Vegan Fish Sauce

Vegan Fish Sauce

What is Fish Sauce?

Traditional fish sauce is a very common flavoring sauce in many Asian countries, especially in southeast Asia. It is made by salting and fermenting fish. It is especially common in Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, and Singapore. It is also used, albeit to a lesser extent, in South Korea. Many dishes from these countries call for fish sauce.

Vegan Alternatives and Substitutes for Fish Sauce

Obviously, traditional fish sauce is not vegan. But how does a vegan cook or chef replicate the same flavors found in fish sauce in order to make these various Asian dishes still taste good? Fortunately, there are quite a few ways to do this, as described below:

  • Tamari or Soy Sauce: Soy sauce and tamari are fermented and add a depth of flavor and saltiness to dishes. While they do not taste exactly like fish sauce, they can be used and combined with other ingredients to mimic the flavor.
  • Miso Paste: This traditional ingredient adds a fifth dimension, or umami, to any dish. Just like traditional fish sauce, it is fermented and has a complex flavor. There are many kinds of miso pastes and we recommend choosing a darker rather than lighter one because they have more flavor depth. Simply add some to warm water to dissolve it and use it in place of fish sauce.
  • Coconut Aminos: This is a sauce that is made from the nectar from budding coconut palm flowers. This nectar is mixed with salt and fermented, much like traditional fish sauce. It generally is slightly sweeter and less salty than soy sauce and can be used in lieu of fish sauce since it also has that fermented flavor.
  • Seaweed: Seaweed is a great alternative or substitute for fish sauce because it grows in the ocean or in seawater and has a natural ‘fishy’ element to it. There are numerous types of seaweed you can use such as kombu, kelp, wakame, hijiki, etc. All of these will provide umami and provide that fishy flavor.
  • Dried Shiitake and Other Mushrooms: Various mushrooms such as shiitake have umami, the fifth discernible flavor, and can be used as an alternative to fish sauce. There are also some mushrooms such as oyster mushrooms that have a seafood flavor.
  • Using Various Combinations of the Above Ingredients: This is where things get really interesting! In our opinion, combining the above ingredients in various ways according to your taste is the best way to replicate the flavor of fish sauce. For example, you can mix tamari or soy sauce, along with a little miso paste, water and kombu seaweed. It has the saltiness of fish sauce and the fishy taste that is facilitated by the seaweed. Just let the seaweed steep for 10-15 minutes. You may be surprised just how tasty it is. You can also use mushrooms along with soy sauce and seaweed. We recommend trying different combinations to find the one that you like best.

Vegan Fish Sauce Recipe

If you’d like to make your own fish sauce at home, below is a baseline recipe you can start with.


  • ½ cup water
  • 1½ tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • ½ tablespoon miso paste
  • sea salt to taste, or you can omit it if you like it less salty
  • ⅓ teaspoon kelp powder or 2 small pieces of dried kombu seaweed or ¼ teaspoon of dried wakame


  1. Combine all the above ingredients in a small saucepan and stir.
  2. Bring the mixture to a quick simmer.
  3. Reduce the heat to very low and let the mixture steep gently for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Cool the mixture and strain it to get rid of any sediment.
  5. Let the vegan fish sauce cool to room temperature.
  6. Transfer the vegan fish sauce to a clean glass container with a tight lid. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Best Store Bought Vegan Fish Sauces

If you do not want to make your own vegan fish sauce at home, there are various commercially available vegan fish sauces that are available for sale. Below are two vegan fish sauces on Amazon that we like best:



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