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Best Anchovy Substitute, 7 Top Options.

Choose the anchovy substitute from this list that works for your recipe and your taste buds. This will come in handy if you’re looking for an alternative because you’ve run out of it.

If you are looking for a similar flavor, there are plenty of available options to choose from.

open tin with small anchovy fish packed in oil

What Are anchovies?

Anchovies are canned small fish fillets salted for preservation and kept in oil.

There is no particular fish that companies use as an anchovy. Instead, it is a variety of many types of fish.

The fish used in each brand of anchovies depends on where the sourcing takes place. Yet, it is typically a fish related to herring in some way.

Most people use anchovies to add a bold taste to recipes.

They are great as a pizza topping and go well with tomato sauce.

Anchovies also make Caesar salad dressing taste better.

This unexpected ingredient provides the well-known umami flavor. For this reason, it is commonly used in condiments.

Worcestershire and Asian fish sauce are just a couple of the many condiments that have it. 

Types of Anchovies

Over 100 different fish species are used for what is known as anchovies. But, there are only two types of anchovies sold in stores: white anchovies and brown anchovies.

In terms of fish, there is no difference between the two. What creates the color difference is how each variety of anchovy is processed.

White Anchovies

White anchovies are quickly salted before being preserved in oil and vinegar. This process allows the fish to maintain its natural color. White anchovies offer a more subtle taste.

Brown Anchovies

Brown anchovies are stored in salt for ten months or less.

During this time, the fish change from their natural color to a brown hue. After this time frame, the anchovies are packed in oil and then sold in stores.

Allowing brown anchovies to sit in salt for longer brings out the flavor in them.

List of the Best Anchovy Substitute

Here is a list of the best substitutes for anchovy.

1. Anchovy Paste

An anchovy paste substitute can work well as a replacement since it is a form of anchovies.

To make this, the fish are ground into a paste first. Then, it is combined with oil, sugar, vinegar, and seasoning to create an anchovy paste.

You’ll find a salty, savory flavor when adding this paste to recipes, like what anchovies do.

Use this paste as a flavoring agent for sauces, marinades, and dressings.

Remember, anchovy paste’s additional seasoning may not bode well with all recipes.


This paste provides the main flavor notes of canned/jarred anchovies. It has both umami and saltiness.

The paste is also easy to find at most grocery stores in the Italian aisle or Italian markets.


The extra sweetness and seasoning limit the use of anchovy paste as a swap.

Cooking Tip: Use ½ the amount requested by the recipe as the flavor is quite strong.

2. Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire sauce has anchovies. That said, it is also one of the best substitutes for anchovies.

This sauce is sweet, sour, and spicy, leaving your dishes with an excellent flavor.

Use Worcestershire sauce when looking to add an umami taste to your recipes. It works well in soups, sauces, marinades, and dressings.


As it’s a sauce, it mixes well with any recipe offering a liquid base like sauce or soup. This alternative provides a salty umami taste to recipes like anchovies usually do.


Since Worcestershire offers more flavors, it does not work well in all recipes.

Using it in smaller quantities is better. It should not replace anchovies in recipes that need a large amount.

Cooking Tip: Start with a few drops of Worcestershire and increase to a few tablespoons if needed.

3. Fish Sauce

Fish sauce is another excellent alternative to anchovies. This is because many fish sauces include anchovies as an ingredient.

Fish sauce is much saltier, as many recipes only have two components: anchovies and salt.

Because anchovies are its main ingredient, the flavor is identical to canned anchovies.

You can use fish sauce in almost all recipes that call for anchovies, especially fish dishes.

Be mindful that this sauce has a bold flavor, so you’ll want to use a smaller quantity.

It’s also best to use fish sauce in recipes without delicate flavors, as the taste can be overpowering.


Fish sauce provides a strong anchovy taste to dishes.


This sauce has an intense flavor which may not work well with all recipes. It has a strong taste that will not be suitable if you only look for a topping.

Cooking Tip: Start with ¼ teaspoon and adjust as needed. You may need to use less salt to avoid an overly salty dish.

4. Shrimp Paste

Shrimp paste is made similarly to anchovy paste.

To make it, shrimps are ground into a paste and combined with salt. Then, the paste is fermented before being sold at the store. This paste is typical in Asian-inspired recipes.

Use shrimp paste as an alternative to providing a salty, umami flavor to recipes.

You’ll find this to have a sweet, intense taste that is best in smaller quantities.

Beyond offering an umami flavor, shrimp paste also gives a fish and shrimp taste and aroma.

If the smell and taste are too strong to use as-is, include this paste in cooked recipes. Cooking shrimp paste mellows the flavor, so it is not quite as bold.


This substitute works well in cooked recipes as it produces a more subtle flavor. Shrimp paste offers flavors similar to anchovies in recipes. That said, you can substitute it in most anchovy recipes.


Finding this paste in grocery stores may be challenging. This is especially true if your grocery doesn’t have an extensive Asian section. Or, if you don’t live near an Asian supermarket.

Cooking Tip: Start with ¼ teaspoon of shrimp paste in recipes and adjust to your taste preference.

5. Kalamata Olives

Kalamata olives are an excellent replacement for anchovies. This is especially true for those who don’t eat fish.

These olives can appear similar to anchovy paste when chopped finely or pulverized.

There will be a purple cast, though. While they do not taste fishy, kalamata olives provide a salty flavor.

Most stores sell these olives in olive oil or brine.

When recipes include this type of olives, you can expect a slightly fruity, tangy, and sharp taste.

This variety is sweeter than other olive varieties like black and green olives.

Use this great substitute in Greek recipes, as a pizza topping, and in salads.

Besides the olive, you can use their juice to add taste to recipes where you don’t want pieces of the olives.


These olives are vegan and vegetarian. Plus, using these olives in recipes provides a similar salty taste to anchovies. This swap is ideal for those who want to avoid a fishy taste or don’t enjoy an umami flavor.


Many of the main flavor notes in anchovies are not present in olives. That said, there will be a noticeable flavor difference when using this substitution.

Cooking Tip: Start with about ½ the amount requested in the recipe using chopped kalamata olives. Adjust to the desired flavor.

6. Umeboshi Paste

Umeboshi paste is made from ume (Japanese plums) that are pickled.

The pickled plums are pulverized into a paste most commonly used in Japanese cuisine.

It works as an anchovy substitute, adding a similar salty, umami flavor.

Other flavor notes present in umeboshi paste are tanginess and a slight fruitiness. 

Use this paste for recipes that are sauce-based or liquid-based.

You can also include this paste in salad dressings and marinades.


This plum paste is a fruit-based swap. That said, it is another excellent option for vegans or vegetarians. You can use umeboshi paste in most recipes, though not as a topping.


There is no fishy taste present when using umeboshi paste as a substitution. It also adds a tanginess not present in anchovies, altering the dish’s flavor.

Cooking Tip: Start with ½ the required amount and add more if necessary.

7. Soy Sauce

Soy sauce or soya sauce is another excellent alternative to anchovies.

Like anchovies, soy sauce offers an umami flavor and saltiness. Though, there is a lack of fish taste when using this sauce.

This sauce’s ingredients are fermented soybeans, wheat, and salt.

It is easily accessible, with most having a bottle already in their kitchen.

If you don’t have soy sauce, you can easily find it in the Asian section of your grocery store.

This sauce alternative works well for most dishes. Though, you may find it an odd combination with specific recipes like pizza.

You can use soy sauce for some umami flavor in salad dressings.


Soy sauce is readily available and provides the same flavor to recipes. You can use this sauce as a replacement for most anchovy dishes.


This swap lacks a fishy flavor with specific recipes.

Cooking Tip: Use ¾ of the requested amount and adjust as needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Use Worcestershire Sauce Instead of Anchovies?

Yes, you can use Worcestershire sauce instead of anchovies in some cases. This sauce works well if you seek an alternative with an umami flavor and saltiness. However, you can not use it as a topping for items like pizza.

What Is a Vegetarian Substitute for Anchovies?

Instead of using anchovies in recipes, you can use miso paste as a vegetarian substitute. Miso paste is made from fermented soybeans, making this an excellent vegan swap. Another fish sauce substitute you can use is kalamata olives.

What Fish Is Similar to Anchovies?

Sardines are the most similar fish you can find at the store. They are often kept in metal tins like anchovies. But, the taste and appearance of the two varieties of fish are quite different.

What Do Anchovies Taste Like?

Anchovies offer a salty, slightly fishy, meaty taste that is unlike any other food item. They have a distinct flavor that people either love or hate.

Can You Use Sardines Instead of Anchovies in Caesar Dressing?

Unfortunately, you can not use sardines instead of anchovies in Caesar dressing. The texture and flavors are too different. Anchovies have a much more delicate texture, blending in with the dressing. Sardines do not break down as easily, resulting in a dressing with larger pieces of fish.


There are many excellent alternatives to anchovies for your next cooking session. They range from sauces to vegan-friendly options. Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce are the two top options.

They are versatile and provide a salty, umami flavor to recipes. Give each option a try to find your preferred anchovy substitute. Each offers a unique taste to your recipes.

More Ingredient Substitutes

Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!
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