Popular, versatile Chinese black bean sauce can be easily made at home. I have three versions to share: classic, with mushrooms or with minced meat.
One of my readers tried out my recipe for Authentic Mapo tofu. Apparently she was very satisfied with the outcome. Then she asked me how to use fermented black beans to create other dishes. I suggested she could make some spicy black bean sauce (辣豆豉酱). “It’s extremely versatile! You can simply add it to many Chinese dishes.” Today I’m sharing three versions of my homemade black bean sauce: classic, with mushrooms and with minced meat.
A popular sauce for Chinese cuisine
It’s quite common to find dishes seasoned by black bean sauce on the menu in Chinese restaurants/takeaways. There are also many types of black bean sauce available either in mainstream supermarkets or Asian shops. It’s considered to be one of the most popular sauces for Chinese cuisine.
It goes well with many ingredients
It’s aromatic, pungent, salty and slightly sweet. It also has a hint of earthy bitterness which makes it very unique in flavour. The great thing about it is that it goes well with all types of ingredients: vegetable, meat, tofu, fish and seafood. You can find it in dishes cooked in various ways: stir-fried, steamed, braised or for making dipping sauces, etc.
Why do I prefer the homemade version
As I love cooking everything from scratch, I’m always interested in creating recipes for homemade sauces. I have three good reasons for that:
- You know exactly what you are eating and you are free to choose healthy, good quality ingredients (no hidden ingredients, no flavouring, no additive, no preservative, no colouring, etc.).
- Homemade sauces often taste better than shop-bought ones. And you can add your favourite ingredients to make it unique.
- It’s fun to make it (Don’t you love the sense of achievement?) and believe me, it’s easier than you would imagine making scrumptious Chinese sauces.
Make it rich in flavour
Three main ingredients are usually found in black bean sauce: fermented black beans (aka black beans, 豆豉), garlic and soy sauce. I like adding a few more ingredients to enrich its flavour.
- Season the cooking oil with spring onion, ginger and Sichuan pepper before frying the other ingredients.
- Add Shaoxing rice wine, pure sesame oil to give the flavour another dimension.
- Spice it up with fresh chilli, both for making it pleasantly hot and for adding a bit of bright colour to this dark sauce.
Three versions of the sauce
Apart from my classic version of black bean sauce, I’m very pleased to introduce another two versions.
- With mushrooms: Fry some finely chopped shiitake mushrooms before cooking the black beans. This version has an extra umami flavour and vegetarian/vegan-friendly.
- With meat: Add minced meat instead of mushrooms. You may use either pork or beef.
How to use it in dishes
As you can see in the photo above, I cooked three dishes to demonstrate how you might use my three versions of homemade black bean sauce:
- Braised spare ribs with classic black bean sauce.
- Stir-fried celery with mushroom black bean sauce
- Rice noodles and blanched pak choi with minced meat black bean sauce
They are just examples of black bean sauce’s usage. You are free to create your own scrumptious recipes with this versatile seasoning. Be bold with ingredients and cooking methods.
A versatile, handy sauce to keep
I highly recommend you to make this sauce in advance then store in the fridge (see tips in the recipe). When it’s dinner time, just scoop some out and add to the dish you are cooking. If you are not planning to cook, simply use it as a spread on bread / Chinese steam buns or as a sandwich/taco dressing.
Spicy black bean sauce, three versions
For classic version
- 70 g fermented black beans, ½ cup
- 110 ml cooking oil, ½ cup
- 1 stalk scallions, cut into sections
- 3 slices ginger
- ½ teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn
- 3 tablespoon fresh chilli, finely chopped (see note 2)
- 2 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 pinch sugar
- 1 pinch salt
For mushroom version
- All the ingredients for the classic version
- 6 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and finely chopped
For meat version
- All the ingredients for the classic version
- 120 g minced beef/pork, 1 cup
Prepare the black beans
- Rinse the black beans under running water. Dry them very well with kitchen paper.
- Coarsely chop them into small pieces (see note 1).
Spice the oil
- Place spring onion, ginger and Sichuan peppercorn (if using) in a wok (or a frying pan). Pour in the oil then heat up on a medium heat.
- When the spring onion and ginger become lightly brown, pick them out along with the Sichuan peppercorn and discard.
If making the classic version
- Add fermented black beans and all the other ingredients into the oil. Stir fry for 2-3 minutes.
If making the mushroom/meat version
- Put mushroom/meat into the oil, then fry until it turns light brown. Add fermented black beans and all the other ingredients. Stir fry for 2-3 minutes (see note 3).
- It can be used in stir-fries, stews, steamed dishes, as a topping for noodles, or simply spread it on bread, steamed buns, etc.
- Since the sauce is quite salty, you normally don’t need to add extra salt to the dish.
- You can use the sauce straight away or transfer it to an airtight jar when it’s completely cool.
- Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks for the basic version and 1 week for mushroom or meat version.
- Scoop out the sauce with a dry, clean spoon (see note 4).
Thank you for taking the time to read my post. I hope it encourages you to make some. Tell me what are your favourite dishes with black bean sauce found in Chinese restaurants/takeaway. I will write recipes for you to make them in your own kitchen.