This Chinese garlic sauce is a version of the Chinese brown sauce you’ve likely had at your favorite Chinese restaurant or for takeout. It’s a savory sauce with a touch sweetness that you’re most likely to find on a stir fry but it’s also amazing as a dipping sauce.
The slightly thick sauce is a blend of garlic, broth, sugar, and oils with garlic and ginger — and just enough cornstarch to give it the right consistency. It’s as aromatic as it is flavorful, and it coats your proteins and vegetables perfectly in any stir fry recipe.
The next time you’re looking for an easy recipe to help recreate your favorite Chinese takeout, or if you need an amazing sauce for appetizers for a party, try this delicious Chinese garlic sauce.
Table of Contents
What is Chinese Garlic Sauce?
Chinese Garlic Sauce, sometimes called stir fry sauce or just plain brown sauce, is a staple in Chinese-American kitchens. It adds deep umami flavors to many dishes but can also be used as a dipping sauce.
This sauce is well-balanced with the main flavor being savory, but it also incorporates sweet and spicy flavors (if you choose to use the crushed red pepper flakes).
What is Chinese Garlic Sauce Made of?
The main ingredient that lends so much flavor to the sauce is garlic, of course, but it also has deep flavor imparted by soy sauce, broth, rice wine, and sesame oil. Brown sugar lends sweetness and red pepper flakes add spice.
Which Veggies are Best in Stir Fry?
Anything goes as far as veggies. In fact, this is a great recipe to use up odds and ends in the vegetable crisper. Just make sure to chop or shred them to a similar size and choose those with a similar cook time or add them based on cook time.
Here are some of my favorites:
- Baby bok choy
- Baby corn
- Bean sprouts
- Bell pepper
How to Make Stir Fry
If you are using this brown sauce to make stir fry, here are basic instructions. You’ll need 2-3 cups of chopped or shredded veggies and 1-2 cups of protein (shrimp, scallops, chicken, pork, cubed beef or tofu) — any type you like!
- In a large skillet or wok, add 1 tablespoon of neutral oil over medium heat. Cook the protein until it is fully cooked. Remove and set aside.
- Add another 1 tablespoon of neutral oil to the skillet and add the vegetables, cooking for 2-4 minutes, depending on cut, size and nature. Cook until still snappy.
- Add the protein back to the skillet along with ½ cup of stir fry sauce, tossing to coat.
- Serve over stir fry noodles, white rice, or fried rice. Make this a lower carb dish by using fried cauliflower rice.
Why You’ll Love this Chinese Garlic Sauce Recipe
If you love Chinese food you’ll adore this homemade garlic sauce.
- Easy – Hands-on prep time for this easy sauce is so minimal and so is cleanup.
- Accessible – If you don’t already have these ingredients you can find them easily at the local grocery store.
- Customizable – You can switch up the flavors to make this your signature garlic sauce.
- Affordable – These simple ingredients aren’t expensive — you can whip this up any time or make a big batch to keep it handy for when you need it.
All of these ingredients work together to build the defining flavors of this sauce.
- Vegetable oil or canola oil – These are the standard oils used for this recipe but you can use any neutral oil like avocado oil, olive oil, or coconut oil.
- Fresh garlic – Make sure to finely mince or press the garlic so it mixes well into the sauce.
- Fresh ginger – Grating works best for ginger in this recipe but you can chop it finely, too.
- Low sodium soy sauce – This ingredient adds so much umami flavor.
- Low sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth – Chicken stock or vegetable stock add depth to the sauce.
- Chinese rice wine or rice vinegar – Rice wine or rice wine vinegar add acidity to balance the sauce.
- Light brown sugar – To make it a bit sweet, use brown sugar. If you want deeper sweet flavor use dark brown sugar.
- Sesame oil – This oil helps develop the flavor profile.
- Water – Water helps to build the right consistency.
- Cornstarch – Cornstarch thickens the sauce.
How To Serve Chinese Garlic Sauce
You can serve this as a sauce on a main dish or as a dipping sauce.
- Stir fry – Finish any stir fry with this classic sauce.
- Dipping sauce – Serve this sauce in a small bowl alongside crab rangoon, egg rolls, dumplings, or other appetizers.
- Spread – Spread this sauce on buns before adding grilled burgers or chicken for Asian-style sandwiches.
- Marinade – Marinate beef, pork, or chicken before roasting or grilling.
Put your own spin on this versatile sauce. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Szechuan sauce– Add 1-2 teaspoons of crushed Szechuan peppercorns, also known as Sichuan peppercorn. These unique peppercorns aren’t related to black pepper and can create a tingly, numb sensation in your mouth when eaten on their own.
- Make it spicy– For a hot garlic sauce with more spicy flavor, double the crushed red pepper flakes or add 1-2 teaspoons of sriracha hot sauce. You can also add red chili flakes, chili peppers, or your other favorite spicy ingredients.
- Make it sweet– Omit the crushed red pepper flakes and double the brown sugar. You can also try using a little bit of maple syrup.
- Add color– Finely sliced green onions give the sauce color.
- Unique flavor– Try adding oyster sauce or hoisin sauce, or swapping either for some of the soy sauce.
- Starch– Instead of cornstarch, experiment with alternatives like tapioca flour or your favorite alternative.
- Sesame seeds– For more sesame flavor, sprinkle in some sesame seeds.
- Garlic– If you like strong garlic flavor, add as much minced garlic as you like.
Storage, Make Ahead and Freezing
We like storing this in a glass jar but any airtight container will work.
Make Ahead: You can grate or mince the ginger or garlic ahead of time and mix the sauce when ready. You can also make the entire sauce and then store until ready to serve — heat or serve at room temperature or cold.
Refrigerator: Store for 4-5 days in the refrigerator in an airtight container or ziploc bag.
Freezer: Freeze for up to 3 months in a freezer-safe container, freezer bag, or ice cube tray.
Common Questions About Chinese Garlic Sauce
Chinese garlic sauce is not particularly high in calories but if you’re looking to lower the calorie count you can reduce the sugar or use a sugar alternative.
The term “healthy” can mean a lot of things to different people depending on their dietary needs. However, garlic itself is extremely healthy, offering the benefits of lowering blood pressure and cholesterol as well as blood glucose. It’s heart healthy and can also help with blood circulation.
Chinese garlic sauce typically clocks in at around the mid-teens (eg, 15 or so) in terms of carbs for around a cup of it but sauce recipes vary. If you’re concerned about carbs as someone on a keto lifestyle or with diabetes, consider replacing the brown sugar with your favorite alternative to make a lower carb sauce.
Other Asian-inspired Sauces
Chinese Garlic Sauce
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh garlic minced or pressed
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger grated or minced
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
- 1/3 cup rice wine
- 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 heaping tablespoons cornstarch
- Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the garlic, ginger and crushed red peppers. Cook until fragrant, but before browning.
- Stir in the soy sauce, broth, wine, sugar and sesame oil until sugar dissolves. Reduce to low heat.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the water and cornstarch, add to the garlic sauce, whisking over low heat until it starts to bubble and turns glossy.
- Remove from the heat and use in a stir fry or as a dipping sauce.
- If you’ve tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings.
Your Chinese sauce is soo good. I have got all the ingredients with me and I am going to make them tonight and use it as stir fry sauce.
This sauce sounds super flavorful. Will be great for a veggie stir fry.
I absolutely LOVE this on fried wontons, and I have always wanted to make my own. Thanks so much!
We are huge fans of stir fry for dinner. This brown sauce sounds marvelous and I will definitely be using it often in my house.
so good! used it for a noodle, veggie and prawn stir fry last night! Great flavour and super easy!
What kind of vinegar can I use for a substitute for rice vinegar? I am wanting to make this tonight and don’t have rice vinegar???
I’d just go with a white vinegar. Hope I made it in time! I had surgery this week and not working so many hours 🙂