Don't worry about finding a browning sauce substitute when I've done the hard work of gathering the best alternatives for you! Perhaps you need the rich brown color of browning sauce added to get a recipe just right, or maybe you need the savory, smoky flavor. Either way, you have plenty of browning sauce substitutes to choose from!
The Best Substitutes for Browning Sauce
There are many reasons that you may reach for a substitute while cooking. One is if you run out of an ingredient. Another is if you don’t like an ingredient (or may even be allergic to it). Another reason is when you don’t know what the ingredient is.
While browning sauce has been around since the early 1900s, it is not used as commonly today. Therefore, your reason for looking for a substitute may be the last – you don’t know what browning sauce is.
- The Best Substitutes for Browning Sauce
- What is Browning Sauce?
- 1. Homemade Browning Sauce
- 2. Dark Roux
- 3. Gravy Powder
- Quick & Easy Substitutes for Browning Sauce
- 4. Dark Molasses
- 5. Worcestershire Sauce
- 6. Steak Sauce (A1)
- 7. Barbeque Sauce
- 8. Teriyaki Sauce
- 9. Soy Sauce
- Additional Substitutes for Browning Sauce
- 10. Soy Sauce Substitutes
- 11. Coconut Aminos
- 📖 Recipe Card
- 💬 Reviews
What is Browning Sauce?
Browning sauce is a dark liquid that is typically made with caramel coloring or caramelized sugar, vegetable concentrate, and seasonings. This combination gives it a simple yet savory flavor that enhances different foods. Its flavor is often referred to as smoky with a slight sweetness like molasses.
In addition to enhancing the flavor, browning sauce also adds rich brown color. Browning sauce is commonly used to deepen the color and flavor of gravy and other sauces, as well as stews. Home cooks may also use it to enhance the color of a roast just before serving.
If you have never used browning sauce before, I recommend giving it a try. It is easy to find in the grocery store. The most popular brand is Kitchen Bouquet Browning Sauce.
If you can’t get a hold of the store-bought sauce today, try making your own! Moreover, reach for a quick and easy substitute you already have at home.
1. Homemade Browning Sauce
The best substitute for store-bought browning sauce is a simple sauce you can make at home. While it will take a little extra time, it will give you a wonderful rich savory flavor to use in any recipe.
It also only requires 3 ingredients: brown sugar, water, and salt.
- 1 cup of light brown sugar
- ½ cup of boiling hot water
- 1 pinch of salt
Add the brown sugar to a sturdy saucepan or cast-iron skillet - pans or skillets with heavy bottoms work best for evenly conducting the heat. Begin to melt the sugar on its own by stirring it slowly over low heat.
As the sugar melts it will start to darken the longer it cooks. When the color begins to darken, remove the pan from the heat.
Slowly add the (boiling) hot water while continuing to stir. Once all the water has been added, the final step is to add the salt. Set aside and let the sauce cool completely.
Use your homemade browning sauce in any recipe that calls for it. Store the extra sauce in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 6 months.
2. Dark Roux
Roux is made from a combination of cooking fat and flour. It is used as a base to make thick stews, sauces, or gravies. A traditional roux is made with butter and flour. However, a dark roux is made with oil or lard.
The high smoke point of oil or lard allows the roux to cook longer over high heat until it turns a rich brown color. This type of dark roux is used in Cajun cooking. It is this base that gives Cajun gumbo its deep brown color and rich flavor.
To make your own brown roux gather vegetable oil (or shortening or lard) and flour. You should know that getting a great dark roux will take some time. Plan for at least 30 minutes.
- ½ cup vegetable oil (shortening or lard)
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
Heat (melt) the oil (shortening or lard) in a sturdy saucepan or cast-iron skillet. Slowly add the flour to the heated oil. Use a whisk to mix the flour and oil together.
Keep whisking until all the flour has been incorporated. Continue to whisk over medium-low heat until the roux turns a golden brown.
The final dark roux will be a thick and lumpy mixture with a golden-brown color. *Like Hershey's chocolate syrup.
Make sure to continue whisking the roux until your pan or skillet has cooled (or the roux will burn)!
There is not a standard substitute ratio of dark roux for browning sauce. It will vary from recipe to recipe.
Dark roux is best used as a base for gravy or another sauce. It can also be used as the base for a stew. Simply replace the regular roux or another thickening agent (cornstarch) with the dark roux.
3. Gravy Powder
There are many different types of dried gravy powders. Most of them come in small packets that are sold in a box of 3 or more.
The powder consistency of dried gravy powder is like a dark roux. Therefore, it is best used as another substitute for adding flavor and color to a sauce, soup, stew, or gravy.
Like dark roux, the ratios will vary depending on the brand of dried gravy and the recipe you are using it in. In most cases, you will replace the thickening agent in your recipe with the dried gravy powder.
For example, if your recipe calls for a tablespoon of cornstarch use a tablespoon of dried gravy powder instead. You may need to add more to achieve the right flavor and consistency, but this is a good place to begin.
Quick & Easy Substitutes for Browning Sauce
Sometimes the best substitutes are the ones that are the quickest and easiest. There are a handful of these types of quick and easy substitutes for browning sauce.
However, when going for quick and easy you sometimes must sacrifice taste. Therefore, while the following substitutes are excellent for replacing the color of browning sauce, they may shift the final flavor of your dish.
If using one of the substitutes below choose the one that will best add flavor to your recipe. Whether that be the addition of something a little salty, savory, or sweet.
4. Dark Molasses
Browning sauce has a natural sweetness that resembles molasses. Therefore, molasses is a great substitute. Moreover, molasses has a similar consistency.
Molasses comes in three different types: light, dark, and blackstrap. Dark molasses is your best choice as it will provide the closest flavor, color, and consistency to browning sauce.
However, you can also use light or blackstrap. Light molasses will be a tad sweeter and lighter in color. Blackstrap molasses will be similar in color to dark molasses, but its flavor is more bitter and less sweet.
Use dark molasses in a 1:1 exchange for browning sauce in any recipe. If using light or black strap molasses start with just a little bit less and add up to an even exchange if desired.
5. Worcestershire Sauce
While more people have probably used or heard of Worcestershire sauce it is another somewhat mysterious brown sauce.
This mysterious brown sauce has a complex flavor that is made from several ingredients. One of its main ingredients is molasses. Therefore, it has some similar flavor notes to browning sauce.
In addition to molasses, Worcestershire sauce is made with anchovies and several other spices. This mixture that is fermented over time produces a lovely rich savory flavor with hints of sweetness.
Use Worcestershire in a 1:1 ratio for browning sauce. It can be used in everything from marinades and sauces to stews and gravies.
This is not a vegan-friendly food due to the anchovies.
6. Steak Sauce (A1)
Steak sauce is considered another type of browning sauce. However, it is made with a tomato base rather than a simple sugar base.
In addition, steak sauce also includes vinegar and other spices. Therefore, it has a bit more of an acidic flavor than standard browning sauce. However, many find it to work just as well in many recipes.
Use A1 (or a steak sauce of your choice) in a 1:1 substitution for browning sauce. This substitute is best used for glazing meats or creating marinades. It will work in some sauces but is not ideal for gravy.
7. Barbeque Sauce
Barbeque sauce is made similarly to steak sauce. It has a tomato and vinegar base. However, barbeque sauce is typically sweeter than steak sauce.
The sweetness in barbeque sauce resembles the sweet undertones of browning sauce. While there are some similar flavor notes, barbeque sauce will add its own unique flavor.
Use a 1:1 substitution of barbeque sauce for browning sauce for glazing meats and adding flavor to some sauces and dips.
8. Teriyaki Sauce
Teriyaki sauce is another sauce rich in flavor and color. It is often sweeter than browning sauce. Therefore, it is best used in recipes that lean towards a sweeter taste.
Teriyaki sauce is a great marinade for meats because the sugar content will create a lovely coating. It is not ideal for use in gravy or stews though.
Use a simple 1:1 ratio of teriyaki sauce in place of browning sauce.
9. Soy Sauce
Soy sauce is an easy substitute when you need a simple flavor and color enhancement. Less complex in flavor than other sauces, it has a simple earthy flavor.
The simple flavor leans towards salty and savory, rather than sweet. Therefore, it is best used to add a dash of flavor and color to soups, sauces, and stews.
While the saltiness of soy sauce can help enhance the other flavors in your recipe it can also overpower them. Therefore, use only half the amount your recipe calls for: ½ teaspoon of soy sauce for 1 teaspoon of browning sauce.
Additional Substitutes for Browning Sauce
Several substitutes for soy sauce can be used as substitutes for browning sauce. The following can be used in the same way soy sauce can be used. To add simple flavor and color to sauces, soups, and stews.
10. Soy Sauce Substitutes
Like soy sauce, these alternatives are all saltier than browning sauce. Therefore, use ½ the amount the recipe calls for.
Keep in mind that soy sauce, liquid aminos, and liquid seasoning are often made with wheat and are not gluten-free. Moreover, oyster sauce is not vegan-friendly. If you need a gluten-free or vegan-friendly substitute, consider making your own browning sauce.
- Liquid Aminos
- Oyster Sauce
- Liquid Seasoning
11. Coconut Aminos
Coconut aminos are another soy sauce substitute that can be used in place of browning sauce. However, unlike the other ones, this one is less salty. It is also sweeter.
It is still best to start with ½ the amount though as it will shift the flavor a bit.
Your recipe won't be missing an ounce of flavor if you use one of these browning sauce substitutes! Let us know what you're cooking up in the comment section below!
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📖 Recipe Card
Browning Sauce Substitute: Homemade Browning Sauce (+More Great Alternatives!)
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- ½ cup water (boiling hot water)
- 1 pinch salt
- Add the brown sugar to a sturdy saucepan or cast-iron skillet - pans or skillets with heavy bottoms work best for evenly conducting the heat. Begin to melt the sugar on its own by stirring it slowly over low heat.1 cup light brown sugar
- As the sugar melts it will start to darken the longer it cooks. When the color begins to darken, remove the pan from the heat.
- Slowly add the (boiling) hot water while continuing to stir. Once all the water has been added, the final step is to add the salt. Set aside and let the sauce cool completely. *Your sugar may look like it will boil over, use caution when adding the boiling water and start with small amounts!½ cup water, 1 pinch salt
- Use your homemade browning sauce in any recipe that calls for it. Store the extra sauce in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 6 months.
- Light brown sugar is my favorite for caramelizing the sugar and creating the best flavor in my browning sauce. You can use dark brown sugar, or even white granulated sugar, but the flavor is not quite the same.
- I suggest a well-ventilated room when making your browning sauce. It tends to smoke quite a bit during the cooking process.
- ½ cup of water can be heated to boiling in the microwave if desired, use your high power setting and start with 1 ½- 2 minutes. Check the water to see if it has reached a boil, if not, continue heating in 30 second increments.
- Yields 1 cup of DIY browning sauce.
Angela is an at home chef that developed a passion for all things cooking and baking at a young age in her Grandma's kitchen. After many years in the food service industry, she now enjoys sharing all of her family favorite recipes and creating tasty dinner and amazing dessert recipes here at Bake It With Love!