If you’re looking for fish sauce substitutes that don’t contain any animal products, there are plenty of vegan fish sauce alternatives that can suit a wide variety of recipes. Fish sauce is a staple ingredient in East Asian and Southeast Asian cuisine, and it’s particularly popular in countries like Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Due to the fact that it contains animal products, fish sauce is not suitable for a plant-based or vegetarian diet.
Fish sauce is popular for its umami flavor and the savory depth it adds to dishes. Umani is widely considered to be the “fifth” taste, and it’s generally used to refer to pleasant savory foods. If you’re following a vegan or vegetarian diet, fish sauce is not an option. But there are an increasing number of vegan fish sauce substitutes available that can capture the essence of the original while remaining animal-friendly.
Some sauces that may already be in your kitchen cupboard can be used as fish sauce alternatives, and there are also a number of vegan fish sauce brands available to buy in the UK and USA. If you want to make a recipe that uses fish sauce and are wondering what your options are, here’s what you need to know.
What is fish sauce made from?
Fish sauce is a liquid condiment derived from fishes* or krill that have been salted and fermented over a long period. “Oily fish” like anchovies are often used, and they are placed in a barrel to ferment for up to two years. The fermentation gives the sauce a characteristic umami flavor, often described as savory and rich. Fish sauce consists of fish, water, and salt, and some products also feature caramel or molasses. Fish sauce plays a large role in many dishes, delivering a distinctive flavor profile.
The Best Vegan Alternatives to Fish Sauce
Several plant-based substitutes for fish sauce have emerged, offering a semblance of its umami flavor without fish ingredients. Many of these sauces can be found at supermarkets around the world, and they can also be used for a wide range of different recipes and cuisines. Here are some alternatives that may work for your recipe:
A direct substitute for fish sauce, soy sauce brings a similar salty and umami flavor to the table, albeit without the distinct fishy taste of traditional fish sauce. It’s a versatile option that can be used in a myriad of recipes, meaning it’s a popular kitchen cupboard staple in many households.
Tamari is similar to soy sauce, and is often gluten-free (though always make sure to read the label first). It retains the umami and salty flavors essential in many dishes traditionally requiring fish sauce.
Originating from fermented soybeans, miso paste provides a depth of flavor akin to the umami essence of fish sauce. When dissolved in water, it attains a thinner consistency resembling that of fish sauce, making it a popular substitute in soups and broths.
Providing a sweeter and less salty flavor profile, coconut aminos is a more unusual alternative to fish sauce. It’s a good choice for those looking to explore different taste dimensions in their culinary adventures.
Known for its sour, tangy taste, tamarind paste can mimic some of the flavor notes of fish sauce. When amalgamated with soy or tamari sauce, it also emulates the salty facet, making it a multifaceted substitute.
Vegan fish sauce brands
If you’d rather use a fish sauce substitute that more closely mimics the taste of the real thing, there are a wide variety of vegan-friendly fish sauce brands that are available to buy in the UK And USA. Vegan fish sauce refers to a fish sauce substitute that has been made to replicate the savory, umani, and salty flavors of the original, but using only plant-based ingredients. Here are some brands you can buy:
Vegan fish sauce to buy in the UK and USA
A popular choice among vegans, Thai Taste Vegan Fish Sauce offers a classic fish sauce flavor using strictly plant-based ingredients, making it a straightforward substitute. It contains ingredients like salt solution, sugar, soybean protein, yeast extract, seaweed extract, as well as distilled vinegar. The sauce is available in the UK and USA. You can buy it at Ocado, Waitrose, and a number of health food stores.
This fish sauce brand offers savory, umani, and salty flavors reminiscent of the real thing. It’s made using seaweed, vinegar, coconut nectar, water, sea salt, and yeast extract. It’s available to buy in the UK at Holland and Barrett and online.
A well-known vegan fish sauce brand in the USA, Fysh Sauce provides a plant-based alternative for traditional fish sauce. It’s made from seaweed, and has received a number of five star reviews from customers. It’s available to buy online and at some health food stores in the US.
This brand offers a soy-free option for those looking to avoid soy while still enjoying a fish sauce alternative. It’s kelp-based, and is said to replicate the savory taste of fish sauce. It’s available to buy in the UK and US from Ocado and some health food shops.
What are the benefits of choosing a vegan fish sauce alternative?
As it’s made using fishes, fish sauce comes with considerable ethical and environmental costs. It’s thought that the number of fishes taken from the ocean each year is in the trillions, and there is mounting evidence that suggests they have the capacity to feel pain and suffer. For this reason, the fishing industry is widely believed to cause suffering on a vast scale.
Fishing is a pressing environmental concern, depleting fish populations and disrupting marine ecosystems. Modern industrial fishing tactics use huge nets and lines to catch large numbers of fishes at a time, meaning our oceans are becoming dangerously depleted. Eliminating all fish products from your diet will therefore lower your personal environmental footprint.
With a growing number of people becoming aware of these issues and moving away from animal-based diets, vegan alternatives to fish sauce are becoming more popular and widely available. This means that opting for fish-free sauce has never been easier.
*While the English language tends to refer to multiple fishes as “fish,” we use “fishes” to emphasize their individuality.
This article was written with the help of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Learn more about how we use ethical and responsible artificial intelligence at Plant Based News.