Easy and Authentic Chinese Brown Sauce Recipe

This Chinese brown sauce recipe is easy to make and can be frozen for future use.
This Chinese brown sauce recipe is easy to make and can be frozen for future use.

Brown sauce is a staple of Chinese-American cuisine and is used in many of the most common restaurant dishes. Beef with broccoli, sesame chicken, spicy tofu, noodles, pork stir fry, and many other Chinese restaurant entrees are basically just stir fried meat and veggies with brown sauce on top.

If you like restaurant-style Chinese food popular in the US and Canada, all you need to make your favorite dishes at home is a batch of brown sauce. This recipe is so easy even a person with no culinary skills can prepare it in 15 minutes.


  • 2 cups beef broth (this can be made with beef bouillon cubes or canned beef broth)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (I prefer the Kikkoman low-sodium variety)
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1 tbsp sugar (you can substitute this with 1 tbsp brown sugar or honey)

Add some or all of these optional ingredients for extra flavor:

  • 1 tsp five spice powder
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried mustard powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric (for better color)

Chinese Brown Sauce Cooking Instructions

In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of beef broth with the soy sauce and chill in the refrigerator just until the liquid mixture is cold. When it is cool, dissolve the corn starch in the liquid. Corn starch dissolves best when the liquid is cold. If you add it to a hot liquid, it will form into clumps that will not dissolve and the sauce will not turn out thick. Chinese brown sauce needs to be thick enough to coat your veggies and meat.

Next, in a medium sized saucepan, heat the remaining 1 cup of beef broth until it boils, then let it simmer on low-medium heat. At this point, add the sugar and the chilled corn starch mixture, plus any of the optional spice and flavor ingredients. Stir the brown sauce slowly until it thickens and turns translucent, then remove it from heat. When you first pour the cold corn starch mixture into the pan, the sauce will be milky and opaque, but as it heats up and boils, it becomes more translucent.

You can pour the sauce over beef, chicken, vegetables, rice, noodles, or any other stir fried meal ingredients.

You can also freeze batches of sauce and thaw them at a later date. Chinese brown sauce keeps well in the freezer and can be stored for up to a month. Each serving is about 1/2 to 3/4 cup, so if you want to freeze ahead for a simple dinner for two, pour about 1 to 1.5 cups of brown sauce in freezer bags or small containers.

Delicious Chinese brown sauce with vegetables.
Delicious Chinese brown sauce with vegetables.

Other Dishes You Can Make With Brown Sauce

You can use brown sauce to accompany non-Chinese dishes or as a substitute for gravy. For example, you can make Salisbury steaks by adding cooked hamburger patties and caramelized onions to a pan of simmering brown sauce. Serve it with hot rice, quinoa, couscous or linguine.

You can also mix brown sauce into instant mashed potatoes or homemade mashed potatoes for a savory side dish.

Chinese brown sauce can also be used as a substitute for teriyaki sauce. Just add a little more sugar or honey to the sauce.

Instead of using ready-made curry paste, you can add 3 tbsp of curry powder to the brown sauce for a quick and delicious curry meal.

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Comments 4 comments

kerlynb profile image

kerlynb 5 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

WOW! I had always eaten beef with broccoli at the Chinese resto and had always wondered how they make the sauce. So it's this easy to make? Thank you for sharing! Would need to look for five spice powder. It's actually my first time to have heard of it so would have to know where to get it.

peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

i love your chinese recipes. Awesome. Gonna cook them for lunch. Voted up

Johnf63 2 years ago

Thank you for your blog article. Great. gadebckddkde

Janey35 9 months ago

Sounds great! I've been searching for an "authentic" brown sauce recipe. I'm going to try this tonight!

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