What is a Good Substitute for Fish Sauce? (Tasty Alternatives)

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Have you ever wondered why fish sauce is prevalent in East and South East Asian cuisine?

Let us explain. It plays a vital role in several Asian-inspired dishes’ deep salty, and savory (umami) flavors. (*)

While it is considered a staple ingredient, what is a good substitute for fish sauce if your stash is complete, you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, or you have sensitivities to fish-based products?

Luckily, various alternatives to fish sauce ensure your favorite dish bursts with palate-pleasing flavor.

Keep reading to learn more about fish sauce, how to use it, tasty replacements, and exciting recipes. 

What is Fish Sauce Exactly?

Fish sauce is made from salted fermented fish, often krill or anchovies. It offers a rich saltiness and umami flavor synonymous with Asian cooking. (*)

Nowadays, this sauce is typically associated with Asian cuisine. Yet, did you know it dates back to ancient times when the Greeks and Romans invented a fish sauce garum to enhance their meals?  (*)

Indeed, nothing “fishy” about that, as both cultures enjoyed fish in their daily diets.  

Besides adding flavor to your dishes, fish sauce contributes to your health. (*)

Anchovies are rich in omega-3 fatty acids promoting a healthy heart, lungs, blood vessels, and a strong immune system. In addition, they are an energy and brain-boosting nutrient. (*)

How to use Fish Sauce

Fish sauce brings a pungent, salty funk and rich, umami flavor to various dishes and condiments, including:

  • Marinades: delicious in beef marinades
  • Stir-frys: try it with a garden-fresh julienne mix and add seafood or tofu
  • Noodles and rice: adds richness and depth to fried noodles and rice
  • Soups, stews, and curries: consider fish sauce in other cultural dishes, such as French onion soup or a hearty beef stew
  • Salad dressings: replace the amount of salt with an equal fish sauce 
  • Dips/dipping sauce: add to guacamole or jalapeno dip and ideal for dumplings
  • Pasta sauce: don’t be shy to try fish sauce in a bolognese or alfredo sauce
  • Mashed potatoes: replace the amount of salt with an equal amount of fish sauce 
  • Pickling: add 1 – 2 tablespoons (15 – 30ml) to your favorite recipe

Overall, fish sauce is extremely versatile and packs a savory punch.

Pro Tip:

Replace the amount of salt in your favorite dinner recipe with an equal amount of fish sauce for an exciting and new taste sensation.

Let’s dive into our tasty fish sauce alternatives.

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Explore 7 Best Fish Sauce Substitutes

Do you want to know the best substitutes for fish sauce? Here are some options to consider.

Soy Sauce – Vegan and Vegetarian Friendly

If you have sensitivities or allergies to fish, soy sauce is the perfect replacement. I

It offers a similar dark hue, consistency, and rich umami flavor but is slightly less salty.

Soy sauce is well-known globally and a popular sauce in several home kitchens. It is readily available in the condiment aisle at local groceries stores and online.  

How to use:

Soy sauce is best in stir-fries, marinades, and dipping sauces. Also, it adds richness to fried noodles and rice.

Substitution ratio:  use soy sauce in equal amounts.

Tamari Sauce – Vegan/Gluten-free

Tamari is darker and more caramel than fish sauce, with less saltiness than soy sauce. Yet, salty nonetheless.

While some varieties have a small amount of wheat, most are wheat-free, gluten-free, and vegan. 

Be sure to read the label before you consider Tamari for gluten-intolerant diets.  

  • How to use:

This sauce adds richness and a deep umami flavor to various ingredients, including chicken, turkey, pork, fish, and vegetables. 

Here is a table displaying various dishes and how to incorporate tamari sauce as a substitute for fish sauce:

Dish TypeTamari Sauce Substitute
Stir-fryUse tamari sauce in equal amounts
MarinadesUse tamari sauce in equal amounts
Dipping sauces – perfect for sushi and dumplingsUse tamari sauce in equal amounts
Noodle dishesUse tamari sauce in equal amounts
Fried riceUse tamari sauce in equal amounts
Vegan/Vegetarian dishes – perfect with tofuUse tamari sauce in equal amounts
Of course, Tamari is not fishy, yet salty, so using equal parts should enhance your meal adequately.

Learn more: Tamari substitute

Oyster Sauce

If a fish-based sauce is not an issue, then oyster sauce is the best alternative to fish sauce.

The main difference is that oyster sauce has an added sweetness alongside its rich umami flavor. Also, it is slightly thinner than fish sauce.  

This sauce brings an inviting and pleasant touch of sweet-meets-salty savoriness to your family meal favorites.  

Oyster sauce is a staple in Asian cuisine. Yet, not all grocery stores may have it on the shelves. We suggest you look at Asian specialty stores or online.  

How to use:

Check out this table displaying various dishes and how to incorporate oyster sauce as a substitute for fish sauce:

Dish TypeOyster Sauce Substitute
Stir-fry – delicious with bok choy, broccoli, spinach, and kaleUse oyster sauce in equal amounts, add soy/salt to balance the sweetness
Marinades – ideal for beef, chicken, and porkUse oyster sauce in equal amounts, add soy/salt to balance the sweetness
Dipping sauces – pairs perfectly with deep-fried shrimp and a fresh crudite platterUse oyster sauce in equal amounts, add soy/salt to balance the sweetness
Noodle dishesUse oyster sauce in equal amounts, add soy/salt to balance the sweetness
Fried riceUse oyster sauce in equal amounts, add soy/salt to balance the sweetness
Remember that the key to successfully substituting oyster sauce for fish sauce lies in balancing the flavors and adjusting the saltiness of your dish.

Worcestershire Sauce – Soy-based

Surprisingly, Worcestershire sauce makes a tasty and suitable replacement. And how does it work wonders in your meal?  

Think about it; this sauce is made with fermented anchovies matching the base fish ingredient in fish sauce. Furthermore, it packs a powerful amami punch with a pleasing sweet and sour flavor.  

How to use:

Worcestershire sauce’s complex and inviting taste is consistent with soy sauce. 

We recommend you use it for meat marinades, rice dishes, noodle dishes, and as a dipping sauce for dumplings and sushi.

Here is a step-by-step guide to replacing fish sauce with Worcestershire sauce:

  • Use a 1:1 ratio for substitution – Use one tablespoon (15ml) of Worcestershire sauce for every tablespoon of fish sauce required in the recipe
  • Adjust the saltiness – Worcestershire sauce tends to be sweeter than fish sauce, so you may need to add salt or soy sauce to your recipe
  • Taste and adjust: Always taste your dish as you cook and adjust the seasonings as needed for the perfect balance of flavors

Pro Tip:

For an Authentic Asian touch, mix one part Worcestershire sauce with one part soy sauce

Anchovies

Let’s keep anchovies in the spotlight! Canned anchovies make a delicious fish sauce substitute.

Certainly, they fit the fishy flavor profile and enhance your meal with a hefty umami boost.  Moreover, these delicate fish dissolve easily into a cooked dish.

Be careful not to confuse anchovies with sardines. While sardines may offer a similar taste, they are slightly less salty and have bigger bones that you must remove from your dish.

How to use

When purchasing canned anchovies, take note of the oil base. You can use the “fishy and salty” oil in your dish! 

We suggest you opt for extra virgin olive oil for added flavor.  However, vegetable oil bases work just as well.  

Substitution ratio: 

  • Use 2 fillets for every teaspoon (5ml) of fish sauce; or
  • Use 1 fillet and ½ a teaspoon (2.5ml) of the oil for every teaspoon (5ml) of fish sauce

Here is a table displaying various dishes and how to incorporate anchovies as a substitute for fish sauce:

Dish TypeAnchovy Substitute
Soups, stews, and curriesUse anchovies as per the substitution ratio
Pasta Sauces – perfect in seafood-based saucesUse anchovies as per the substitution ratio
MarinadesUse anchovies as per the substitution ratio
Dressings – ideal for a Caesar salad dressingUse anchovies as per the substitution ratio

Pro Tip:  mince the fillets with a fork before adding them to the recipe

Vegan Fish Sauce (Liquid Aminos) – Soy-based/Gluten-free

Liquid aminos are an excellent vegan fish sauce substitute.  However, it is not limited to veganism.

This sauce is similar to soy sauce’s consistency, with a milder flavor, slightly less saltiness, and a touch of sweetness. 

Of course, the fishy notes lack. Even so, the distinct umami flavor is present and adds a perfect savory pitch.

How to use

As with fish sauce, liquid aminos are incredibly versatile. Use it in stir-fries, marinades, soups, stews, sauces, dips, and dressings. Equally, you can use it to enrich fried rice and noodles.  

To replace fish sauce with liquid aminos, follow these general guidelines:

  • Use a 1:1 ratio for substitution – Use one tablespoon (15ml) of liquid aminos for every tablespoon of fish sauce required in the recipe
  • Adjust the saltiness – liquid aminos tend to be sweeter than fish sauce, so you may need to add salt or soy sauce to your recipe
  • Taste and adjust: Always taste your dish as you cook and adjust the seasonings as needed for the perfect balance of flavors

If you are unfamiliar with liquid aminos, we highly recommend you try it! Find the popular Bragg (™) Liquid Aminos here.

Mushroom Broth – Vegan/Gluten-free

Last but certainly, not least is a mushroom broth. We know this may sound weird, but this vegan fish sauce alternative brings an earthy touch and offers a rich, umami flavor.

In particular, dried shiitake or porcini mushrooms used to make a broth carry the umami taste through a dish well.  

How to use

Mushroom broth is a suitable and delicious replacement for soups, stews, curries, and dressings. 

It may lack your desired flavor when used on its own in stir-fries, marinades, rice, or noodles. 

We suggest you add liquid aminos or soy sauce to boost your recipe.

Substitution ratio:

  • Use 1 tablespoon (15ml) of mushroom broth for every tablespoon of fish sauce

Boosting Substition ratio:

  • Use 1 tablespoon (15ml) of mushroom broth and 1 teaspoon (5ml) of liquid aminos or soy sauce for every tablespoon of fish sauce

Remember that the key to successfully substituting mushroom broth for fish sauce lies in balancing the flavors and adjusting the saltiness of your dish.

We’re not through with mushrooms yet: try a delicious mushroom broth or mushroom “soy” sauce recipe below.

Flavorsome Recipes

How to make Fish Sauce

This recipe uses simple and healthy ingredients, it is quick to prepare, and the fermentation process takes approximately 30 days. Make your own and impress your guests!

Easy Mushroom Stock/Broth

Nothing like a warm and comforting broth to soothe the soul and add flavor to your favorite meal. This recipe includes simple ingredients, is packed with nutrients, and is freezable.  Give it a go!

Mushroom “Soy” Sauce

This 2 ingredient, mushroom “soy” sauce recipe is a winner! Super quick to prepare, fresh, salty, and delicious.  

FAQ’s

Is there a substitute for fish sauce in a recipe?

Yes, there is a substitute for fish sauce in a recipe. Soy sauce, oyster sauce, tamari sauce, and minced canned anchovies offer a similar taste to fish sauce. You can make a mushroom-based broth and add soy or oyster sauce to enhance the flavor.

What’s the closest thing to fish sauce?

Soy sauce is the closest replacement to fish sauce. Oyster sauce matches the fishy flavor but is slightly sweeter. Tamari and Worcestershire sauce make excellent fish sauce substitutes. 

Can I use vinegar instead of fish sauce?

For a close substitution, replace fish sauce with half soy sauce and half rice vinegar (or any other vinegar). Using vinegar on its own adds tang but lacks richness and umami flavor. 

Final Fishy Thoughts

In short, where would Asian cuisine be without fish sauce? Some may say “lost at sea.”

But here’s the kicker: if you are wondering what a good substitute for fish sauce could be, our list of tasty and umami-packed alternatives satisfies your taste buds, and you will surely return for seconds.

Which fish substitute worked well in your favorite dish? We would love to hear from you.  Get in touch!

Up Next: Common Ingredients Substitutions

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