Vegan Fish Sauce

December 11, 2015
3 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes 1 cup
Author Notes

When I dine at Vietnamese and Thai restaurants and request that they leave out the fish sauce, ubiquitous in South Asian cuisine, the dishes sometimes taste as if they are lacking something. That “something” is fish sauce, South Asia’s “secret ingredient” that adds oomph to dishes, injecting that special flavor that you can’t quite put your finger on.

Here is my vegan version that can be universally added to Asian-style dishes, lending them that extra “something.” And the secret ingredients in my fish sauce? Wakame, a seaweed, and the liquid from those jars of fermented tofu, a somewhat stinky Chinese condiment made by pre-serving tofu in wine, vinegar, and other ingredients for months (don’t be put off by the description!). Give it a try and then use it in everything from green papaya salad to Thai-style curries.

Reprinted from The Homemade Vegan Pantry, Copyright (c) 2015 by Miyoko Schinner. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. —miyokoschinner

What You'll Need
  • For the fish sauce:
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons organic sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • 1 tablespoon distilled vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons liquid from a jar of fermented tofu
  • 1 teaspoon wakame powder (recipe below)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • For the wakame powder:
  • 1 cup dried wakame
  1. For the fish sauce:
  2. Combine all of the ingredients in a jar and mix or shake well. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. Shake well each time before using to redistribute the wakame.
  1. For the wakame powder:
  2. Put the wakame in a blender and cover tightly. Process until it is completely pulverized. Wait a second for the wakame dust to settle before removing the lid, or you’ll lose some of it as it disperses into the air. Store in a covered jar at room temperature.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Anna Pryka
    Anna Pryka
  • Denise
  • Sheila
  • Marisol
I wrote my first cookbook nearly 25 years ago (The Now and Zen Epicure, Book Publishing Company, 1991) to dispel the myth that vegan food could not be gourmet. Back in San Francisco, I launched a vegan bakery, then a vegan restaurant (Now and Zen), where I went into labor with my second child during lunch rush (my third child came along only a year later, and I carried her in a bundle on my back as I ran around the kitchen). The restaurant eventually morphed into a natural food manufacturing company with national distribution, making everything from meat substitutes – including the UnTurkey – and cookies and pastries for United Airlines. Eventually, I sold the business to concentrate on raising my young family. My mission over the years has been to entice people to a compassionate, plant-based diet through delicious food. My passion for this mission has grown stronger each year, and now I carry that message to people around the country, actively promoting veganism through my books, talks, television shows (Vegan Mashup, seen on PBS) and cooking demonstrations. I am grateful to have been blessed with a life that allows me each day to rise and greet my ever-growing flock of rescued chickens, run with my dogs, cuddle with my cats, and enjoy life’s adventures with my human family (a husband, Michael, and three grown kids–Aki, Sera, and Cammy). I hope that I can continue working the rest of my life to inspire people, through delicious food, to adopt a diet that can save animals, the environment, and their health.

5 Reviews

Anna P. April 11, 2021
What could you substitute for tofu water if soy intolerant ?
Sheila July 1, 2018
So I made this to the T but found it too sweet. This is the modifications I did.

2g wakame seaweed
2 t total of sea salt
I boiled the water and threw in a sheet of dashi kombu seaweed

Doing that helped bring the salt content flavor through and the sea umami flavor.

I’ll let it set to room temperature and then put it in the fridge.
Marisol February 22, 2016
Really delicious recipe. I had to make an adjustment but I found it's not as strong as real fish sauce so I just had to use double the amount of fish sauce called for in the recipe I used it in. I didnt have time to shop for any wakeme so I just used some dried seaweed snacks. It was a little oily when I put it through the processor but it gave the needed ocean flavor needed. Kelp powder would have probably worked too.
Denise January 12, 2016
A recipe for oomph. Fabulous! Totally looking forward to giving this a try.
Hippolyta January 12, 2016