Get Your Wok Ready for the 8 Best Stir Fry Sauces

The stir fry is an integral part of Southeast Asian cooking, and thankfully North American cooking, too. Personally, I love Thai-style stir fry the most. Give me a spicy, pungent, umami-forward pad kee mao with basil and eggs, or pad gai kua with chicken and garlic. I live in Thai Town, so I’m regularly getting pad see ew from an outside wok setup on Hollywood Blvd. Personal bias aside, stir fry has so many wonderful iterations: There’s Korean beef stir fry, Japanese yaki udon, Filipino pancit, spicy Szechuan stir fry, Hawaiian stir fry with Spam, the list goes on and on. Perhaps most familiar to us in the U.S., though, is the North American Chinese stir fry, which was popularized by Chinese immigrants in the early 20th century. This style has many delicious variations like General Tso chicken, sesame chicken, beef and broccoli, salty and savory lo mein, and the deeply comforting Springfield-style cashew chicken.

It’s hard to rank all the different styles of stir fry sauces, since stir fry varies so wildly across different cultures and regions. However, one constant in stir fry is soy sauce. So, we looked for strong umami first and foremost. Bring us a lasting, salty, meaty flavor. Then, we looked for additional herbs and aromatics—basil, garlic, onion, chilis, and the like are all welcomed. Finally, consistency came into play, but it wasn’t hugely important. Some stir fry sauces can be thick, others may be thin, but truly, it’s a matter of preference. This taste test was delightful, and I learned a lot. These were our eight favorite stir fry sauces, and I hope you enjoy reading this list as much as I enjoyed researching it.


best stir fry sauce

Best of The Best

Passage to Asia Thai Basil & Sweet Chili Sauce

The flavor here is just so robust. Passage of Asia is spicy, sweet, fragrant, pungent, salty, and deliciously savory. The fifth ingredient listed is fish sauce (ingredients are listed in order of quantity, from the highest to lowest), which gives this sweet chili sauce a delightfully fishy, umami-forward taste. This would be great in a variety of Thai-style stir fries, like pad kra pao or pad see ew. The basil and chilis come through super well. This is everything that’s great about Southeastern Asian cooking—funky, flavorful, and complex. It’s not a traditionally sweet and savory Chinese stir fry sauce, but it’s got the most flavor.

Credit: Merc / Walmart

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

best stir fry sauce

Best Sweet

House of Tsang General Tso Sauce

This is really sweet, really savory, fruity, and has a nice bit of spice at the end that deepens the overall flavor profile. You get four excellent flavors all at once. Maybe it’s not “authentic,” but a sweet and syrupy General Tso chicken is low-key one of the best fried chicken dishes you can get in North America, and it should get more respect from food writers and chefs. If you’re a fan of sweet, but also slightly tangy and savory sauces, you’ll love this.

Credit: Merc / Walmart

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

best stir fry sauce

Best Spicy

House of Tsang Szechuan Spicy Sauce

Yo, this is actually spicy. For a regularly available store-bought product, the spice in this bottle is surprisingly bold. Like most of the stir fry sauces on this list, there’s a nice, robust flavor here. It’s more than just spicy—it’s also tangy, salty, and has a strong meaty flavor from the soy sauce. This sauce would bring a spicy kick to sauteéd vegetables, chicken, and rice.

Credit: Merc / Walmart

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

best stir fry sauce

Best Simple

House of Tsang Classic Stir Fry Sauce

This classic stir fry sauce provides a consistently sweet and savory flavor that is most likely what you’re looking for in a stir fry sauce. House of Tsang Classic Stir Fry Sauce is very thick and very salty. It’s rich and aromatic, and would work well with just about any type of stir fry, although I think the meaty flavor could really help elevate a vegetable stir fry from understated to absolutely delicious. Sweet is an excellent flavor in stir fry, I don’t know why it’s often considered “inauthentic.” 

Credit: Merc / Instacart

Rating:

7.5/10

Sporks

best stir fry sauce

Best Garlic

Best of Thailand Stir Fry Sauce

Garlic is the first main ingredient listed after the usual suspects of soy sauce, water, sugar, and glucose syrup, so it makes sense that garlic is the dominant flavor with this stir fry sauce. It’s on the thin side, with a less viscous texture than the other sauces, but that doesn’t stop it from achieving a wonderful flavor. It’s got a subtle hint of ginger, and even some mushroom powder in there to up the umami factor. This is the most aromatic of the stir fry sauces we tried, so deploy this if you like a stir fry with a bold, pungent flavor (who doesn’t?). This will do great with any soy sauce-based Thai stir fry—think pad see ew with chinese broccoli or tofu, or pad kra pao with a fried egg.

Credit: Merc / Amazon

Rating:

7.5/10

Sporks

best stir fry sauce

Best with Tofu

Whole Foods 365 Organic Stir Fry Sauce

Whole Foods’ 365 Organic Stir Fry Sauce is a sugary and syrupy sauce that’s made with tamari, cane sugar, mirin (rice wine), sesame oil, garlic, and ginger. Pretty basic, but that means it’s conveniently all purpose. The biggest selling point here is the viscosity; it’s thick and sludge-like. To me, this tastes like a really sweet Worcestershire sauce—that means it’s got a lot of umami. You know what needs more umami? Tofu. Use this with a vegetarian, soy-based stir fry to add a pleasantly surprising meaty quality.

Credit: Merc / Amazon

Rating:

7/10

Sporks

best stir fry sauce

Best Sesame

P.F. Chang’s Sesame Sauce

This sesame sauce is very, very simple: It tastes sweet, and it tastes like sesame. That’s about it, but it’s still quite good. The toasted sesame seeds abundantly permeate the sauce, and the flavor is just so delightfully nutty. Use this at home for a General Tso’s chicken-style stir fry, and you’ll be happy. Sweet and nutty are excellent partners for stir fry. That flavor profile is popular throughout North America for a reason—it tastes really good.

Credit: Merc / Walmart

Rating:

6.5/10

Sporks

best stir fry sauce

Best Soy Free

Ocean’s Halo Soy-Free Stir Fry Sauce

I’m really impressed with this sauce. It tastes salty and savory just like soy sauce, only it has no soy in it. It’s made with organic sugar, sea salt, molasses, apple cider vinegar, corn starch, sunflower oil, mushrooms, kelp, and spices. Big time umami from the kelp and mushrooms, and a wonderful sweetness coming from the sugar and molasses. Ocean’s Halo is really quite delicious and has a thick texture. If you’re allergic to soy, this is a great alternative option. Science is crazy!

Credit: Merc / Walmart

Rating:

6.5/10

Sporks

Other products we tried: Panda Express Kung Pao Stir Fry Sauce, Kikkoman Stir Fry Sauce, Kikkoman Orange Sauce, Aplenty Chinese Szechuan Stir Fry Sauce, House of Tsang Sweet and Sour Sauce, La Choy Sweet and Sour, Minor’s Teriyaki Sauce.

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About the Author

Danny Palumbo

Danny is a comedian, cook, and food writer living in Los Angeles. He loves gas station eggs, canned sardines, and Easter candy. He also passionately believes that all the best chips come from Pennsylvania (Herr's!). If you can't understand Danny when he talks, it's because he's from Pittsburgh.

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