Gluten free fish sauce is essential for Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. It’s the secret ingredient that intimidates home cooks but must be used to recreate the recipes you’re familiar with from these countries. Fish sauce is readily available in Asian supermarkets as well as grocery stores with a large Asian section.

If you’ve eaten Vietnamese or Thai food you’ve tasted fish sauce. Called nuoc mam in Vietnamese and nam pla in Thai, fish sauce is a complex flavour ingredient used in almost every dish, much like soy sauce is used in Chinese cooking. It is a salty, pungent sauce derived from fermented tiny anchovies and smells like it. Although it’s naturally gluten free some North American brands have added wheat so always read the label.

Fish sauce, the essential ingredient for Thai and Vietnamese cuisine.
Fish sauce, the essential ingredient for Thai and Vietnamese cuisine -photo credit Jim Little

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Buying Fish Sauce

The two popular brands of fish sauce that I see at the Asian shops near me are Squid brand and Golden Boy. One of my favourite cookbook authors, Hugh Carpenter, recommended Squid brand fish sauce and that’s what I’ve been using ever since.

Years later I started to see small 200 ml bottles of Golden Boy brand fish sauce. I know many home cooks would prefer that size thinking the large 725 ml bottle is a big commitment. I buy that big bottle of Squid brand fish sauce. Whatever brand you buy, fish sauce lasts indefinitely at room temperature. Don’t bother smelling it because that will just make you think it’s gone bad.

Vegan Fish Sauce Substitute

Yes there is a vegan fish sauce substitute. For anyone who is vegan or has a fish allergy they need a substitute to enjoy all the amazing Thai and Vietnamese dishes. I’ve used it for many of my recipes; the vegans love it and everyone else can’t tell the difference.

Click here for the recipe vegan fish sauce substitute. 

A jar of a Vegan Fish Sauce Substitute

Let me know in the comments below if you have a fish sauce story.


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If you have a fish sauce story I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.


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