Fish sauce can enhance the flavor of different dishes. However, if you are missing this crucial ingredient, it doesn’t matter that your recipe is compromised.
There is a list of great substitutes you can use instead of fish sauce and your food will still taste delicious.
One of the best replacements for fish sauce is soy sauce but you will be surprised to find many others as well.
We put together a complete list of alternatives to fish sauce and useful information to make the best out of them in your recipes.
Fish Sauce Substitutes
You can use the following substitutes for the fish sauce you need in order to get the tasty dishes you want. You might have to alter the quantity according to the product you use. However, you will not regret your replacement of choice.
1. Soy sauce
As we mentioned, soy sauce is the best substitute for fish sauce and it is also the one that is easier to find. This replacement is also a great one for vegans and you can use it in both cold and cooked dishes.
Soy sauce might be too salty for certain dishes so you should reduce the extra amount of salt you add to your recipe. You can also improve the taste of soy sauce by adding minced anchovy or rice vinegar.
Taking into account these aspects, you can use soy sauce in the same quantity as you would use fish sauce and your food will taste great.
2. Oyster sauce
If you like the taste of oysters, you will definitely love oyster sauce as a substitute for fish sauce in most of your dishes. You can find various oyster sauce kinds on the market, some with more or less salt as well as with different flavors.
The best way to use oyster sauce is in stir fry recipes but it will taste just as great in salads. This sauce comes in a thicker consistency. Thus, you might need to dilute it with water according to the texture you want your food to have.
You can replace fish sauce with oyster sauce in a 1:1 ratio as long as you enjoy the thicker consistency of the oyster sauce.
3. Vegan fish sauce
Vegans will be glad to discover that there is a viable alternative to the standard fish sauce that they can use so they can still enjoy their favorite recipes.
You will find on the market several vegan fish sauce substitutes and their taste, as well as their color, is not much different from the regular fish sauce. Use a vegan substitute for fish sauce in the same ratio as regular fish sauce and in the same kind of recipe.
Tamari is similar to soy sauce and in many parts of the world, it is even considered a type of soy sauce. The ingredient is similar to soy sauce, yet this version contains miso paste and has a stronger taste.
You can successfully use it instead of fish sauce as long as you take into account that its flavor is richer. If you like the tamari taste you can use it in the same quantity as fish sauce.
However, if you want to cut its intense taste you can use half a cup of tamari for 1 cup of fish sauce and add water to get the texture you want for your food.
5. Worcestershire sauce
A less common but equally good substitute for fish sauce is Worcestershire sauce. Some brands of this sauce include fish sauce in its ingredients. However, Worcestershire sauce can be rich in other flavors as well so your food will taste different.
The umami flavor is present in this substitute so you can’t fail with it. Add it to any dish that calls for fish sauce according to your preferences. Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies, tamarind, vinegar, molasses, cloves, onion, and other ingredients that offer it a unique flavor.
6. Mushroom and soy sauce
If you don’t have any of the substitutes for fish sauce, you can always combine mushrooms and soy sauce into a tasty broth that will enhance the flavor of your food.
You will need 3-4 cups of plain water, 1/4 or 1/2 ounces of shiitake mushrooms, and 3-4 tablespoons of soy sauce. Respect the proportions if you need a bigger quantity.
This combination can successfully replace fish sauce in salads or any other cooked dish without compromising the flavor.
Seaweed will add fish flavor to your food. Depending on the form you find the seaweed in, it might also add a salty and sweet taste to most of your dishes.
You will find seaweed to be a great alternative to fish sauce in soups and stews as well as other Asian dishes. It performs well in salads and you can use it as an ingredient to make your own sauces.
You can use both fresh and dried seaweed instead of fish sauce and it will enhance the flavor of your food. In terms of quantity, you will have to follow your personal taste when you apply seaweed to your recipe.
8. Coconut aminos
Coconut aminos can also replace fish sauce even if this substitute might not be as easy to find as the rest of them. You will find this alternative to be sweeter than fish sauce but it has a dark color that is similar to it.
If you choose to use coconut aminos, you might have to add some extra salt because this product is not as salty as fish sauce either. In spite of these small differences, coconut aminos can replace fish sauce by maintaining the same quantity in your recipes.
9. Hoisin sauce
Hoisin sauce is also one of the alternatives you can use if you are missing fish sauce from your kitchen. It is made of fermented soybean paste along with rice vinegar, sesame seeds, salt, garlic, and other ingredients according to the brand that sells it.
You can use it in the same quantity with fish sauce but the flavor will be different mainly due to sesame seeds. Use it in the same quantity for salad dressings, stews or soups, and even in stir-fries as it will taste delicious.
10. Fish broth
Fish broth is not as common as vegetable broth or chicken and beef broth but it is also a great substitute for fish sauce if you find it handy. As you probably guessed, fish broth comes from fish frames boiled in water along with onion and celery.
You can make it at home or find it already made in supermarkets. Either way, you can feel free to use it instead of fish sauce. Broth, however, is not as concentrated as a fish sauce so you will need to double the quantity in order to obtain the flavor you want.
Is Fish Sauce Necessary?
Fish sauce provides a certain, intense flavor to meals that they wouldn’t have without this ingredient. Some recipes might still taste good without the fish sauce.
But as a thumb rule, you might want to consider using a substitute. In Asian cuisine, the fish sauce provides a rich umami taste to the food. And without it, you might end up with a delicious dish that lacks the rich aroma you are looking for.
How Do You Make Fish Sauce?
Making the fish sauce from scratch doesn’t have to be hard but it requires patience.
You will need 6 cloves of garlic, the zest from one lemon, 3 tablespoons of salt, 6 bay leaves, 2 or 3 tablespoons of black peppercorns, 1.5 pounds of fish such as smelt or herring, and 1 teaspoon of sea salt or sauerkraut brine.
The first thing you will do is mix the garlic with the lemon zest and the sea salt in a bowl. Separately slice the fish into half an inch pieces. Make sure to not cut it into pieces that are too big because it will be too chunky for the sauce.
Add the fish to the garlic and lemon zest mix along with the bay leaves and peppercorns. Pack it all into a mason jar, Or a similar glass container. Fill the container with sauerkraut brine but leave about an inch free on top of it because the composition will expand as it ferments.
Close the container with an airtight lid and leave it at room temperature for up to 3 days. After that, you can store it in the fridge for up to six weeks.
Finally, you will have to strain the mix until you obtain only liquid. This liquid is your sauce and you can store it in the freezer for as long as 6 months. With this simple recipe, you can have fish sauce freshly made at home at any time.
Fish sauce can be a key ingredient in many dishes so if you don’t have this sauce in your kitchen, make sure you have a substitute for it.
Some of the substitutes in this guide might even offer you a flavor that you like better. So, give them a try and see which one is your favorite.