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Plum Sauce vs. Hoisin Sauce

A classic and delicious Chinese sauce is something many cuisines can’t go without. Plum sauce and hoisin sauce are top-tier examples of this. But how exactly do they compare, and how do you go about using one?

Well, I’m here to separate the confusion with a head-to-head showdown. Plum sauce vs hoisin sauce. Let’s delve into everything and anything plum sauce and hoisin sauce and discover which is best for you.

What is Plum Sauce?

Plum sauce is a delicious sauce that’s equally sweet as it is tangy. It’s made from ripe plums, sugar, vinegar, and various spices, creating a thick consistency and dark brown color. Its tangy, slightly tart, and sweet flavor makes it perfect for use as a dipping sauce for spring rolls, dim sum, and other appetizers.

It’s also a great glaze for meats such as pork, chicken, and duck, as its sweetness complements the savory flavors of the meat, creating a delicious flavor combination.

One of the main differences it has from other sauces is that it contains fruit, giving it a unique fresh flavor. It also has a lower sodium content than many other Asian sauces, making it a healthier option.

What is Hoisin Sauce?

Now, this sauce is a thick, dark, and deliciously fragrant sauce made from soybeans, sugar, vinegar, garlic, and chili peppers. Combining these ingredients gives it a sweet, salty, and savory flavor with a hint of spice that’s perfect for marinades, stir-fries, and dipping sauces.

Although hoisin sauce is often compared to barbecue sauce because of its thick consistency and sweet flavor, it has an even more complex taste than most barbecue sauces, which have a smoky, sweetish flavor.

It’s commonly used in popular Chinese dishes like Peking duck, moo shu pork, and spring rolls. It’s even a popular condiment for pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup, often referred to as “pho sauce” because of its widespread use in this dish.

Similarities and Differences Between Plum Sauce and Hoisin Sauce

Sauce Thickness

Plum sauce is a thinner and smoother sauce when compared to hoisin sauce. Its smoothness comes from the blend of plums used in making it. Hoisin sauce, though, is a thicker, darker, and more sticky sauce made from soybeans, garlic, vinegar, and various spices.

It has a sweet and savory taste with a hint of umami that finds use as a dipping sauce for fried foods. The thickness of hoisin sauce comes from its ingredients, which contribute to its concentrated flavor and texture.

Intended Uses

Both are used as dipping sauces for fried foods, but since plum sauce is tangier and thinner in consistency, it’s best applied as a glaze for roasted meats. Hoisin sauce has a stronger umami flavor and a thicker, stickier consistency that finds better use as a marinade, condiment, or base for barbecue sauce.

Chinese Origin

Plum sauce and hoisin sauce are used in Chinese cuisine, with the former originating in Southern China, and is made from plums, sugar, vinegar, and spices. At the same time, the latter originated from Northern China and is made from soybean paste, garlic, vinegar, sugar, and spices.  


Plum sauce has a tangy, slightly tart, and sweet flavor due to its ingredients of plums, sugar, vinegar, and spices. In contrast, though, hoisin sauce has a rich, salty, and savory flavor with a hint of sweetness and spice. This can be thanks to the soybeans, sugar, vinegar, garlic, and chili peppers.


Plum sauce is relatively high in sugar and calories, as a typical serving of plum sauce (1 tablespoon) contains around 35 calories and 8 grams of sugar, but it’s still low in fat and sodium.

Hoisin sauce, on the other hand, is made from soybeans, sugar, vinegar, and spices and is higher in sodium and calories than plum sauce. A typical serving of hoisin sauce (1 tablespoon) contains around 260 milligrams of sodium, which is about 11% of the recommended daily intake and about 50 calories. 

Be sure to consume either sauce in moderation and read the nutrition labels to avoid consuming excessive amounts of sugar and sodium.

Can You Use Plum Sauce as a Substitute for Hoisin Sauce and Vice Versa?

Plum sauce vs hoisin sauce in terms of usability and swap ability? Well, while both may share some similar flavors, they are not interchangeable substitutes for each other. Plum sauce carries a sweet and tangy flavor, while hoisin has a salty, sweet, and savory flavor. This difference is huge if your recipe doesn’t call for these flavors.

For example, if you use plum sauce in a stir-fry recipe, the dish may become sweeter and less savory than intended. Similarly, if you use hoisin sauce instead of plum sauce in a dipping sauce recipe, the sauce may be saltier and less fruity.

It’s always best to use the sauce called for in the recipe, but if you need to substitute, try to find a sauce that has a similar flavor profile.

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