Fish sauce is a popular ingredient made from salted anchovies or other fish and there are a lot of fish sauce substitutes.
Most commonly used in Southeast Asian cooking, fish sauce lends its rich, savory, earthy, and umami flavor to many dishes, including pad thai, pho, green papaya salad, and stir-fries.
Umami — also known as the fifth taste — is a Japanese term that translates to “pleasant savory taste.”
The flavor comes from three unami substances commonly found in plant and animal proteins, and fish sauce is rich in them.
However, if you don’t have fish sauce on hand, don’t enjoy its taste, or follow a vegan diet, you may wonder whether there are any alternatives.
Here are some of the fish sauce substitutes,
It is made from fermented soybeans, water, salt, and wheat, is an excellent alternative to fish sauce. It’s also suitable for vegans.
Due to the amino acids in soybeans, soy sauce has a rich umami flavor with a hint of sweetness.
You can swap fish sauce for soy sauce at a 1-to-1 ratio, or try mixing other ingredients with soy sauce for extra flavor:
- Minced anchovy. Mix 1 tablespoon (15 mL) soy sauce and 1 minced anchovy fillet.
- Rice vinegar. Use a 1-to-1 ratio of soy sauce and rice vinegar for extra freshness.
- Lime juice. Add 1/2 teaspoon of lime juice to every 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of soy sauce.
It is a type of soy sauce. It’s processed differently than traditional soy sauce using different ingredients.
These include water, salt, and miso paste containing soybeans. It may also include a type of brine called moromi, as well as a type of fungus called koji.
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.
It has a richer, stronger, and less salty umami flavor than soy sauce due to its higher soybean protein content.
This sauce can easily replace fish sauce in most stir-fry recipes, as 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 oyster sauce to make it thinner.
Replace fish sauce with oyster sauce at a 1-to-1 ratio in stir-fries, fried rice, and marinades, but be prepared for it to yield a sweeter flavor.
Some brands contain as much as 4 grams of sugar in each tablespoon (15 mL), while fish sauce doesn’t contain any.
Less expensive oyster sauce brands may also contain caramel color, a concerning ingredient with potential carcinogenicity.
Vegan fish sauce
If you follow a vegan diet or have a fish allergy, there are many vegan fish sauces available. They’re typically made from shiitake mushrooms, liquid aminos, and soy sauce.
Liquid aminos are free amino acids extracted from either fermented coconut sap or hydrolyzed soybeans that are mixed with water and salt.
Mushrooms also contain the amino acids responsible for the umami flavor.
Vegan alternatives can be swapped for fish sauce at a 1-to-1 ratio and can be found online and in most well-stocked grocery stores.
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