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9 Best Shrimp Paste Substitutes, Ranked

Shrimp paste can be quite difficult to substitute, but there are still a few great options available, ranging from curry pastes to delicious Asian sauces and even sambal. I’ve got these and more! You substitutes shrimp paste with miso paste, seaweed, fish sauce, and soy sauce. But this isn’t all! So, let’s dive into all the shrimp paste substitutes I managed to rummage up!

What is Shrimp Paste?

Shrimp paste is a popular ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisine, especially in Thai, Indonesian, and Malaysian dishes. It’s made by fermenting ground shrimp with salt and leaving it to dry in the sun. The result? A thick, pungent, and salty paste that adds a delicious, unique umami flavor to dishes.

This paste is commonly used in curries, stir-fries, and dipping sauces. However, not everyone enjoys the strong and distinct flavor of shrimp paste, and some people may also be allergic to shrimp or avoid it for ethical reasons.

How to Make Shrimp Paste

To create shrimp paste, start by thoroughly cleaning fresh shrimp and removing the shells. Mix the shrimp with salt and allow it to sit for a few hours to draw out moisture. Then, grind the shrimp into a paste using a food processor or mortar and pestle. Shape the resulting paste into small balls and leave them to dry in the sun for several days, turning daily for even drying. Once the balls are completely dry, store them in an airtight container for future use.

How to Use Shrimp Paste

Shrimp paste is a popular ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisine and is used to add a rich, umami flavor to dishes. It is made by fermenting ground shrimp with salt and is usually sold in small jars or blocks. Here are some tips on how to use shrimp paste:

Use it in small amounts: Shrimp paste has a strong flavor, so it’s important to use it sparingly. A little goes a long way, and adding too much can overpower other flavors in the dish. Start with a small amount and taste the dish as you go, adding more if necessary.

Roast it before using: Roasting shrimp paste can help to mellow out its strong flavor and bring out its nutty, caramelized notes. To do this, wrap the paste in foil and roast it in the oven at 350°F for 10-15 minutes, or until fragrant.

Mix it with other ingredients: Shrimp paste can be mixed with other ingredients to create a flavorful paste or sauce. In Thai cuisine, it is often combined with chili peppers, garlic, and other spices to make a spicy dipping sauce. In Filipino cuisine, it is mixed with vinegar and garlic to make a dipping sauce for pork.

Use it in soups and stews: Shrimp paste can be added to soups and stews to give them a rich, savory flavor. It is commonly used in Filipino sinigang, a sour soup made with tamarind, vegetables, and meat or seafood.

Best Substitutes for Shrimp Paste

Miso Paste

1 tablespoon of shrimp paste = 1 to 2 tablespoons of miso paste

Miso paste is a great alternative to shrimp paste if you’re looking to add another rich, umami flavor to your dishes. Made from fermented soybeans, this Japanese condiment has a savory, slightly sweet taste that can complement various ingredients. 

However, this paste is not as strong as its counterpart, so additional seasonings are needed to get the taste you want. If you’re also gonna buy miso paste, it’s best to look for “shiro” or “white” miso varieties, as they tend to have a milder flavor and lower salt content than darker varieties.

Seaweed

1 tablespoon of shrimp paste = 2 tablespoons of seaweeds

Seaweed is a great vegan alternative commonly used in Asian cuisine and known for its umami flavor. It’s also used as a seasoning in soups, stews, and stir-fries. Different varieties of seaweed are available, with some being more suitable as a shrimp paste substitute than others. Nori, typically used to wrap sushi, has a mild flavor that can complement other ingredients in a dish.

Kombu, on the other hand, is often used to make dashi and has a stronger flavor that can overpower other ingredients. So, when always picking a type, make sure it matches the flavors already present in your dish.

Fish Sauce

1 tablespoon of shrimp paste = 1 tablespoon of fish sauce

Fish sauce is a popular and widely available substitute commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine. Made from fermented fish, it has a strong, salty flavor that can add a similarly rich, fishlike flavor. However, it does have a different texture and consistency as it’s a liquid. Adjusting the amount used may be necessary depending on the recipe.

Fish sauce can be used in lots of dishes, from stir-fries to marinades for chicken to dipping healthy sauces, and it pairs well with other Southeast Asian flavors like lime, chili, and lemongrass.

Soy Sauce

1 tablespoon of shrimp paste = 1 tablespoon of soy sauce

Soy sauce, whether light soy sauce or dark soy sauce, is a very common ingredient that has a salty, savory flavor that benefits many dishes, like soups, stews, marinades, and stir-fries. The sauce is also a superb choice for people who are vegetarian or vegan and don’t consume shrimp paste.

This sauce does lack the same umami-rich taste that shrimp paste has, so it may not be suitable for some recipes. It’s also a liquid, so it won’t provide the same texture. It may not be the perfect swap, but its convenience, matched with its savory taste, is more than great as a backup or as an added flavor for certain dishes.

Tamari

1 tablespoon of shrimp paste = 1 tablespoon of tamari

Tamari is a great Japanese gluten-free soy sauce as it’s made without wheat, so it’s perfect for people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. This soy’s main similarity to shrimp paste is the rich umami flavor that’s perfect for vegans and vegetarians. 

The same can’t be said for salt content, as it’s much saltier than shrimp paste and is also a liquid. Therefore, you may need to adjust the amount you use, as it won’t provide the same texture or exact flavor.

Dried Shiitake Mushrooms

1 tablespoon of shrimp paste = 1 tablespoon of chopped dried shiitake mushrooms

Dried shiitake mushrooms are an excellent vegan substitute that also has a rich umami flavor similar to shrimp paste. They’re also a healthy addition to your diet, being a good source of fiber, protein, and antioxidants while being low in calories and fat.

If you want to use them as a substitute, you’ll need to rehydrate them first by soaking them in hot water for about 30 minutes. Once soft, drain and finely chop them before using them in recipes like stir-fries, soups, and curries. The chopped mushrooms will add a deliciously savory, earthy flavor to your dishes. 

Anchovies Paste

1 tablespoon of shrimp paste = 1 tablespoon of anchovies paste

Anchovy paste is a flavorful and versatile replacement for shrimp paste made from ground anchovies that have a strong, salty flavor. This paste is another suitable option for vegetarians or vegans who can’t eat shrimp paste, though it does have a distinct flavor that may not be best for all recipes. 

You should use this paste sparingly, as it can be overpowering if used in large amounts. Experiment with various amounts to achieve the desired flavor and adjust other seasonings as needed.

Bonito Flakes

1 tablespoon of shrimp paste = 1 tablespoon of bonito flakes

Bonito flakes can be a superb substitute for shrimp paste if you’re looking to add a unique umami flavor to your dishes. Made from dried, smoked, and fermented skipjack tuna, they’re commonly used in Japanese cuisine to make dashi, a flavorful broth. They are low in sodium and calories while also being a good source of protein. They also have a long shelf life, making them a convenient pantry staple.

However, it should be noted that they contain histamines that can cause allergic reactions in some people. To use bonito flakes in your dishes, grind them into a powder using a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle and use at will. You can also soak them in water to make a broth that can be used to flavor your dishes. 

Oyster Sauce

2-3 tablespoon of shrimp paste = 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce

Oyster sauce is a perfect swap that also has a rich, umami flavor. Made from oysters, soy sauce, sugar, and other seasonings, it has a thick, syrupy texture that can help thicken your sauces and marinades.

If you’re considering using this ingredient, mix it with a little water to create a paste-like consistency. This can then be added to your stir-fries, soups, and stews to give them a savory, slightly sweet flavor.

This sauce is available in most grocery stores and online retailers and is relatively inexpensive, making it a convenient option for those on a budget. However, oyster sauce does contain gluten, meaning it’s not suitable for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Some brands of oyster sauce may also contain MSG, so checking the label before purchasing is recommended.

FAQs

How long does shrimp paste last in the fridge?

When stored in the fridge, it can last for up to a year. However, it’s important to note that the quality of the shrimp paste may deteriorate over time, and it may become less flavorful.

What does shrimp paste taste like?

Shrimp paste has a strong, pungent flavor that’s often described as salty, fishy, and slightly sweet.

Is there a substitute for shrimp paste for making Nasi Goreng?

Some popular substitutes include fish sauce, soy sauce, miso paste, and oyster sauce. Each of these ingredients has a unique flavor profile, so you may need to experiment to find the one that works best for you.

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