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. 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. If you can't eat fish sauce then you need this fish sauce substitute to enjoy all the dishes where the taste is essential.
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What Goes in a Vegan Fish Sauce Substitute?
Fortunately America's Test Kitchen did the research and once again I trust them. They thought seaweed didn't give the meaty punch of fish sauce. The combination of dried shiitake mushrooms, soy sauce and a salty broth is what most closely mimicked the taste of fish sauce. One word of caution, the taste of your soy sauce will impact the final taste of this sauce.
If you're a super taster, or you're just interested, do a soy sauce tasting. Check out this post, Gluten Free Soy Sauce vs Tamari Tasting, to see how I did it. It's easy to get excited about products labeled gluten free but read the ingredient list and some are completely artificial.
Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
Lucky for me I always have dried shiitake mushrooms on hand. I find them at the Asian grocery store, sometimes labeled Chinese black mushrooms. They're often sold in large bags that look like a lifetime supply.
I recommend you buy them anyway then share some with a friend. Together you can start creating a list of favourite recipes to use them in. Here are three from my list:
- Lion’s Head Meatballs, definitely worth the effort!
- Easy Vegetable Stir Fry, remember they are always an option to add to this recipe.
- Thai Pork and Vegetable Curry
A Vegan Thai Menu
We made a vegan version of my Thai Dinner Club Menu and all agreed every dish was as fabulous as expected using the fish sauce substitute. In the process I learned that store bought yellow curry paste is often vegan as well as gluten free.
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 this vegan fish sauce substitute.
More Vegan Thai & Vietnamese Recipes
- Make this Yellow Chicken Curry vegan by omitting the chicken and substituting bok choy, broccoli or your favourite green vegetable. Store bought curry paste is often vegan but check the label.
- Thai Cucumber Carrot Salad
- Jasmine Coconut Rice
- Omit the shrimp in this Salad Roll recipe with Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce
You don't need fish sauce for these two recipes but they're both dairy free and vegan.
Vegan Fish Sauce Substitute
- 3 cups water
- ¼ oz dried, shiitake mushrooms 7 grams (2-3 mushrooms)
- 3 tablespoon salt
- 2 tablespoon gluten free soy sauce
- Put water, dried mushrooms, salt and soy sauce in a saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat.
- Turn down heat and simmer until reduced by half, about 30 minutes.
- Strain into a glass jar. Cool, label and store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. Use in all Thai and Vietnamese recipes calling for fish sauce.