Shacha Sauce, also sometimes spelled sha cha or sacha, is often translated to “Chinese BBQ Sauce” on the jar, but it’s definitely not like any American-style barbecue sauce you’ve tasted!
In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about what it is, how it’s used, what to buy, and how to store it.
What Is Shacha Sauce?
Shacha Sauce (shāchá jiàng, 沙茶酱) is a Chinese condiment made from oil, garlic, shallots, chilies, and seafood (usually brill fish and dried shrimp).
It has an intensely savory, mildly seafood-y flavor. The name 沙茶酱 translates to “sand tea sauce.” Unsure how it got this name, but as we already mentioned, it is usually described in English as, “Chinese BBQ sauce.”
How Is It Used?
Shacha Sauce is primarily used in the cuisines of Fujian, Teochew (Chaozhou), and Taiwan. It adds umami flavor to many dishes, including soups, meat marinades (i.e. as a rub for roast meats, which is probably how it got its English translation to “Chinese BBQ Sauce”), stir-fries, and dipping sauces.
(We all like to add it to our hot pot dipping sauces in varying levels of concentration. Sarah’s hot pot dipping sauce is mostly sesame paste, with a hint of shacha, while Kaitlin’s is mostly shacha, with other ingredients to complement it.)
As the primary flavor in a stir-fry, shacha works beautifully. Try out our Sha Cha Chicken and Sha Cha Beef to see what we mean!
Buying & Storing
The most common brand of shacha sauce, and the one that we buy most often, is Bullhead brand. In fact, many people know shacha sauce as “Bullhead sauce.” It can be found in any Chinese grocery store, or online (a good option if you don’t have a Chinese grocery store near you, though you will definitely pay a bit more if you purchase online).
There are also other brands, including a brand of vegetarian shacha sauce. (We know, the logo is off-putting at first glance, but in this context––and its original context––it is actually a Buddhist symbol.)
It can last for months in the refrigerator in its sealed container. Just make sure you always use a clean utensil when dipping into the jar. Use by the date printed on the packaging.
Substitutions for Shacha Sauce
The closest equivalent is probably XO sauce, though XO sauce is actually harder to find! It’s also significant more expensive, because it contains pricier ingredients like dried shrimp & scallops. We do have a recipe on how to make XO sauce if you’re interested!
Our Favorite Recipes That Use This Ingredient
If you have further questions about this ingredient, let us know in the comments. We try to answer every single one.