chinese brown sauce

How to Make Homemade Chinese Brown Sauce

Some of my earliest childhood memories center around Asian food. But not just any Asian food. I’m talking about the food at the Golden Dragon restaurant in Boise Ida., the city of my birth, and the home of tiny pork ribs swimming in the most beautiful and delicious brown sauce with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

To my 7-year-old sense of fine cuisine, that dish was to die for. My favorite thing in the whole, wide world!

chinese brown sauceFor me, it was all about the sauce. Brown sauce. Yummy, amazing make-my-mouth-water kind of sauce. I poured it on my noodles; would eat it with a spoon-like soup.

I recall exactly what it tasted like, too. It was definitely brown, kinda’ sweet but a little tangy and shiny—not clear like broth but not dense like gravy, either. And smooth. No chunks or chewy bits. No onions, peppers, or pineapple pieces. None of that. Just glorious, shimmery, fabulous sauce over tiny ribs and sticky white rice on the side. I would all but lick the plate clean. Wait, maybe I did that.

We moved when I was 10. It never dawned on me that might be the last time in my life I would experience my favorite food. But it was. That is until I had a true Eureka! moment. I discovered Nagi, the food blogger at

Seriously, for decades I have been on a mission to learn how to prepare really great Asian food—Japanese, Chinese, Thai—all of those cuisines, and sadly without much success. I could never get the sauce right. That’s because I’ve depended on bottled stuff in the Asian aisle of the grocery store. Over and again I would be so disappointed.

I wanted to figure out how to make the kind of cuisine I loved as a child, myself—at home.

You may have already guessed where this is going. I’m excited to let you know that with Nagi’s help, I’ve learned how to make what I call Chinese Brown Sauce. And (get ready) an equally amazing homemade Teriyaki Sauce.

I’m done buying bottled Asian-type sauces. Thanks to Nagi, I can confidently make two fabulous sauces cheaper, better, and faster than the time it takes to actually go to the store and search for something that might work.

Nagi calls this her Real Chinese All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce. The best thing is that I can make up a batch and store it in a covered jar in the refrigerator. There it sits all ready to go when we need a fast mid-week meal.

Nagi’s taught me the secrets of authentic Chinese stir-fry, too. It’s not about an exact recipe but rather the technique together with the right proportions of protein, noodles, or rice and vegetables. And for me, the secret to any stir-fry is that final step—adding the sauce. And when that sauce is exactly right, that makes it perfect. And it is so easy.

A bowl of food on a table
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4.56 from 9 votes

Real Chinese All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce

This is the yummy Chinese sauce I recall from my childhood.
Prep Time15 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: Chinese
Servings: 16
Calories: 37kcal
Author: Nagi


  • ¼ cup light soy sauce
  • ¼ cup all-purpose soy sauce
  • ½ cup oyster sauce
  • ¼ cup Chinese wine or dry sherry See NOTES for non-alcohol substitutes
  • ¼ cup corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon white granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper


  • Pour all ingredients into a jar. Apply lid and shake to combine. That's it. Done.
  • Store in refrigerator and shake before use.
  • To use: This is tricky because it depends on what you are making. The sauce as it sits in the fridge is concentrated. You will use specific amounts of water along with it, depending on the meal. And each dish you prepare with this sauce will cry out for flavoring, such as garlic. You will find the exact instructions plus additional notes and insight from Nagi HERE.
  • To use for Stir Fry:  3 tbsp Stir Fry Sauce + 6 tbsp water to make a stir fry for 2 people using around 5 cups of uncooked ingredients (proteins + vegetables).
  • To use for Noodles: 3 tbsp of the Stir Fry sauce + 5 - 6 tbsp water to make a noodle stir fry for 2 people using around 7 cups of the combined stir fry uncooked (vegetables - packed, proteins + noodles - if using).


1. Non-alcohol substitute for Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry:  apple juice or grape juice. Or chicken broth/stock, as a second fall back, with 2 teaspoons of white wine vinegar + 1/2 tsp sugar.
2. Nutrition: Based on one serving of 1 1/2 tablespoons sauce.
2. This recipe and the photo are by Nagi of


Serving: 1.5tablespoons | Calories: 37kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 604mg | Potassium: 22mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Calcium: 4mg | Iron: 1mg

Once you click through to and meet Nagi, make plans to try this recipe. You will not be disappointed.

Be sure to check out 10 Classic Chinese Stir-Fries, One Amazing Sauce for a collection of 10 wonderful ways to use up the jar of Chinese Brown Sauce I mean Real Chinese All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce, which I’m pretty sure you’ll have sitting in your refrigerator very soon.

A million thanks, Nagi!

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14 replies
  1. Margaret says:

    5 stars
    What is “light” soy sauce? Does it mean light as in calories or color. I don’t believe I have ever seen light soy sauce before. Thanks for the recipe as I love to make Chinese foods.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Though dark soy sauce has more salt than light soy sauce, light soy sauce tastes saltier. This is because dark soy sauce has a much stronger soy flavor that overpowers the salty flavor. Look in your supermarket and you’re sure to find that most brands of soy sauce have a “light” version—Kikkoman, La Choy, etc.

  2. Theresa Taylor says:

    Mary, how could I doctor up this brown sauce to make Hunan sauce. I like it hot. Not sweet and hot like Scheswan. Loving your posts.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      I have never changed the recipe so I cannot give you a good answer. However if I were to give it a try I would simply add red pepper flakes, to taste. You might want to go to and search for General Tso’s Chicken. The sauce in that recipe might be more to your liking for “heat.” Hope that helps.

  3. Gina Stevens says:

    Thanks, Mary. I know I’ll be experimenting with stir fry this week! I will also use the Benihana salad dressing, since I love home made salad dressings.
    You are my BFF, despite that I never met you.

  4. John Mc says:

    Does anyone have a recipe for Japanese Ginger Dressing? Store-bought just doesn’t taste as good as the delicious dressing you get in a Japanese restaurant.

  5. Another Pat says:

    I’ve been subscribing to Nagi’s column since you recommended her quite a while ago, and while she takes maybe a fourth as long as I do to make things, her recipes are terrific! Thanks, Mary. Thanks, Nagi


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