Sauce For Hot Pot

Hot pot is gaining popularity, and many of you are eager to recreate this delicious meal at home. While we have shared recipes for hot pot bases, you may be wondering about the all-important hot pot dipping sauce. Creating the perfect sauce can be a daunting task, as there are countless ingredients to choose from. That’s why we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on hot pot sauce, so you can enjoy the ultimate hot pot experience in the comfort of your own home. Let’s dive in!

Is HotPot Finally Sweeping the Nation?

If you’re not familiar with hot pot, it’s a Chinese meal where various ingredients are cooked in a bubbling soup at the center of the table. Diners then dip these cooked morsels into a sauce before savoring them. Hot pot has recently gained popularity, and it’s now a trendy dining option for many. It’s incredible to see hot pot embraced by the mainstream, as we’ve been advocating for this delicious meal for a long time. The availability of all-you-can-eat hot pot spots and the ability to personalize your hot pot experience are contributing factors to its popularity.

Chinese Hot Pot at Home

Recreating the Hot Pot Sauce Bar

One of the highlights of dining out for hot pot is the sauce bar, where you can create your own unique dipping sauce. With a wide array of sauces, add-ins, and herbs, it can be overwhelming to recreate this experience at home. However, we’re here to help you break it down. We’ll go through all the options and identify the must-have sauces for your at-home sauce bar. From there, you can explore the optional ingredients based on your preferences.

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Hot Pot Dipping Sauce Recipe
Hot Pot Meal with Tomato Soup Base in Center

How to Make a Chinese Hot Pot Dipping Sauce

Creating a hot pot dipping sauce can be a bit overwhelming, especially with so many choices. We have simplified the process by breaking down a basic hot pot sauce recipe into seven main components:

  1. Core bases
  2. Seasoning sauces
  3. Spicy ingredients
  4. Fresh ingredients
  5. Nuts/Seeds
  6. Specialty ingredients
  7. Spices

Each category contains individual ingredients, and we’ve marked the must-haves with an asterisk. If you’re unsure about any ingredient, we have included links to our glossary articles for further information. You can find these ingredients at Asian supermarkets or online. Now, let’s explore each category in detail.

Core Bases

  • Chinese Sesame Paste (NOT tahini!) or Peanut Butter*: Chinese sesame paste adds a rich thickness to your sauce. You can use it straight from the jar, or thin it out with hot water for a pourable and dippable consistency. Peanut butter is a great alternative if you can’t find sesame paste.

  • ShaCha / Chinese BBQ Sauce*: This flavorful sauce is a staple at hot pot restaurants. It adds a unique taste to your sauce and is available in vegetarian or vegan options.

Seasoning Sauces

  • Light soy sauce*: This sauce thins out the sauce, adds salt, and harmonizes the other ingredients. You don’t need a lot!

  • Oyster sauce: If you find ShaCha sauce too fishy, oyster sauce is a good substitute. It provides umami and a sweet flavor.

  • Sesame oil: This adds a delightful aroma to your sauce.

  • Vinegar: Adding acidity or tang to your sauce is a personal choice. You can choose between Chinese black vinegar, Shanghai rice vinegar, or rice wine vinegar based on your flavor preferences.

  • Fish sauce: Use this for sweetness or as a vegan source of umami.

  • Hoisin sauce: This can add sweetness to your sauce or serve as a vegan alternative to seafood-based sauces.

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Spicy Ingredients

  • Chili oil*: This is a must-have for spicy heat in your sauce.

  • Chili garlic sauce / Sriracha

  • Other chili sauces (e.g., Chili crisp, Lao gan ma chili oil with black bean): These sauces add extra flavor and heat.

  • Chopped chili peppers: If you want to increase the spice level, add some finely chopped chilies to your sauce. Be cautious with super hot chilies!

Fresh Ingredients

  • Minced garlic*: Garlic adds a wonderful aroma to your sauce. It’s one of the essential ingredients in hot pot sauces.

  • Chopped scallions*: Scallions enhance the flavors in your sauce, providing a fresh and aromatic element.

  • Chopped cilantro*: Cilantro adds freshness and crunch to your sauce. Don’t forget to include the stems!

  • Chopped red or green chilies: For an extra kick of heat, finely chop some chilies and add them to your sauce.

Nuts / Seeds

  • Roasted chopped peanuts: If you enjoy nuttiness and crunch in your sauce, add some chopped peanuts.

  • Whole fried soybeans: These provide a salty, buttery, and crunchy element to your sauce, ideal for those with peanut allergies.

  • Toasted sesame seeds: These add a light nutty flavor without altering the texture of the sauce.

Specialty Ingredients

  • Leek flower sauce: This pungent sauce, made from the white flowers of garlic chives, is popular in Northern China. It pairs well with lamb and adds a garlicky, onion-like flavor to your sauce.

  • XO Sauce ($$$)

  • Fermented bean curd: This ingredient has a cheesy flavor that works well in hot pot sauces.


  • White pepper: A little bit of white pepper adds dimension to your sauce without overwhelming spice.

  • Sichuan peppercorn powder: If you love the numbing sensation of Sichuan cuisine, add a sprinkle of Sichuan peppercorn powder to your sauce.

  • Sugar: A pinch of sugar enhances the flavors of your sauce, especially when balancing salty elements.

  • MSG: A small pinch of MSG can add that desired savory taste, although it’s usually unnecessary due to the natural MSG content in many sauces.

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Hot Pot

Our 5 Personal Hot Pot Sauce Recipes

Now that we’ve explored the elements of a hot pot sauce, you might be wondering about our personal sauce combinations. Each of us has our own preferred hot pot dipping sauce. These recipes are a starting point for you to discover your own beloved sauce. Feel free to experiment and adjust based on your taste preferences.

Kaitlin’s Hot Pot Dipping Sauce

  • 1 tbsp sha cha
  • 2 tsp sesame paste
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp chili oil
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 pinch white pepper
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp cilantro
  • 2 tbsp chopped scallion

Bill’s Hot Pot Dipping Sauce

  • 1 tbsp sha cha
  • 2 tsp peanut butter
  • 2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp chili oil
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 2 tbsp chopped scallion

Judy’s Hot Pot Dipping Sauce

  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp chili oil (heavy on the flakes, light on oil)
  • 1 tsp Sha Cha sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 tbsp chopped scallions

Sarah’s Hot Pot Dipping Sauce

  • 2 1/2 tbsp sesame paste
  • 1 tbsp Sha Cha sauce
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp chili oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 tbsp chopped scallions
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds (optional)

Justin’s Hot Pot Dipping Sauce

  • 1 tbsp Chinese black vinegar
  • 2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp Sha Cha sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sesame paste
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp chopped scallion
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro

Feel free to mix and match these recipes or create your own unique combination of ingredients. Hot pot sauces are all about personal taste, so don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works best for you.

How to Make a Hot Pot Dipping Sauce

All this talk of sauce must be making you hungry! If you’re craving hot pot but don’t have all the ingredients, you can try our recipe for Hot Pot Sauce noodles.

Remember, the joy of hot pot lies in the communal experience and the ability to customize your dipping sauce to suit your taste. So gather your friends or family, set up your sauce bar, and enjoy a fun and flavorful hot pot meal at home. For more hot pot inspiration, check out Hook’d Up Bar and Grill!