What Does Fish Sauce Taste Like?

Trying fish sauce for the first time? You might wonder what’s in it and what it tastes like. Fish sauce has a very unique flavor profile and is a staple in Asian cooking.

While not especially common in the United States, fish sauce is becoming more popular because of it’s ability to liven up noodles, and meat -with fish included of course.

Fish sauce tastes salty, sweet, and as one might expect based on the name – it tastes like fish. The condiment has many uses and some unique ingredients. Let’s learn more below.

What is in fish sauce?

Rather than just saying “fish” we can give you a bit more detail about the process that often goes into making fish sauce, especially the higher end kind that has some extra flavor.

The simple name also has a fairly simple method. Manufacturers of fish sauce put coat small fish like sardines and anchovies in salt, then pack them into a barrel to ferment. The fermentation process can last from a couple of months to years to get different kinds of flavors out of the fish.

Fermentation attempts to make a flavor stronger over a long time. In the case of fish sauce, it actually produces a flavor that can be described as “bright” while salty. 

Fish sauce really is fairly simple. The differences in fish sauce tend to come down to what kind of salt is used – traditional table salt or sea salt. 

The actual selection process for making fish sauce can include mackerels too – basically any strongly flavored fish with natural oils can do well in a fish sauce.

What does fish sauce smell like?

Here’s something unexpected: If you were to put your nose right up to a bottle of fish sauce and took a whiff, you’d be hit by a very strong smell of fish. 

If you aren’t a fan of that smell, and many Americans aren’t – that’s not what it really tastes like. While your nose can certainly assist in determining flavor, it’s less accurate for fish sauce. 

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What is the texture like?

Fish sauce is a thin sauce that is also runny. The sauce can be better described as a bit watery too, since the primary ingredients are water, fermented fish, and salt. When used on meat, you’ll more likely notice the taste than the texture.

What does fish sauce add to food?

Fish sauce has that unusual culinary ability to add a savory flavor to meat and other dishes. It’s typically called “Umami” and it means that fish sauce adds sweet, salty, bitter, and and sour at the same time. This combination adds a dimension of flavor to food and enhances tastes instead of hiding the.

How is fish sauce used in food?

Fish sauce has a huge variety of uses. Similar to soy sauce, fish sauce is more traditionally used in Asian cooking including with rice, noodles, and meats.

Fish sauce can be added to dips to add a whole new dimension of flavor – all without using too much of it. One hint: Don’t tell friends or family you are adding it and see if they can guess the extra flavor.

Meats, especially fish are a sure fire option. Fish sauce makes a great marinade and adds some savory flavor to beef, fish, and chicken while also helping to tenderize. Adding a few drops of fish sauce as you prepare ground beef for burgers adds a little something unique.

If your burger, fish, or chicken doesn’t taste overly flavor after cooking, you can just dab some fish sauce on or put it on the side for dipping. It’s also not filling given it’s runny nature.

For pasta and noodle dishes, splashing it in and mixing it around contrasts from your carbs and adds some nice moisture.

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Is fish sauce good for you?

In many ways, yes! Fish in general are good for you as they provide amino acids for better brain function, and vitamins including an abundance of vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 is beneficial because it’s not produced by the body naturally, but its helpful for pregnant and lactating women. 

Fish sauce also provides an excellent source of iron. Outside of beef, many Americans don’t get enough iron. Fish sauce can help people with anemia, which is a lack of minerals like iron in the blood.

Is any part of fish sauce bad for you?

Fish sauce is fermented fish in salt, so it’s quite salty. The salty part is also much of what adds flavor and dimension to your food.

One serving of most fish sauces is more than a daily allotment of salt. This fact is a simple way of saying to not use fish sauce every day, and use it in a small quantity. The sauce itself is runny and spreads well, with a lot of flavor, so you won’t need much to enhance the flavor of your food.


Fish sauce can add some serious flavor to any dish you put in on. The combination of sweet and salty takes meat to a whole different level, making it a great marinade or simple sauce. Fish is indeed the main ingredient using a process often involving barrels and salt.

The sauce is also good for most people who don’t eat it every single day, since it has a high content of vitamins and minerals in addition to the amino acids that keep your brain happy.