Authentic Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce Recipe

Welcome to my kitchen, where the flavors of Southeast Asia come to life. Today, I’m going to take you on a culinary journey through Vietnam with a recipe for Quick Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce. This savory-sweet dish is a staple in Vietnamese cuisine, and easy to make at home with just a few ingredients.

As a chef who specializes in Vietnamese and Asian cuisine, let me tell you that this dish perfectly embodies the richness and complexity of Vietnamese flavors. The fish is marinated in a blend of fish sauce, brown sugar, and soy sauce. Then it’s cooked in a caramel sauce made from brown sugar, garlic, onion, and fish sauce until it’s both tender and crispy.

The balance of spicy, sour, salty, and sweet flavors will take your taste buds on a rollercoaster ride. And whether you’re an experienced chef or a beginner in the kitchen, this recipe is simple enough for anyone to master.

So join me as we dive into the recipe for this Quick Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce. I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed with the outcome!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Quick Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce
Quick Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce

Do you want to indulge in a delightful Vietnamese cuisine without spending hours in the kitchen? If so, then this Quick Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce Recipe is the perfect dish for you. Trust me when I say that you’ll fall in love with its savory-sweet flavor and soft texture that melts in your mouth like butter.

This recipe uses a blend of traditional Vietnamese ingredients such as fish sauce, garlic cloves, onion, and fresh lime juice which create an irresistible aroma and provide a rich depth of flavor. Additionally, the caramel sauce adds a touch of sweetness that balances out the spiciness of fresh ground black pepper.

But what makes this dish even more tantalizing is that it only takes about 30 minutes to make from start to finish! Perfect for busy weeknights, unexpected guests or anytime really. The effortless cooking process does not compromise the quality of the dish. And when you take a bite out of this heavenly Vietnamese fish paired with rice or noodles, you will realize just how wonderfully impactful simplicity can be.

Also, if you are looking for some variation in seafood dishes, you can mix things up with using pork, chicken wings or thighs instead of fish. This recipe transforms into something brand new after switching up the protein and keeping everything else constant.

So why wait? Take your taste buds on an adventure and give this Quick Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce Recipe a try. I am sure it won’t disappoint!

Ingredient List

 Perfectly caramelized fish fillets swimming in a sea of savory caramel sauce.
Perfectly caramelized fish fillets swimming in a sea of savory caramel sauce.

Before we jump into the recipe, let me walk you through the ingredients that you will need to make this quick and easy Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce Recipe. Don’t worry if some of these ingredients are new to you- they are all easily found in Asian markets or online.


  • 2 lbs red snapper (or any type of white fish would work). Cut it into 2-inch pieces.

Caramel Sauce

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp turmeric (optional)

Other Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Fresh lime juice

That’s it! The list may seem long, but don’t worry as most of the ingredients are used for the caramel sauce.

The Recipe How-To

 This Vietnamese dish is an explosion of sweet and salty flavors that will set your taste buds on fire!
This Vietnamese dish is an explosion of sweet and salty flavors that will set your taste buds on fire!

Step 1: Marinate the Fish

  • Using a large bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, and a pinch of fresh ground black pepper.

  • Add in 2 lbs of sliced red snapper fillets, stir well to coat.

  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, preferably overnight.

Step 2: Prepare the Caramel Sauce

  • In a separate bowl, mix together 1/4 cup of water, 3/4 cup of brown sugar, and 1/3 cup of fish sauce.

  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add in 2 tbsp of vegetable oil.

  • When the oil is hot, add in one large chopped onion, stirring occasionally until softened and lightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes.

  • Add in finely sliced garlic cloves and cook for an additional minute or two, until fragrant.

  • Stir in the caramel sauce mixture and bring it to a boil. Then lower the heat to medium-low, cook for about 10 minutes until the sauce thickens and darkens into a sauce caramel.

Step 3: Braising the Fish

  • Add the marinated fish into the skillet with the caramel sauce. Turn up the heat to medium-high and pour in enough water (about 2 cups) to cover the fish completely, followed by some coconut water or just plain water that you have on hand. The liquid should be at least 1 inch above the fish surface.

  • Bring it to a boil. Use a spatula to gently move cooked pieces around so that uncooked pieces can cook more evenly. Cook for about 15 -20 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced down, turn to low heat and continue simmering until the fish is fully cooked and meltingly tender.

  • Sprinkle with some fresh lime juice and garnish with thinly sliced fresh chilies or herbs of your choice.

This Vietnamese caramelized fish dish is best served with steamed jasmine rice and stir-fried vegetables as a perfect balance of savory saltiness from the fish sauce, rich flavors of sauce caramel and sweetness from the brown sugar.

Substitutions and Variations

 You won't believe how simple it is to make this stunning and delicious meal in just 30 minutes!
You won’t believe how simple it is to make this stunning and delicious meal in just 30 minutes!

Hey there, culinary adventurer! Are you feeling daring and want to experiment with new ingredients in your dishes? Here are some substitutions and variations that you can try on this Quick Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce recipe.

• Fish: While red snapper is the recommended fish for this dish, any white, firm-fleshed fish such as cod, tilapia, bluefish or trout would work well too. Just make sure that the portions are roughly 1-2 lbs.

• Pork: Want something meatier? You can also substitute the fish with slices of pork shoulder or pork belly for a more savory-sweet flavor.

• Chicken: If you prefer chicken over fish or pork, boneless chicken thighs or chicken wings will do wonders with the caramel sauce. Just make sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly to prevent overcooking.

• Vegetarian: For our vegetable-loving folks out there, you can substitute the fish with a firm tofu or tempeh. Cut them into bite-sized cubes and pan-fry until golden brown before adding them to the sauce.

• Spicier version: If you think that the dish is not spicy enough for you, increase the amount of fresh ground black pepper in the recipe. Alternatively, you can also add some sliced Thai chili peppers to your liking.

• Coconut variation: For a lighter version of this dish that packs a subtle coconut aroma and sweetness, replace half of the water with coconut water.

Remember that these substitutions and variations are simply suggestions for experimentation. Be adventurous! Feel free to mix and match according to your preferences and available ingredients in your pantry. Who knows, you might accidentally stumble upon a new favorite recipe!

Serving and Pairing

 The tender fish fillets soak up all the succulent juices from the luscious caramel sauce.
The tender fish fillets soak up all the succulent juices from the luscious caramel sauce.

Once your Quick Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce Recipe is ready, it is time to serve it up and enjoy the flavors of Vietnam. This dish can be served with a variety of sides, including steamed white rice or quinoa, as well as a simple green salad dressed with a tangy vinaigrette.

For those who love heat, add sliced Thai chilies to the dish to make it extra spicy. The combination of savory sweetness and spice will tantalize your taste buds.

If you want to elevate this dish even further, consider pairing it with a crisp white wine, such as a Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling. The acidity in the wine will cut through the richness of the caramel sauce, making the flavors pop.

For beer drinkers, an IPA or amber ale will complement the flavors of this Vietnamese fish recipe. If you prefer non-alcoholic options, try serving this dish with chilled coconut water or fresh limeade for a refreshing twist.

No matter how you choose to serve and pair this Vietnamese caramel fish recipe, one thing is for certain: your taste buds will thank you for the explosion of flavors and textures on your plate.

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 A true culinary gem, this dish is packed with authentic Vietnamese flavors that will make your mouth water.
A true culinary gem, this dish is packed with authentic Vietnamese flavors that will make your mouth water.

Preparing a freshly cooked Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce recipe is the best way to experience its savory-sweet deliciousness. However, if you find yourself in a time crunch, this recipe can also be made ahead of time and stored for later consumption.

To make ahead, let the dish cool down completely before storing it in an airtight container. You can store it in the fridge for up to three days or freeze it for up to a month. To reheat, simply place it in a microwave-safe dish with a tablespoon of water and heat for two to three minutes until thoroughly hot.

The Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce recipe is one that gets better with time. As it sits, the caramel sauce will penetrate more into the fish, enhancing its flavor even further. So don’t be afraid to make this dish ahead of time and save it for later!

When storing leftovers, separate the fish from the sauce to prevent discoloration and maintain its texture. Before reheating, make sure to give the sauce and fish a good stir to ensure even heating. Additionally, if you plan to freeze it, make sure that the container is freezer-safe and tightly sealed for long-lasting preservation.

For those who love meal prepping or cooking in large batches, this recipe can be easily doubled or tripled without sacrificing quality or taste. Just make sure you have enough storage containers on hand!

Tips for Perfect Results

 Get ready to sink your teeth into the tenderest fish that simply melts in your mouth.
Get ready to sink your teeth into the tenderest fish that simply melts in your mouth.

To achieve the perfect outcome for your Quick Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce, there are a few tips to keep in mind. This dish is delicate and requires a bit of finesse to balance the savory-sweet flavors. Here are some tips to help you achieve an excellent result.

1. Don’t overcook the fish

Overcooking the fish can lead to a dry, chewy texture that detracts from the flavor of the dish. It’s essential to keep an eye on the cooking time and remove the fish from the heat as soon as it’s cooked through.

2. Use fresh ingredients

Using fresh ingredients like limes, garlic, and onions will make a significant difference in the overall taste of this dish. Fresh herbs like cilantro can also add a pop of flavor.

3. Adjust seasoning according to taste

The amount of fish sauce, sugar, and soy sauce you need may vary depending on your palate’s sensitivity. Start with smaller amounts and adjust to taste as needed.

4. Use a good-quality fish sauce

Fish sauce is an essential ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine and provides an umami flavor that complements this dish well. Choose a good quality brand for the best results.

5. Let it rest

After cooking, let the dish rest for 5-10 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld together fully.

By following these tips, you’ll be able to create an authentic, delicious Quick Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce that everyone will love!

Bottom Line

In conclusion, this Quick Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce recipe is a must-try for all fish lovers out there. The combination of savory and sweet flavors of the fish sauce caramel is simply irresistible. I recommend trying this recipe out with red snapper or any other fish of your choice, depending on the region you live in. You can also experiment with different substitutions and variations to make it more personalized to your taste.

As an expert in Vietnamese and Asian cuisine, I assure you that this recipe will make your taste buds dance with joy. So go ahead and give it a try! Impress your family and guests with this delightful, easy-to-make meal that showcases the bold tastes of Vietnamese cuisine.

I hope my detailed instructions have helped you in whipping up a storm in the kitchen. Don’t forget to use my tips and tricks to perfect the dish, especially paying attention to the sweetness levels. Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t be afraid to give this recipe multiple tries until you get it right.

So what are you waiting for? Get cooking now and experience the unique flavors of Vietnam’s traditional dishes at the comfort of your own home.

Quick Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce

Quick Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce Recipe

Tracy K highly recommends this recipe - and I trust her recommendations. From the July, 2006 edition of 'Delicious' for posterity...
No ratings yet
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Vietnamese
Calories 379.5 kcal


  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 3/4 lbs red snapper, skin on, cut into 2 1/4 inch pieces (or other mild white fish, Tracy used catfish, without skin)
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup dark soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • fresh ground black pepper


  • Combine soy sauce, brown sugar and fish sauce, set aside.
  • Heat 1 tablespoons oil in skillet over high heat. When hot, cook fish skin side down 2 minutes, or until lightly browned. Turn and cook one minute, then remove from skillet.
  • Reduce heat to medium and add remaining 1/2 Tbsp oil. Add onion, cook 2 minutes or until wilted and just beginning to brown. Add garlic, cook one minute. Add soy sauce mixture, stir well. Return fish to skillet and cook 2-3 minutes, or until sauce is dark and syrupy. Top with lime juice and black pepper.
  • Serve with steamed rice and vegetables (sauteed greens are good here!).

Add Your Own Notes


Serving: 301gCalories: 379.5kcalCarbohydrates: 32.1gProtein: 43.9gFat: 7.8gSaturated Fat: 1.2gCholesterol: 73.6mgSodium: 2261.2mgFiber: 0.6gSugar: 28.6g
Keyword < 15 Mins, Healthy
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