How to Make Vegan Fish Sauce

5 from 2 votes

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Just because you're vegan doesn't mean your Asian dishes shouldn't have a nice hit of that rich umami flavor usually associated with fish sauce.

Vegan Fish Sauce

It was a vegetarian/vegan Pad Thai that got me thinking about a vegan fish sauce substitute recipe. I was going to just use soy sauce instead of the fish sauce called for in many Southeast Asian dishes, but if you’ve had the deep pleasure of eating something seasoned with fish sauce, you know that soy sauce can only get you halfway there. So I went on a little quest to find out how to make a solid vegan substitute for fish sauce. After dipping in and out of various websites, I think I got it.

Fish sauce is usually made from anchovies fermented in salt. While it has a strong aroma at first, that fades somewhat during cooking, you are left with a pleasant, slightly haunting, savory flavor with some saltiness. And the non-fish eaters in our lives deserve this taste just as much as the rest of us.

This satisfying vegan version of fish sauce has the same kind of savory umami as regular fish sauce, but it is made with dried mushrooms and soy sauce, plus kombu, if you have it. Use it in Thai Cucumber Salad or Thai Green Beans instead of the soy sauce. And if you are looking to make a vegan Nuoc Mam Chanh, this is the secret ingredient! It brings the perfect level of savory funkiness to any Southeast Asian vegan or vegetarian recipe.

Vegan Fish Sauce in glass jar.

Vegan Fish Sauce: A recipe for a vegan version of that quintessential Southeast Asian umami sauce.

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Vegan Fish Sauce Ingredients

  • Soy sauce – Soy sauce is fermented, just like fish sauce, so it brings an important fermented umami flavor to this sauce.
  • Kosher salt – Fish sauce is naturally very salty, so salt is super important in this recipe.
  • Dried shiitake mushrooms – Another great umami booster.
  • Garlic – Slice the cloves thinly.
  • Kombu – Kombu is a type of edible Japanese kelp, most often used to make dashi. Dashi is a flavorful savory base used for lots of soups, like miso soup, and broths. If used on its own, you can make a vegetarian dashi with kombu. (If used in combination with bonito [tuna] flakes, you have a more traditional non-vegetarian dashi.) You can order kombu online and find it in Asian grocery stores.
Thai Cucumber Salad in a white bowl.
Thai Cucumber Salad

How to Make Vegan Fish Sauce

  1. Simmer: Combine the water, soy sauce, salt, mushrooms, and garlic and simmer until reduced by half.
  2. Steep: Add the kombu, cool, cover, and refrigerate for 24 hours.
  3. Strain: Strain the solids out of the sauce and store in the fridge for up to 1 month.

Storage

Vegan fish sauce will last for up to a month in the fridge. You can also store it in the freezer, though it might not freeze all the way to solid because of the high level of salt in the sauce. It will become stronger in flavor the longer you store it.

Use Vegan Fish Sauce in These Recipes

Large white bowl of Vegetarian Pad Thai.
Vegetarian Pad Thai

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5 from 2 votes

Vegan Fish Sauce

Just because you're vegan doesn't mean your Asian dishes shouldn't have a nice hit of that rich umami flavor usually associated with fish sauce.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Chilling time: 1 day
Total Time: 1 day 25 minutes
Servings: 24 People
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Ingredients 

  • 4 cups water
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • ½ ounce dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 3 garlic cloves (thinly sliced)
  • 2 sheets kombu (optional)

Instructions 

  • Simmer the water, soy sauce, salt, mushrooms and garlic until reduced by half. Add the kombu, cool, then cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
  • Strain, store in fridge for up to 1 month.

Notes

  • You can buy dried shiitake mushrooms and kombu online, and find them in Asian grocery stores.

Nutrition

Calories: 4kcal, Carbohydrates: 1g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 719mg, Potassium: 16mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 2mg, Iron: 1mg
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About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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