Vegan Fish Sauce Substitute is a staple in our home. That’s because I love creating new recipes from Southeast Asian cuisine. Just like pasta and garlic are essential in an Italian kitchen, fish sauce is always within reach for the Thai or Vietnamese cook.
This easy recipe is layered with complex flavors that take soup, stir-frys, noodle dishes, and dipping sauce to the next level. It gives King Oyster Mock Clam Chowder real ocean flavor.
⭐ Why it works
- 10 ingredients for a full palate of deep, concentrated flavors.
- Game changer for Southeast Asian dishes.
- Ocean-like flavor seasons homemade vegan seafood substitutes.
- Simple process with only 20 minutes cook time.
- Gluten-free and oil-free options.
- No artificial ingredients.
- Keeps easily 3 months refrigerated.
- Dried Mushrooms - Shiitake is the dried mushroom used and an essential ingredient because it contributes umami in spades, just like wakame and soy sauce.
- Wakame seaweed - Wakame is a brown seaweed in the ocean high in minerals and omega-3s. I like to use the type that is already cut and looks black once it's dried. It's the same seaweed used in many restaurants for miso soup.
- Soy sauce - Whichever type you typically cook with is fine for this recipe. Use tamari for gluten-free.
- Sesame oil - Just a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil adds a roasty flavor that gives depth to the sauce. Omit for oil-free.
- Garlic - Gotta have the garlic.
- Lime - The slightly bitter edge of lime juice over lemon juice is perfect for this vegan fish sauce substitute. Be sure not to substitute any type of vinegar.
- Coconut sugar - Organic unrefined coconut sugar adds sweetness and a touch of caramel. Terra Soul is one company that provides sustainably-farmed, unrefined, and GMO-free sugar.
- Combine ingredients.
- Cook for 20 minutes.
- Strain mixture.
- Pour through a funnel into a storage bottle.
🐠 Why vegan fish sauce?
Now you might wonder why any vegan or vegetarian would bother with making a vegan fish sauce substitute. Why not just use soy sauce and skip the fermented fish?
Well, think of a time you ordered a vegetarian dish at a Thai restaurant that knocked your socks off. Perhaps you tried to recreate it at home.
But did you have the same disappointing experience I did? Time and again, my attempts to ace a favorite authentic Thai meal missed the mark. While I couldn’t put my finger on it, something crucial was missing.
Once I realized everything that went into the food at our local Thai restaurant, the mystery was solved.
Restaurants don’t always disclose the fish sauce splashed liberally into soups and entrees when they print vegetarian items on their menu. If you want to avoid this unique fermented condiment, it takes a little extra vigilance.
It was clear then we had to ask if we wanted it left out. Naturally, I didn’t want to use fish sauce when making my favorite Thai Style Hot and Sour Soup.
Still, we craved the mouthwatering impact of those salty, funky traditional flavors in fish sauce. Thus, this vegan alternative was born.
🥄 What does it taste like?
I did a lot of kitchen experimentation and research to identify the main flavor components needed to replace fish sauce. No, this plant-based version does not taste like fish.
Instead, it is deeply salty like the ocean, with just the right combination of funk, tangy brine, caramel, and umami that fermented fish condiments provide.
Because these flavors are prevalent throughout all of Southeast Asia, you now have a plant-based seasoning to branch out to a world of new recipes.
🥗 Serving suggestions
As well as Vietnamese food, I know I can't wait to try this condiment with a number of Malaysian, Indonesian, and Filipino specialties that have been veganized.
Some authentic dishes that would be delicious as remakes with vegan fish sauce substitute are:
- Prik nam pla - tangy dipping sauce made with sliced chilies and garlic.
- Bahn xeo - crispy pancakes filled with vegetables and fresh herbs.
- Gotu Kola Sambol - superfood Sri Lankan salad with coconut and chili.
- Assam laksa - sweet and sour noodle soup with tamarind and pineapple.
- Sayote stirfry -Chayote shoots stirfried with onion and tomato.
- Ensaladang katuray - blanched katuray flowers with green beans, tomato, and garlic.
- Nasi goreng - Indonesian fried rice.
Yes, you can make it gluten-free by substituting tamari made with 100% soybeans for soy sauce.
Yes, you can make this recipe without any oil if you prefer. It won't be as rich or have the same mouthfeel, but all the other intense flavors will come through.
You can substitute brown sugar for coconut palm sugar if you like. Also, coconut aminos can replace soy sauce if you increase the salt by adding two teaspoons for each half cup of coconut aminos.
🧂More vegan condiments
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Vegan Fish Sauce Substitute
- 2 cups water
- 4 cloves garlic halved
- ¼ cup dry wakame seaweed
- ½ cup sliced, dry shiitaki mushrooms
- ½ cup soy sauce or tamari for gluten-free
- 1 TB coconut palm sugar or brown sugar
- 2 teaspoon peppercorns
- 3 TB fresh lime juice
- 2 TB sea salt
- 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
- 1 TB avocado oil or plain vegetable oil
- Place everything in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and lower the heat. Cover loosely and cook at a constant low boil for 20 minutes. the mixture will reduce a little in volume.
- Remove from heat and let steep until cooled a little.
- Place a strainer over a bowl and pour the sauce in. Shake pulp and press gently with the back of a spoon. Don't press the pulp through the strainer though.
- Transfer to a glass bottle and refrigerate.
- Vegan Fish Sauce Substitute keeps for at least 6 months in the refrigerator.