Is Chinese Hoisin Sauce Like Japanese Teriyaki? The differences

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  June 25, 2020
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Hoisin sauce is a thick, fragrant, pungent sauce used frequently in Asian vegetable stir-fries, marinades, and grilled dishes.

It is often used in a lot of Chinese cuisines as well as some Vietnamese recipes (the tradition was probably passed on centuries ago from China to Vietnam via trade or intermingling of cultures), it is also referred to as “Chinese BBQ sauce.”


Now let’s compare it to Teriyaki sauce to give you a quick answer: Is hoisin sauce like Teriyaki?

Hoisin sauce is Chinese and based on fermented soybean paste, whereas teriyaki sauce only has a small component of soy sauce. Hoisin sauce is therefore much thicker and saltier compared to its Japanese counterpart as teriyaki sauce tends to be sweeter.

Hoisin sauce is commonly used in Chinese dishes to glaze meat, but chefs also use it for stir-fry recipes and as a dipping sauce. It has a deep dark crimson appearance and has a sweet and salty taste that perfectly blends with grilled meat to the taste.

The hoisin sauce uses common ingredients such as garlic, red chili peppers, fennel, and soybeans; however, there are also regional variants that use different ingredients. Other ingredients include sugar, five-spice powder and vinegar.

The word hoisin is a combination of 2 Chinese words (Cantonese 海鮮, hoi and Mandarin 罪, sin) and is supposed to literally translate to “seafood” in English.

However, it does not contain any seafood ingredient, so the term is somewhat misleading, or perhaps the general taste of the sauce taste or smelled like fish or seafood that’s why they called it as such.


The base ingredient of hoisin sauce is fermented soybean paste (that’s why you’ll notice it’s thick and sticky).

The hoisin sauce that is said to be Beijing style (or is popular in Beijing) has these ingredients in it:

As per tradition, the hoisin sauce is made from grounding toasted soybeans with water.

Here is how it’s made:


Even though hoisin means seafood it has never been made with seafood ingredients nor was it ever used for seafood in its entire history (again the name may have been given to the sauce by mistake).

Basics of Hoisin Sauce

The basis for the condiment that is the hoisin sauce is the fermented soybean paste that is also added with several flavors and spices.

A truly Asian flavor sauce makes dishes instantly exotic, combining umami with the sweet, tangy, and spicy ingredients.

The hoisin sauce is vegetarian and vegan-friendly as it does not contain any animal products, although traditionally it is the sauce made for the Peking duck Cantonese delicacy.

Be sure to know that hoisin is made from fermented soybeans which means that it contains gluten and if you’re on a gluten-free diet, then you might consider getting a different sauce or get a hoisin sauce that’s not soy-based.

Check out all this information on Japanese food if you have some time


Little is known about the origins of hoisin sauce other than that it is Cantonese.

Although the term hoisin means seafood in Chinese modern hoisin sauce has no seafood ingredient whatsoever.

However, the formulations from the past going back to its roots might have had some seafood elements in it in order to give the umami flavor necessary to accentuate the taste of the sauce.

Nobody also remembers the last time the sauce is used for any seafood recipe, so the name and origin of the sauce is a complete mystery.


teriyaki dish

Hoisin sauce has a very strong salty and sweet flavor that makes it a great pair with any BBQ recipe or stir-fry cuisine.

If you’re not familiar with both the hoisin sauce and the American-style barbecue sauce, then they may seem to taste the same.

However, to those who have tried these condiments many times will know that the hoisin is much saltier, richer and not too sweet compared to the Western-style BBQ sauce.

Also read: Japanese dining for sushi or sashimi, what are the differences?


Hoisin sauce is a great way to add a unique Asian flavor profile to your growing list of food recipes.

On the medical note, if your doctor restricts you from eating high sodium foods, then you may want to omit hoisin sauce from your list of food recipe ingredients.

But the majority of the hoisin sauce’s ingredients have a lot of health benefits, so unless other prescribed by your doctor or you have no allergic reactions to it, then you may eat hoisin sauce.


Teriyaki is one of the many Japanese cooking techniques where foods are broiled or grilled and are glazed with a specially made teriyaki sauce.

In Japan, most teriyaki recipes are made up of fish meat (e.g. mackerel, trout, salmon, tuna, skipjack, marlin, and yellowtail), while in Western countries white and red meat are used such as beef, lamb, pork, and chicken.

The Japanese sometimes also use meatballs, hamburger steak, and squid in making teriyaki cuisines.

Teriyaki Sauce

The teriyaki sauce, by default, can only be used for teriyaki recipes as it will not bring out the best in other foods.

The typical ingredients for a teriyaki sauce include:

It is easy to be mistaken when you place the hoisin sauce and the teriyaki sauce side by side, in fact, most people do think that they are similar or the same, when they are not.

The Difference Between Hoisin Sauce and Teriyaki Sauce

Going back to our question (which is also the article title), is hoisin sauce like teriyaki sauce? Well, the obvious answer is, no.

While they may look similar in terms of their thickness, color, texture and even in their taste, you would notice the difference at a closer inspection.

For one thing, the hoisin sauce is based on fermented soybean paste, whereas teriyaki sauce only has a small component of soy sauce.

Hoisin sauce is much thicker and saltier compared to its Japanese counterpart as teriyaki sauce tend to be sweeter.

Finally, hoisin sauce is spicier compared to teriyaki sauce, but for sure you will appreciate both when glazing them at your BBQ recipe.

Also read: Japanese soup tradition and recipes

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.