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Chinese Brown Sauce & White Sauce Recipes

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Chinese foodIf you’ve ever eaten at any Chinese restaurant or take out joint, chances are you’ve ordered something that’s been in a brown sauce or a white sauce. Chicken with broccoli? That’s a brown sauce. Seafood with vegetables? That’s a white sauce.

If you enjoy those types of flavors, might I recommend giving them a try at home? They’re really easy and really tasty. The hard part is finding the ingredients and preparing them!

Chinese Brown Sauce

If you search online, you’ll find a million different recipes for brown sauce. What’s funny is that I’ve always stir-fried my dish as usual and then added a little flour or corn starch to thicken the sauce that was already in the pan. That’s how I made “brown sauce.” If you ask my wife, a lot of my unreproducible recipes are created in this way. :)

If you want a real recipe, brown sauce is generally a combination of oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, corn starch, water, and the juices of whatever it is you’re cooking. Oyster sauce and sugar will give you a bit of the sweetness you probably taste, soy gives it the salt, and corn starch and water give it that thick consistency. Here’s a good recipe you might want to try, though you’ll find you want to adjust it to taste:

  • 3/4 cup beef broth (beef bouillion cubes can be used)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Chinese White Sauce

White sauce is another popular type of sauce in Chinese cuisine. The notable difference is the replacement of soy and oyster sauce, which give the brown sauce its brown color, with white wine. Another big difference is that you add in a lot of other spices as well, such as salt, ginger, garlic powder and onion powder, since the extra flavor will have to come from somewhere.

Here’s a nice recipe I found online:

  • ½ cup onions, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ginger, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, chopped
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons cornflour mixed with 3 cups of clear vegetable stock
  • a pinch sugar
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • salt to taste

You can generally replace the chopped ingredients with powder, though you’ll want to add extra since dry ingredients are less potent than fresh. This is generally a popular sauce for lighter flavored main ingredients, like fish or vegetables. Whereas meat has a heavy flavor to it and can handle a dark sauce, it’s a good change of pace to use white sauce with more delicate foods like seafood.

The key is to tweak anything you cook to match what you like. You have to adjust it until you get it the flavor you like. If you love garlic, put a little more garlic. If you hate it, don’t put as much. Too salty? Use less soy or less salt. After a little tweaking, you’ll find a personal recipe you enjoy the most.

(Photo: plasticbystander)

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27 Responses to “Chinese Brown Sauce & White Sauce Recipes”

  1. Damon Day says:

    I love Chinese food. Wish my wife had more time to cook. With two little boys, she barely has time to do much. We typically go out. Bad on the budget, but keeps a lot of stress off my wife, which is good for the marriage.

    • Stefanie says:

      Why don’t you cook? That might be good for the marriage as well!

      • Damon Day says:

        ahh, good point Stefanie, If I had a prayer of making something that was actually palatable for us to eat then I would give it a shot :-) I don’t seem to posses the culinary gene. Although I can make a mean, bacon egg and cheese sandwich and I am ok with the grill. Other than that, not a chance. OH, I can do mac and cheese and top Roman. I mastered that in college :-)

        • ken0000001 says:

          Stefanie brings up what I was thinking. I think it’s a bit of a copout to say you don’t have the dna for cooking. Instead of putting all the cooking responsibilites on your wife, you’re chipping in with that chore will help your marriage a lot more, speaking from 40 years of marriage.

          You can follow directions, right? When it says 1 teaspoon of soy sauce, what do you think that means? YES! You guessed it 1 teaspoon (your put-upon wife knows where the measuring spoons are) of yes, here it come, SOY SAUCE! Yahoo!!! You did one ingrediant.

          Now get off that tush and do something creative and give your poor wife a break from her “I can’t do it” husband (which he uses as a crutch).

          Have fun cooking!

  2. none says:

    Looks delicious

  3. eric says:

    hahah. Asian cuisine…the sauce is the secret! Everyone needs to find their nearest Asian supermarket. I don’t know what I would do without mine.

  4. Nice post Jim.– I like both brown and white sauces.

  5. Linda says:

    You are someone after my own heart. I try to find a copy cat recipe on something good that I might have eaten from a restaurant. There are many recipes from these restaurants online. I even have a “clone restaurant recipe” book titled, A Treasury of Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur. One day, I needed some Italian dressing. I had two packages from a fast food place that I hadn’t used don’t throw out anything,. That made 1/2 cup. I needed 1 cup. I got the book out and made the creamy salad dressing clone of Olive Garden. It was delcious. I made a spagehetti salad. I try to find recipes for just about any thing I buy. I am going online to find one for seasoning salt. I have a lot of those spices and just need the recipe. I like to be frugal. I like to show kids how everything they like can be cooked from scratch.

  6. Patrick says:

    Great sauce recipes. I have tried something similar to the brown sauce recipe, but not the white sauce. I also like to make korean sauces using ingredients like chili paste, sugar, soy sauce, oil and garlic.

  7. renae says:

    I have never made Chinese food at home that turned out edible. My family loves orange peel chicken, pork egg-pho on. (sorry, can’t spell that), basic fried rice… Now that I have the secret to the sauces, how about a basic recipe for a beginner to go with the sauce.

  8. Dave says:

    Handy recipes! My wife is from mainland China. I’d recommend these four items for anyone interested in preparing their own Chinese meals.

    sweet brown bean paste
    red chili paste
    five spice powder
    hoisin sauce

    And if you like dumplings – black vinegar and chinese red vinegar. Note: chinese red vinegar is different that “regular” red vinegar. It is sweeter and more flavorful. Use red vinegar to make dipping sauce for pot stickers. Black vinegar is incredible and essential for steamed dumplings.

  9. Ohh, I’m definitely going to try this! Thanks! :)

  10. Chris says:

    The white sauce is great on steamed chicken and veggies. Makes for a good healthy meal.
    Thanks Jim.

  11. rick says:

    I tried this sauce and it was a disaster!
    3 cups liquid and 2 tablespoons cornstarch?
    It never gets thick!
    Pure water!I was hoping for that light white creamy sauce you get
    with shrimp and brocolli,can’t find a recipe anywhere!

  12. Popichan says:

    What I found is that if you just wait to put the corn starch in a small cup of water and wait for the flavor to set in to whatever you’re frying before adding the corn starch it gives it a little more bang for your buck. That and a dash of white pepper to it all is very nice.

  13. ED ROLLINS says:

    I was taught one table spoon one tablespoon of liquid . So one to one…

  14. Anonymous says:

    Woaah. Please do NOT replace the chopped ingredients with powder in larger quantities, or even the same quantity as fresh. Drying things like garlic and ginger concentrates their flavor as the water content evaporates, so you need much, much LESS.

  15. Klodah says:

    Woaah. Please do NOT replace the chopped ingredients with powder in larger quantities, or even the same quantity as fresh. Drying things like garlic and ginger concentrates their flavor as the water content evaporates, so you need much, much LESS.

  16. sasa says:

    Due to a bad liver, can’t eat the normal chinese brown sauce (too much salt and it has seafood product in it), so have really been enjoying the white sauce on everthing that typcially has brown chinese sauce. Who says you can’t have a little bit of Heaven on Earth?

    • Colette says:

      I am having a problem with my liver but they cannot find out the reason why, I eat a lot of salt on my food but not one dr has asked me about that. Thanks for the heads up sasa. I will cut down on my salt before next blood test and see if that helps .

    • Bryant says:

      There are many wonderful brown sauce recipes that do not contain seafood products. And they don’t have to contain a lot of salt…

  17. Lynn says:

    I would suggest using the Litehouse Freeze-Dried Garlic.. it’s a 1-to-1 ratio with cooking and so far, I’ve had wonderful luck with it. As for the ginger, I’m blessed enough to have access to asian food stores in my area, so I buy powdered ginger and then use half what the recipe calls for. In this case, I only use 1tsp instead of 2. I’m not quite sure why it was suggested that you double it.. as that would be over-flavoring.

    As to the person who said they got a watery mix.. you definitely didn’t bring the mixture to a light boil then. I also think they meant corn starch, as I’ve never known corn flour to thicken up liquids.

    Happy Cooking!

  18. joycelian saturos says:

    i love it i’m going to tell my mom about this chinese sauce…<3

  19. Lee says:

    Oh Yaaaa…I’ve looking for the white sause for my Shrimp in Lobster Sause. I can’t wait to try this one out. Thanks

  20. Bryant says:

    I just tried the white sauce. Not impressed. I believe it should contain corn STARCH, not corn flour… Might try it that way some time and see if it works better…

    • Bryant says:

      BTW, the brown sauce is pretty much how I make a delicious sauce, though I use vegetable broth instead of beef, and I found a couple wonderful vegetarian oyster sauces at a local oriental supermarket.


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