This unassuming little ingredient is way more powerful than it lets on. Translated as sweet wheat paste, Sichuan 甜面酱 (tiánmiànjiàng) is yet another member of the family of fantastically tasty and useful Asian fermented sauces. These sauces are high-umami without being too salty, or too sweet either. According to Fuchsia Dunlop’s Invitation to a Banquet, these thick fermented jiangs predated soy sauce by more than a millennium and were originally made from all manner of grain, fish and meat before soybean became the default.

Sichuan tianmianjiang is often mistaken for other Chinese sweet soybean pastes, which are likewise called 甜面酱 in Mandarin, but include soybean as the primary ingredient. Sichuan tianmianjiang, on the other hand, is made solely from wheat flour, as the name suggests. Often, the sweet soybean sauces include wheat as an ingredient as well, although the sweet wheat sauces do not include soybeans.

About Tianmianjiang Sweet Wheat Paste

Tianmianjiang, translated as sweet wheat paste or sweet flour sauce, is a fermented sauce made of wheat flour and salt. Despite the name it is not particularly sweet. Nor is it spicy; it is just pure savory umami.

Tianmianjiang is used less frequently than doubanjiang, a fermented chili and broad bean paste, in Sichuan cooking. Most notably the two are used together with douchi in twice-cooked pork. This combo of sauces is truly one of the greatest flavors in Sichuan. However, sweet wheat paste, which is a smooth, black sauce (the bottom sauce in this photo), can stand on its own as a stir-fry base and is often used to sauce pork. It is an especially great source of umami for those who like their Chinese food less spicy.

Juan Cheng Tianmianjiang Sweet Wheat Paste

This tianmianjiang is another long-fermented hit from Pixian Douban Co.’s Juan Cheng brand. Juan Cheng is famous as the original producer of Pixian doubanjiang (chili bean paste), but it also produces a stellar version of this other indispensable Sichuan sauce. Juan Cheng’s sweet wheat paste is fermented for one year in traditional earthen crocks in the Pidu district of Chengdu.

Non-GMO, Vegan

sweet wheat paste

Freestyle With Tianmianjiang

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Cooking and Storage Tips

Store tianmianjiang in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight and heat sources, preferably in an airtight container or sealed bag. Refrigerate for longterm storage. If stored correctly, and not cross-contaminated, fermented products do not really expire. Let your eyes and nose be the judge of its shelf life.

Tianmianjiang makes a great stir-fry sauce base on its own or combined with Pixian doubanjiang. It is commonly used to flavor a pork mince as a noodle topping, colloquially called 臊子 “sàozǐ”, as seen in dandanmian and zajiangmian.

Starting Your Sichuan Cooking Journey? Get the Complete Sichuan Pantry Collection

Complete Sichuan pantry collection

Stock your shelves with a premium version of every specialty ingredient needed to cook classic Sichuan food, plus nine recipe cards for the most-loved dishes of Chengdu and Chongqing. The core of the collection is the ingredients for creating ma and la, the defining tastes of Sichuan food. ‘Ma’ refers to the tingly, citrusy taste of Sichuan peppercorn. ‘La’ refers to the heat of chili pepper.

This kit further includes the highest quality Pixian doubanjiang (chili bean paste) on the market, handcrafted and aged for three years, plus Sichuan’s other two umami powerhouses: douchi (fermented black soybeans) and tianmianjiang (fermented sweet wheat paste). Other must-haves are Sichuan’s oldest and most esteemed brands of soy sauce and vinegar: Zhongba light soy sauce is naturally brewed for 360 days, and handcrafted Baoning vinegar is aged for 3 years. Like Pixian douban, they are China Time-Honored Brands, in business for centuries, and we are their exclusive U.S. representatives. 

We round out this collection with our own organic, stone-ground sesame paste and Yibin suimiyacai, a fermented mustard pickle used in many classic dishes.

All How to Cook With Tianmianjiang (Sweet Wheat Paste)