Fish sauce is a staple in Southeast Asian cuisine and an important ingredient in a lot of Thai, Vietnamese, and Cambodian dishes. It provides an umami flavor that makes food taste more savory and complex. It combines sweet, salty, fishy, and other flavors.

There are various reasons an individual may need to find an alternative to fish sauce. For example, consuming fish sauce regularly can be unhealthy for some people due to its high sodium content.

Fish sauce may also be unsuitable for vegetarians or vegans, as it often includes anchovies or shrimp, which are both animal byproducts. There are, however, several alternatives people can try.

This article looks at six fish sauce substitutes and discusses their nutritional value and potential health benefits.

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Anyone who wants to make a fish sauce substitute can mix soy sauce with vinegar or minced anchovies to achieve a taste similar to that of fish sauce.

People can also make a broth using soy sauce, either on its own or by adding mushrooms.

One tablespoon of tamari soy sauce contains:

There are many types of soy sauce, such as dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, tamari, Shiro, and Saishikomi.

Dark soy sauce is older, thicker, and sweeter, and it is the best addition when cooking. Light soy sauce is younger, thinner, and saltier and works best as a dipping sauce. Soy sauce can also come in a reduced-sodium form.

Soy sauce may provide some digestive benefits, primarily due to the oligosaccharides created during the fermentation process.

Using soy sauce as a substitute for fish sauce is a good option for vegetarians and vegans so long as they refrain from mixing it with anchovies.

People can purchase seaweed that is either fresh or dried.

Fresh seaweed is preferable for salads, broths, and sauces. Dried seaweed, on the other hand, may be best for most other dishes.

Both options are good choices for vegetarian and vegan diets.

Dried seaweed

A 100-g serving of dried seaweed contains:

  • 306 calories
  • 80.9 g of carbohydrates
  • 0.3 g of fat
  • 6.21 g of protein
  • 102 mg of sodium

Dried seaweed has the highest calorie count of all the fish sauce substitutes due to its high carbohydrate concentration.

However, while it is high in calories, it offers health benefits that other fish sauce substitutes do not.

For instance, a 100-g portion of dried seaweed contains 7.7 g of fiber, which helps people feel full and refrain from overeating. Following a diet rich in fiber can also help lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Moreover, dried seaweed is rich in nutrients such as folate, potassium, and magnesium.

In addition to having the highest fiber content, dried seaweed is the option with the most significant source of protein.

Protein is vital for the body because it helps repair tissues and replaces cells. As such, it is essential for growth and development.

Learn more about the health benefits of seaweed here.

Fresh seaweed

A 100-g portion of fresh seaweed contains:

  • 26 calories
  • 6.75 g of carbohydrates
  • 0.03 g of fat
  • 0.54 g of protein
  • 9 mg of sodium

While it has a lower calorie content than dried seaweed, it is not as rich in fiber, with only 0.5 g in a 100-g serving.

Additionally, it has lower levels of folate, potassium, and magnesium.

Oyster sauce may seem similar to fish sauce, because it contains a seafood ingredient. Nevertheless, for some people, it may be a potential alternative to fish sauce depending on the application.

Oyster sauce is not suitable for vegetarians or vegans. However, people who dislike fish sauce because of its smell or saltiness could find oyster sauce to be a good alternative.

A tablespoon of oyster sauce contains:

  • 9.18 calories
  • 1.96 g of carbohydrates
  • 0.045 g of fat
  • 0.243 g of protein
  • 491 mg of sodium

Oyster sauce is a low calorie fish sauce substitute, making it an excellent option for someone who wants to add a considerable flavor to their meal while watching their calorie intake.

People concerned about their diet should take into account the fact that oyster sauce is not as rich in vitamins, minerals, or other essential nutrients, such as protein and fiber, compared with other options.

A 15-milliliter (ml) serving of vegan fish sauce contains:

  • 15 calories
  • 1 g of carbohydrates
  • 0 g of fat
  • 1 g of protein
  • 1,330 mg of sodium

It is important to note that while this option is great for vegetarians and vegans and is low in calories, it also has the highest sodium content.

Vegan fish sauce is potentially a good choice for individuals who want to avoid extra fat in their diet, as it does not contain any fat.

Coconut aminos are a product of coconut palm sap. Typically, these products are soy and gluten free, making them an option for people with soy or wheat allergies.

Coconut aminos are also a good choice for those who follow vegetarian or vegan diets.

A 5-ml serving of coconut aminos contains:

  • 40 calories
  • 2 g of carbohydrates
  • 0 g of fat
  • 0.05 g of protein
  • 66 mg of sodium

Coconut aminos have significantly less salt than other options, making them suitable for those with high blood pressure. Individuals following a heart-healthy diet often need to restrict their sodium intake to avoid raising their blood pressure levels.

People looking to reduce additional fats in the diet may find this fat-free option suitable for them. It is of note, however, that coconut aminos have little nutritional value.

Worcestershire sauce is a fermented condiment that originated in England.

One tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce contains:

  • 12.3 calories
  • 3.07 g of carbohydrates
  • 0 g of fat
  • 0 g of protein
  • 208 mg of sodium

That Worcestershire sauce has no fat makes it a good option for anyone who wants to minimize their dietary fat intake.

However, this sauce contains no protein or fiber and has low nutritional content when it comes to various vitamins and minerals.

While traditional Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies, vegan and vegetarian versions are also available.

Fish sauce is a common ingredient in Asian cooking, but it is not suitable for vegans or vegetarians. Additionally, some individuals may dislike its taste, smell, or both.

People with dietary restrictions or who prefer an ingredient with a less intense flavor may look for an alternative to fish sauce.

Alternatives include vegan fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce, seaweed, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and coconut aminos. All these offer different nutritional benefits, including sodium and fat content.

The most suitable option depends on the goal of the substitution. For example, people looking for a low calorie alternative find that soy sauce, oyster sauce, vegan fish sauce, and Worcestershire sauce are good choices.

Those searching for a low sodium option should consider coconut aminos and both fresh and dried seaweed.

If, however, a person is looking for a nutrient-dense alternative with high fiber, protein, and vitamin and mineral content, fresh seaweed is the best option.