Gluten free fish sauce is commonly used in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. It’s the secret ingredient that may intimidate home cooks but is essential to cooking 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.

Eventually Golden Boy brand came out with a small 200 ml bottle and I know many home cooks would prefer that size. I buy the large 725 ml bottle of Squid brand fish sauce but that might seem like a big commitment if you’re new to using it.

Whatever brand you buy, once open fish sauce lasts indefinitely at room temperature. Don’t bother smelling it, that might make you think it’s gone bad.

Vegan Fish Sauce Substitute

Do you have a vegan friend or maybe one with a fish allergy? Well this vegan option is excellent and makes Thai and Vietnamese cuisine available to those people. I’ve used it for many Thai recipes myself and during a vegan cooking class and I’ve always been impressed with the final taste of every dish.

Click here for the recipe vegan fish sauce substitute. 

A jar of a Vegan Fish Sauce Substitute

Fish Sauce – The Recipes

Here are some of my favourite recipes that use fish sauce:

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

More Thai and Vietnamese Recipes

More Thai Recipes


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