  • Both sauces are readily available in Asian grocery stores and are easily accessible to home cooks and chefs alike.

Which One Is Good For What?  

Fish sauce and hoisin sauce each have their own unique flavor profiles, which make them suitable for different culinary purposes. Let’s explore which sauce is good for what:

Fish Sauce

Here are some instances where fish sauce shines:

  • Works wonders as a base for marinades, infusing meats like chicken, pork, or seafood with its rich umami notes.
  • Adds depth and complexity to dipping sauces
  • Lends its savory depth to soups and broths, such as Vietnamese Pho or Thai Tom Yum.
  • Can elevate the overall flavor of stir-frying, providing a savory boost.

Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin sauce, with its sweet and savory profile, offers a different set of culinary applications. Here are some instances where hoisin sauce excels:

  • A great addition for roasted or grilled meats, giving them a sticky, caramelized coating.
  • Can be used as a sauce in stir-fried dishes, providing a delightful balance of sweetness and savory notes.
  • A traditional accompaniment to Peking duck, enhancing the succulent meat with its flavor.
  • Shines as a dipping sauce for spring rolls, barbecued meats, and other appetizers.


Both fish sauce and hoisin sauce have popularity among food lovers. Fish sauce, with its strong umami flavor, adds depth and complexity, while hoisin sauce’s sweet and savory notes bring a delightful balance to glazes and stir-fries. 

Each sauce has its unique role in the kitchen, allowing for the creative exploration of flavors in Asian cuisine. They enhance their respective food quality very much. The versatility of these sauces ensures that I can always find the perfect companion to create mouthwatering culinary experiences.

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