A jar of a Vegan Fish Sauce Substitute

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This vegan fish sauce substitute makes Thai and Vietnamese cuisine possible for anyone allergic to fish or on a vegan diet. When planning for a Thai cooking class with a vegan participant I searched and found a recipe to meet this dietary need and made it gluten free.

Store bought fish sauce, the ubiquitous ingredient in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, cannot be omitted. There are many recipes available online but this recipe worked in all the Thai dishes we made and my vegan participant, along with the rest of the class, were all thrilled with the dinner.

Sweet, Salt, Sour, Bitter and Umami

With the popularity of cooking shows you’ve probably heard about umami. That meaty, savory flavour taste we love that comes from glutamates. These amino acids are found in animal protein but also in some vegetables, seaweed and fermented foods. In Thai and Vietnamese cuisine fish sauce contributes to both the salt and umami taste.

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Vegan Fish Sauce Substitute

Fortunately Americas Test Kitchen did the research and once again I trust them. They thought seaweed didn’t give the meaty punch of fish sauce. It was the combination of dried shiitake mushrooms, soy sauce and a salty broth that mimicked the taste more closely. One work of caution, pay attention to the gluten free soy sauce you use as it will impact the final taste.

To take a closer look at gluten free soy sauces options check out my post, Gluten Free Soy Sauce vs Tamari Tasting. It’s easy to get excited about any product with a gluten free label but some of them are completely artificial.

Dried Shiitake Mushrooms

Lucky for me I always have dried shiitake mushrooms, also called Chinese black mushrooms, in my freezer. They are sometimes sold in large bags so I share them with friends and store them in my freezer. I buy them at the Asian grocery store and use them in my non-vegan recipe for meatballs. If you like meatballs you’ve got to try Lion’s Head Meatballs.

Dinner Club – A Thai Menu

I love all Asian cuisine and have posted many Thai recipes. The menu at my cooking class varies but this post has one of my menus that has stood the test of time, Dinner Club – A Thai Menu.

During our Thai cooking class we used this vegan fish sauce substitute to make Yellow Chicken Curry with broccoli instead of chicken, and an amazing Cucumber Carrot Salad. I also figured out that the store bought yellow curry paste is vegan where as the one I make isn’t.

A comparison of homemade and store bought gluten free Thai Yellow Curry Paste
Gluten Free Thai Yellow Curry Paste -photo credit Jim Little

If you know of someone missing out on Asian recipes that use fish sauce please share this with them. In the comments below I’d love to hear what you made with fish sauce or this vegan fish sauce substitute.


More Recipes – Vegan, Thai & Vietnamese

Ingredients

3 cups water
¼ oz dried, shiitake mushrooms (7g or 2-3 mushrooms)
3 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp GF soy sauce

Directions

1
Put water, dried mushrooms, salt and soy sauce in a saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat.
2
Turn down heat and simmer until reduced by half, about 30 minutes.
3
Strain into a glass jar. Cool, label and store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

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Ingredients

Directions

  • 3 cups water
  • ¼ oz dried, shiitake mushrooms (7g or 2-3 mushrooms)
  • 3 Tbsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp GF soy sauce
  1. Put water, dried mushrooms, salt and soy sauce in a saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat.
  2. Turn down heat and simmer until reduced by half, about 30 minutes.
  3. Strain into a glass jar. Cool, label and store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.