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Shrimp paste substitute (Top 13 Options)


A shrimp paste substitute is relatively easy to find. In this article, you’ll discover 13 other ingredients you can use to replace this well-loved condiment.

We’ll also provide cooking tips on how to use each alternative, so you’ll have everything you need here. 

Small bowl filled with shrimp paste.

What Is Shrimp Paste?

Shrimp paste is a condiment popular in Southeast Asian cuisines.

This paste comes from the result of fermenting ground shrimp along with salt, yielding a concentrated paste. 

This fermented shrimp boasts a robust flavor, carrying the strong shrimp taste and the depth fermentation adds.

Shrimp paste is bold in umami. Its flavor profile blends saltiness, fishiness, and a hint of earthiness. 

Don’t let its strong aroma put you off. Its taste can transform your dishes and create a complexity you won’t easily replicate.

This paste holds a diverse culinary role.

It’s a cornerstone across Southeast Asia—Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, and Malaysian cuisines.

This paste forms a base for sauces, marinades, and soups. It is also a good addition to stir-fries.

This paste tastes great with spices, herbs, and other elements, giving life to iconic dishes like Thai shrimp paste fried rice or Indonesian sambal.

Best Shrimp Paste Substitutes

Cooking often calls for creativity in the absence of specific ingredients.

If you don’t have shrimp paste, you don’t have to stop cooking or change your dish. You can use the ingredients on the list below as a replacement.

1. Fish Sauce

Fish sauce is a condiment that comes from fermented fish. Like shrimp paste, it has a strong aroma and a salty taste.

For certain dishes, these characteristics are enough for it to be a worthy shrimp paste substitute.

However, it does not taste as bold, so you’d need more. 

Cooking Tips:

Use a 2:1 ratio of fish sauce to shrimp paste. You may need to reduce the amount of your other liquid ingredients to compensate for the fish sauce’s runny consistency. 

2. Vegan Fish Sauce

For those who follow a vegan diet, shrimp paste and regular fish sauce won’t be suitable.

The great thing is that you can make a vegan fish sauce to replace shrimp paste in recipes.

There are countless recipes for this sauce. Among the best ones is this fish sauce recipe that uses sea salt, coconut sugar, and lime juice, and this one that uses shiitake mushrooms and tamari.

Cooking Tips: 

Use twice the amount of vegan fish sauce as you would shrimp paste.

3. Oyster Sauce

Served meal with Thai dish and oyster sauce.

Oyster sauce is another common condiment you can use to replace shrimp paste.

It boasts a rich umami flavor so that it can enrich your dishes just the same.

However, oyster sauce is sweet and it might change the flavor profile of your dish. 

Cooking Tips:

Use a 1:1 substitution ratio. Add a dash of lemon juice for a more balanced taste. 

4. Miso Paste

Large tablespoon filled with miso paste.

The benefits of miso paste go beyond being an ingredient in curry paste.

You can also use this ingredient to replace shrimp paste, especially if you are allergic to seafood.

Like the original ingredient, miso paste taste has a high umami content. That said, it can give your recipes a complex flavor. 

Cooking Tips:

Use the same amount of white or dark miso paste as the shrimp paste your recipe calls for.

5. Anchovies

Salted anchovies are also great replacements for shrimp paste. It has both a strong salty flavor and smell, so it is a lot like the original ingredient in those areas.

Consider adding a splash of fish or soy sauce to your recipe for a better outcome.

Cooking Tips:

You may use finely chopped anchovies or an anchovy paste, depending on your recipe. Use them in a 1:1 ratio.

6. Bonito Flakes

Close up shot of Bonito flakes in the bowl.

Bonito flakes are essentially just tuna fish that people simmer, smoke, and ferment.

They are also rich in umami, but these flakes have a milder flavor than shrimp paste. 

Using this is perfect if you find the original ingredient too intense.

Remember that these are flakes. They are not a liquid or a paste, meaning they won’t work in all recipes.

Cooking Tips:

Add some fish sauce if your dish tastes lacking after adding bonito flakes.

7. Tamari

In a nutshell, tamari is a soy sauce without wheat, so it is a gluten-free condiment.

Still, it has a rich, salty flavor that can enhance your dishes.

The best thing about tamari is that it has no fishy flavor or an off-putting aroma. 

Note that tamari is a thin liquid; using it might affect the consistency of your recipes.

Cooking Tips:

Use a 1:1 substitution ratio when replacing shrimp paste with tamari. 

8. Dried Shiitake Mushrooms

Dried Shiitake mushrooms on the tabletop.

Mushrooms are among the most umami-rich foods. That said, they will also make a great swap for shrimp paste.

To use, rehydrate the mushrooms with hot water and finely chop them.

If you specifically need a paste, pulse the rehydrated mushrooms in a food processor. 

Cooking Tips:

Add some fish sauce to the mushrooms for the best results. Note that your recipe won’t be vegan-friendly if you do so.

9. Mushroom Powder

The mushroom powder is just dried mushrooms ground into a powder.

When added to recipes, they can add a rich umami flavor, just like the original ingredient.

The mushroom powder is popular among health buffs, so you can find it in most health food stores.

It lacks the fishy taste, which can be both a pro and con, depending on the recipe. 

Cooking Tips:

Use the same amount of mushroom powder as the amount of shrimp paste your recipe calls for. 

10. Dried Seaweed

Plate with dried seaweed.

Dried seaweed has the distinct ocean-like flavor that shrimp paste also has. For this reason, this sushi staple is also a great replacement. 

Soak the dried seaweeds in warm water and pulse them in a blender or food processor. 

Cooking Tips:

Use a 1:1 ratio of seaweed paste to shrimp paste. If you don’t particularly need a paste, you can skip the pulsing and just finely chop the dried seaweeds before adding them to your dishes.  

11. Doenjang

Another vegan alternative you can try is doenjang.

Doenjang is a Korean fermented soybean paste. It has a sharp, salty taste and an intense umami flavor.

Note that it does not taste like shrimp paste, as it does not have a funky flavor.

This clean flavor profile, though, is perfect if you dislike how the original ingredient tastes.

Cooking Tips:

Because of the difference in flavor, it is best to start substituting doenjang for shrimp paste in small amounts. Do a taste test and add more if necessary.

12. Thai Yellow Bean Sauce

Thai yellow bean sauce is the Thai counterpart of the Korean doenjang. It also uses fermented soybeans as its main ingredient.

This sauce has a strong earthy and salty taste, so it serves as a good swap for shrimp paste in most dishes.

Cooking Tips:

Use Thai yellow bean sauce as you would shrimp paste.

13. Soy Sauce

Small dish with soy sauce and soy beans next to it.

The trusty soy sauce can also be a shrimp paste swap in a pinch. It can provide the umami element in your dish, after all.

Unlike shrimp paste, this dipping sauce is a common household condiment you probably already have.

Note that it does not taste as complex as shrimp paste, and it is very high in sodium.  

Use light soy sauce if it is available. Unlike regular soy sauce, this type has a milder taste.

If not, traditional soy sauce will do, but you must dilute it with water to lessen its saltiness.

Cooking Tips:

Start substituting by adding a small amount of light soy sauce or diluted regular soy sauce to your recipe and work your way up. 

How To Choose Shrimp Paste Substitute

Choosing among the substitutes for shrimp paste involves a few key considerations that can help you achieve a satisfying result in your dishes.

1. Assess The Flavor

Start by thinking about the tastes you want in your recipe.

Shrimp paste brings a strong, savory, a bit of salt and a hint of the sea.

Decide if you wish to have these same flavors or if you’re okay with some change.

Fish sauce is a good choice to keep that unique Southeast Asian flavor.

2. Consider Dietary Needs

If you’re eating a certain way, find substitutes that work for that.

Miso paste and dried seaweed are excellent choices for both vegans and those with gluten sensitivities. 

3. Pay Attention To Flavor Intensity

Think about how strong you want the taste to be.

If you want it really strong, try fish sauce, vegan fish sauce, or miso paste. They have that strong taste you might be looking for.

4. Be Mindful Of The Aroma

If the strong scent of shrimp paste isn’t your favorite, consider options that offer a milder aroma, like tamari or bonito flakes.

Related Questions

What Is The Best Substitute For Shrimp Paste In Red Curry?

In red curry, miso paste is the top swap for shrimp paste. Its robust umami complements the dish’s complexity without compromising on flavor.

What Is The Best Substitute For Shrimp Paste In Kimchi?

Using anchovy paste as a shrimp paste alternative in kimchi is best. It brings in a similar salty and savory taste that shrimp paste adds. This ingredient can enhance the overall flavor of the kimchi, staying true to its traditional taste.

What Is The Purpose Of Shrimp Paste?

Shrimp paste plays a crucial role in Southeast Asian cooking. It introduces a strong umami flavor that enhances sauces, soups, marinades, and stir-fries, contributing to the depth and character of regional cuisine.

Summary

Shrimp paste is key in Southeast Asian cooking, known for its rich umami taste. If you need to swap it out, fish sauce, vegan fish sauce, miso paste, and dried seaweed are all excellent options. Anchovies, bonito flakes, and tamari are also great choices. 

It is worth noting that each shrimp paste substitute has its distinct characteristics. You might have to experiment to determine what works best for your recipes. 

More Ingredient Substitutes

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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