Of all the foods I mourn since all my diet restrictions set in, take-out Chinese food is probably at the top of my list. Yup, even before pizza. It feels so indulgent to me to eat straight out of a Chinese take-out box, while on the couch, in my jammies. I really miss that.

And Chinese is one of those foods that is just not allergen-friendly by its very nature. So it’s not even like I can recreate something at home and just leave out the allergens. So up until now, I have filled that desire for Asian food and flavors with food from China’s neighbors to the south–places like Thailand and Cambodia and Vietnam. But I found this recipe in my file and remembered how very delicious it was the first time I made it. I really wanted it again. So I challenged myself to make a black bean stir fry…without the black bean sauce.

You may not be familiar with black bean sauce as an ingredient in your kitchen, but if you’ve ordered Chinese food with a “brown sauce”, you will recognize the flavor. Black bean sauce is made by fermenting and salting soybeans. The resulting flavor is complex, both salty and sweet at the same time, and extremely delicious. But being made from soybeans, it is an allergen no-no for anyone sensitive to soy. Not to mention most commercial black bean sauces also have gluten in them.

So my first task was to find a substitute for the black bean sauce. A quick search for “allergen free black bean sauce” confirmed that I was in virgin territory. Any substitution here was going to have to be of my own invention. Here is what I came up with:

Allergen-Free Black Bean Garlic Sauce


  • 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil (omit if desired)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup Cybele’s Soy-Free Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon gluten free flour mix (whatever brand works for your diet)
  • 1 teaspoon potato starch


  1. Heat the grapeseed oil (and sesame oil, if using) in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until fragrant. Add Cybele’s Soy-Free Sauce and honey and bring to a simmer.
  2. Slowly whisk in the gluten-free flour mixture, whisking the whole time. Keep whisking until dissolved. Repeat with the potato starch. Keep whisking the sauce while it simmers over a gentle heat, until thickened. Remove from heat. Refrigerate until ready to use.

This came out better than even I had hoped. I couldn’t do a side-by-side taste test with the commercial sauce, but no one in my family found it lacking. Just look at The Peanut, who can’t resist grabbing for more

Plan to Eat subscribers, click on the recipe title to access the pre-formatted recipe.

Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry with(out) Black Bean Garlic Sauce

Source:  adapted from Fine Cooking magazine


  • 8 oz skirt or flank steak sliced across the grain 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon soy-free sauce
  • 1 clove garlicminced
  • dried shiitake mushrooms soaked in 1 cup boiling water for 20 minutes
  • 1/4 cup allergen-free black bean garlic sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon potato starch
  • 1 teaspoon chile sauce
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 4 teaspoons fresh ginger minced
  • 2 pounds broccoli stems peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup toasted cashews coarsely chopped (omit, if desired)


  1. Combine the steak, soy-free sauce, and garlic in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Drain the mushrooms, reserving 2/3 cup of the soaking liquid. Discard the stems and thinly slice the caps. In a small bowl, combine the reserved mushroom soaking liquid and the black bean sauce, wine, potato starch and chile sauce. Stir to dissolve the potato starch and set aside.
  3. Heat 1 tbs of the oil in a 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and stir-fry until fragrant, 15 seconds. Add the broccoli and 1/4 cup water, cover and steam until the broccoli is just tender, 3-5 minutes. Stir in the black bean sauce mixture and the mushrooms and cook until the sauce is thick and bubbly, about 1 minute. Add the cashews and toss to combine. Transfer to a serving bowl.
  4. Put the skillet over high heat. Add the remaining 1 tbs oil and add the beef and its marinade. Stir-fry until the meat is just browned, 45-50 seconds. Remove from the heat. Return the remaining broccoli to the skillet and toss to combine with the beef.

You may also like...

Skip to content