Beijing Hot Pot Dipping Sauce (京式火锅蘸料)

5 from 3 votes
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Sharing a nutty, savory, Beijing-style dipping sauce for hot pot that I’ve eaten my whole life. It uses a few fermented ingredients to create a super umami taste that pairs well with many types of hot pot soups. {Vegan, gluten-free adaptable}

Sesame based hot pot dipping sauce

If you go to a hot pot restaurant, chances are, you will find many sauce options or a sauce bar where you can build your own sauce. When it comes to sauces for hot pot, there are limitless ways to combine the flavors and everyone has their own preferences. Today, I want to share the savory Beijing-style dipping sauce that I’ve eaten as long as I can remember. It’s still my favorite hot pot dipping sauce and I make it whenever I have a hot pot dinner.

Beijing style hot pot dipping sauce close up

Flavor profile & ingredients

Some of the dipping sauce ingredients are quite unique and require a run to the Asian market. But I’ve managed to find them all on Amazon. If you’re not making this at home, I hope the recipe will help you build a delicious sauce next time you visit a restaurant where you can assemble your own sauce.

Chinese sesame paste (芝麻酱)

The Beijing dipping for hot pot sauce uses Chinese sesame paste as its base. Different from tahini, Chinese sesame paste uses roasted sesame seeds to create a deeper taste. It has a distinctive dark brown color and tastes quite different from tahini. You can find it in Asian grocery stores or on Amazon. When you shop for it, make sure the ingredient contains sesame seeds. Many of the sesame pastes also contain peanuts, making the taste a bit funny. The good ones are made with 100% sesame seeds and cost more, but have a much better flavor.

Types of Chinese sesame paste
Both are Chinese sesame pastes, but the one on the left is pure sesame made (made with 100% sesame) and the one on the right is mixed sesame paste (made with sesame and peanut).

If you cannot find Chinese sesame paste, it’s OK to use unsweetened natural peanut butter or tahini. Both of them have very different taste but the result will be delicious nonetheless.

Red fermented bean curd (酱豆腐)

Fermented bean curd is also called furu. Some people call this stinky tofu. I call it Chinese blue cheese. These little squares have a creamy texture and a salty and fermented umami that’s very similar to cheese. 

In China we usually serve it with plain congee and use it to braise spare ribs. It’s also a key ingredient in the hot pot dipping sauce to add some fermented umami.

While there are the white and red types of fermented bean curd, the Beijing style sauce only uses the red type. You can find it in Chinese grocery stores or on Amazon.

Red fermented tofu (red furu)

Fermented leek flower sauce (韭菜花)

Fermented leek flower is another flavor bomb, and may be the weirdest ingredient ever. I wouldn’t blame you if you think it smells stinky. It’s made with leek flowers (and chives, sometimes) and salt, then fermented until it forms a dark green paste. It is very pungent and salty, with a distinctive, garlicky umami that’s hard to describe. 

It adds further dimension to the dipping sauce but you can skip it just as well. Even my mom thinks it’s too stinky and refuses to eat it (lol). It’s like anchovies. You either love it or hate it.

Chinese fermented leek flower sauce (jiu cai hua)

You can only find it in Chinese grocery stores and also on Amazon. The package has poor translation (says Chinese paste lol) so you will need to rely on the pictures (above and below, both are very reliable and famous brands) to locate it.

Next time if you’re at a hot pot restaurant, try to add a small amount to your dipping sauce to see if you like it. If so, you can gradually add a bit more.

Chinese leek flower sauce in package

Other ingredients

Among the rest of the ingredients, the sesame oil is the most important. Especially if you are using peanut butter or tahini, it will add a very delicious nutty flavor.

If you do not use the fermented leek flower sauce, I recommend adding more sesame oil and garlic to boost the taste. You can also use homemade chili oil to boost the taste if you like a spicy sauce.

The minced cilantro balances out the flavor and I really like it. If you do not like cilantro, minced green onion is another good option.

Ingredients for making Beijing hot pot dipping sauce

How to mix the sauce

The key to mixing the sauce is to dilute the sesame paste into a runny sauce. At a hot pot restaurant sauce bar, the sesame paste is already diluted and ready to use. At home, you will need to mix in some water so it forms a saucy consistency.

Mixing Chinese sesame paste with liquid to make the sauce

The best way to mix the sesame paste is to add water gradually and whisk continuously with a spatula (or a spoon). You will notice the sesame paste thickening at first, then thinning out as you blend in more water.

I also prefer to use hot pot base instead of water to further boost the taste of the sauce. If you decide to do so, spoon out the warm broth before it starts to boil. Adding boiling water to the sesame paste might cause separation.


I hope this guide will help you create a flavorful hot pot dipping sauce that you enjoy. Again, everyone has their own preferences and do feel free to change up the ingredient ratio according to your taste. In fact, I never measured the ingredients before writing this recipe, and I felt it tastes slightly better when I don’t measure them 😉

Beijing style hot pot dipping sauce

More information on Hot Pot

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Sharing a nutty, savory, Beijing-style dipping sauce for hot pot that I’ve eaten my whole life. It uses a few fermented ingredients to create a super umami taste that pairs well with many types of hot pot soups. {Vegan, gluten-free adaptable}

Beijing Hot Pot Dipping Sauce (京式火锅蘸料)

5 from 3 votes
Sharing a nutty, savory, Beijing-style dipping sauce for hot pot that I’ve eaten my whole life. It uses a few fermented ingredients to create a super umami taste that pairs well with many types of hot pot soups. {Vegan, gluten-free adaptable}
For gluten-free, replace the soy sauce with tamari.
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: home style
Prep Time: 8 minutes
Total Time: 8 minutes
Servings: 2 servings


  • 1/4 cup Chinese sesame paste (or unsweetened natural peanut butter, or tahini) (*Footnote 1)
  • 1/4 cup water (or warm hot pot broth) (*Footnote 2)
  • 1 block red fermented bean curd
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons Chinese fermented leek flower sauce (Optional) (*Footnote 3)
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic , grated (2 cloves)
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro , minced (or to taste) (Optional)


  • Add the sesame paste into a big bowl. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time, and use a spatula or a spoon to blend the water in until it forms a smooth paste. Add more water and repeat, until it forms a smooth sauce that is slightly runny.
  • Add the red fermented bean curd. Break it apart while mixing it into the sauce, until fully incorporated.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and mix, until everything is fully dissolved into the sauce. Taste it and adjust it according to your taste. If you do not use the leek flower sauce, the sauce will be milder. You can add a bit more soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic to boost the flavor.


  1. Shop for premium sesame paste that is made with 100% sesame seeds. Do not get the ones that are made with a combination of sesame seeds and peanuts.You can use unsweetened peanut butter or tahini, both will be delicious but with a very different nutty note.
  2. You can use cold or warm water. If you use hot pot broth, portion out the broth when it’s warm but not boiling. If you add boiling broth to the sesame paste it might separate.
  3. Start with 1 teaspoon if you’ve never tried the sauce before. Gradually increase the amount if you like the taste.
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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Beryl says:

    5 stars
    WOW. Another home run recipe. Made this for hot pot night at home this last weekend and it was incredible, especially for dipping the meats in – couldn’t find the leek flower sauce unfortunately, but I actually doubled the fermented red tofu because I liked the flavor so much. It is a more delicate flavor than I expected… much less offensive than blue cheese in my opinion.

    Your recipes consistently turn out well, I’ve been using your website looking for chinese dishes I haven’t made or was afraid to try, or had tried before and failed haha. My source of chinese recipes growing up was Irene Kuo’s Key to Chinese Cooking, and just like hers, I always know I can trust your recipes to turn out the way you say they will! Thanks Maggie!

  2. Hailey says:

    5 stars
    I couldn’t stop thinking about this sauce, so I whipped up a batch even though I don’t have a hotpot set up. I put it in a jar and I’ve been dolloping it on blanched gailan. It’s a real time saver, and it’s stupid delicious. I’ll be making it again when I run out, which will be soon. I’m very glad I picked up the leek paste. It turns out I like it a lot! I’m excited to learn about more things to do with it.

  3. stephanie says:

    5 stars
    This is very informative–I love hot pot and sauces to go with it.
    On the section where you explain further about sesame paste with a picture, it says both bottles are on the right. I can’t read Chinese so I am not sure which one is 100% sesame or mixed with peanut. Today is cold rainy day–will buy 100% sesame paste to go with my hot pot dinner.

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      Ugh just realized I did a typo. Sorry about that!
      The jars on the left is pure sesame paste (the jar that contains less characters).
      The ones on the right is the mixed type.

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