12 Amazing Fish Sauce Substitute Ideas 

 Last Update February 13, 2024

By Jenny Zhang

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Fish sauce, a fundamental condiment in various Southeast Asian cuisines, is a concentrated, salty liquid crafted through the fermentation of fish and salt. Its rich umami flavor and distinctive aroma establish it as a crucial ingredient for augmenting the depth and complexity of dishes. Commonly used in Thai, Vietnamese, and Filipino cooking, fish sauce is integral to various recipes, such as green papaya salad, stir fries, pad thai, pho, and more. Fish sauce balances sweet, sour, and spicy flavors central to these regions' culinary identity.

However, what happens when this key ingredient is unavailable, or you're cooking for someone with dietary restrictions? In this article, we will provide the best fish sauce substitutes to assist you in your cooking endeavors. Whether it's due to dietary preferences, allergies, or simply running out of this staple condiment, finding the right substitute for fish sauce is a culinary adventure.

12 Best Fish Sauce Substitutes

Soy Sauce

Soy Sauce

Substituting soy sauce with fish sauce introduces a unique twist to recipes, leveraging the distinct flavors of these two traditional Asian condiments. While soy sauce is known for its rich, balanced umami flavor, derived from fermented soybeans and wheat, fish sauce offers a more intense umami kick with a pronounced fishy undertone, thanks to its fermentation process involving fish and salt. This swap requires careful consideration of the flavor dynamics, as fish sauce's potent taste and higher salt concentration can significantly alter a dish's flavor profile.

When substituting soy sauce for fish sauce, use a one-to-one ratio, but consider the overall saltiness of the dish, as soy sauce can sometimes be saltier (especially dark soy sauce). For a closer match to the fish sauce flavor, add a pinch of sugar and lime juice to mimic the fish sauce's slight sweetness. This substitution works exceptionally well in stir-fries, fried rice, marinades, and dipping sauces, where the primary requirement is a balance of savory and salty flavors.

Soy sauce is especially suitable for vegetarian or vegan cooking, making it one of the best vegan fish sauce alternatives that still provides a comparable depth of flavor. For dishes that benefit from the slight sweetness of fish sauce, adding a pinch of sugar to soy sauce can achieve a more similar taste profile. In dishes where the subtle, more rounded umami of soy sauce is key, such as certain noodle dishes or dipping sauces, substituting fish sauce may not yield the best results. Whether in Asian-inspired cuisines or recipes that call for an umami punch, soy sauce is a versatile and accessible alternative to fish sauce.

Tamari

Tamari

Tamari is an excellent fish sauce replacement, especially for those seeking a gluten-free or slightly richer alternative. Originating from Japan, tamari is a byproduct of miso paste production and is similar to soy sauce but with a thicker consistency and a more balanced, less salty flavor. Its rich umami quality makes it a suitable stand-in for fish sauce.

When substituting tamari for fish sauce, use it in a one-to-one ratio, but adjust to taste, considering its fuller flavor and lower salt content. Tamari is particularly effective in marinades, dressings, and sauces, where its depth can enhance the dish without overwhelming it.

It is a suitable option for individuals with gluten sensitivities since tamari is inherently gluten-free, distinguishing it from most soy sauces. For dishes that require the subtle sweetness of fish sauce, a touch of sugar can be added to tamari to replicate the desired flavor profile closely. Tamari's versatility and rich taste make it a valuable ingredient in various culinary applications, from Asian-inspired dishes to everyday cooking.

Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire Sauce

Although it contains anchovies, Worcestershire sauce can be a good fish sauce substitute in non-vegetarian dishes and for those seeking a gluten-free or slightly richer alternative. Originating from Japan, tamari is a byproduct of miso paste production and is similar to soy sauce but with a thicker consistency and a more balanced, less salty flavor. Its rich umami quality makes it a suitable stand-in for fish sauce.

When substituting tamari for fish sauce, use it in a one-to-one ratio, but adjust to taste, considering its fuller flavor and lower salt content. Tamari is particularly effective in marinades, dressings, and sauces, where its depth can enhance the dish without overwhelming it. It is a preferred option for individuals with gluten sensitivities, as tamari is inherently gluten-free, unlike most soy sauces.

For dishes that require the subtle sweetness of fish sauce, a touch of sugar can replicate the desired flavor profile closely. Tamari's versatility and rich flavor render it a valuable ingredient in many culinary applications, spanning from Asian-inspired dishes to everyday cooking.

Oyster Sauce

Oyster Sauce

Oyster sauce serves as an excellent fish sauce alternative, particularly in recipes where a touch of sweetness alongside the umami flavor is desirable. Thicker and sweeter than fish sauce, oyster sauce can be used if the dish's additional sweetness and less pronounced saltiness are acceptable.

Crafted from oyster extracts, sugar, and soy sauce, oyster sauce boasts a dense texture and a distinctive combination of sweet and salty flavors. It lacks the distinct fishy taste of fish sauce but brings a similar depth and richness.

When substituting oyster sauce for fish sauce, use about half the amount, as it is sweeter and more concentrated. Adjust according to the desired sweetness and thickness of the dish.

Oyster sauce is especially effective in stir-fries, marinades, and glazes, where its rich flavor and syrupy texture can elevate the dish. Its savory flavor yet sweet profile makes it popular in Asian cuisines, particularly Chinese cooking. However, due to its pronounced sweetness, it might not be suitable for recipes that require the sharp, salty punch of fish sauce. In such cases, balancing it with a bit of soy sauce can achieve a closer flavor match.

Vegan Fish Sauce

Vegan fish sauce emerges as a standout substitute for traditional fish sauce, especially for those adhering to vegetarian or vegan diets. Specially formulated to mimic fish sauce's unique salty and umami flavors, vegan versions typically use ingredients like seaweed, mushrooms, and soy protein to replicate the distinct flavor profile.

When using vegan fish sauce to replace fish sauce, you can generally substitute it in a one-to-one ratio for fish sauce, maintaining the balance of flavors in the original recipe. This substitute is ideal in any dish where fish sauce is used, from Thai curries and Vietnamese noodle dishes to dipping sauces and dressings. Its versatility makes it a valuable asset in vegan and vegetarian cooking, allowing these diets to enjoy the depth of flavor that fish sauce brings to a dish without compromising their dietary choices.

However, as the exact flavor profile can vary between brands, you should taste and adjust the seasoning as you cook, ensuring your dish's desired balance of umami and saltiness.

Seaweed Broth

Seaweed Broth

Simmering seaweed in water can provide a similar umami quality for a vegan, fish-free option. Seaweed broth offers a distinct umami flavor reminiscent of the sea. This broth, derived from simmering edible seaweeds like kombu or wakame in water, captures a subtle oceanic essence similar to fish sauce. The key advantage of using seaweed broth lies in its ability to impart a rich, savory flavor without any animal products, making it perfect for vegan and vegetarian dishes.

When substituting seaweed broth for fish sauce, start with a one-to-one ratio, adjusting to your taste preference and the desired flavor intensity. Enhance the flavor by adding a small amount of soy sauce or salt. Seaweed broth is particularly effective in soups, stews, and sauces, where it can provide a background of savory depth. It's also useful in dressings and marinades, adding a layer of complexity that fish sauce would typically provide.

Coconut Aminos

Coconut Aminos

Coconut aminos can be used to substitute fish sauce, particularly for those seeking a soy-free, gluten-free, and lower-sodium option. Derived from the fermented sap of coconut palm and sea salt, coconut aminos offer a unique sweet and salty flavor that, while milder, can mimic the umami quality of fish sauce.

When substituting coconut aminos for fish sauce, use a one-to-one ratio, but you may want to adjust according to the desired saltiness and sweetness of the dish, as coconut aminos are less salty and sweeter than fish sauce. This substitution works well in dressings, marinades, stir-fries, and sauces, especially in recipes with a milder umami presence.

Coconut aminos are particularly beneficial for those following a vegan, paleo, soy-free, or gluten-free diet who are looking to avoid fish sauce. However, due to its sweetness, it might not be suitable for recipes that require the robust, salty character of traditional fish sauce. In such instances, incorporating a hint of salt can assist in balancing the flavors.

Anchovy paste

Anchovy Paste

Anchovy paste is a highly effective substitute for fish sauce, especially when a recipe calls for that distinct fishy umami flavor. Made from ground anchovies, this paste packs a potent savory and salty punch, closely resembling the depth of flavor provided by fish sauce.

Remember that it is more concentrated than fish sauce when substituted with anchovy paste. Begin with a modest quantity, approximately half a teaspoon for every tablespoon of fish sauce, and adjust according to your taste preferences. Anchovy paste is particularly suitable for salad dressings, pasta sauces, and marinades, where its intense flavor can be evenly distributed throughout the dish. It's also a great addition to Caesar salad dressing and puttanesca sauce, where the anchovy's rich saltiness is a key component.

While anchovy paste provides a similar depth of flavor as fish sauce, its texture and concentrated taste mean that it should be used sparingly, and additional liquid might be needed to achieve the desired consistency in the dish.

Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin sauce, a thick, fragrant condiment commonly used in Chinese cuisine, can effectively substitute fish sauce in certain contexts. Its rich, sweet, and tangy flavor, derived from ingredients like soybeans, garlic, rice vinegar, and sugar, offers a unique alternative to fish sauce's salty and umami profile.

When using hoisin sauce as a substitute, it's important to consider its stronger sweetness and thicker consistency. You can substitute soy sauce for half the amount of hoisin sauce and adjust it according to the dish's flavor balance and texture requirements. Hoisin sauce works particularly well in glazes, marinades, and stir-fries, where its sweetness and flavor complexity can complement the other ingredients. It's also suitable for dipping sauces and barbecue sauces, adding a depth of flavor and a touch of sweetness.

However, due to its distinct flavor profile and thickness, hoisin sauce may not be ideal in recipes where fish sauce's sharp, salty character is essential. In such cases, diluting hoisin sauce with a bit of water and adding salt can help achieve a closer match.


Jenny passionately advocates a holistic and natural approach to health and well-being. She has a Bachelor of Science degree and years of working in food sciences, specializing in organic & natural products. She is committed to helping others embrace a balanced, natural lifestyle that fosters well-being. Jenny believes that a harmonious balance between nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness is the key to unlocking the full potential of one’s well-being.