Authentic Vietnamese Fish Sauce Recipe for Best Flavor

There’s something magical about Vietnamese cuisine. The blend of fresh flavors, vibrant colors, and fragrant herbs make for a truly unique culinary experience. And while there are many dishes that come to mind when thinking about Vietnamese food, one staple ingredient that cannot be overlooked is fish sauce.

Fish sauce is a crucial component in many Vietnamese dishes, from soups to stir-fries to dipping sauces. Known as “nuoc mam” or “nước mắm” in Vietnamese, this pungent liquid can be intimidating for those who haven’t worked with it before. But fear not! With the right recipe and some tips and tricks, you’ll soon find yourself falling in love with this essential ingredient.

In this recipe article, I’ll be sharing my go-to recipe for homemade Vietnamese fish sauce, also known as “nuoc cham”. This simple yet flavorful sauce is made with just a few ingredients – fish sauce, water, sugar, lime juice, and minced garlic – and comes together in no time. Whether as a dipping sauce or a marinade for grilled meats, this Vietnamese fish sauce is sure to impress.

So put on your apron and let’s dive into the world of Vietnamese cuisine with this delicious and versatile homemade fish sauce recipe.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Vietnamese Fish Sauce
Vietnamese Fish Sauce

Listen up, folks, because I’m about to introduce you to the holy grail of Vietnamese cuisine – the one and only Vietnamese Fish Sauce recipe. If you’re a foodie at heart like me, then you’ll know that the right dipping sauce can make all the difference in elevating a dish from “just okay” to “absolutely delicious.” That’s where nuoc cham, the classic Vietnamese dipping sauce made with fish sauce, comes in. Trust me when I say that once you taste this sauce, you’ll never go back to boring ketchup or soy sauce again.

What sets this recipe apart from others is its perfect balance of sweet, sour, salty, and umami flavors. The combination of fish sauce, minced garlic cloves, lime juice and sugar creates a medley of flavors that complement any dish it’s served with – whether it’s scabbard fish or vermicelli noodles. Plus, it’s super easy and quick to whip up; all you need is a small bowl and less than five minutes of your time.

But that’s not all – this recipe is also incredibly versatile. You can customize it to your liking by adjusting the levels of each ingredient. Want it more sweet? Add extra sugar. Prefer it more tangy? Add more lime juice. The possibilities are endless with nuoc cham.

So why will you love this recipe? Not only does it take any dish from good to great, but it also adds a touch of authenticity to your home-cooked meals. Your taste buds will be in for an adventure as they experience the explosion of flavors in this classic Vietnamese dipping sauce. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself and see!

Ingredient List

 A potent blend of sweet and salty flavors.
A potent blend of sweet and salty flavors.

Here are the recipe ingredients you’ll need for a classic Vietnamese fish sauce dipping sauce, also known as Nuoc Cham:


  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small carrot, shredded
  • 1 red chili pepper, sliced (optional)

This recipe uses fish sauce as a main ingredient, along with sugar, lime juice, water and minced garlic cloves. Adding shredded carrots gives the sauce a slightly sweeter taste and a hint of crunch. If you prefer spicy notes in your dipping sauce, you can add sliced chili pepper or chili garlic sauce to the mixture. This Vietnamese fish sauce recipe creates about half a cup of sauce nuoc cham, perfect for serving two to four people as a dipping sauce.

The Recipe How-To

 A dipping sauce that is anything but ordinary!
A dipping sauce that is anything but ordinary!

Preparing the Sauce

  1. In a small bowl, combine 3/4 cup of warm water with 2 tbsps of granulated sugar.
  2. Mix the water and sugar well to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Add 1/4 cup of fish sauce and stir to combine.
  4. Add 3 tbsps of fresh lime juice and stir again until all ingredients are mixed.
  5. [Optional] To give the sauce a bit more depth, add a pinch of red chili flakes or chopped fresh chili peppers according to your preference.
  6. Set aside the sauce in room temperature while you prepare other dishes or refrigerate it for later use.

This simple recipe yields a classic Vietnamese fish sauce dipping sauce (nước chấm) that is versatile and enhances any dish it accompanies highly!

Substitutions and Variations

 Elevate your dish with this umami-packed sauce.
Elevate your dish with this umami-packed sauce.

Looking to switch things up with your Vietnamese Fish Sauce recipe? Here are a few substitutions and variations worth trying:

– Anchovy Sauce: Instead of using fish sauce made from anchovies, swap it out for a classic Vietnamese dipping sauce called “nước mắm.” This sauce is made from fermented anchovies and salt, and it has a more pungent, slightly sweeter flavor than regular fish sauce.

– Lime Juice: If you don’t have fresh lime juice on hand, you can substitute it with bottled lime juice or even lemon juice. Just note that the flavor will be slightly different, so adjust accordingly.

– Sugar: Don’t have granulated sugar? You can use brown sugar or honey as a substitute. Keep in mind that using honey will add a touch of sweetness, so adjust the ratios accordingly.

– Water: Can’t find Vietnamese fish sauce in your local grocery store? No problem! You can use regular fish sauce mixed with water and sugar to make your own “nuoc cham” dipping sauce. Just mix together 3 tablespoons of fish sauce, 3 tablespoons of water, and 2 tablespoons of sugar until dissolved.

– Vermicelli: Switch up how you serve your Vietnamese Fish Sauce by pairing it with vermicelli instead of rice. This makes for a refreshing and light meal option, perfect for a hot day.

No matter which substitutions or variations you choose to experiment with, always taste as you go to ensure that you’re achieving the desired balance of sweet, salty, sour, and spicy flavors that are signature to Vietnamese cuisine.

Serving and Pairing

 This recipe is all you need to take your taste buds on a flavorful ride!
This recipe is all you need to take your taste buds on a flavorful ride!

When it comes to serving Vietnamese fish sauce, there are endless possibilities. Typically, this sauce is served as a dipping sauce for various dishes, but it can also be used as a marinade or a dressing.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy fish sauce is with fresh spring rolls or summer rolls. Dip the rolls in the sauce before each bite and savor the combination of flavors; the mild sweetness from the carrot and sugar, balanced with the saltiness of the fish sauce and a hint of tartness from lime juice.

You can also serve fish sauce alongside grilled meats such as beef or chicken, drizzle over vermicelli noodle salads or use it as a condiment for banh mi sandwiches.

If you’re feeling adventurous, try pairing this Vietnamese classic with other flavors from Southeast Asia. It complements Thai basil and lemongrass perfectly, making it an ideal accompaniment for Thai curries. You can also add a bit of heat with chili garlic sauce or sriracha if you want to kick things up a notch.

Experiment with different combinations and find your own perfect pairing for fish sauce. Its versatility is just one reason why it’s become such a beloved part of Asian cuisine.

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 The secret sauce that will take your Vietnamese cuisine to the next level.
The secret sauce that will take your Vietnamese cuisine to the next level.

One of the most appealing characteristics of Vietnamese Fish Sauce is its convenience. It can be made ahead of time, which saves time in the kitchen, and can be stored for weeks in the refrigerator, giving you a delicious and quick dipping sauce whenever you need it.

If you want to make Vietnamese Fish Sauce ahead of time, store it in an airtight container and place it in the refrigerator. This will allow the flavors to meld together and strengthen over time, resulting in a more delicious sauce.

When it’s time to reheat your Vietnamese Fish Sauce, simply remove it from the refrigerator and let it come back to room temperature. You can also add some fresh lime juice or water to thin out the sauce if necessary.

It’s important to note that because Vietnamese Fish Sauce contains anchovies, it may start to darken over time, but this is normal and won’t affect its flavor or quality. Just give the sauce a quick stir before serving.

In terms of storing your Vietnamese Fish Sauce, make sure it’s always kept in an air-tight container and refrigerated. This will help maintain its freshness and prevent any bacteria growth.

Overall, making and storing Vietnamese Fish Sauce is easy and convenient, making it the perfect addition to any meal. Just make sure you follow proper storage guidelines to ensure that your sauce stays fresh and flavorful for weeks to come!

Tips for Perfect Results

 Prepare to be blown away by the complexity of flavors.
Prepare to be blown away by the complexity of flavors.

Now that you know how to make the Vietnamese fish sauce recipe, let me give you some tips to ensure you get the best results possible.

Firstly, use fresh ingredients whenever possible. Fresh lime juice, garlic, and fish sauce will give your dipping sauce nuoc cham a burst of flavor that cannot be matched with stale alternatives. Additionally, using fresh herbs such as cilantro or mint to garnish the dish can elevate its flavors and appearance.

Another important tip is to balance the sweetness and tartness of your sauce. Lime juice and sugar are two key ingredients in this recipe and achieving the perfect balance can make or break your dipping sauce. Play around with the ratio until you find the balance that suits you best.

When making the fish sauce itself, don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of fish. While anchovies are the classic choice for making nuoc mam – Vietnamese fish sauce – other fish like scabbard fish can be used for a unique twist on the recipe. Additionally, adding a few pinches of salt to the fish before fermenting it can add depth and complexity to its flavor.

Finally, when storing your homemade Vietnamese fish sauce or dipping sauce, always use a clean container with an airtight lid. This will prevent contamination and preserve your sauces’ freshness for longer. And if you’re short on time, try making a larger batch of sauce and freezing it in smaller portions for easy access in the future.

By following these simple tips, you’ll be sure to create the perfect nuoc cham or Vietnamese dipping sauce every time.


As we wrap up this recipe article, let’s dive into some frequently asked questions about Vietnamese fish sauce. From choosing the right type of fish sauce to substitutions and variations, these FAQs will help you gain more insight into this classic dipping sauce. So, grab a notepad and let’s answer some of the most commonly asked questions about nuoc cham!

How is Vietnamese fish sauce made?

In Vietnamese cuisine, fish sauce is a commonly used condiment made by fermenting anchovies or small fish with salt in an earthenware pot for up to a year, allowing it to develop a rich and savory flavor. The process of fermentation takes place under the sun, resulting in a pungent and aromatic sauce that adds depth to numerous dishes.

What does Vietnamese fish sauce have in it?

Vietnamese fish sauces do not contain any added sugars, hydrolyzed protein, or preservatives. They are typically made with anchovies, mackerel, and scabbard fish. However, it’s worth noting that larger predator fish like scabbard fish may have higher levels of mercury.

Is Vietnamese fish sauce different to fish sauce?

In Southeast Asia, fish sauce is a commonly used condiment in many traditional dishes. Although fish sauces from various countries share similar production methods, the Thai and Vietnamese variations are the most popularly used and recognized. The primary difference between the two lies in their distinct taste and salt content.

What is the most famous Vietnamese fish sauce?

Nuoc mam, a crucial ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine, is a type of fish sauce made by fermenting fish, usually anchovies, and combining the juice with salt. It is widely used in Vietnamese dishes for adding seasoning and enhancing the flavor of food, much like the use of salt in western cuisine.

Bottom Line

in the form of a persuasive text:

In conclusion, the Vietnamese Fish Sauce Recipe is an incredibly versatile and delicious sauce that can be used as a dipping sauce or as a marinade for your favorite meats. This recipe not only packs flavor, but it also carries rich cultural significance and tradition behind it.

By using high-quality ingredients such as fresh lime juice, minced garlic cloves, and authentic fish sauce made from anchovies, you can truly elevate the flavors of your dishes. The incorporation of carrots and sugar in this recipe adds a subtle sweetness that balances the saltiness of the fish sauce.

If you’re looking for a way to add some excitement to your meals, then the Vietnamese Fish Sauce Recipe is an excellent choice. Not only is it easy to make, but you can customize and adjust the flavors to suit your preferences as well.

So why not give this recipe a try today? With its bold and savory flavors, rich history, and versatile applications, you’re sure to fall in love with it just like I have. This recipe will transport you straight to Vietnam’s bustling streets with one taste!

Vietnamese Fish Sauce

Vietnamese Fish Sauce Recipe

This is the dipping sauce you get in Vietnamese restaurants when you order Imperial rolls or vermicelli salad bowls.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 0 mins
Course Condiment
Cuisine Vietnamese
Calories 117.5 kcal


  • 1/2 cup vietnamese fish sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon asian red chili paste or 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot


  • The 2 towns most noted for their fish sauce are Phu Quoc and Phan Thiet. Check the label when buying your fish sauce, the "nhi" signifies a high quality sauce.
  • Mince your 2 cloves of garlic and shred your carrot.
  • Combine with the fish sauce, sugar, water, chili paste and lime juice.
  • Stir until the sugar dissolves. Makes about 2 cups to serve.

Add Your Own Notes


Serving: 99gCalories: 117.5kcalCarbohydrates: 28.8gProtein: 1.7gFat: 0.1gSodium: 2203.6mgFiber: 0.5gSugar: 26.9g
Keyword < 15 Mins, Asian, Sauces, Vietnamese
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