Is Fish Sauce Gluten Free? Find Out Now!

Spread the love

If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably heard about gluten and how some people need to avoid it due to celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Gluten can be found in many foods and ingredients, but what about fish sauce? Is it safe for those who need to follow a gluten-free diet?

Fish sauce is a popular condiment widely used in Southeast Asian cuisine. It’s made by fermenting fish with salt and water for several months, resulting in a pungent liquid that adds flavor and umami to dishes.

But when it comes to gluten, things may get complicated. Some brands of fish sauce are processed with wheat as a thickener or flavor enhancer, which means they contain gluten. On the other hand, some brands explicitly declare their fish sauce as gluten-free, making them a safer option for people with gluten sensitivities.

“Gluten can be tricky to spot in some products, and fish sauce is no exception. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this post, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about fish sauce and gluten, so you can enjoy your favorite dishes without worries.”

So if you’re curious whether fish sauce is suitable for you or not, keep reading! We’ll explain the basics of gluten, how to read labels, and recommend some gluten-free fish sauce brands to try.

What is Fish Sauce?

Fish sauce, also known as nam pla in Thai or nuoc mam in Vietnamese, is a condiment made from fermented fish. It has a salty and savory flavor that is commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine to enhance the taste of dishes.

The History of Fish Sauce

Fish sauce has been a staple ingredient in Southeast Asia for centuries. Its origins date back to ancient Rome, where garum, a similar condiment made from fermented fish, was commonly used. Over time, garum spread throughout Europe and gradually evolved into different regional varieties, such as Worcestershire sauce in England and colatura di alici in Italy.

In Southeast Asia, fish sauce has been a crucial ingredient since at least the 17th century, when it became a prominent trade commodity between Thailand and China. During this time, fish sauce started being mass-produced and exported to other parts of the world.

How is Fish Sauce Made?

Fish sauce is typically made by mixing whole fish with salt and leaving them to ferment for several months to a year. The fish are then pressed to extract the liquid, which is strained and bottled. Some brands add additional ingredients such as sugar or vinegar to balance out the flavor.

The type of fish used can vary depending on the region, but common species include anchovy, mackerel, and herring. Traditional methods involve using wooden barrels to ferment the fish, while modern techniques may use stainless steel tanks or plastic containers.

The Culinary Uses of Fish Sauce

Fish sauce is an incredibly versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. In Southeast Asian cuisine, it is commonly added to marinades, curries, stir-fries, and dipping sauces. It can also be used to season soups, stews, and even cocktails.

Due to its intense flavor, fish sauce should be used sparingly. A little bit goes a long way in adding depth and umami to dishes. Some popular recipes that use fish sauce include pad Thai, green papaya salad, and Vietnamese pho.

The Nutritional Value of Fish Sauce

Fish sauce is a rich source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. However, it is high in sodium due to its salt content, so it should be consumed in moderation.

One tablespoon (15ml) of fish sauce contains approximately:

  • 10 calories
  • 1 gram of protein
  • 0 grams of fat
  • 2 grams of carbohydrates
  • 960 milligrams of sodium

While fish sauce itself is gluten-free, some brands may add wheat or other grains as fillers or thickeners. Always check the label before purchasing if you have a gluten sensitivity or allergy.

“Fish sauce has become an essential ingredient not only to Southeast Asian cuisine but also global gastronomy,” -Chawadee Nualkhair, a food writer based in Bangkok

What are the Ingredients in Fish Sauce?

Fish sauce is a staple ingredient in many Asian cuisines and is used to add umami flavor to dishes. It is made by fermenting fish with salt, resulting in a pungent and savory liquid. Here are the three main ingredients that make up fish sauce:


The primary ingredient in fish sauce is, of course, fish. Traditionally, whole small fish such as anchovies or mackerel were used in making fish sauce. In modern times, however, larger fish are more commonly used due to their availability and lower cost. Some brands of fish sauce may use different types of fish or even shellfish in their recipes.

It’s worth noting that some individuals may have allergies to certain types of fish, which could cause problems if they consume fish sauce made from those particular types of fish. So it’s always important to check the label for any potential allergens when purchasing fish sauce.


In order to produce fish sauce, fish must be fermented with salt. This process helps to break down the proteins in the fish and develop the characteristic savory flavor of fish sauce. The amount of salt used can vary depending on the particular recipe, but it typically ranges between 15-40% of the total weight of the fish used.

Is fish sauce gluten free? Generally speaking, most brands of fish sauce are indeed gluten-free, as long as no flour or other wheat-based ingredients are added during production. However, there may be some brands that do contain trace amounts of gluten, so it’s important to read labels carefully if you have celiac disease or are extremely sensitive to gluten.


To balance out the strong flavors of the fish and salt, water is added to fish sauce during the fermentation process. This also helps to dilute the saltiness of the mixture, resulting in a more palatable finished product.

One common misconception about fish sauce is that it’s simply “rotten fish water,” but this couldn’t be further from the truth. While the fermentation process does involve leaving the fish and salt mixture out at room temperature for several months, the end result is a flavorful condiment that adds depth and complexity to many dishes.

“Fish sauce can add a rich umami flavor to soups, curries, stir-fries, and dipping sauces. It’s an incredibly versatile ingredient that can help take your cooking to the next level.” -Serious Eats

Is Gluten Found in Fish Sauce?

Fish sauce is a popular condiment used in many Southeast Asian cuisines, such as Thai and Vietnamese. It is typically made from fermented fish and salt, giving it a salty and savory taste that enhances the flavors of dishes. However, for those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, there may be concerns about whether fish sauce contains gluten or not.

The Controversy Surrounding Gluten in Fish Sauce

The controversy surrounding gluten in fish sauce arises because some brands use wheat or other grains in their fermentation process. This can introduce gluten into the final product and cause issues for those who are sensitive to gluten. However, not all brands of fish sauce contain added grains, which means that they are gluten-free by default.

In order to determine if your favorite brand of fish sauce contains gluten, it’s essential to read the label carefully. Look for any mention of wheat, barley, or other gluten-containing grains. If these ingredients are present, then you should avoid consuming that particular brand of fish sauce.

The Risks of Consuming Gluten in Fish Sauce

For those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, consuming gluten can lead to a variety of symptoms. These can include abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, fatigue, and headaches. In severe cases, long-term exposure to gluten can damage the small intestine and lead to malabsorption of nutrients.

While fish sauce generally contains only minimal amounts of gluten due to its manufacturing process, consuming contaminated fish sauce can still trigger symptoms in those who are highly sensitive. Thus, it’s crucial to choose safe brands of fish sauce that do not contain any added gluten.

“Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disorder that occurs in genetically susceptible individuals when they consume gluten.” -Celiac Disease Foundation

It may be challenging to determine whether fish sauce contains gluten or not, as some brands do use grains in their fermentation process. However, by reading labels carefully and choosing gluten-free brands, you can continue to enjoy this delicious condiment without fear of triggering symptoms.

What are the Alternatives to Fish Sauce for Gluten-Free Diets?

Fish sauce is a common ingredient used in many Southeast Asian cuisines. It’s made by fermenting fish with salt and water, which creates a salty and flavorful condiment that’s used to season soups, stir-fries, and dipping sauces.

Unfortunately, if you’re following a gluten-free diet, traditional fish sauce may not be an option since it often contains wheat. But fear not—there are several alternatives available that can still bring that umami flavor to your dishes.

Tamari Sauce

If you love soy sauce but need a gluten-free alternative, tamari sauce is a great option. Made from fermented soybeans and little to no wheat, tamari is darker and richer than regular soy sauce, making it perfect for marinades, stir-fry sauces, and dressings.

“Tamari is a great substitute for fish sauce because it has similar notes of depth and complexity,” says Christina Seidita, executive chef at Mimi Cheng’s Dumplings in New York City. “It also brings umami flavor like fish sauce does.”

“Tamari provides savory, meaty, umami flavors—not unlike those found in animal products, such as fish and meat—which enhances lots of different foods.” -Tori Avey, food writer and blogger

Coconut Aminos

Another gluten-free and vegan-friendly option is coconut aminos. This sauce is made from the sap of coconut blossoms and often mixed with salt to create a sweet and salty liquid seasoning that’s low in sodium but high on taste.

“Coconut amino has a slightly sweeter profile compared to fish sauce, but is still very versatile,” says Seidita. “It provides a similar salty, savory depth of flavor that works well in marinades or dressings.”

“Coconut aminos is often used as a substitute for soy sauce among people who are sensitive to gluten because it contains no wheat… It has a touch of sweetness and imparts a complex flavor that tastes like a combination of soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce.” -Serena Ball, registered dietitian nutritionist

Miso Paste

If you’re looking for a non-liquid alternative, miso paste is an excellent ingredient to use as a replacement for fish sauce. Made from fermented soybeans, rice, or barley, this paste is known for its strong umami flavor and salty taste.

“Miso paste has an earthy, pungent quality that brings saltiness and depth to dishes,” says Seidita. “It’s perfect for adding flavor to soups, stews, and braises just like fish sauce would be.”

“Miso can get you partway to the deliciousness of fish sauce if you use it carefully… The paste condiment adds a deep savoriness to broths, salad dressings and dipping sauces.” -Melissa Clark, food writer and cookbook author

So don’t let your gluten-free lifestyle limit your creativity in the kitchen. With these tasty alternatives, you’ll still be able to enjoy all the flavors and benefits of using fish sauce without compromising your dietary needs.

Where to Find Gluten-Free Fish Sauce?

Fish sauce is a versatile condiment that adds flavor, umami, and depth to various dishes. It’s especially popular in Southeast Asian cuisine, particularly Thai, Vietnamese, and Filipino dishes.

As people become more health-conscious – or need to adhere to specific dietary restrictions – they start looking for gluten-free fish sauce alternatives. This raises the question: “Is fish sauce gluten-free?”

“Real traditional fish sauces are generally gluten-free because they contain only anchovy or fish extract, salt, and sugar,” said Mary Harris, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Annapolis, Maryland. -Mary Harris

Some brands may add wheat as an ingredient, primarily as a cheaper extender. Hence, it’s important to read labels carefully and research brands before buying fish sauce. But if you’re still unsure about which fish sauce bottle to buy headache-free, here are two places where you can find gluten-free fish sauce:

Natural Health Food Stores

Natural health food stores are usually well-stocked with organic, non-GMO, and allergen-free products. These stores carry numerous gluten-free options of different kinds and flavors, including fish sauce.

You can visit your local natural health food store and look for bottles of fish sauce that have a gluten-free label or inquire from their staff which brands make authentic fish sauce without any gluten-containing ingredients.

“There are many healthy ways to boost umami flavor, such as adding spices like ginger, turmeric, or herbs like basil, lemongrass, or cilantro,” says Alanna Waldron, co-founder of The Good Kitchen. -Alanna Waldron

The staff may also introduce you to other gluten-free alternatives that could add your cooking as much flavor as fish sauce, like wheat-free tamari or liquid aminos.

Online Specialty Stores

If you can’t find gluten-free fish sauce at natural health food stores in your area, don’t worry. Thanks to the internet, specialty stores selling global and exotic ingredients are now available, which typically have a wider range of options than physical stores.

You can find fish sauce online retailers that specifically cater to customers who need allergen-free products, including gluten-free fish sauce. You can also buy from popular e-commerce shops like Amazon that usually provide product labels specifying which bottle is and isn’t gluten-free.

“I choose to seek out small artisan producers because I believe wholeheartedly in their mission and love what they do!” said Sophie Egan, author of How to Be a Conscious Eater. -Sophie Egan

You can even opt for artisanal, hand-crafted, organic, and all-natural kinds if you want more wholesome culinary experiences without sacrificing flavor or quality. These may come with higher price tags, though.

Traditional fish sauces that only contain anchovy or fish extract, salt, and sugar are generally gluten-free. However, some brands may use wheat, so it’s essential to read labels before purchasing one. If you have dietary restrictions, you can opt for gluten-free fish sauce sold in natural health food stores or online specialty stores offering global and allergen-free ingredients. Alternatively, you can try other umami boosters like ginger, turmeric, or basil if you’re avoiding soy sauce altogether.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Fish Sauce?

Fish sauce is a popular condiment in Southeast Asian cuisine, made from fermented fish and salt. It is usually used as a seasoning or dipping sauce for dishes such as stir-fries, noodles, and soups. Fish sauce has a pungent, salty and savory taste, and is often described as umami. It is a staple ingredient in Thai, Vietnamese, Filipino and Cambodian cooking.

What are the Ingredients of Fish Sauce?

The main ingredients of fish sauce are fish and salt. The type of fish used in making the sauce can vary, but commonly used species include anchovies, mackerel, and sardines. The fish is mixed with salt and left to ferment for several months or even years. Some brands add sugar, vinegar or other flavorings to enhance the taste. Fish sauce is also rich in vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iodine, and phosphorus.

Is Fish Sauce Gluten-Free?

Fish sauce is typically gluten-free as it is made from fish and salt, which do not contain gluten. However, some brands may add wheat or wheat-derived ingredients to their fish sauce, which can make it unsuitable for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. It is important to check the label or contact the manufacturer to confirm if the fish sauce is gluten-free.

What are the Alternatives to Fish Sauce for Gluten-Free Diet?

There are several alternatives to fish sauce that are gluten-free and can be used in cooking. Tamari, a type of soy sauce made without wheat, is a good substitute for fish sauce in recipes that require a salty, umami flavor. Coconut aminos, made from fermented coconut sap, is another gluten-free alternative that has a similar taste to soy sauce. Miso paste, made from fermented soybeans, can also be used as a seasoning in place of fish sauce.

Can People with Celiac Disease Consume Fish Sauce?

People with celiac disease can consume fish sauce as long as it does not contain any gluten-containing ingredients. It is important to read the label carefully or contact the manufacturer to confirm if the fish sauce is gluten-free. Some people with celiac disease may also have a sensitivity to histamines, which can be found in fermented foods such as fish sauce. In this case, it is best to avoid or limit the consumption of fish sauce.

What are the Health Benefits of Fish Sauce?

Fish sauce is a good source of protein and essential amino acids, which are important for building and repairing muscle tissue. It also contains vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B12, iodine, and calcium. Some studies have suggested that fish sauce may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can help to protect against chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. However, more research is needed to confirm these benefits.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!