Is Hoisin Sauce Vegan?

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Don’t confuse hoisin sauce with fish sauce or oyster sauce.

Most hoisin sauce is vegan, while fish sauce is of course not vegan.

Here’s what to look for when buying hoisin sauce.

Hoisin Sauce Ingredients

Hoisin sauce is typically made with soybeans and a collection of spices.

This may include:

  • Chili – Always plant-based.
  • Salt – Always vegan.
  • Garlic – Always vegan.
  • Vinegar – Always vegan.
  • Xanthan Gum – Made by fermenting glucose and sucrose (sugars), vegan-friendly.
  • Artificial colors (sometimes) – Controversial among some vegans, more on this below.
  • Caramel color – Made by heating some sort of simple sugar (caramel color is usually vegan).

I’ve yet to come across a hoisin sauce with a clear animal product in it, but let me know if you have.

You might notice that some hoisin sauces are labelled “vegetarian” while some aren’t, particularly in Asian countries.

It has to do with garlic and onion not being suitable for strict vegetarian Buddhists. Don’t be concerned by it, you can get either kind as a vegan and be fine.

Artificial Colors in Hoisin Sauces

The only potential issue is that some hoisin sauces contain artificial colors like Red #40, Yellow #5, etc.

Many vegans don’t eat artificial colors because of animal testing that surrounds them.

Keep an eye out for them on the ingredients label if you’d like to avoid them.

Vegan Hoisin Sauce Brands

Here’s a quick look at potential non-vegan ingredients in some of the most popular brands.

Brand Potential Non-Vegan Ingredient(s)
Wok Mei All Natural Hoisin Sauce Caramel Color
Kikkoman Hoisin Sauce Caramel Color
Lee Kum Kee Hoisin Sauce Caramel Color, Red 40

As said before, caramel color is almost always vegan, it’s just not a 100% sure type of thing. If you’re really concerned, contact customer service for whatever brand you’re interested in.

Otherwise, it just depends on whether or not you want to avoid artificial colors. The more “natural” and authentic recipes don’t usually contain them.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.