Craving restaurant quality Chinese food at home? You can rely on this pungent, savory, earthy and aromatic black bean sauce recipe to deliver authenticity and depth of flavor! This versatile Chinese sauce can be used as a condiment, a marinade, or stir fry sauce!
My Japanese mom loves Chinese food.
So when she stayed with us in Brooklyn over the holidays one year, we ordered an obscene amount of Chinese takeout. Her favorite dish was the shrimp with black bean sauce.
Succulent, tender shrimp with stir fried onions and chives, studded with garlicky and salty bits of fermented black beans became her go-to order over that holiday break.
She liked it so much that I decided to make my own homemade Chinese black bean sauce so we’d always have some in the fridge.
What is Black Bean Sauce?
Chinese black bean sauce is a pungent, savory, earthy and aromatic sauce that features fermented black soybeans. It is used both as a condiment and as a main flavoring element in composed dishes.
Featured prominently in the Chinese food lexicon, black bean sauce variations are also well known in other Asian cultures recipes. For example chunjang is a Korean black bean paste used in recipes like Jajangmyeong.
However, unlike Korean chunjang, the Chinese version we’re making today isn’t really a paste at all. It’s much chunkier.
The best black bean sauce is an uneven mixture of mashed beans, smaller chopped pieces and larger pieces alike. We’ll talk about how to achieve that mixture in the recipe steps in a sec.
Black Bean Sauce Recipe Ingredients
Scroll all the way down for the full recipe.
- Fermented Black Beans (Douchi): These black soybeans are salted and fermented and have a salty, earthy, tangy and umami flavor with a semi-dry texture. Because of their strong salty notes, most chefs rinse them before using. You should be able to find fermented black beans in most Asian grocery stores – or you can grab them here on Amazon. Store any remaining fermented beans in the fridge.
- Neutral Oil: I use vegetable oil or grapeseed oil for this recipe.
- Garlic and Shallot: These are your aromatics that you’ll first cook in the oil. Two tablespoons of minced garlic – and a small shallot, minced – will do nicely. A small amount of minced onion could stand in for the shallot if needed.
- Brown Sugar: A tablespoon of brown sugar will round out this otherwise savory sauce with a faint, understated sweetness.
- Shaoxing Wine: This is an amber colored Chinese cooking wine made of fermented rice, water and wheat. It ads a rich flavor to the dishes it is used in. Most brands of this rice wine add a bit of salt to the wine (similar to the added salt in Japanese cooking sake) which allows it to be sold as a food ingredient rather than an alcoholic beverage. If you can’t find shaoxing wine at your local shop, an equal amount of dry sherry is a good substitute.
- Soy Sauce: The ubiquitous bringer of savory, umami flavors. You’ll need about 2 tbsp for this recipe.
- Broth: You can use chicken broth or vegetable broth, mixed with 1 tsp cornstarch as a thickener. Since the other ingredients in this sauce are so savory, I recommend you use low sodium broth. If you opt for veggie broth, this black bean garlic sauce is 100% vegan.
How to Make Black Bean Sauce
- First, gather all of your kitchen tools and ingredients.
- Then place the fermented black beans in a strainer and rinse, drain well – and transfer them to a cutting board. Chop the beans – but leave some pieces larger than the others. Transfer the beans to a small bowl.
- Next, mash half of the chopped beans with a fork (until almost a black bean paste). Leave the other half un-mashed.
- Get a small pan going over low heat and add the oil, minced garlic and shallot.
- Stir the mixture and cook for about 5 minutes, until you see the appearance of small bubbles in the oil.
- Then add your fermented black beans and brown sugar and stir well.
- Next, add the shaoxing wine, soy sauce and broth and stir until mixed.
- Cover and cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Then you can remove the lid and cook uncovered for another 3 mins.
- Turn off the heat and let the sauce cool to room temperature inside the saucepan.
- Finally, transfer the sauce to a jar. This sauce keeps in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
What Does Black Bean Sauce Taste Like?
The first thing you’ll notice is the savory, salty notes from the beans themselves. And when you bite into whole bean that wasn’t fully chopped, that umami is quite pronounced.
However, there’s also a fragrant undertone from the garlic and minced shallot that tempers the saltiness and allows a bit of sweetness to peep through around the edges.
You’ll also note that the sauce has an intangible depth to it – an almost smoky earthiness. It’s that almost indescribable depth that makes this assertive sauce work in almost any dish you use it in.
How to use Black Bean Sauce
I routinely use Chinese black bean sauce as a condiment, a marinade – and as a fully composed stir fry sauce.
A spoonful can compliment things like fried rice, Asian lettuce wraps, omelettes – or you give your homemade beef and broccoli an extra punch of depth by adding a little just before serving.
However, as a composed stir fry sauce, you can simply cook your ingredients in the wok, add the black been sauce – and dinner is served. It goes well with tofu, veggies, meat, seafood and noodle dishes alike.
One of Ben’s favorites is fresh cockles in black bean garlic sauce… YUM!
How to Store Black Bean Sauce
This delicious Chinese condiment can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one-month.
A little separation is to be expected. Just stir well and reincorporate the oil before using.
I prefer using glass containers – but much of that is due to the fact that I like to be able to open the fridge and see what I have to work with. It’s especially helpful when you’ve got food searing in a screaming hot wok and need the right stir fry sauce NOW.
Other Easy Asian Sauce Recipes
It’s so handy to have a fridge full of homemade master sauces. Whipping up an easy stir fry at the end of a long day – or adding flavor to a dish that needs a little extra help has never been easier.
Here are a few reader favorites
Did you like this black bean sauce recipe? Are there changes you made that you would like to share? Share your tips and recommendations in the comments section below!Print
Black Bean Sauce
This pungent, savory, earthy and aromatic black bean sauce recipe delivers authenticity and depth of flavor to your Chinese favorites! Use this versatile sauce as a condiment, a marinade, or stir fry sauce!
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: about 1 cup 1x
- Category: Condiment
- Method: Stove top
- Cuisine: Chinese
- Diet: Vegan
- 1/2 cup fermented black beans
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil or grapeseed oil
- 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons shaoxing wine or dry sherry
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth mixed with 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- Place the fermented black beans in a strainer and rinse. Drain well and transfer them to a cutting board. Chop the beans, leaving some pieces bigger than others, and transfer them to a bowl.
- With a fork, mash about half of the beans and set aside.
- In a small saucepan over low heat, add the oil, garlic, and shallot.
- Stir and cook for about 5 minutes, until small bubbles appear in the oil.
- Add the fermented black beans and brown sugar and stir.
- Add the shaoxing wine, soy sauce, and chicken broth (or veggie broth) and stir.
- Cover and cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the lid and cook for an additional 3 minutes.
- Turn the heat off and let the sauce cool to room temperature.
- Transfer the sauce to a jar and refrigerate for up to 1 month.
This black bean sauce will keep, stored in an airtight jar or storage container, in the fridge, for up to 1 month.
- Serving Size: 1 tablespoon
- Calories: 50
- Sugar: 1g
- Sodium: 113.2mg
- Fat: 3.5g
- Saturated Fat: 2.8g
- Unsaturated Fat: 0.1g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 4g
- Fiber: 1.1g
- Protein: 1.2g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
Keywords: sauce, seasoning