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Substitutes For Fish Sauce In Pad Thai

If you live in Asia or are into Asian foods, then there is a possibility that you know what fish sauce is. This liquid condiment has even gotten global recognition, and chefs worldwide now incorporate fish sauce into other non-Asian delicacies.

Being rich in umami flavor, it is no surprise that it is called for in many recipes, and you may have stumbled on these recipes at least once. A very popular recipe that calls for some fish sauce is the stir-fry rice noodle dish of Thailand called “Pad Thai.”

Pad Thai is traditional street food in Thailand, but it can also be prepared at home for you and the family to enjoy.

To make pad Thai, you need some fish sauce, but in a situation where you don’t have fish sauce in your pantry, some similar condiments can serve as good substitutes for fish sauce.

This article will take a closer look at what fish sauce is, how it is used in the culinary world, and how to substitute it in pad Thai when you run all out of this sauce.

Substitutes For Fish Sauce In Pad Thai

What is fish sauce?

Fish sauce is a light brown condiment made from fermented fish or krill. The fermentation process involves adding large quantities of salt to small fishes like anchovies or krill, and this process can last up to 2 years.

Fish sauce has been in use for a long time by ancient Mediterranean people, and we can trace the earliest record of this rich umami condiment back to the 4th century BC when the Ancient Greeks produced it.

Today, fish sauce is packaged in small bottles and sold in grocery stores all over.

Uses of fish sauce in recipes 

Fish sauce gives a pleasant umami flavor to whatever it is incorporated into. Whether it’s used as a marinade for meats or as a base for a salad, it is sure to your taste buds craving for more. But today, I would be looking at one recipe in particular: the “pad Thai” recipe.

Like in other savory dishes, fish sauce plays an essential role in the final flavor of pad Thai. The flavor of fish sauce can be described as savory and slightly earthy.

Apart from pad Thai, below are some recipes that call on the fish sauce because of its delicious umami flavor;

  • Stir-fried greens with fish sauce
  • Fish sauce caramel pork chop with Asian slaw
  • Summer rambutan curry
  • Lao poached bass with shallots and eggplants 
  • Razor clams fantasia
  • Okra and seafood stew
  • Thai boat noodle soup
  • Piquant pickled pineapple 
  • Soba salad with marinated cucumber and ponzu
  • Crispy sprouts
  • Thai fish burger
  • Green curry and taro stem soup with bacon
  • Grilled shrimp summer rolls
  • Sour curry soup with shrimp
  • Thai green papaya salad

Substitutes for fish sauce in pad Thai 

If you are a lover of pad Thai, it would be no surprise if you have already tried making some pad Thai at home. If you have embarked on this mission before, you know that fish sauce is an important ingredient in preparing this Thai street food.

Not everyone can boast of always having fish sauce stocked at home, which is why it is important to have a suitable substitute for the umami condiment at all times. Don’t get me wrong, you should stock up on fish sauce if you get the chance to, but if you can’t, here are some substitutes that would work perfectly in pad Thai.

Soy Sauce 

Soy sauce



Soy sauce is a trendy sauce, and you may already have some hanging out in your pantry. You can also make pad Thai with soy sauce if you are out of the fish sauce.

Soy sauce is also rich in umami, but it isn’t as sour as fish sauce. To achieve a more sour flavor, you should add a little lime juice or a similar ingredient.

Soy sauce is also very healthy and is made from fermented soybeans, wheat, salt, and water. It will be a good option if you are on a vegetarian diet.

When substituting in pad Thai, use 1/2 soy sauce where the recipe calls for fish sauce, and slowly increase the quantity of soy sauce until the needed flavor is achieved.

Oyster Sauce

Oyster sauce


Like soy sauce, oyster sauce is also trendy, especially in Asia. Oyster sauce is the perfect sauce for stir-fry recipes, and it would do a fantastic job in pad Thai.

It has a thicker consistency and a sweeter flavor than fish sauce. When added to pad Thai, it would yield a sweeter flavor. If you want a similar consistency to fish sauce, add some water to the oyster sauce before use.

When shopping for oyster sauce, avoid buying the cheaper brands that contain caramel coloring because it is a coloring agent with potential carcinogenicity.

When substituting in pad Thai, use the same oyster sauce for fish sauce.




Tamari is very similar to soy sauce, although it is produced differently. It contains different ingredients: salt miso paste that contains soybeans, brine, and fungus.

It can add a reasonable umami flavor to pad Thai, and unlike soy sauce, it doesn’t contain wheat, making it an excellent gluten-free alternative for replacing fish sauce in pad Thai.

Use a 1 to 1 ratio when substituting.

Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire sauce


This popular English sauce can be a good substitute for fish sauce in pad Thai. Like fish sauce, it is made by fermenting anchovies for a long time and shares a similar flavor profile.

Worcestershire sauce is also good to avoid the excess sodium found in fish sauce. Apart from pad Thai, you can also use Worcestershire sauce as a marinade for meat or dishes.

When incorporating Worcestershire sauce into the Thai pad recipe, use a 1 to 1 ratio wherever the recipe calls for fish sauce.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Do I need to salt pad Thai?

If you are looking to reduce your sodium intake, adding salt to pad Thai may not be a good idea. The fish sauce already contains a decent quantity of salt, giving the dish a salty-umami flavor.

Can I use coconut aminos in pad Thai?

Coconut aminos are also rich in umami flavor. If you wish to add it to pad Thai, you should know that it is sweeter than fish sauce. Coconut aminos are also gluten-free and vegan friendly.

Does fish sauce taste like fish?

Yes! The major ingredient of fish sauce is fish. But it gets its final flavor because of the fermentation process.


To summarize everything said so far, fish sauce is a must-have for pad Thai. Having some in your pantry is also good because many dishes now call for this condiment. But if you don’t have fish sauce, some similar sauces work well in pad Thai.

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