Tiny fishes with great umami taste and versatile culinary use, anchovy is an ingredient prized by professional chefs and home cooks. They are like spices, cheeses, and truffles in a way that it brings a complex and savory flavor to any recipe. If you’re out of luck and can’t get your hands on this special ingredient, try the closest substitutes for anchovies.
Before you consider other food, try some anchovy products first
Besides the actual anchovies, there are other forms of products using these small fishes as a base ingredient. Naturally, these would be the most direct replacements for anchovy.
1. Anchovy food products:
- Canned anchovies
- Bottled anchovies
- Salted anchovies
- Dried anchovies
- Anchovy paste
- Anchovy fish sauce
You can try the products above if you need that salty and fishy taste packed with good umami in your dish. Just note that both the texture and flavor of the products vary due to the differences in processing, preservation, and storage.
Whether the anchovy is fileted, salt-cured, oil-packed, etc., these can result in some distinction between the products. For instance, anchovy paste is heavy in both flavor and texture so it’s best to use it conservatively. Salted anchovies are, well, quite salty than the whole fish sold in the market. As such, you have to adjust the measurement and your cooking accordingly.
Even so, you won’t have a hard time trying to mimic the anchovy saltiness and taste because you are practically using the same fish product.
Explore the next closest substitutes for anchovies
2. Shrimp paste
A popular ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisine, try using shrimp paste in place of anchovy. Savory, salty, with a strong concentrated shrimp flavor that comes off as quite fishy, this paste can do a lot to your recipe.
You can use shrimp paste in sauces, curries, fried rice, and many other savory dishes. Like anchovy, with the paste form in particular, shrimp paste shares a lot of similarities in terms of saltiness plus its unique funky flavor and fragrance.
3. Fish Sauce
It’s not an exaggerated thing to say that probably all households in East Asia and Southeast Asia have and use this sauce. It works as an effective replacement for anchovies especially in savory recipes.
Fish sauce is used as a seasoning or condiment famous for its salty, savory, earthy flavor with a clear umami taste. Some varieties would have hints of tanginess and sweetness to it which gives a more complex flavor for your dishes. Try it in your next dish instead of anchovies and it might expand your palate.
4. Worcestershire Sauce
Worcestershire sauce is a liquid condiment or flavoring made of vinegar, tamarind extract, molasses, garlic, sugar, salt, chili pepper extract, and anchovies. It has a unique taste that balances savory, tanginess, sweetness, saltiness, and slight spiciness. It also has umami flavor thanks to anchovies.
This sauce makes a good alternative for anchovies in recipes like soups, stews, marinades, casseroles, and various savory dishes.
5. Umeboshi Paste
Originating in Japan, umeboshi paste is traditionally made from plum fruit which gives it its distinct saltiness with hints of fruity acidity.
This tangy seasoning is primarily used as a condiment for sushi or just rice. Over time, it has lent its unique taste to dips, dressings, and marinades. With just the right umami and salty flavor, it can replace anchovies when you’re in a pinch.
Much like other food paste including anchovy paste, umeboshi paste is concentrated in flavor so use it sparingly.
6. Tamari Sauce
Another sauce from Japan, tamari is a vegan-friendly liquid byproduct that you can use instead of anchovies. This soy sauce is made from fermented soybeans and has a richer flavor and thicker consistency compared to other soy sauces.
Tamari sauce is commonly used to add flavor to soups, sauces, and stir-fries. You can also use it as a condiment for sushi, dumplings, tofu, noodles, and rice.
While tamari does not have a lot of complex flavor that anchovies have, it still has a saltiness and umami that can enrich your recipes.
7. Soy Sauce
If you’re in a pinch, you don’t have to look for so many other things besides soy sauce. This versatile ingredient is sure to add flavor to your dishes.
You can use soy sauce in a lot of things, be it in salad dressings, marinades, condiments, pickles, and a lot more. It is also a common ingredient in many Asian recipes whether in soups, stews, and other savory meals.
Like anchovies, soy sauce can add saltiness and umami to a dish although it does not add much in texture. If you’re just after flavor improvements, then try this product.
Capers have a distinct taste comparable to pickles. It’s salty, tangy, briny, lemony, and savory- yes, it is packed with flavor. You can use this to plenty of dishes and it will not just give some zing in taste but also an added texture that you can bite on.
Commonly used in Mediterranean cooking, this rounded fleshy bud is often compared to anchovies and sometimes, sardines. It is a vegan alternative for those who want strong flavored bits to accompany their meals.
9. Kalamata Olives
Another vegan alternative for anchovies, kalamata olives work like capers. Kalamata olives have a milder taste than olives with hints of sweetness and fruitiness to it. While it doesn’t have the fishy taste like anchovies, it is still strong flavored and salty.
These olives make for a perfect addition to salads, pastas, pizzas, and dressings. It’s not as much used as an ingredient for cooking stews and the like but you can consume it as a side for your veggies, meats, and cheeses.
Seaweed is a staple food in Asian cuisine. There are various types of seaweed but nori is especially close to anchovies.
Nori is created out of processed seaweed. It’s usually used as a wrap for rice balls and sushi. It is also used as a flavoring or garnish in noodles, soups, rice, and even pizza.
Seaweed, nori especially, is briny, salty, and rich in umami. This mineral-rich food also offers a fun slightly crunchy texture to your recipes.
11. Liquid Aminos
Naturally vegan and gluten-free, liquid aminos is another liquid flavoring that can replace anchovies in some recipes. This seasoning is pretty similar to soy sauce but it is slightly sweeter, milder, and less salty.
If you’re hoping to add something salty and savory to your meal, consider this option.
12. Miso Paste
If you have exhausted your options of alternatives for anchovies and still need something else, try miso paste. It’s far from having the same anchovy taste but it has its own charm that may work in some dishes.
Miso is deeply savory, salty, a tad sweet, and packed with a strong umami taste. It’s a very popular ingredient in Japanese dishes used in soups, snacks, pickles, and even desserts. If you’re up for trying something new to add in your cooking, try miso.
What are anchovies used for in cooking?
Anchovies are really versatile. It is added in sauces, rubs, dips, dressings, and condiments. It is an ingredient to many dishes including stews, soups, and plenty of savory recipes. Over time, it has also become a topping on pizzas, salads, and sandwiches.
Can I use anchovies as anchovy paste substitute and vice versa?
Yes, you can use anchovies in place of anchovy paste and the same is true otherwise. Firstly, if you have anchovies, you can easily make your own homemade anchovy paste which you can use. On the other hand, anchovy paste would be able to deliver the same anchovy flavor for your dishes.
What you only need to note is the measurements you use when using either of the two. Anchovies are lighter in taste compared to the concentrated flavor of anchovy paste. So, make sure to adjust accordingly.
So, what alternative for anchovies should you choose?
If you’re just after the saltiness and rich umami taste of anchovies, plenty of the liquid seasonings above would deliver just fine. In case you need more than the taste like an added texture to your meal, try kalamata olives, capers, seaweed, or some paste to help elevate your dish.
The best substitutes for anchovies would depend on which recipe you’re using it for. If it’s for pizza, using some condiments wouldn’t make sense and you’d most likely benefit from some nori or olives. In case you’re cooking up some savory dishes or Asian meals, try using shrimp paste, worcestershire sauce, or simply soy sauce. So, consider your recipe first before choosing which anchovy alternative you should get.