12 Best Fish Sauce Substitutes: Top Choices for Savory Success

Fish Sauce Substitutes: Ultimate Guide
21 min reading time

Do you ever crave that savory, umami taste of fish sauce in your recipes but don’t actually like the smell or flavor of it? Or maybe you’re just looking for a fish sauce substitutes because you can’t find any at the store? You know what we mean—nothing quite replicates the distinct taste and aroma that comes with this popular condiment! Fortunately, there are some great alternatives to traditional fish sauce out there. In today’s post, we’ll explore twelve options for substituting this ubiquitous ingredient in your favorite dishes without sacrificing flavor!

What is Fish Sauce?

Fish sauce is a dark brown liquid condiment made from fermented fish or krill that has been salted and aged. It’s most commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisines, but its popularity is spreading all over the world. This salty, pungent sauce is extracted by pressing the fish or krill into a paste and then ageing it in large jars for several months. The result is a fragrant, umami-rich concoction with an intense flavor that works as an excellent flavor enhancer when added to dishes like Pad Thai or salads like green papaya salad.

Fish sauce adds depth of flavor to recipes due to its high levels of glutamate—or “umami” as it’s sometimes called—and can be substituted for salt when cooking; 1 teaspoon of fish sauce typically contains about 1/3 less sodium than an equivalent amount of table salt.

Additionally, this salty condiment doesn’t contain any fat and provides a few vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, copper, and magnesium. To use it in your cooking simply add 1-2 teaspoons per dish depending on personal preference for taste; store opened bottles away from direct light sources since sunlight causes the already fermented product to spoil quickly!

Nutrition Information

In terms of nutrition information, one tablespoon (15 ml) of fish sauce typically contains:

Calories8 kcal
Total Fat0 g
Saturated Fat0 g
Trans Fat0 g
Cholesterol0 mg
Sodium1163 mg
Total Carbohydrate1 g
Dietary Fiber0 g
Sugars1 g
Protein1 g
Vitamin D0 mcg
Calcium6 mg
Iron0 mg
Potassium22 mg

It’s important to note that the amount of sodium in the fish sauce can vary greatly depending on the brand or recipe used as well as the length of fermentation time—the longer it ferments, the higher its sodium content will be.

Common Uses of Fish Sauce in Recipes

Fish sauce is an essential condiment in many Southeast Asian cuisines. It’s salty, dark brown, and has a unique umami flavor that adds delicious depth to a variety of dishes. Here are some common uses of fish sauce in recipes:

  • Marinating: Fish sauce can be used to marinate meats and seafood before grilling or frying them. When mixed with lime juice, sugar, and minced garlic it makes a great marinade for anything from chicken wings to whole fish fillets.
  • Dipping Sauce: A simple mixture of fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, and sugar creates the perfect accompaniment for grilled foods like pork skewers or steamed vegetables. This dipping sauce can also be served alongside fried rice or noodles as well.
  • Salads: Combining fish sauce with light ingredients like herbs and julienned vegetables can create a refreshing salad dressing that goes on everything from green salads to cold noodle salads. Try adding some honey to balance out the flavors for extra sweetness!
  • Stir-Fries: Adding just a splash of fish sauce into your stir-fry recipes instantly brings out all the other flavors while enhancing its overall taste – perfect if you’re looking to add some complexity without taking up too much time! • Soups & Stews: Use just enough fish sauce when making soups or stews (like Tom Yum) so that it enhances all the other ingredients without being overpowering. You’ll find that it brings out all the natural sweetness in both veggies and proteins alike!

Why Look for Fish Sauce Substitutes?

Fish sauce is an essential ingredient in many Asian dishes, but it can be hard to find or expensive for some. Here are some reasons why it may make sense to look for substitutes for fish sauce:

  • Health Concerns – Fish sauce contains high levels of sodium and cholesterol, which can be problematic if consumed in large quantities. It also may contain other additives that people with certain food sensitivities should avoid.
  • Environmental Impact – Fish sauces are often made from unsustainable fishing practices, such as overfishing or bottom trawling. Finding a sustainable alternative is a more conscious choice.
  • Versatility – By using different types of liquid seasoning ingredients—such as soy sauce, miso paste, and Worcestershire sauce—it’s possible to create various flavor combinations that might not exist with fish sauce alone. This allows for more variability in the taste of a dish and the ability to experiment with unique flavors without having to purchase multiple kinds of sauces or flavorings.
  • Cost Savings – Many substitutes for fish sauce are less expensive than traditional versions or readily available at local grocery stores. This can be especially helpful if you’re looking for ways to save money when preparing meals at home.

How to Select the Best Fish Sauce Substitutes Among so Many?

To select the best fish sauce substitute according to your recipe, it’s essential to first understand the flavor profile and purpose of fish sauce in the dish. Analyze the type of cuisine and ingredients used in the recipe to determine which alternative will best complement the overall taste. For instance, if you’re preparing an Asian-inspired dish, soy sauce or tamari might be a suitable choice due to their umami-rich flavors. In contrast, Worcestershire sauce might work better for Western recipes.

Consider the intensity and proportion of the substitute; some alternatives may require adjustments in quantity to achieve the desired taste without overpowering the dish. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different substitutes or even combine them to create a unique flavor profile that suits your recipe. By carefully considering these factors, you can choose the most appropriate fish sauce alternative that enhances your dish while respecting its authentic flavors and ingredients.

To make it easier for you to substitute, here’s a table outlining the general ratios for substituting fish sauce with various alternatives:

SubstituteRatio to Fish Sauce
SeaweedStart with a small amount and adjust to taste
Worcestershire Sauce1:1
Tamari1:1, start with less and adjust to taste
Soy Sauce1:1, start with less and adjust to taste
Miso PasteStart with half the amount of fish sauce called for in the recipe and adjust
Oyster Sauce1:1, add a splash of lime juice or vinegar to mimic tanginess
Hoisin Sauce1:1, add extra salt or soy sauce to balance sweetness
Tamarind PasteStart with half the amount of fish sauce called for in the recipe and adjust
Coconut Aminos1:1, adjust to taste
Liquid Aminos1:1, adjust to taste
Vegan Fish Sauce1:1
Fish BrothReduce to concentrate flavors, use 1:1, adjust to taste
Substitutes and Their Ratio to Fish Sauce

It’s important to note that these are general guidelines, and the ratios may vary depending on the recipe and individual taste preferences. As always, it’s best to taste as you go and adjust accordingly.

Substitutes For Fish Sauce: Try Them Today!

There are many alternatives to fish sauce that can give you the same delicious taste without any fish-based ingredients. Soy sauce, miso paste, hoisin sauce, and Worcestershire sauce are all great options to add a savory punch to your dishes. Experiment with these substitutes in classic recipes like pad Thai or Vietnamese spring rolls, or use them to add depth of flavor to marinades, dressings, and stir-fries.

Let’s have a look at the 12 alternatives.

1. Seaweed

Seaweed- one of the best fish sauce substitutes

Seaweed has a unique and subtle flavor that can make it an excellent substitute for fish sauce. Not only does seaweed provide the salty, umami flavor found in fish sauce, but it also offers additional nutritional benefits.

Seaweed is high in antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E. It’s also packed with essential minerals like iodine, magnesium, iron, and calcium which are beneficial for overall health. Plus, seaweed is low in calories; just one tablespoon contains around 10 calories!

Seaweed can be used as a substitute for fish sauce because of its potent umami flavor. Umami is part of our five tastes (sweet, salt, sour bitter) and is often described as savory or meaty flavors from glutamate-rich foods like Parmesan cheese or mushrooms. Adding just a little bit of seaweed to dishes can help balance out the sweetness by providing more complexity to the dish’s taste profile – making it ideal to use in lieu of fish sauce if you’re looking for a vegetarian alternative.

For seaweed, you may need to experiment with different amounts, starting with a small piece or a teaspoon of powdered seaweed, and adjusting according to taste.

2. Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire sauce in a bowl

Worcestershire sauce is a popular condiment with many uses in the kitchen and can be used to replace fish sauce in recipes. While both sauces have a salty and sometimes sweet flavor, they differ significantly in their ingredients.

Fish sauce is made by fermenting small fish (such as anchovies) or krill with salt for an extended period of time. This process gives the resulting liquid very strong umami flavors and an intense aroma. It’s often used to add depth of flavor to Southeast Asian dishes such as Thai curries, Vietnamese Pho, and Pad Thai noodles.

Worcestershire sauce on the other hand is more pungent than fish sauce and contains vinegar along with several spices such as cloves, tamarind extract, garlic powder, onion powder, chili pepper extract, and sugar among others. The addition of these ingredients makes it a great substitute for fish sauce when you’re wanting something less intense in your recipe but still flavorful enough to make it stand out from the crowd! Worcestershire Sauce can however do more than replace Fish Sauce – its mixture of flavors can provide some interesting additional notes that you don’t get from just using Fish Sauce alone!

Worcestershire sauce can be substituted in a 1:1 ratio, but you might want to reduce the quantity slightly to avoid excessive saltiness.

3. Tamari Sauce

Organic Dark Soy Tamari Sauce

Tamari sauce is a wonderful fish sauce substitute and can be used in a variety of dishes. It has a similarly robust flavor that perfectly complements many types of cuisines.

Unlike fish sauce, tamari sauce is made from soybeans instead of anchovies or other types of seafood. This makes it an ideal option for vegetarians who want to enjoy the same intense umami flavor without any animal-derived ingredients. Its fermented taste also pairs wonderfully with grilled meats, stir-fries, and marinades.

Tamari’s main ingredient is soybean which gives it its distinctive rich flavor as well as several health benefits such as being high in zinc, iron, and protein while being free from gluten and cholesterol (unlike regular soy sauces). Moreover, compared to regular soy sauces which are generally higher in sodium levels than tamari due to their additional additives like alcohols or sweeteners, tamari does not contain any added salt making it a much healthier alternative.

When using tamari as a fish sauce substitute in recipes, you can generally start with a 1:1 ratio. However, since tamari can sometimes be saltier than fish sauce, you might want to begin with slightly less than the recipe calls for.

4. Soy Sauce

soy sauce being poured into a white bowl
Source: hips.hearstapps.com

Soy sauce and fish sauce are both salty, umami-rich condiments used in many Asian cuisines. The main reason why one might choose to use soy sauce as a substitute for fish sauce is due to dietary or personal preference restrictions.

Fish sauce has a deep, rich flavor with hints of sweetness and saltiness. It also has an underlying pungency that can vary depending on the manufacturer and the recipe being used. Soy sauce traditionally has lighter flavor notes than fish sauces do and its saltier taste comes across more prominently when added to dishes like soups or stir-fries. The lightness of soy sauces makes them better suited for purposes other than providing intense flavors such as adding mild color or luminescent qualities without overpowering other ingredients. A great advantage of using soy sauces over traditional fish sauces lies in their adaptability; some brands offer variations with reduced sodium content, making it a healthier alternative overall compared to traditional fish-based condiments.

When substituting one for the other, however, bear in mind that their respective flavors will vary significantly; therefore techniques such as reducing liquids might need adjustments so you don’t end up with overly salty results! Since soy sauce can also be saltier than fish sauce you could use 3/4 of the amount of soy sauce that the recipe specifies and then taste your dish as you go.

5. Miso

Bowl with Japanese miso - one of the fish sauce substitutes

Miso is a traditional, fermented Japanese condiment made from soybeans and salt. It is used as a substitute for fish sauce because of its umami flavor which is similar to fish sauce but without the odor associated with seafood-based sauces.

Miso has many health benefits including it being high in protein, and amino acids such as lysine, and contains natural probiotics which aid digestion. As we all know fermentation processes improve the nutritional content of foods. Fermentation helps break down proteins into free amino acids thereby increasing the availability of nutrients for our bodies to absorb them more easily.

When miso replaces fish sauce it offers an alternative seasoning not only with less odor but also one that can help increase healthful components present in food due to polyphenolic compounds found in miso like genestein and daidzin which have anti-cancer properties among other things beneficial to overall health — especially those suffering from chronic illnesses or other negative effects resulting from too much consumption of animal fat or cholesterol contained in some sauces derived from animal sources.

For miso paste, start with half the amount of fish sauce called for in the recipe and adjust to taste.

6. Oyster Sauce

Oyster sauce in a bowl: Fish Sauce Substitutes
Source: www.thespruceeats.com

Oyster sauce is often used as a fish sauce substitute because it contains similar flavors and textures but without the intense umami taste of the fish sauce. Oyster sauce is made from boiled oyster extract, sugar, salt, and other seasonings such as mushroom powder. It has a sweet and savory flavor with a smooth, semi-dark look that makes it an ideal substitution for fish sauce when used in Asian cuisine.

The most common reason to substitute one for the other is due to religious reasons or food allergies; many people who follow Buddhism don’t consume meat products like fish or shellfish so they opt for a vegetarian-friendly alternative like oyster sauce instead. People with certain seafood allergies may also need to avoid consuming fish sauces which again would make oyster sauce their best bet. One benefit of using oyster over fish sauces is that you get less sodium per serving compared to its counterpart making it healthier overall.

Oyster sauce can be used in a 1:1 ratio, but consider adding a splash of lime juice or vinegar to mimic the tangy flavor of fish sauce. Overall, oyster sauces will produce the same savory flavor profile as those found in many recipes using traditional Thai or Vietnamese-styled dishes while still being mindful of individual dietary restrictions!

7. Hoisin Sauce

hoisin sauce in a white bowl with a wooden spoon
Source: veganwithgusto.com

Hoisin sauce is a popular condiment used as an alternative to fish sauce. The reason why hoisin sauce can be used as a substitute for fish sauce is due to its unique flavor and ability to add a savory umami taste. Hoisin sauce is a thick, dark brown condiment with its main ingredients being soybeans, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and spices like chili peppers or five-spice powder. It has very little similarity in taste with the saltier and stronger flavor of fish sauces made from anchovies or squid extract.

Hoisin has similar principles that make up its core flavors such as sweetness from sugar or honey combined with salty notes from soybeans. It also includes slight smokiness and an umami flavor creating a unique combination of flavors that can easily enhance different dishes without overpowering the original taste of the food it’s served on. This all makes it ideal when replacing fish sauces since not everyone likes strong seafood flavors while still wanting extra depth of flavor in their dishes.

Since Hoisin sauce is sweeter, so use it in a 1:1 ratio and add a little extra salt or soy sauce to balance the sweetness.

8. Tamarind Paste

Piece of tamarind paste close up: Fish Sauce Substitutes

Tamarind paste is an incredibly unique and useful fish sauce substitute because it has a similar flavor profile but without the strong smell of fish. It’s thin consistency and syrupy texture make it a great addition to many dishes, especially in Thai or other Southeast Asian cuisines.

Tamarind paste adds a sweet-sour touch to any dish that requires umami flavor. The tamarind fruit itself contains acids including tartaric acid, citric acid, and malic acid (amongst others), as well as sugars like fructose and glucose which balance out the sourness of the paste perfectly. All these elements are what make tamarind one of Asia’s most popular condiments!

It’s a perfect substitute for fish sauce due to its ability to replicate that same salty sweetness without having such a pungent aroma and taste upon first bite – something which can be off-putting to some people who don’t enjoy eating seafood or fishes sauces in general. People also prefer this over fish sauce because it does not contain any dairy normally associated with dairy sauces nor is there an after-taste commonly found when using anchovy-based pastes. The food-borne illnesses present from consuming raw silverside or anchovies are also removed entirely from the equation when opting for tamarind paste instead!

Since tamarind paste can be quite tangy, so begin with half the amount of fish sauce and adjust accordingly.

9. Coconut Aminos

Coconut aminos are one of the most excellent substitutes for fish sauce as it provides all the great flavor and salty umami profile of a traditional fish sauce without containing any fish or seafood. It is made from coconut sap, which is the sugary liquid that’s collected from coconut blossoms, then aged and blended with sea salt to create a rich, salty condiment that has become popular in many cultures due to its versatility.

Coconut aminos contain 17 amino acids, as well as minerals including zinc and iron. This makes it a nutrient-rich alternative to traditional soy sauces or teriyaki sauces, while still providing an enjoyable flavor profile similar to conventional fish sauce. Its low sodium content (73mg per teaspoon) makes it particularly attractive for those looking for healthier alternatives to saltier condiments.

Because it’s naturally sweet instead of salty like conventional fish sauces are, coconut aminos can be used in many recipes such as marinades and dressings; however its flavor works best when paired with bold flavors such as chipotle peppers or garlic for maximum effect.

Coconut aminos are less salty than fish sauce, so you might need to increase the quantity to achieve the desired flavor. Start with a 1:1 ratio and adjust based on taste.

10. Fish Broth

fish broth in a bowl -one of the fish sauce substitutes
Source: cloudfront.net/original

Fish broth is often used as a substitute for fish sauce due to its similar flavor and consistency. Fish broth is made by simmering fish bones in water, which extracts the flavor, minerals, and nutrients from the bones. This creates a liquid that has a savory umami flavor that adds depth to dishes. Since the fish sauce is made from fermented anchovies or krill (small crustaceans), it can contain strong-tasting anchovy flavors – something many people don’t like.

Fish broth does not have the same level of intense anchovy flavors found in some brands of fish sauce; rather, it offers more subtle notes of seafood with depth and complexity. It also contains natural salts which help add saltiness and flavor without overpowering other ingredients in a dish.

When using fish broth as a substitute, you may need to reduce it down to concentrate the flavors and then use it in a 1:1 ratio, considering the salt content and adjusting other seasonings accordingly. In many cases, adding just one tablespoon of sugar to homemade fish broth can provide all the sweetness needed to balance out its salty taste.

11. Liquid Aminos

Liquid aminos are a popular alternative to fish sauce due to their savory, umami flavor. It’s made from coconut sap or soybeans that have been fermented with natural sea salt for months. Compared to the traditional method of making the fish sauce (which involves fermenting anchovies and salt in barrels), liquid aminos is not only a more ethical choice, but it also offers several important health benefits.

First, liquid aminos are much lower in sodium than fish sauce. This makes it an ideal option for those who are trying to reduce their salt intake or anyone on a low-sodium diet plan. Additionally, because liquid aminos come from plants rather than animals, they can be suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets as well as kosher lifestyles that don’t allow the consumption of seafood or animal byproducts in their meals.

Furthermore, liquid amino acids are often fortified with vitamins that benefit your health. With all these added nutritional perks combined with its delicious taste – using liquid amino acids instead of fish sauce becomes a much healthier choice overall. Since liquid aminos are less salty than fish sauce, you can start with a 1:1 ratio and adjust based on taste.

12. Vegan Fish Sauce

vegan fish sauce being poured into a bowl
Source: www.thehealthy.com

Vegan fish sauce is a popular substitute for traditional fish sauce, and it has become increasingly popular as vegan diets have grown in popularity. Even though it is called “fish” sauce, there are actually no fish products in vegan fish sauce. This makes it an ideal alternative for vegans and vegetarians who do not eat any animal products of any kind.

Vegan fish sauces usually contain a combination of three primary ingredients: seaweed extract, salt, and water. The seaweed extract provides umami (savory) flavors from glutamic acid, while salt gives the soybean-based product a pungent taste similar to anchovy-based sauces.

When used as a replacement for authentic seafood-based sauces like Thai nam pla or Vietnamese nuoc mam, vegan varieties can provide equally flavorful results without compromising on health or dietary requirements! For vegan fish sauce, use it in equal amounts as regular fish sauce.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I use a combination of substitutes to mimic the flavor of fish sauce?

Yes, you can experiment with mixing different substitutes, such as soy sauce and a dash of lime juice, to create a unique flavor profile that closely resembles fish sauce.

Are there any plant-based alternatives to fish sauce for vegans and vegetarians?

Absolutely! You can try using a combination of soy sauce, miso paste, and seaweed to create a vegan-friendly, umami-rich substitute for fish sauce.

Can I make a homemade fish sauce substitute using everyday ingredients?

Yes, you can create a simple homemade substitute by combining ingredients like soy sauce, anchovies, garlic, and sugar, then simmering the mixture until it reaches your desired consistency and flavor.

Is it possible to use fish sauce substitutes in non-Asian recipes?

Definitely! While fish sauce is commonly associated with Asian cuisine, alternatives like Worcestershire sauce or even a mixture of soy sauce and balsamic vinegar can add depth and umami to various dishes from different culinary traditions.

How do I adjust the intensity of a fish sauce substitute to suit my taste preferences?

Start by adding small amounts of the substitute to your dish, and taste as you go. You can gradually increase the quantity or mix in additional ingredients like sugar, lime juice, or spices to balance the flavors according to your preference.

Can fish sauce substitutes be used in marinades, dressings, or dipping sauces?

Yes, fish sauce substitutes can be easily incorporated into marinades, dressings, and dipping sauces to add depth, umami, and a savory kick to your dishes. Just be mindful of the sodium content and adjust other ingredients accordingly.

Bottom Line

A great fish sauce substitute can enhance any meal and make it even more delicious. Whether you’re trying to find a replacement for the salty flavor, looking to cook vegetarian style, or just don’t like the smell of fish sauce, there are many options available to fit your needs. With these 12 alternatives outlined in this blog post, you can choose the perfect fish sauce substitution that’s right for you and your meal.

Experiment with different types to find what works best for including vegan, vegetarian, Thai, and Chinese flavors in your recipes. Now that you have the basics and know what ingredients to look for while creating your own fish sauce substitutes, start cooking with confidence today!

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