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Fish Sauce vs. Oyster Sauce: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on May 8, 2024
Fish sauce is a thin, salty condiment made from fermented fish, while oyster sauce is a thick, sweet and savory sauce made from oyster extracts.

Key Differences

Fish sauce, a staple in Southeast Asian cuisine, is made by fermenting fish, typically anchovies, with salt, resulting in a thin, clear liquid. Oyster sauce, originating from Chinese cuisine, is made by cooking oysters and then reducing the liquid to a thick, brown sauce, often sweetened and salted.
The flavor of fish sauce is intensely salty with a strong fish aroma, making it a potent flavor enhancer. Oyster sauce, on the other hand, has a milder taste, balancing sweetness with a savory depth, and a less pronounced fish flavor.
Fish sauce is typically used in small quantities due to its strong flavor, often added to dishes during cooking or as part of a dipping sauce. Oyster sauce is used as a key ingredient in stir-fries, marinades, and as a condiment, contributing both flavor and a glossy appearance to dishes.
In terms of texture, fish sauce is watery and clear, easily blending into other liquids. Oyster sauce is thick and syrup-like, ideal for coating and glazing in various recipes.
Nutritionally, fish sauce is lower in calories but high in sodium, with a distinct umami quality. Oyster sauce contains added sugars and is thicker due to the inclusion of cornstarch or wheat flour as thickeners.

Comparison Chart

Base Ingredient

Fermented fish (usually anchovies)
Oyster extracts

Flavor Profile

Salty, strong fish aroma
Sweet, savory, mild fish flavor


Thin and clear
Thick and syrup-like

Culinary Use

Flavor enhancer, in small quantities
Key ingredient in stir-fries, as a condiment

Nutritional Content

High in sodium, low in calories
Contains added sugars, thickeners

Fish Sauce and Oyster Sauce Definitions

Fish Sauce

Fish sauce is used in small quantities due to its intense flavor.
A little fish sauce goes a long way in marinades.

Oyster Sauce

Oyster sauce has a milder, less fishy flavor than fish sauce.
He used oyster sauce for a subtle seafood flavor in the sauce.

Fish Sauce

Fish sauce is a liquid condiment made from fermented fish.
She added a dash of fish sauce to enhance the soup's flavor.

Oyster Sauce

Oyster sauce is commonly used in Chinese cooking.
Oyster sauce added a glossy finish to the lo mein.

Fish Sauce

Fish sauce is made by fermenting small fish with salt.
Traditional fish sauce is fermented for several months.

Oyster Sauce

Oyster sauce often contains added sugars and thickeners.
The oyster sauce’s thick consistency is perfect for glazing.

Fish Sauce

Fish sauce is known for its strong, salty taste.
Fish sauce is a key ingredient in traditional Thai salads.

Oyster Sauce

Oyster sauce is a thick, sweet and savory sauce made from oysters.
Oyster sauce is essential for beef and broccoli stir-fry.

Fish Sauce

Fish sauce adds umami to various Southeast Asian dishes.
Fish sauce brought depth to the stir-fry dish.

Oyster Sauce

Oyster sauce is made by reducing oyster extracts.
The base of the oyster sauce is a reduction of cooked oysters.


How is fish sauce made?

By fermenting fish with salt.

Can fish sauce be used as a substitute for oyster sauce?

Not directly, due to the difference in flavor intensity and texture.

What is the primary ingredient in fish sauce?

Fermented fish, typically anchovies.

What’s the main flavor profile of fish sauce?

Salty with a strong fish aroma.

Is oyster sauce thicker than fish sauce?

Yes, oyster sauce is thick and syrup-like.

Is fish sauce high in sodium?

Yes, it's very high in sodium.

Is oyster sauce suitable for vegetarians?

Traditional oyster sauce contains oyster extracts, so it's not vegetarian.

Does oyster sauce need to be refrigerated after opening?

Yes, to maintain its quality.

What dishes is oyster sauce commonly used in?

Stir-fries, marinades, and as a condiment in Chinese cuisine.

Is fish sauce vegan?

No, it's made from fish.

What is a common use of fish sauce in cooking?

As a flavor enhancer in soups, marinades, and dips.

Can oyster sauce be used in place of fish sauce?

With caution, as it will alter the flavor profile significantly.

How should fish sauce be stored?

In a cool, dark place, preferably the refrigerator after opening.

Can fish sauce be used in salad dressings?

Yes, it adds umami to dressings.

What are the health considerations for using fish sauce?

Its high sodium content should be considered, especially for those with dietary restrictions.

Are there any allergens in oyster sauce?

People with shellfish allergies should avoid it.

What cuisines predominantly use oyster sauce?

Primarily Chinese cuisine.

Is oyster sauce good for glazing?

Yes, its thickness makes it ideal for glazing.

Does oyster sauce contain a lot of sugar?

Many brands add sugar to oyster sauce.

How long can fish sauce last once opened?

Several months to a year if stored properly.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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