What can I use instead of Asian fish sauce? The best substitutes for Asian fish sauce are condiments derived from fermented soybeans like soy sauce, tamari, and hoisin. Oyster sauce and Worcestershire sauce are great alternatives as they are also made from seafood. Vegan fish sauce, liquid aminos, and seaweed will match the rich umami flavor.
A Southeast Asian kitchen isn’t complete without fish sauce, made from the brine of fermented krill and anchovies. With its salty, umami elements, Asian fish sauce instantly elevates a meal’s flavor and complexity. If you’re vegan, don’t have Asian fish sauce on hand, or are simply repulsed by its taste, there are 8 trusty alternatives:
The Best Asian Fish Sauce Substitutes
Among the many Asian fish sauce substitutes, oyster sauce is undoubtedly one of the best. A more economical and readily available alternative, this Cantonese condiment is unique in its own right.
Did you know there aren’t any actual oysters in the sauce, only oyster extracts? Lee Kum Sheung (Lee Kum Kee founder) accidentally created oyster sauce in 1888 when a forgotten pot of oyster soup simmered into a thick, rich, and flavorful reduction.
Today, commercial oyster sauce is generally thickened with corn starch, adding sugar, salt, MSG, soy sauce, and coloring.
Its complex, sweet-and-salty taste provides a rich umami element that immediately enhances the overall flavor of the meal.
Use oyster sauce as a 1:1 replacement for Asian fish sauce in marinades, stir-fries, fried rice, soups, and stews.
Oyster sauce is considerably thicker and sweeter than fish sauce, so you may want to add a little water to dilute it.
The Asian fish sauce substitutions list would not be complete without soy sauce. This widely-adored flavor enhancer is affordable, easily accessible, and extremely versatile.
Fermented soybeans, salt, yeast, and roasted wheat come together to produce a sauce that’s slightly sweet, salty, and rich in umami flavor.
Soy sauce can be used as an equal replacement for fish sauce in almost any recipe.
It’s the perfect dipping sauce or condiment to add color and incredible depth of flavor to noodles, fried rice, stir-fries, soups, and broths.
While soy sauce is a perfect Asian fish sauce alternative for those who are vegans or allergic to seafood, it’s saltier and lacks that distinct fishy taste that many recipes call for.
You can remedy this by blending one anchovy fillet with every tablespoon of soy sauce.
Add a dash of rice wine or fresh lime juice to give soy sauce a fresh, tangy flavor similar to Asian fish sauce.
Vegan Fish Sauce
Vegans, rejoice- this substitute is especially for you!
Vegan fish sauce is typically made from a concentred blend of soy sauce, dried mushrooms, seaweed, tamari, and garlic.
This clever combination gives you an intense umami flavor and a taste of the ocean- without the fish!
You can purchase readymade vegan fish sauce at most well-stocked grocery stores, Asian supermarkets, or online. The price, however, is higher than that of Asian fish sauce.
You can easily make your own vegan fish sauce at a fraction of the price by simmering the ingredients above until they have been reduced by half. You will find a wide variety of recipes online.
Swap regular fish sauce for vegan fish sauce at a 1:1 ratio and enjoy it as a delicious dipping sauce or add color, flavor, and complexity to sushi, stir-fries, noodles, fried rice, vegetables, and soups.
Free from gluten, animal products, MSG, chemical preservatives, and artificial colors or flavorings, liquid aminos are a tasty, versatile, and highly appealing substitute for Asian fish sauce.
This unique all-purpose seasoning is made by extracting the amino acids from soybeans using hydrochloric acid and sodium bicarbonate, creating a dark, salty, umami-packed liquid similar to soy sauce in taste and appearance.
Use liquid aminos as a 1-to-1 substitute for fish sauce in stir-fries, sauces, tofu, and any other dish that needs a flavor boost.
As liquid aminos contain soy and salt, they are similar to the fish sauce but without the fishy taste and aroma.
For non-vegans, an anchovy fillet can be added for every tablespoon of liquid amino if you feel the recipe is incomplete without the ‘fishiness.’
Another brilliant substitute for Asian fish sauce is tamari, soy sauce’s Japanese gluten-free cousin.
A higher proportion of fermented soybeans gives tamari a richer, earthier flavor and a thicker consistency than soy sauce.
With no wheat and lower salt content, it’s a fantastic option for gluten-free or low-sodium diets.
Tamari offers similar applications to fish sauce. Its balanced flavor makes it ideal to use as a dipping sauce for sushi, spring rolls, and dumplings.
Enjoy tamari as a condiment or flavor enhancer for sauces, stir-fries, seafood, tofu, and vegetables.
Swap fish sauce for tamari in equal proportions to add color and rich umami-savory flavor to food. As it’s less salty than fish sauce, you may want to add extra salt to the recipe.
You can produce a fishy flavor like soy sauce by adding a few anchovies. Alternatively, vegans and vegetarians can add rice vinegar or lime juice to achieve a similar effect.
You can always rely on Worcestershire sauce when in doubt or, in this case, out of the fish sauce. This trusty kitchen staple offers an umami bomb in every drop- precisely what you need for Asian dishes.
As with Asian fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce is also made with anchovies and fermented for 12 to 18 months.
In addition to anchovies, other components of Worcestershire sauce include tamarind, molasses, onions, vinegar, cloves, and seasonings.
Even though Worcestershire sauce does not taste like fish, it provides the same concentrated savory flavor as fish sauce. Despite this, it contains less sodium and is thicker in consistency than fish sauce.
You can add Worcestershire sauce to most dishes in a one-to-one ratio for enhanced color and depth of flavor.
Hoisin sauce is an excellent alternative to fish sauce when you seek that desirable umami flavor without the taste of the ocean.
Also known as Peking sauce, hoisin is a fragrant, sweet, and tangy Cantonese staple typically used as a table condiment or as a flavor-enhancing ingredient in numerous traditional dishes.
As with soy sauce and tamari, hoisin is derived from fermented soybeans but in the form of a paste.
Other constituents typically include vinegar, fennel, garlic, salt, sesame oil, chili peppers, and sugar. Together, these ingredients give hoisin its intense savory-umami flavor and thick texture.
Hoisin sauce mimics the fermented, savory flavor of Asian fish sauce; however, it is considerably thicker and sweeter than fish sauce when used as a stand-alone substitute.
A viable solution is to mix equal parts hoisin and soy sauce, then use it as a 1:1 replacement for fish sauce. Soy sauce will thin out the hoisin and balance its flavor.
Seaweed (a blanket term for kelp, algae, and other plants that grow underwater) varieties such as nori, kombu, and wakame make a nutritious, tasty, and fascinating culinary addition.
They work surprisingly well as a replacement for Asian fish sauce.
The glutamate (a type of amino acid) content and salty environment give seaweed its rich umami and savory flavor profile. In numerous recipes, these key elements make seaweed a suitable swap for fish sauce.
While dried seaweed is extremely versatile and can be incorporated into most dishes, fresh seaweed works more effectively in soups, salads, broths, and sauces.
The fact that seaweed is typically solid and fish sauce is liquid makes it very difficult to determine standardized substitution ratios.
Ideally, add a little seaweed at a time and taste it frequently until you achieve the desired results.
Choose wakame over nori or kombu when your recipe requires a more mellow umami taste.