Korean
ingredients of vegan fish sauce in a saucepan

vegan fish sauce ingredients in a saucepan

Easy. Powerful. Delightful.

This vegan fish sauce recipe will catapult to the top of your list of favorite condiments. Easy to make but incredibly flavorful, this delicious sauce will be the secret weapon to your vegan pho, your stir-fried vegetables, and most importantly, the best vegan kimchi you've ever had.

What is fish sauce?

If you love Asian cuisine, you've probably come across fish sauce at some point. With its depth of flavor and ability to aid fermentation, fish sauce often plays an important role in imparting not only the flavor of the fish, but also in elevating the flavor of all the other ingredients in the dish.

Fish sauce or 엑젓 is also one of the most popular ingredients in Korean cuisine. The key ingredient in traditional fish sauce (at least for Korean food) is fermented anchovy, that little fish you sometimes see inside a tin container at the supermarket. The second ingredient of Korean fish sauce is fine sea salt. As you might expect, fish sauce has both a pungent flavor and a fishy scent. This is especially true of the Korean variety, which tends to have a more intense flavor than the sweeter, milder version found in Vietnamese food and Thai cuisine.

Is it possible to make Korean food without real fish sauce? Sure, but I have good news: with this vegan fish sauce recipe in your arsenal, you won't have to do that again! Creating homemade vegan fish sauce was one of the first things I tackled when I adopted a vegan diet (to make vegan kimchi, duh!). One of the best compliments I've ever received on all my recipes was from my mother who, after trying my vegan version of fish sauce, gave it a good sniff before adding it to our kimchi and whispered:

“Oh. It tastes like real fish sauce! How did you make it?”

Why you'll love this vegan fish sauce recipe.

  • So easy. This recipe requires only a few minutes of preparation. The rest of the magic happens on the stovetop (which requires no labor on your part)!
  • Suitable for gluten-free. Just replace the soy sauce with gluten-free soy sauce or coconut aminos and add a few more mushrooms in place of the oyster mushroom sauce and this recipe is gluten-free!
  • Versatile. We recommend using this vegan fish sauce in everything! Obviously, use it to make the best vegan kimchi, but you can also add it to tons of different recipes, like fried rice, braised tofu, and even doenjang chigae!
  • It has the flavor and effect of real fish sauce. The best thing about this recipe is that it really tastes and acts like real fish sauce. One of the reasons why fish sauce is such an important component of so many Korean dishes is not only its taste, but its ability favoring fermentation. The inclusion of soy sauce and multiple vinegars mimics this property.

How to make vegan fish sauce like the real thing.

If you've never had fish sauce, vegan or otherwise, here's what it tastes like, in order of importance:

Therefore, in creating a vegan alternative to fish sauce, we must replicate and balance the four flavors mentioned above. There are two keys to a high-quality vegan alternative to regular fish sauce: the right ingredients AND time. That's right: you will have to boil the ingredients for a long time. The good news is that once you put all the ingredients together, there aren't many steps to do. Just boil and filter!

You'll find that many of the elements that make up this vegan fish sauce are actually common ingredients (e.g. soy sauce, vinegar, mushrooms) that, when mixed together, create that complex flavor, the one you can't really put your finger on. finger, but it's so prevalent in your favorite Asian recipes. This flavor profile is sometimes referred to as an “umami flavor.” But what does “umami” actually refer to? Some people describe umami as a “savory taste,” but I like to think of it more as what it makes me do: wrinkle my nose and start drooling. That's the reaction we're aiming for with this vegan fish sauce.

Vegan fish sauce stewed in a small saucepan

Ingredients for this vegan fish sauce and notes on substitutions.

The following are the key ingredients of this vegan fish sauce:

  • I'm Willow. Soy sauce serves as the base for this vegan fish sauce recipe. Not only does it check “salty” in the flavor list above, but it's fermented, just like the anchovies in Korean fish sauce. Being a fermented ingredient, it also promotes fermentation in what it is added to (like kimchi!). Finally, Korean fish sauce is light brown in color, and since most people also eat with their eyes, the color of soy sauce helps replicate the look of real fish sauce. In this regard, Korean soy sauce is a great option (this is gluten free), as it is saltier than regular soy sauce, but lighter in color. If you can't use soy sauce, coconut aminos are your best bet.
  • Algae and algae. You can use all different types of seaweed for this fish sauce recipe. All it takes is a stroll down the “laver” aisle of your local Asian supermarket to reveal a whole new world of sea plants. What kind of seaweed should you use? Wakame (or undaria) or dulse seaweed are both good options for this recipe (I use wakame). I also use dashima or dried seaweed to intensify the fishy flavor of this vegan fish sauce.
  • Mushrooms. Believe it or not, many mushroom varieties also impart a fishy flavor. For example, dried shiitake mushrooms, combined with oyster and enoki mushrooms, can help develop that umami-induced “nose-wrinkling” effect we discussed earlier. To ramp up the umami, this recipe also includes vegetarian “oyster sauce,” made primarily from oyster mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms. If you can't find vegetarian oyster sauce, add a few more mushrooms.
  • shallot. Shallots aren't exactly suspect, but they contain a lot of umami (next time try making red sauce with shallots – you'll know exactly what I mean). Like fish sauce, shallots also add a hint of sweetness that balances the bold saltiness of soy sauce and pairs exceptionally well with the delicate fishiness of seaweed.
  • Vinegar and Mirin. In addition to fish and salty, we have to deal with acid. This is where vinegar and mirin (rice wine) come in. Like soy sauce, vinegar is both fermented and fermented.eng and is therefore a logical component of any vegan fish sauce (which is also fermented and fermentedeng). This vegan fish sauce contains both balsamic and rice vinegar, as well as mirin, which remind me a lot of regular fish sauce in that they are tart and also a little sweet. These are also available at most regular grocery stores.
  • Korean apple pear. The apple and pear do a great job of providing just a little sweetness to this vegan fish sauce. If you can't find the Korean apple pear, you can replace it with a Fuji apple or any other sweet apple.

Step by step guide to making vegan fish sauce.

First, add all the ingredients to a saucepan, along with the filtered water. Bring the entire mixture to a boil, lower the heat, and let the liquid simmer until it is significantly reduced from its original volume (about 90 minutes to 2 hours). Turn off the stove and set the mixture aside to cool completely.

TIP: Thoroughly wash the shallot, garlic cloves and apple pear with the peels. Don't remove the peels when adding them to the pot – the peels will exponentially increase the amount of flavor these ingredients impart.

Once the liquid has cooled, strain it through a strainer, strainer or colander Chinese (my husband actually bought me a chinois for Christmas one year and it remains one of my all-time favorite gifts!!) in an airtight container (I usually use a 12 oz glass jar).

Strain the vegan fish sauce through a chinois

Pop that bad boy in the fridge and you'll end up with the best vegan fish sauce for your vegan kimchi, stir-fried veggies, dumpling sauce, and all kinds of Asian favorites!

Frequent questions.

Can't you just buy vegan fish sauce these days?

Absolutely. However, they are quite expensive (I've seen a small bottle for almost $30) and, often, aren't much better than really salty soy sauce. Finally, many brands of vegan fish sauces are not easily accessible: you will have to shop online or in specialized stores to find them.

How long does vegan fish sauce stay good?

If you store vegan fish sauce in the refrigerator, it will last for several months.

What are some Korean dishes that use fish sauce?

Fish sauce makes its way into much of Korean food, not just kimchi. Many side dishes (or banchan), including those that are just sautéed vegetables, contain a drop or two of fish sauce. Korean stews (or chigae) also often contain fish sauce. In other words, you'll find yourself adding this vegan fish sauce to so many recipes!


Recipe tab

vegan fish sauce ingredients in a saucepan

The BEST Vegan Fish Sauce

Giovanna Molinaro

This vegan fish sauce will be one of the most used condiments in your arsenal! Super flavorful and easy!

Preparation time 10 minutes

Time to cook 2 hours

Course Seasoning

Kitchen Korean

  • 1 small saucepan

  • 1 strainer or chinois

  • 1 1/2 cup I'm willow (preferably soy sauce soup)
  • 6 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup oyster mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup enoki mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup Korean apple pear (can replace Fuji apple or other sweet apple)
  • Five 2 inch dashima pieces (dried seaweed or kombu)
  • 2 spoons dried wakame
  • 2 spoons viewfinder
  • 2 spoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 spoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon oyster mushroom sauce
  • 2 medium shallot (washed, peeled and cut in half)
  • 4 medium segments garlic (washed, unpeeled, ends cut)
  • Combine soy sauce, mushrooms, wakame, dashima, balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, mirin, peppercorns, mushroom sauce, apple, pear, scallions, and garlic with 3 cups filtered water in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce the heat and let simmer until the sauce has reduced to about half its original volume (90 minutes to 2 hours). Remove from the heat and let the liquid cool completely.

  • Pour the contents of the pot through a strainer, chinois or similar strainer into an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. Freeze for additional use.


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