What is a good substitute for Fish Sauce?

  • Are there any good substitutes for Fish Sauce for cooking Thai food?

    This is due to a severe food allergy (anaphylaxis) to all forms of seafood, so I'm unable to substitute for other fish-based products.

    I concur with the others: a light soy sauce would be my choice as well, but note that there is nothing that is a good substitution for Thai fish sauce (even fish sauces from other countries, say Vietnam, have quite a different taste).

    Have you tried Vegemite or Bovril?

  • Try mixing hoisin or miso into low-sodium soy sauce.

    From one of my favorite bloggers, Smitten Kitchen, "I often see low-sodium soy sauce suggested as an alternative but I’m not convinced it’s a fair swap. There’s something more caramelized and fermented in the fish sauce that you’d miss. If you feel like playing around, I might whisk some additional hoisin or even miso into that soy sauce for a more complex flavor."

    I never thought to do this. That sounds great.

    I believe Cook's Illustrated suggested using a combination of soy sauce and mushroom stock to substitute fish sauce. (I usually use soy and kelp, but either way you're getting extra glutimates/nucleotides in there to enhance flavor.)

    +1. Hoisin or miso will both provide a good dose of the umami which would have been provided by the fish sauce; mushroom stock would also be a useful contribution in that regard.

    Careful about "hoisin" (海鮮). That is the same term that Cantonese speakers use to describe oyster sauce -- condiment for boiled/steamed vegetables. Make sure you are getting vegetarian oyster sauce, which is made by both Chinese and Thai food manufacturers. Check for this character -- 素 -- to know if it is vegetarian.

    Hoisin sauce is sometimes flavored with star anise, cloves or other strong spices. While that will perfectly fit in a vietnamese pho, it could make a mess out of the flavor profile of a thai curry.

  • If you cannot have fish at all, try using grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Fish sauce has two basic flavors: a sweeter one that is similar to Reggiano and a stronger one that is similar to cooked broccoli. If I were to experiment, I would try a mixture of the two, with maybe some of the juice made from the inside pulp of tomatoes (the gel-like thing with the seeds).

    +1 for the flavor analysis and creative suggestion. Don't know if it would actually work, but I never would have thought of that.

  • You should look into vegetarian fish sauce. If you can't find it, but can find a vegetarian (anchovy-free) Worcestershire sauce, that will provide some of the flavour, though we haven't tried it with Thai food. :-) A salty chicken bouillon might also do the trick in a pinch.

  • Seaweed and lemon juice, that's what I'm using right now. I was just using the seaweed because I like it, was using lemon juice and soy sauce as the fish sauce replacement, but am pleasantly surprised that seaweed is providing that fish sauce flavor.

  • http://thegentlechef.com/blog/?p=1563

    This briny infusion is rich in “umami” (a loanword from the Japanese which can be described as a “pleasant savory flavor”) and can be used in equal amounts as a replacement for traditional fish sauce in your favorite Southeast Asian recipes. This recipe yields about 1 cup.


    • 2 cups water
    • ¼ cup tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos™
    • ½ medium onion, chopped
    • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
    • 2 T (4 g) dried shredded wakame (seaweed)
    • 1 oz (28 g) dried shiitake, porcini or portabella mushrooms
    • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
    • 2 T mellow white miso paste -

    Technique Bring all ingredients except for the miso to a boil in a small saucepan. Cover, reduce the heat to a vigorous simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Mix the miso into the macerated mixture.

    Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a glass jar, pressing the solids with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Seal and refrigerate until ready to use. Due to its salt content, this sauce should stay fresh for several months in the refrigerator.

    Ah man. That sounds delicious.

  • You can safely leave out the fish sauce without attempting to replace it with anything. First of all, it's really more fishy than salty, so substituting soy sauce often makes your dish too salty. Secondly, most curries or stews only call for a small amount of fish sauce and there are such wonderful things going on spice-wise in Thai cuisine that you really don't miss it.

    agree with goblinbox (above). Unless you are craving a fish taste, i'd leave it out. I leave it out of all of my recipes now. The fishy taste AND SMELL overwhelms. I even opt sometimes for a tamari (even low-salt). Getting more familiar with the taste of the different ingredients rather than these sauces.

  • Conimex makes a sweet, thick type of soy sauce called Ketchup Manis or Ketchup Bentang which we use a lot for marinades (pork, chicken satays etc) I love it put a little in fried rice, lo meins too. Yum! you can find it in some specialty food stores, Thai/asian sections and Asian food stores and online.

    A good idea, but be warned that Ketjap Manis is often flavored with galangal (related to ginger), and is *very* sweet. Although I love it in fried rice, it might be better to look for 'superior soy' which is a dark soy sauce w/ sugar, but not to the molasses like quality of Ketjap Manis.

  • I've tried Bragg Liquid Aminos sauce which is saltier, less sweet and also tangier then regular soy sauce. I think its flavor also resembles fish sauce better than soy and it worked well with the dish I made (green papaya salad). According to its label, it's made with NON-GMO soybeans and purified water. And it's also not fermented or heated and Gluten-Free.

  • You will lose a lot of the other flavors, but just using MSG can compensate for the strong umami and salty flavors present in fish sauce. We use this substitute often as we find the fishyness of fish sauce unpleasant.

  • I cook with a vegetarian pho from my Vietnamese mother-in-law, who is the real deal! It calls for no fish sauce and instead calls for 1/2 c. soy sauce and 1 Tbsp. sugar in the broth. It's delicious! Maybe that's the substitute for fish sauce.

License under CC-BY-SA with attribution

Content dated before 6/26/2020 9:53 AM