A condiment native to Southeast Asia, shrimp paste has a flavor profile comparable to fish sauce and anchovy paste. This paste-like sauce is prepared by combining shrimp or krill fermented with salt and other seasonings, including sugar.
Due to the potency of its aroma and flavor, just a tiny amount is often required for each serving; however, some individuals prefer shrimp paste substitutes.
If you’re in the shrimp paste substitutes camp, your search ends here. Below, will cover all you need to know about shrimp paste substitutes.
What is Shrimp Paste?
Today, shrimp paste is a mainstay in Southeast Asian cuisine, so if you can’t get enough umami in your cooking or continually find yourself reaching for Asian pantry staples like gochujang, miso, and fish sauce, you may already be familiar with shrimp paste.
This savory and salty paste goes by many names – like terasi in Indonesia, bagoong in the Philippines, and belacan in Malaysia and Singapore – each prepared differently, offering a unique taste profile, color, texture, and pungency.
Traditional shrimp paste dates back to the 19th century, with its roots in the southern region of Thailand (1). At that time, shrimps were caught, mixed with salt, spread out on bamboo mats, and dried in the sun to turn into fermented shrimp paste.
The practice spread rapidly to neighboring countries; to this day, shrimp paste production remains a significant economic driver in many Southeast Asian nations.
Shrimp Paste Substitutes – The Best
Since shrimp paste has the ability to enhance the taste of almost any meal, running out of stock may not come as a surprise. So, if you ever find yourself out of shrimp paste or have certain dietary restrictions preventing you from enjoying the salty, fishy flavor, don’t worry; shrimp paste substitutes are there to cover up.
Below, you’ll find a list of the best alternatives. Let’s take a look.
- Dried Shrimp
- Fish Sauce
- Oyster Sauce
- Bonito Flakes
- Dark Miso
- Soya Sauce
- Shiitake Mushrooms
A treasure trove for vitamins, dried shrimps are packed with loads of benefits and can be purchased in various preparations, including with and without shells and heads.
However, regardless of which one you choose, you can use all variations the same way.
Since dried shrimp does not go through the fermentation process as shrimp paste does, it won’t result in the same richness of flavor in the meal but adds a salty and umami flavor.
You can purchase it online or look for it in an Asian market.
Nutritional Value (1 Cup Dried Shrimp)
- Fat (1.4g)
- Protein (18g)
- Calories (96%)
- Sodium (767mg)
- Potassium (138mg)
- Cholesterol (171mg)
- Carbohydrates (1.2g)
If you’re a fan of Thai cuisine, chances are you’ve had fish sauce at some point. A wide range of foods, like Pad Thai, benefit from the salty, umami, and shrimp paste-like flavor it brings to the table.
But to be more specific, what is it?
Small fish resembling anchovies are salted and fermented to prepare a salty liquid called fish sauce.
The flavor of a high-quality fish sauce is strongly reminiscent of fish but also contains hints of salt, brine, and maybe even some sweetness.
Nutritional Value (1 Tablespoon of Fish Sauce)
- Calories (15%)
- Sodium (1490mg)
- Protein (4g)
Produced from caramelized oyster juices, oyster sauce might be described as a thick, syrupy, dark brown, or even black sauce. However, there are still many variations, with some sauces thickened with soy sauce and cornstarch.
It has a robust taste similar to soy and barbeque sauce—earthy, salty, and somewhat sweet.
Whether you want to use the sauce straight from the bottle, combine with other sauces, or utilize it as a foundation for a stir-fry, oyster sauce is quite versatile.
Nutritional Value (1 Tablespoon of Oyster Sauce)
- Calories (20%)
- Sodium (310mg)
- Potassium (10mg)
- Carbohydrates (5g)
Anchovies, after being fileted, are canned in salt or olive oil. Even if you don’t like eating it entirely, adding even a little anchovy may bring a punch of umami, salty, and fishy flavor that elevates the dish to a new level.
Although anchovies have a milder flavor than shrimp paste, you may still use them interchangeably at a ratio of 1:1. Create a paste from the anchovy filets by pulverizing them in a blender or food processor with some water.
The older it gets, the more intense the flavor.
Nutritional Value (2 Ounces of Anchovies)
- Fat (3.5g)
- Protein (8g)
- Iron (6% DV)
- Calories (60%)
- Sodium (1720mg)
- Calcium (4% DV)
- Potassium (2% DV)
- Vitamin D (6% DV)
- Cholesterol (35mg)
Made from bonito fish, bonito flakes are dried and fermented to produce a salty and delicious flavor with a pungent odor. However, they do not possess the same pungency level as shrimp paste, and their consistency is noticeably distinct.
Besides an additional savory topping choice, bonito flakes may be sprinkled on top of noodle meals or included in soups, stocks, or casseroles. Always begin by adding two teaspoons of flakes to your meal, and be sure to taste it often to get the desired taste.
Also, according to one research from 2008. Dried-Bonito Broth has positive effect on systolic blood pressure and and might improve emotional states (2).
Nutritional Value (⅓ cup of Bonito Flakes)
- Fat (0 g)
- Protein (2.2g)
- Calories (10%)
- Sodium (246mg)
- Potassium (51mg)
- Cholesterol (5.3mg)
To make the fermented miso paste, multiple molds produced from various grains, such as rice, barley, or even soybeans are used. The process may take as little as a few weeks or several years.
Sweeter miso tends to have a lighter color, whereas darker miso is saltier and potently smelly.
But the dark miso is your best bet if you’re looking for an alternative to shrimp paste. Use one to two teaspoons of dark miso for every half teaspoon of shrimp paste called for in your recipe.
Nutritional Value (Dark Miso)
- Protein (2g)
- Calories (25%)
- Sodium (680mg)
- Carbohydrates (3g)
Soy sauce has a salty and bitter taste, but due to its lack of intensity, you will need to add a considerable amount before it can compete with the flavor of shrimp paste.
On the other hand, this is the perfect alternative for you if you want flavors that aren’t quite as strong.
If you are not vegan or vegetarian, you may replace one teaspoon of fish paste with one tablespoon of soy sauce and one crushed anchovy filet. These ingredients should be combined and stirred until smooth.
Nutritional Value (1 Tablespoon of Soya Sauce)
- Fiber (0.1g)
- Sugar (0.06g)
- Calories (8.5%)
- Carbohydrates (0.8g)
Tamari Vegan Fish Sauce
Tamari, also called shoyu, is a fish sauce that combines water, salt, and miso paste. Due to the absence of wheat, this is an excellent choice for those looking for a gluten-free alternative to shrimp paste.
Tamari is basically a broth reduced to a highly concentrated form and flavored with soy sauce, seaweed, dried mushrooms, and garlic cloves. The amount of protein and prominence of umami taste in tamari is much higher, although the consistency is somewhat similar to soy sauce.
Nutritional Value (1 Tablespoon of Tamari)
- Protein (2g)
- Iron (1.5 mg)
- Calories (10%)
- Sodium (710mg)
- Potassium (100 mg)
Both fresh and dried seaweed are wonderful substitutes for shrimp paste; however, fresh seaweed could be difficult to locate in the supermarkets, depending on the area you live in.
Kombu, Nori, Rishi, Hidaka, Ma, Rausu, and Naga have the greatest glutamate content and umami taste. On top of that, dried ingredients may also be substituted for fresh ingredients in almost any recipe. To replace 12 teaspoons of shrimp paste, use two tablespoons or more dry seaweed instead.
Nutritional Value (2 Tablespoons of Dried Kombu)
- Calories (5%)
- Sodium (80 mg)
- Iodine (890% DV)
- Carbohydrate (1g)
- Calcium (18 mg)
- Thiamine (2% DV)
- Riboflavin (6% DV)
- Potassium (4% DV)
- Vitamin B12 (4% DV)
Any recipe that needs a boost of umami taste will benefit greatly from shiitake mushrooms. Available in tan to dark brown color, shiitake are found growing on dead hardwood trees.
If you can get your hands on fresh shiitake mushrooms, you may substitute roughly a cup for the shrimp paste by slicing or chopping them into very small pieces. For those who aren’t vegan but still like mushrooms, try mixing one shiitake mushroom, either fresh or powdered, with one teaspoon of fish sauce.
Nutritional Value (5g of Dried Shiitake Mushrooms)
- Fiber (2g)
- Protein (1g)
- Calories (44%)
- Copper (39% DV)
- Carbohydrate (11g)
- Vitamin B5 (33% DV)
- Riboflavin and Niacin (11% DV)
The Final Cut
So, there you have it: shrimp paste substitutes. Although shrimp paste has a salty, spicy, and umami-rich flavor if you prefer a more subdued taste due to shrimp allergy or want a vegan or vegetarian alternative, dried shrimp, fish sauce, oyster sauce, anchovies, bonito flakes, dark miso, soya sauce, tamari, seaweed, and shiitake mushrooms are all you need.
No matter the substitute you choose, be sure to start with a smaller amount and level up without risking the taste of your meal.