8 Tasty Fish Sauce Substitutes


Fish sauce is a popular ingredient made from salted anchovies or other fish that have been fermented for up to 2 years (1).

Most commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine, fish sauce lends its rich, savory, earthy, umami flavor to many dishes, including pad Thai, pho, green papaya salad, and stir-fries (1).

Umami – also known as the fifth taste – is a Japanese term that translates to “pleasant salty taste”. Flavor comes from three unami substances commonly found in plant and animal proteins, and fish sauce is rich in them (2, 3, 4).

However, if you don’t have fish sauce on hand, don’t like its taste, or follow a vegan diet, you might be wondering if there are alternatives.

Here are 8 tasty substitutes for fish sauce.

Soy sauce, which is made from fermented soybeans, water, salt and wheat, is a great alternative to fish sauce. It is also suitable for vegans (5).

Due to the amino acids in soybeans, soy sauce has a rich umami flavor with a hint of sweetness.

You can replace fish sauce with soy sauce in a 1:1 ratio, or try mixing other ingredients with soy sauce for more flavor:

  • Chopped anchovies. Mix 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of soy sauce and 1 chopped anchovy fillet.
  • Rice vinegar. Use a 1:1 ratio of soy sauce and rice vinegar for added freshness.
  • Lime juice. Add 1/2 teaspoon of lime juice to each tablespoon (15 ml) of soy sauce.

Tamari is a type of soy sauce. It is processed differently than traditional soy sauce by using different ingredients. These include water, salt, and soy-containing miso paste. It may also include a type of brine called moromi, as well as a type of mushroom called koji (6, seven).

Unlike soy sauce, it contains little to no wheat, making it a suitable option for those avoiding gluten – just be sure to read the ingredient label first (6, seven).

Tamari has a richer, stronger and less salty umami flavor than soy sauce due to its higher content of soy protein (8).

You can replace the fish sauce with tamari in a 1:1 ratio or start with a little less, adding more to taste.

Oyster sauce can easily replace fish sauce in most stir-fry recipes because it has a similar savory flavor.

However, oyster sauce is slightly thicker and would not be a good substitute for dishes that require the thin consistency of fish sauce. One option is to add a little water to the oyster sauce to make it more fluid.

Substitute oyster sauce for fish sauce at a 1:1 ratio in stir fries, fried rice and marinades, but be prepared for it to impart a sweeter flavor.

Some brands contain up to 4 grams of sugar in each tablespoon (15 ml), while fish sauce contains none. Cheaper brands of oyster sauce may also contain caramel coloring, a potentially carcinogenic ingredient of concern.

If you follow a vegan diet or have a fish allergy, there are many vegan fish sauces available. They are usually made from shiitake mushrooms, liquid amino acids, and soy sauce.

Liquid amino acids are free amino acids extracted from fermented coconut sap or hydrolyzed soybeans that are mixed with water and salt. Mushrooms also contain the amino acids responsible for the umami flavor (4).

Vegan alternatives can be replaced with fish sauce at a 1:1 ratio and can be found online and at most well-stocked grocery stores.

Algae is a generic term for plants and algae that grow in water.

Seaweed is nutritious and rich in glutamate, an amino acid rich in umami flavor. As such, it is commonly added to broths and soups in many Japanese and Korean dishes.

Types of seaweed rich in glutamate include nori and types of kombu, such as rausu, ma, rishiri, hidaka, and naga (4).

If you’re looking to tone down the umami flavor, opt for wakame seaweed instead of kombu, which has less glutamate.

Fresh and dried seaweed are good alternatives to fish sauce. Fresh seaweed works best in salads, broths and sauces, while dried seaweed can be added to most dishes. Follow package instructions for measurements.

Coconut aminos, derived from fermented coconut sap, are easy to add to most dishes. They are rich in umami flavor, dark in color, and slightly sweeter than soy sauce and fish sauce.

They are also lower in sodium. Fish sauce contains a wide range of sodium at 320-600 mg per teaspoon (5 ml), while the same amount of coconut aminos contains around 90-130 mg (9, ten).

Plus, in addition to being vegan, Coconut Amino Acids are soy-free, wheat-free, and gluten-free. Substitute fish sauce at a 1:1 ratio in most recipes.

Worcestershire sauce is popular in England and neighboring countries for its strong savory flavor. Made with anchovies, molasses, tamarind, vinegar, cloves, onion and other seasonings, it’s a delicious alternative to fish sauce.

Since both sauces are made from anchovies and fermented for up to 18 months, they have a similar umami flavor. That said, Worcestershire sauce is much lower in sodium at 65mg per teaspoon (5ml), slightly thicker, and may have a different flavor profile.

Substitute Worcestershire sauce for fish sauce at a ratio of 1 to 1.

If you’re looking to replace fish sauce in soups or broths, consider making a tasty broth with mushrooms and soy sauce.

Add the following ingredients to a medium saucepan:

  • 3 to 4 cups (710 to 940 ml) of water
  • 1/4–1/2 ounce (7–14 grams) dried, sliced ​​shiitake mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) regular or reduced-sodium soy sauce

Simmer for 15 minutes or until the broth has reduced by half, let stand another 10 minutes, then strain the broth into a bowl.

Use it as a 2 for 1 substitute for fish sauce. Store leftover broth in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for several months.

Fish sauce adds a bold and savory umami flavor to many dishes.

However, if you want to avoid fish sauce or don’t have any on hand, there are plenty of alternatives to choose from.

Most can be swapped on a 1:1 ratio, although the flavor and texture may be slightly different.

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