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What Does Fish Sauce Taste Like?

Fish sauce does not have the most appetizing of names, does it? It’s not the kind of sauce you want to immediately rush to and eat. That being said, you shouldn’t let that put you off. But what does it actually taste like and what can you expect? Let’s find out!

So, what does fish sauce taste like? Fish sauce is salty, savory, and earthy in flavor with notes of umami. It also has sweet undertones and a tanginess and is generally quite runny in consistency. While there is some regional variability, most brands do taste very similar. Nevertheless, a little goes a long way with this sauce.

Fermenting fish, particularly anchovies, is how fish sauce is made.

The clue is in the title really.

Sometimes a little sugar is added, but not always.

Nevertheless, this is a sauce with minimum ingredients.

And s you can imagine, this is a sauce that is going to taste somewhat like the sea.

What Is Fish Sauce Similar To?

Fish sauce is most similar to Worcestershire sauce, Soy sauce, and Oyster sauce; all of which are routinely used as substitutes.

Worcestershire sauce is very similar in the fact that it is also based on anchovies specifically.

Although Worcestershire sauce does have a range of other ingredients too, making it a little different. You’ll see by looking at the ingredients of the popular Lea & Perrins brand below:

Malt Vinegar (from Barley), Spirit Vinegar, Molasses, Sugar, Salt, Anchovies (Fish), Tamarind Extract, Onions, Garlic, Spice, Flavourings

Remember, your average typical fish sauce recipe calls for anchovies and salt. Sometimes sugar – that’s it.

Despite being made of different ingredients altogether, fish sauce shares similar umami flavors to Soy sauce.

Again, we can see the average base of a Soy Sauce recipe below:

Soybeans, wheat, salt, and a fermenting agent.

So while soy sauce is based on soybeans, not anchovies, they do share similar qualities.

Although, soy sauce is often a little stronger and less “fishy” in that respect.

That cannot be said for Oyster sauce, which is made from another member of the ocean. You guessed it, oysters (specifically oyster extract).

Although, Oyster sauce tends to be a little sweeter, thicker, and more syrupy. It uses more sugar and calls for cornstarch in the recipe too, which adds an element of thickness.

What Is Fish Sauce Used For?

Fish sauce is a widely used and popular staple in Southeast Asian cuisine. It is regularly consumed in Thailand, Vietnam, and China too.

And fish sauce is used pretty extensively and pretty liberally in such places.

It’s an incredibly versatile sauce, after all.

So, it is used in a far-reaching range of dishes, including:

  • For stir fries and noodle dishes, such as Pad Thai
  • To marinate meats,
  • To dress vegetables,
  • To boost the flavor of soups and stews,
  • As a base to salad dressings,
  • Enfused with other sauces and condiments,
  • As a dipping sauce for vegetables, spring rolls or other

In fact, despite being fish sauce, it pairs wonderfully with meats.

You can also use fish sauce as a dipping sauce for finger foods such as spring rolls!


Fish sauce tastes much better than it smells.

And while you will get a hint of fish from the anchovies, the tastes you’ll quickly experience are salty, savory, tangy, and umami-based.

It’s a sauce that is enjoyed in many cultures and for good reason.

So do try some – perhaps as a dipping sauce at first so you can see if you like it.

Once you confirm that you do, be sure to add some to your stir-fries, or marinate some meat – pork works particularly well, by the way.

You’ll soon see what the fuss is all about.

And if you are looking for a brand of fish sauce to buy, look no further than Red Boat.

That’s an authentic, delicious, and popular favorite!