9 Interesting Fish Sauce Substitute for Kimchi | Ideal Deal

Kimchi, a traditional Korean dish, is made with fish sauce. The unique taste of Kimchi makes so many people interested in this food. 

However, people who do not eat animals or are vegetarian should replace fish sauce with something similar. Therefore, the question is how to replace fish sauce substitute for kimchi.

We love our kimchi, but today we’re going to show you how to make it even better – by replacing fish sauce with alternatives

This is probably the easiest way to enhance your kimchi without resorting to chili pepper flakes. It’s just a matter of adding one extra ingredient and replacement fish sauce for kimchi.

What is Fish Sauce? What is fish sauce made of?

Fish sauce is an umami-rich food with a long history of use in many cuisines. For centuries, it has been used to add depth and flavor to dishes, most commonly in coastal regions where fish is plentiful. 

The process for making fish sauce begins by extracting the liquid from salted, fermented fish or prawns. 

As this liquid continues to ferment under specific conditions, it undergoes a series of stages that turn into a rich brown sauce with complex flavors and aromas.

Fish sauce is a familiar ingredient in many dishes from coastal regions of Asia, including Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Japan. 

Fish sauce is used as an ingredient in dipping sauces and marinades, such as nước chấm (Vietnamese Fish Dipping Sauce), and as a seasoning in many dishes, such as fried rice.

Fish sauce is generally used when cooking oriental dishes such as soup, stir fry, salad, and spring roll. It can be used in all kinds of cuisines but is often associated with Asian cuisine. 

Some people add a little bit of fish sauce to their dips, such as ketchup, mayonnaise, or barbecue sauce.

How Does fish sauce taste like?

Depending on the type of fish used, various tastes can be found. 

It is, however, usually salty and umami-rich with a light sweetness or moderate sourness from being aged in wooden barrels or vats. 

In some cases, sugar has been added to the sauce and salt.

Kimchi Ingredients

Kimchi is a typical traditional food in Korea, but it has become an international cuisine nowadays. 

Depending on the place and weather, kimchi can be made using various components. Napa Cabbage, white radish, onion, and green onion are the most prevalent ingredients in kimchi.

Cucumber, rather than cabbage, is used in several parts of the world. Instead of white radish, some places utilize radish, onion, and mustard green instead of white radish.

The most representative element of kimchi is its spicy taste (but this is not true for all dishes made with kimchi). 

To make spicy kimchi, chili pepper powder or gochugaru (the name of Korean red chili powder) is added in the beginning. 

Other ingredients are garlic, ginger, sugar, and salt. Depending on the region or personal tastes, people can add fish sauce or fermented seafood to their kimchi to give it a more unique taste.

If You don’t find Napa Cabbage use instead similar cabbage.

Why is There Fish sauce in kimchi?

Koreans eat kimchi with almost every meal, but have you ever wondered why it’s often accompanied by a bottle of fish sauce?

You often see fish sauce paired with kimchi because its salty, zesty flavor balances out the dish’s spiciness. 

If you’re not a fan of anchovy-flavored things, that’s totally fine—the fish sauce is found in many Asian dishes, so chances are you’ve eaten it before without even knowing! 

So there you have it! Although fish sauce may not be an essential ingredient, it is vital to make kimchi; its unique flavor adds another dimension to the spiced dish. 

What can I substitute for fish sauce for Kimchi? ( 9 Fish Sauce Alternatives)

1. Fish Sauce Substitute OYSTER SAUCE

The taste of the fish sauce is very similar to the oyster sauce, which you can find in any Asian store. 

You can add it as a replacement for the fish sauce, so if you’re making kimchi or cooking Thai food at home and don’t have any fish sauce, you can use oyster sauce instead.

use oyster sauce as a replacement for the fish sauce in kimchi.

The basic ingredients of both sauces are similar: a liquid from salted and fermented fish is mixed with a thickening agent such as wheat flour or tapioca starch to make it thicker. Then it’s flavored with sugar and salt.

Ingredients for Kimchi without Fish Sauce

  • 1.5 kg of cabbage (approx. 3 lbs), divided into leaves and the hard part of the stem, cut in thin stripes
  • 100g daikon radish (approx. 1/2 cup), cut in thin stripes (we used a peeler)
  • 1Tbsp salt
  • 1Tbsp sugar
  • 125ml (approx. 1/2 cup) water or apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 Tbsp oyster sauce, depending on taste (you can mix it with some kimchi juice before adding to the cabbage if you don’t want to add too much oyster sauce)
  • 1-2 Tbsp of gochujang (Korean red chili pepper paste), depending on taste


1. Put the cut cabbage and daikon in a large bowl with salt, sugar, oyster sauce, and water. Mix thoroughly until the cabbage has softened. It’s ideal to do this using your hands because you’ll massage the components more effectively.

2. Once the cabbage has softened a bit, put everything into a jar or ceramic container that can be covered with a lid or something similar. You might need 2 jars if your cabbage doesn’t fit in one.

3. Leave the kimchi overnight at room temperature (or in the fridge if it’s summer). The longer you keep it, the sourer and more potent it will get.

2. Fish Sauce Replacement With WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE for Kimchi

If you don’t have fish sauce, Worcestershire’s closest substitute. 

I see many kimchi recipes that call for Worcestershire sauce as an alternative to fish sauce. The ingredients are different, but the flavor is about the same.

You can replace fish sauce with Worcestershire sauce. Since it can be used for many Korean dishes, you will not miss the fish sauce.

The recipe to cook Kimchi with Worcestershire sauce instead of fish sauce is the same as the regular kimchi-making process. Use a 1:1 ratio of the sauce.

3. Substitute Fish Sauce with SHRIMP PASTE For Kimchi

You might have noticed that some recipes for Kimchi contain fish sauce, but actually, you can omit fish sauce from the recipe. 

Shrimp paste is the best substitute to fish sauce in kimchi recipes. This ingredient gives an almost similar flavor to a fish sauce with less sodium content. 

substitute fish sauce with shrimp paste for kimchi.

If you do not want to eat any fish products, it is suggested to cover with Shrimp Paste(Gulbishe ). And it is easy to find at any Asian supermarket.

  • For 1/2 cup fish sauce, put 8 oz. shrimp paste.

Shrimps are very healthy too. They are rich in protein, calcium, and potassium that are good for your health. 

If you prefer not to use shrimp paste in your kimchi recipes, you can also try the other upcoming alternative.

Shrimp paste can be stored in the freezer for up to six months, but when you already use it in cooking, don’t freeze and only keep it inside the refrigerator and make sure that it’s tightly closed in a container. 

If not well-taken care of, this sauce will quickly spoil, and its leftover should not be used.

4. Most Convenient SOY SAUCE Fish Sauce Substitute for Kimchi

Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish made by fermenting vegetables with various seasonings. One of the most essential ingredients in kimchi is “fish sauce.” 

It is not difficult to find fish sauce these days, but if you are vegan or vegetarian or do not eat any kind of seafood, it could be difficult for you to get hold of this sauce. 

Therefore, vegans can’t use fish sauce in the kimchi recipe; instead, they must use soy sauce to get the taste.

The main part of this question is how much to use because the taste is very different from fish sauce.

I’ve been using soy sauce as a substitute for fish sauce. Now I’ll tell you how to use soy sauce as a kimchi’s ingredient.

First of all – you have to buy the right kind of soy sauce – just normal or light soy sauce. I recommend you not use dark soy sauce because it can be too salty and more bitter than regular light soy sauce.

As a guide, just simply replace the fish sauce with 3 tablespoons of soy sauce for 1 kilo of kimchi ingredients (cabbages, radish, and any other vegetables).

When you combine the vegetables and other components with the seasonings (soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and other ingredients), taste it to see if it’s salty enough. If you need more salt, add a little extra soy sauce.

That’s how simple and easy to use light soy sauce as a substitute for fish sauce in the kimchi recipe.

Or you can try Japanese Kikkoman Soy Sauce for kimchi results is awsome of its unique taste. 

5. SEAWEED -A Decent Fish Sauce Alternative for Kimchi

Seaweed is sometimes used instead of fish sauce in the kimchi recipe. People use seaweed because it has a similar taste to fermented fish products. (Source)

However, using seaweed for making kimchi will not give you the same flavor. This is because different types of seaweeds have different flavors and smells. 

You can find sweet-smelling seaweeds used in cooking and eating a side dish use that one for kimchi. You can also try seaweeds substitute for other recipes.

6. Use BROTH (MUSHROOM+SOY SAUCE) Instead of Fish Sauce for Kimchi

If you don’t have any fish sauce substitute mentioned above or just want to avoid it, try Mushroom and soy sauce broth. It has a savory taste, like fish sauce.

To make broth take 3 to 4 cups of water, add dried shiitake mushrooms or their alternatives, 3 tbsp of soy sauce, and simmer for 20 minutes until it becomes half of the original amount.

Now it’s ready to use replace fish sauce in kimchi. Use a 2:1 ratio and store the rest of the broth in the fridge for different usage.

7. ANCHOVY ESSENCE -Similar Alternative to Fish Sauce

Anchovy essence is an artificial product made of boiled and burned anchovy, salt, and starch. 

Some cooks use it instead of fish sauce since they cannot get fish sauce or do not want to add a fishy smell to their cooking. 

Anchovy essence will be a completely different flavor than fish sauce and can be used as a substitute for fish sauce in kimchi.

You can use Anchovy Sauce for both kimchi and soups just need to adjust the quantity for each recipe because 

Anchovy Sauce is smellier than fish sauce and has a strong flavor but doesn’t taste salty. 

Anchovy is good for kimchi made with pork, seafood, and mung bean sprouts (kongnamul-naengchae) because it has a deep flavor that brings out the original taste of kimchi better than fish sauce does.

Fish sauce substitute vegetarian For Kimchi

1. LIQUID AMINOS- Vegan Fish Sauce Substitute For Kimchi

Liquid aminos are an excellent alternative for fish sauce. It has the same dark, salty flavor as a fish sauce but without the downside of using it. 

Most traditional food cultures worldwide have their own version of the fermented protein, whether fish sauce in Southeast Asia or soy sauce in China and Japan. 

Fermented protein is very high in glutamic acid, which is why it’s such a great flavor enhancer.

If you want to avoid fish sauce but feel like you really can’t cook without it, try using liquid aminos instead! It works great in all kinds of Thai recipes that call for fish sauce.

2. COCONUT AMINOS- Gluten-Free Replacement for Fish Sauce in Kimchi

Native forest Coconut Aminos is very similar to soy sauce in taste, but slightly sweeter and is thinner like fish sauce with its consistency. It smells sweet but is not disturbing.

Coconut aminos are made out of coconut sap treated much like the soy sauce production process. The product contains 17% sodium and 4% magnesium 1, which is less than conventional fish sauce.

There’s a reason why coconut aminos have become so popular in recent years- they’re soy-, wheat-, and gluten-free! 

If you want to make your dishes more flavorful without using meat or eggs, just swap out the Coconut amino for these deliciously rich ingredients at a ratio of 1 part sauce = 1 part raw ingredient. 

(Swap them for fish sauce at a 1-to-1 ratio in most recipes.)

Read More- Some Best Alternatives for Korean Radish

What is the best fish sauce for kimchi?

There are many types of fish sauce in the market, but my favorite is “3 Crabs”.

It has the perfect balance of salty, sweet, and umami flavor. Also, it’s organic. If you like to make your own kimchi (not vegan), I recommend looking for this brand in Asian/Thai markets.

Can I use soy sauce instead of fish sauce in kimchi?

Yes, you can use soy sauce instead of fish sauce in kimchi. 

In general, for a half-cut napa cabbage weighing about 2 pounds, mix 1/2 cup sea salt with 3 cups water and 2 tablespoons sugar to marinate the cabbage. 

Rinse the partially sliced napa cabbages briefly with cold running water and drain.

Marinate the cabbage in a mixture of 1/2 cup soy sauce instead of 1/4 cup fish sauce (or water), 2 tablespoons minced garlic, and 1 tablespoon grated ginger for about 30 minutes. 

Put it in a clean container and turn the cabbage over after 20 minutes to allow even fermentation. 

After turning over 3 times, place the cabbage in a clean container and cover with plastic wrap. Keep in the refrigerator.

Turn over once or twice a day to promote fermentation and place back in the refrigerator when not turning over. 

Kimchi is fully fermented when stems of the napa cabbages are slightly soft when pressed, usually 2-3 days after putting them in the fridge.

Kimchi made with fish sauce will be more flavorful and aromatic than that soy sauce, and the color will be slightly different.

Do you have to use fish sauce in kimchi?

No, you don’t have to use fish sauce. You can just use salt.

Only some regions in Korea have the tradition of using fish sauce (e.g., Jeolla-do, mostly). 

Also, not all types of kimchi contain fish sauce because it’s expensive, and some people believe the fish sauce causes stomach aches.

People believed that fish sauce made them strong and healthy in the past. 

Nowadays, most kimchi is mass-produced and contains a lot of salt. So, if you make your own kimchi, please feel free to use fish sauce according to your own taste or not at all because it’s expensive.

Substitute for Fish sauce in Pad Thai

In Thailand, people usually use fish sauce as one of the main ingredients for cooking Pad Thai Sauce. 

After visiting Southeast Asia, I found out that many local restaurants in Thailand are using different kinds of sauces instead of fish sauce for their Pad Thai dishes. 

This alternative sauce will make your sweet ingredient-loaded dish perfectly salty and full of flavor. 

You can do several things with fish sauce substitute sauce: stir fry vegetables, egg, or meat with it, but my favorite way to use this sauce is Pad Thai.

That is why I came up with the idea to create a substitute for the fish sauce so that people who are vegetarians can still enjoy Pad Thai Sauce at home just like everyone else does.

I have tried many different ingredients over the years, and boiled shrimp paste (kapee) is my final choice as a substitute for fish sauce because it has a complex flavor as the fish sauce does.

Boiled Shrimp Paste (Kapee)

I found out that shrimp paste can be a perfect ingredient. The flavor of this paste is very close to the fish sauce, just like the way anchovy, whitebait, or frog tastes. 

It might smell weird at first but don’t worry, it won’t affect your dish once you mix it with other ingredients.

To get the best flavor, I selected only three shrimp paste brands produced using fermented fish as the main ingredient. 

The first one is Ruang Khao Manee.

It has a very strong and pleasant flavor that is very close to the taste of the fish sauce. They also do many other products besides shrimp paste.

The second one is Maekrua

Their shrimp paste has an enjoyable taste with a bit of saltiness in it. 

The last one is Prik Tha-ngun.

They have a wide variety of products from different provinces in Thailand. Their shrimp paste is delicious as well. 

So, you can buy any brand of shrimp paste as long as it is made from fermented fish and has a nice flavor that you think will go well with the other ingredients in Pad Thai Sauce.

My Favorite Substitutes for Fish Sauce in Kimchi

  • Anchovy paste or sauce ( You can try Anchovy Substitute also in other recipes)
  • Shrimp paste
  • Liquid Aminos
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Homemade Broth

How to make kimchi sauce At Home

Making kimchi sauce at home is far easier than you might imagine. It’s also a lot cheaper than buying it ready-made in the stores. 

All you need are some fresh red chili pepper, garlic, shallots, and ginger. You can even use already ground gochugaru (Korean chili flakes ) if you do not have access to fresh red chili peppers.

You can also try Gochuang Alternative to make kimchi sauce.


100 g of gochugaru (Korean chili pepper flakes) or 5 dried red chili peppers, soaked in water for 20 minutes to rehydrate them 200g coarse sea salt 2 garlic cloves 1 tbsp grated ginger 3 shallots 1/2 onion 400ml bottled water


1. Prepare the ingredients. Drain gochugaru or dried chili peppers. 

2. Finely chop garlic, ginger, and shallots. 

3. Thinly slice the onion into half-moons, then mix them with the garlic, ginger, shallots in a large mixing bowl. 

4. Dissolve salt in 400ml of bottled water to make brine. Pour the brine into the mixing bowl and mix thoroughly, ensuring all ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the liquid. 

5. The kimchi sauce is ready to use immediately or stored in a covered container for up to three days in a cool place. 


If you do not have access to Korean chili flakes, dried red chili peppers can substitute. 

Soak the dried chili peppers in water for 20 minutes before using them for this recipe. 

If you do not want your kimchi sauce to be spicy, simply omit or reduce the amount of hot pepper used to make it.

FAQs Related To Fish Sauce & Its Alternatives for Kimchi

Q1. Can you use anchovy paste in kimchi?

Yes, you can absolutely use anchovy paste! The fishy smell and taste of the anchovy paste blend well with other ingredients to create a rich and savory depth in your kimchi. 

It is also an excellent substitute for some of the more difficult-to-find Korean ingredients within the United States.
Anchovy paste is frequently used in place of fish sauce. 

It’s sometimes referred to as “fish gravy” because of its deep brown color, which is similar to the color of soy sauce. 

Anchovy paste can be found at any Korean grocery store, or you can substitute it with half a cup of mushroom broth for that classic umami flavor.

Q2. Does Korean food use fish sauce?

Korean traditional food is made of various materials, ranging from vegetables to meat. 

Hence, you can find many dishes that are not spicy or hot in taste. Also, the primary seasoning used for cooking is soybean paste. 

Korean traditional food does not use fish sauce but instead uses soy sauce or soybean paste as its main seasoning. Also, salted seafood is used for flavor enhancement.

However, some dishes use fish sauce imported from Japan.

Thus, you should avoid confusing the two seasonings when you first visit Korea.

Q3. Does fish sauce taste as bad as it smells?

I don’t think so. Many people say that fish sauce has one of the worst smells in the world. However, for some reason, it adds a delicious flavor to food.

It is so salty and savory, which tricks our tongues into thinking we are eating something sweet.

We recommend you to give it a try if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to eat fish sauce.

We guarantee that once you taste it, your opinion of this deliciousness will change forever! 

Since this is an aromatic product, the smell will be stronger than the taste. But try not to breathe through your nose when tasting or cooking with it! 

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