Fish sauce is obviously not vegan or vegetarian as it has fish in the ingredients. It may seem obvious to you, but not everyone knows that fish are animals, so vegans don’t eat them.
Luckily, there are several substitutes that can be made in dishes calling for fish sauce.
Vegan alternatives to fish sauce include homemade and store-bought vegan fish sauces, coconut aminos, regular and tamari soy sauces and seaweed.
In this article, we will provide you with all of the best vegan alternatives to fish sauce and give you an idea of their flavour so that you can choose the right substitute for your diet and palate.
1. Homemade Vegan Fish Sauce
A great alternative to regular fish sauce if you follow a vegan diet is to make your own version without the fish. Although you’ll find multiple recipes and each is slightly different, they all contain the same basic ingredients.
Vegan fish sauce ingredients:
- Soy sauce or tamari
- Tofu or miso
- Dried mushrooms
2. Store-Bought Vegan Fish Sauce
The easiest way to get a vegan version of fish sauce is just to buy a bottle of vegan fish sauce. These vegan fish sauces offer a variety of flavours and while some are strong in the umami and fishy taste department, others are a bit lacking.
3. Coconut Aminos
Coconut aminos is a sauce that’s made from coconut sap that has been fermented. It has a rich umami flavour that’s slightly sweeter than regular fish sauce.
Coconut aminos makes for a great fish sauce substitute. Plus, for those who have allergies or intolerances, it’s gluten-free and soy-free as well as being lower in sodium than all other fish sauce alternatives.
4. Soy Sauce
Soy sauce makes up the base of the homemade vegan fish sauces but can also be used as a straight-up swap for fish sauce in a pinch. Adding rice vinegar or lime juice to soy sauce can also give it some extra fresh flavour.
Soy sauce provides the perfect balance of salty and sweet flavours. It’s also commonly available in lower sodium varieties for those who like it a bit more on the sweet side or are trying to limit their salt intake.
Tamari is a gluten-free, Japanese version of soy sauce. It offers the same great alternative as regular soy sauce does to fish sauce.
Tamari is typically less salty than soy sauce but has a richer umami flavour. As with regular soy sauce, tamari can be used as an easy one-to-one replacement for fish sauce, or you can add a little lemon or lime juice to it.
Believe it or not, seaweed makes a great vegan alternative for fish sauce. Fresh seaweed is the perfect fish sauce substitute to use in broths, sauces, or salads while dried seaweed works for almost any dish.
There is a wide variety of seaweed, types from those which have a strong umami flavour like kombu and nori to those with a more subtle umami taste like wakame.
Can I leave fish sauce out of a recipe altogether?
For most dishes, fish sauce is not a required ingredient and can be completely omitted from the recipe rather than replaced. For those who relish the rich umami flavour, especially in Southeast Asian dishes, finding a replacement may be a better alternative than omission.
While fish sauce is not suitable for vegans or vegetarians, there are many alternatives that can be used in place of it. Soy-based, seaweed and coconut-based substitutes are all great vegan replacements for fish sauce.
Alternatively, fish sauce can be omitted altogether without a replacement if the strong umami flavour is not desired.