[vegan] fish sauce

by sj

Salty, light bodied, fermented funky, just a hint of ocean, a mild tang, and a whisper of sweetness. Ah fish sauce. How you have tormented me so over the decades, popping up on ingredient lists and trying your best to make me scramble for a suitable substitution. No more dagnabbit! I’ve tackled and tamed your elusive flavour and you shall torment me no more! Good thing for the rest of you, i’ve spent a looooong time tinkering with this one, and while nothing is going to perfectly mimic the gross brown liquid that graces so many dishes and tables, this hits all the same notes and will happily fill in as a delightful substitute.

(vegan) fish sauce

Salty, light bodied, fermented funky, just a hint of ocean, a mild tang, and a whisper of sweetness. Ah fish sauce. How you… base sauces + marinades + pastes [vegan] fish sauce European make it paper
yield: 1 quart Prep Time: Cooking Time:
Nutrition facts: 200 calories 20 grams fat
rating 5.0/5
( 3 voted )


4g | ¾ tsp garlic, chopped

20g | about 1 medium shallot, chopped

5g | 1 tsp yellow mustard seed

2g | ¼ tsp kala namak (black salt)

2 whole bay leaves

60g | 2 Tbsp red miso

10g/ml | 2 tsp worcestershire sauce

10g | about a 2”x5” piece of kombu, broken into smallish pieces

80g/ml | ⅓ cup liquid from fermented tofu (white or red)

12g | 2 tsp salt

360g/ml | 1 ¼ cup water

110g/120ml | ½ cup shaoxing wine

240g/ml | 1 cup medium broth

½ cup oyster sauce

65g/ml | ¼ cup chinese light soy sauce

20g/30ml | 2 Tbsp chinese black vinegar

5g/ml | 1 tsp japanese rice vinegar


Instant pot/electric pressure cooker directions:

Place all the ingredients up to the water into a pint glass canning jar and add just enough water to bring to the bottom ring of jar (just to where the lid band stops)

Place canning lid on and screw band to fingertip tight (don’t over tighten)

Add 2 cups of water to the bottom of your pot and place in the trivet or steaming basket, place jar inside and process for 30 minutes on high pressure (this can be done at the same time as the oyster sauce)

Allow to release pressure naturally, then remove the lid and allow the jar to cool until room temp (you can let this happen overnight)

Strain and combine with remaining ingredients

For storing, pour into clean and sanitised glass jars or bottles and store in the fridge for up to a month or in the freezer for 1 year


Stovetop directions:

Bring everything but oyster sauce, wine, and vinegars to a light boil over medium heat

Reduce heat to maintain simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes

Allow to cool (covered) for another half an hour, add water if needed to replace that lost from evaporation (you’ll see the ring on the pot) then combine with the remaining ingredients, place into a covered non-reactive container and allow to age in the fridge for 2-3 days

Strain and store as mentioned above


The fermented tofu can be the white or red varieties, the white will give you a milder flavour and the red a stronger punch. To make gluten free: substitute balsamic vinegar for chinese black, 3 Tbsp wheat-free tamari + 1 Tbsp water for the chinese light soy, and make sure your oyster and worcestershire sauces are gluten free. To make a soy free version: remove the miso and chinese light soy sauce and replace with ¼ cup coconut aminos + 2 Tbsp extra broth + 1 tsp nutritional yeast, also make sure the oyster and worc sauces are also soy free.

Yet again, i suggest following the directions for the instant pot/electric pressure cooker (as for the worcestershire, and oyster sauces) and in fact, this recipe can be done at the same time as the oyster sauce, as well as uses it as an ingredient. Two massively important base sauces/seasonings that should cover most of your SE asian cooking needs [still working on a shrimp paste recipe btw but i’ve successfully used “anchovy” paste (at half the amount) to bring in similar flavour elements, so you can use that for now if you’d like.]

This is pretty easy to throw together, we have some shallots for sweetness and to help mellow some of the rougher ingredients, garlic for pep and bite, kala namak for a sulphur-y component often found in fermented fish products, kombu to add a mild oceanic quality, aka miso for slight tang, richness, and a fermented oomph, bay leaves for tea like woodsy, herbal notes and to help pull everything together. We have yellow mustard seed to provide a little bite and mild sharpness, the liquid from fermented tofu for an ammoniacal/fermented quality produced from the breakdown of proteins, chinese light soy and broth bring in more liquid, salt, and savoriness, worcestershire for zip and zing and to deepen the flavours, chinese black vinegar for sweetness and acidity, shaoxing wine to bring in nutty elements and alcohol, and finally some oyster sauce to add some body and round out the flavour profile.

All the non-liquid ingredients, plus the tofu liquid and worc sauce, get thrown into a jar and processed for 30 minutes. Then that gets strained and added to everything else and it’s done! (Don’t worry, the stovetop version isn’t that much more work) I highly recommend doing this at the same time as the oyster sauce, all three jars should fit in fine (unless you have a small pot….then i’m not sure) and you might as well save some electric and time. This keeps up to a month in the fridge and at least a year in the freezer, so go ahead and make a full batch, a quart isn’t actually all that much over a year (especially if you like thai food or use this as a dipping sauce.)

This can be subbed for “regular” fish sauce in any recipe at the same amount, it also makes a delicious sauce or marinade on it’s own and a fantastic base for dipping sauce (just add some acid, water, ginger, garlic and scallions, maybe some red pepper…maybe a dab of toasted sesame…sometimes sugar…anyway, you get the idea.) Now go forth and get saucy!

For recommendations on substitutions, see the notes as well as the posts for worcestershire sauce and oyster sauce, some of these ingredients are covered in more detail there.

...and now for something similar:


Mel August 2, 2018 - 7:31 pm

For the fermented tofu — is that red or white kind ? Or a different kind altogether? Can you send a link to what you are referring to?

herb&slate August 7, 2018 - 11:28 am

Either white or red will work fine, white will give you a milder flavour and the red a more pungent one, the choice is yours 🙂

Pete April 30, 2019 - 3:35 am

Excellent! Another freakin’ FANTASTIC post. Read of course by your number 1 FANtastic person 🙂


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