5 Cooking Fish Sauce Substitutes


Fish sauce is a liquid ingredient with a salty, fishy flavor that can be used in various cuisines. It’s prepared by salting small fish like anchovies and letting them ferment for several months in enormous barrels. Fish sauce is the end product, bottled and used in savory recipes.

Fish sauce, which is most usually associated with Asian cooking, provides flavor to dishes such as Thai pad noodles, stir-fries, and more. It’s primarily salty and fishy, but it can also bring sweetness to savory meals. The flavor of fish sauce is described as earthy and umami.

Because fish sauce has a distinct flavor that is difficult to reproduce, removing it entirely is also an option if you do not eat fish items or do not have this ingredient in your cupboard. These fish sauce substitutes—some of which are vegan and vegetarian-friendly—might work as a substitute in your cooking.

Why Use a Substitute?

Fish and seafood items are a good source of omega fatty acids and can be included in a well-balanced diet. However, there are different reasons for seeking out fish sauce alternatives. Those who eat a meat-free diet, have seafood allergies, don’t have access to fish sauce, or don’t have any on hand may be looking for a substitute.

Pescatarians eat meat and fish, but vegans and vegetarians do not. It’s not as simple as eliminating fish when you eliminate some or all animal products from your diet. Animal-based components and byproducts must also be checked on ingredient labels.

Fish sauce, as the name implies, contains fish. Vegans and vegetarians should check for ingredients like fish sauce in foods like stir-fries and other Asian-style cuisines. If a formula calls for vegans, fish sauce, vegetarians must substitute an alternative or leave it out entirely.

Food allergies happen when the body’s immune system generates antibodies that react to a specific food type, resulting in allergic symptoms. If you’re allergic to fish or think you could be allergic to some of the chemicals in fish sauce, you should look into fish sauce alternatives.

Another reason to use a fish sauce substitute in your recipe is if you don’t have any. In some regions, fish sauce is difficult to get by or unavailable.

It’s frequently found in the Asian or ethnic food area of most supermarkets, and it’s also common in Asian supermarkets. If you don’t have access to fish sauce or don’t have any on hand, you might be able to finish the recipe using other ingredients.

Nutritional Values of Fish Sauce

The USDA provides nutrition facts for one tablespoon (18 grams) of fish sauce. Fish sauce is not a substantial source of calories, protein, fat, or carbs because it is added to food in such minuscule amounts. It does, however, include 1,410 mg of sodium in it. Adults should consume 2,300 milligrams of salt per day, according to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and the recommended serving size of fish sauce includes about 61 percent of it.

Substitutes in Use

Fish sauce alternatives usually take the place of the salty, savory aromas that fish sauce brings to a dish. The vegan and vegetarian-friendly options, on the other hand, do not have a fishy flavor. By adding salty and umami qualities, these fish sauce replacements help improve the taste of your dish.

1. Soy sauce is an Asian condiment

Because it is a liquid condiment created with fermented components, soy sauce is a good substitute for fish sauce. It has the salty flavor of fish sauce and can be heavy in sodium, giving it a nutritional profile comparable to fish sauce.

Because soy sauce and fish sauce are liquids, you can use them interchangeably. Adding minced fish, such as anchovies or sardines, is optional to fulfill the fishy flavor that fish sauce gives to many recipes.

2. Tamari

Tamari is a gluten-free Japanese-style soy sauce alternative that can naturally be used in place of fish sauce. Tamari, like soy sauce, can be used to replace fish sauce in equal amounts because it is a liquid with a salty flavor.

3. Sauce de Worcester

Fish sauce can have a sweet flavor, which you would not expect. Worcestershire sauce will give you the same taste and saltiness if you seek an alternative. Worcestershire sauce is a seasoning that enhances the flavor of steaks, stews, sauces, marinades, and other meals.

Although it is not a typical Asian ingredient, it can be used in various dishes such as noodles, dumplings, marinated meat, and salads. Because it has less sodium than fish sauce, it may be chosen by persons on a low-sodium diet. It can be used in place of fish sauce in a 1:1 ratio.

4. Sauce made with hoisin

Hoisin sauce is created from fermented soybeans and combines the fermented qualities of fish sauce with the saltiness of soy sauce. It’s a thick sauce frequently used as a glaze or sauce. It’s commonly compared to American-style barbecue sauce because of its slightly sweet flavor.

Because of its umami flavor, hoisin sauce can be used in fish sauce. To make a fish sauce alternative, combine hoisin sauce and soy sauce in a 1:1 ratio. This allows for balancing out the sweetness of the hoisin sauce. Then, in equal parts, replace the fish sauce with the mixture.

5. Oyster sauce

Because the oyster sauce is also a fish product, those looking for the most similar flavor profile to fish sauce may choose it. Oyster sauce has a similar salty and fishy flavor to feel spice, albeit it is not suitable for vegans, vegetarians, or shellfish allergies. The consistency of the oyster sauce is thicker than fish sauce, and the flavor of fish sauce is more robust. However, at a 1:1 ratio, the two can be utilized interchangeably.