Anchovies Substitutes

Anchovies are revered for their distinctive flavor, often described as salty, briny, and packing an umami punch. They lend a complexity to dishes that can elevate the taste profile significantly. However, there might be instances where you either run out of them or prefer an alternative for dietary reasons or personal preference.

In such scenarios, knowing the right substitutes is crucial to achieving a similar depth of flavor in your dishes. Options range from Worcestershire sauce, which contains anchovies but offers a more diluted way to introduce that intense flavor, to umeboshi paste and capers, which are great for vegans and vegetarians seeking to replicate the tangy, salty characteristics. Soy sauce and miso provide versatility and accessibility, as they are staple ingredients known for their umami qualities. Fish sauce or shrimp paste can also serve as effective stand-ins, though they introduce their own unique flavor notes and are best suited for those who are not avoiding seafood altogether.

Selecting the right substitute depends largely on the flavor dimensions you’re aiming to replicate, and each alternative brings its own merits to the table. It’s about finding the right balance to complement the other elements within your recipe without overpowering them. Whether your priorities lie with maintaining a similar taste profile or adhering to dietary restrictions, the possibilities to adapt your favorite recipes with these substitutes are plentiful.

Understanding Anchovies

In exploring anchovy substitutes, it is crucial to first understand anchovies’ unique flavor profile, their varied culinary uses, and the health benefits they offer.

Flavor Profile

Anchovies are small, saltwater fish with a distinct flavor that is both salty and umami-rich. Umami, often described as the fifth taste, provides a depth of flavor that is savory and complex. The anchovy’s taste is so pronounced that it remains detectable even when used in small quantities, enhancing the overall flavor of your dish without overwhelming it.

  • Key Components of Anchovy Flavor:
    • Umami: Contributed by compounds like glutamates.
    • Saltiness: From both the natural content in the fish and the curing process.
    • Oiliness: Adds a rich texture, usually from the fish’s own oils or those they are preserved in.

Culinary Uses

Your culinary adventures with anchovies can be quite versatile. These small fish are not only eaten whole—either fresh or preserved—but also used as a flavoring in sauces and oil.

  • Common Anchovy Preparations:
    • Whole, preserved anchovies: often used as a pizza topping or in salads.
    • Anchovy paste: a concentrated form ideal for stirring into sauces.
    • Anchovy oil: used to infuse dishes with a richer flavor.
    • Anchovy sauce: such as Worcestershire sauce, which includes anchovies as an ingredient.

Health Benefits

Anchovies are known for being nutrient-rich, offering several health benefits. They are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for heart health, as well as protein and various vitamins and minerals.

  • Nutritional Advantages:
    • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Support cardiovascular health.
    • Protein: Essential for muscle building and repair.
    • Vitamins & Minerals: Including calcium, iron, and vitamin A.

In summary, when you either consume anchovies directly or use them as an ingredient, you’re tapping into a rich store of flavor and health advantages that can elevate your cooking and contribute positively to your overall diet.

Ideal Substitutes for Anchovies

Anchovy Substitute - CHOW Tip

When your recipe calls for anchovies but you’re in a pinch, consider reaching for Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce, or anchovy paste. These substitutes not only mimic the deep umami flavor of anchovies but also add their own unique qualities that can enhance your dish.

Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire sauce is a complex, fermented liquid condiment originally from England. It’s made with a blend including vinegar, molasses, sugar, salt, and various spices. Its robust flavor is partly due to the inclusion of anchovies, making it an excellent alternative when you require that punchy umami savoriness in dressings, marinades, and sauces.

  • How to use: Replace anchovies with Worcestershire sauce at a ratio of 1 teaspoon for every anchovy fillet.

Fish Sauce

Derived from fermented fish, primarily anchovies, fish sauce is a staple in many Southeast Asian cuisines. It provides a similar salty, savory profile to anchovies. While there are many brands available, Asian fish sauce and tamari are popular choices.

  • How to use: Start with a few drops and adjust to taste, as fish sauce can be quite potent.

Anchovy Paste

For a direct anchovy substitute, look no further than anchovy paste. This is a concentrated form made from ground anchovies and some added vinegar and spices. It dissolves well in warm mixtures, making it ideal for pasta sauces and dressings.

  • How to use: The conversion is straightforward — one teaspoon of anchovy paste per fillet.

Remember when substituting in recipes, adjustments may be needed to achieve the desired intensity of flavor.

Plant-Based Alternatives

Vegan anchovies with only 8 ingredients [2023]

When looking for vegan substitutes for anchovies, your goal is often to mimic the umami flavor that these small fish provide. Here are three plant-based alternatives that can impart a similar depth of flavor to your dishes.

Miso Paste

Miso paste is a versatile, fermented soybean product that brings a savory quality to your cooking. It’s rich in umami, which makes it an excellent vegan substitute for anchovies. To use miso paste as a replacement, try adding a small amount to soups, sauces, or dressings.

  • Type: Fermented soybean paste
  • Flavor: Savory, rich in umami
  • Best Used: Soups, sauces, dressings

Umeboshi Paste

Umeboshi paste is made from pickled ume fruits, closely related to apricots and plums. This tangy, salty paste has fermentative properties that can introduce the complex flavors often associated with anchovies. A little goes a long way, so start with a small quantity.

  • Type: Fermented plum paste
  • Flavor: Tangy, salty
  • Best Used: Dips, spreads, sauces


Seaweed is an oceanic plant that naturally contains a briny, savory note, similar to that of anchovies. It comes in various forms, such as dried sheets or flakes, and can be crumbled into dishes as a seasoning. For a more potent flavor, look for kelp or nori varieties.

  • Type: Marine vegetable
  • Flavor: Briny, savory
  • Best Used: Broths, salads, as seasoning

Salty and Briny Options

Super Quick Video Tips: How to Make Your Own Anchovy Paste

When seeking to replicate the distinct salty and briny taste of anchovies, your pantry likely houses ideal substitutes. These alternatives will maintain the essential flavor profile in your dishes.


Capers are the small, pickled flower buds of the Capparis spinosa plant and are known for their sharp briny tang. They’re typically packed in salt or brine, which amplifies their natural pungency.

  • Recommended use: Rinse to reduce saltiness, then chop or add whole; excellent for sauces and dressings.


Olives offer a fruity yet briny taste with a hint of bitterness. Specifically, Kalamata olives are a great choice due to their robust flavor which stands out in a multitude of recipes.

  • Recommended use:
    • Pitted and chopped for sauces and stews.
    • Whole or sliced on pizzas and salads.


Tapenade, a rich paste made from olives, capers, and anchovies, brings a complex savory character to dishes. Even without anchovies, its salty and briny essence remains strong.

  • Recommended use: Spread it on bread or use it as a condiment in sandwiches and wraps.

Throughout these options, adjust the salt content in your recipes accordingly, as these substitutes bring their own salinity to the dish.

Creative Concoctions & Mixes

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Unlock the full potential of your dishes with inventive substitutes for anchovies. These creative mixes are designed to emulate the umami and complexity that anchovies contribute to dishes.

Soy-Sauce Mixes

To create a savory base for your sauces and dressings, consider soy sauce as a foundation. Combine it with ingredients like olive oil, a splash of lemon juice, or a hint of vinegar to balance the flavors. For a more robust mixture:

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar
  • A pinch of black pepper

Mix these together for a quick anchovy sauce alternative that works well in dressings or marinades.

Fermented Condiments

Fermented condiments like shrimp paste or Worcestershire sauce give you a depth of flavor akin to anchovies. Shrimp paste can be quite potent, so start with small amounts and adjust to your taste. As a rule of thumb:

  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste = 1 anchovy fillet

Blend it into your sauces or pastes. Worcestershire sauce, which contains a small amount of anchovies, can also add a similar savoriness to your dishes when anchovies are out of reach. Just a few dashes can transform a recipe.

Homemade Dressings

For dressings where anchovies are typically a key ingredient, like a Caesar dressing, you can create your own anchovy-free version. Start with:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • A small amount of crushed black pepper and herbs

Whisk these together, and you have a simple, yet flavorful, base. Adjust the tanginess with more vinegar or mustard to your preference. You can incorporate minced seaweed as well to add a touch of the sea.

Explore these mixes to find the perfect balance for your palate, and feel confident experimenting to suit your specific culinary needs.

For the Love of Umami

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Your quest for that savory, meaty umami flavor doesn’t have to end when anchovies aren’t an option. Here are some substitute ingredients that can deliver the depth and richness you crave in your dishes.

Sardines and Small Fish

Sardines are your closest bet for matching the briny, umami-rich profile of anchovies. They are small, oily fish that are also packed with glutamates, the compounds responsible for the umami taste. When substituting in recipes, use an equal amount of sardines to replace anchovies.

  • Sardines: Use in equal amounts to substituting anchovies.
  • Small Fish Variations: Can be adjusted according to the dish.

Dried Mushrooms

Dried mushrooms, such as shiitake, are a powerhouse of umami. They contain natural glutamates and offer a complex, meaty flavor to dishes. Rehydrate them in water before chopping finely to use as an anchovy alternative.

  • Dried Shiitake: Soak and then chop.
  • Meaty Flavor Profile: Best for imparting depth to vegetarian dishes.

Yeast Extracts

Yeast extracts like Marmite or Vegemite are concentrated sources of glutamates, making them excellent for infusing your recipes with umami. They are intensely savory and should be used sparingly.

  • Marmite/Vegemite: Start with a small amount and adjust to taste.
  • Rich Umami: Can replace anchovies in sauces and dressings.

Dish-Specific Substitutes

When replacing anchovies, it’s important to match the substitute’s flavor and texture to the original recipe to maintain the desired outcome. Here’s how you can do that for some specific dishes.

Caesar Salad Modifications

For a classic Caesar Salad, anchovies add a salty umami punch to the dressing. Instead, use a 1:1 ratio of Worcestershire sauce for a similar flavor profile. If you’re looking to maintain the texture in a vegan variation, finely minced capers or kalamata olives can provide the needed salty bite.

Pasta Protocols

Pasta Puttanesca traditionally relies on the robust flavor of anchovies. Swap in shrimp paste or anchovy paste at a rate of ¼ teaspoon per anchovy filet. If you need a vegan option, use miso paste, which offers a rich umami taste. Start with a small amount, taste, and adjust until you hit the right note.

Soups and Stews

Soups and Stews often benefit from the depth anchovies bring. Substitute with fish sauce, measuring teaspoon for teaspoon in place of anchovies. For a vegetable-based or vegan soup, soy sauce is a suitable replacement. Add gradually and taste as you go since it’s saltier than miso or anchovy.

Personalizing Your Substitute Choices

Selecting the right substitute for anchovies in your cooking greatly depends on your dietary needs, desired flavor profile, and texture preferences. By considering these factors, you can tailor your choice to best suit your dish without compromising on taste or dietary restrictions.

Dietary Considerations

For those of you with dietary restrictions or specific lifestyle choices such as vegetarianism, evaluating alternatives to anchovies is crucial. Here is a list of vegetarian and vegan-friendly substitutes:

  • Umeboshi Paste: A tangy, salty paste made from Japanese pickled plums.
  • Capers: These offer a pop of brine and saltiness.
  • Seaweed or Kelp: Provides a sea flavor while keeping the dish vegetarian.

Remember, Worcestershire sauce typically contains anchovies, so for a vegetarian option, it’s important to look for a brand that makes a vegan version without anchovies.

Flavor Adjustments

Flavor is a key ingredient in your dish; if anchovies are meant to be a dominant note, such as in Caesar dressing, pick a substitute that brings a similar umami punch:

  • Worcestershire Sauce: For non-vegetarian dishes, it’s a close match in savoriness.
  • Soy Sauce or Tamari: These can mimic the saltiness and fermentation.

For dishes that call for a hint of anchovies, like in a stew or sauce, you might prefer a milder alternative:

  • Miso Paste: It gives a fermented taste without the fish.
  • Shrimp Paste: Although fishy, it’s milder than anchovies but uses shellfish.

Texture Preferences

The texture of anchovies is unique, providing a subtle bite in otherwise smooth dishes. To replicate this:

  • Chopped olives or minced mushrooms: These can provide a similar texture contrast.
  • Finely diced bacon or Parmesan: For non-vegetarian options that introduce a chew.

Achieving the right consistency and mouthfeel might need a process of trial and error. If you’re using a very wet substitute like soy sauce, you may need to reduce other liquids in your recipe to maintain balance.

Frequently Asked Questions

When looking for alternatives to anchovies, you might have concerns about taste, dietary preferences, or availability. These answers aim to address common questions regarding how to replace this distinctive ingredient in various dishes.

What can I use as a vegetarian replacement for anchovies in dishes?

For a vegetarian alternative, try using miso paste, capers, kelp, or seaweed-based products. These options provide a similar umami taste to anchovies.

How can I substitute anchovies in pasta recipes?

You can use anchovy paste or Worcestershire sauce as substitutes in pasta. For every anchovy filet, use half a teaspoon of anchovy paste or a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce.

What is the best way to replace anchovies in Caesar dressing?

A good vegetarian substitution for anchovies in Caesar dressing is to use capers, which add the required brininess, or try a combination of Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce for a non-vegetarian alternative.

Is it possible to use sardines as a substitute for anchovies, and if so, in what ratio?

Yes, you can use sardines as a substitute for anchovies. Generally, use a one-to-one ratio when replacing anchovies with sardines, but remember to adjust according to taste since sardines can be milder.

How much miso should be used as a substitute for anchovies in cooking?

Use one teaspoon of miso paste for every anchovy fillet recommended in the recipe. Miso offers a rich umami profile similar to that of anchovies.

What quantity of Worcestershire sauce can effectively replace anchovies?

Worcestershire sauce, which contains anchovies, can replace the fish with a ratio of about one teaspoon for every two anchovy fillets in most recipes. Adjust to your taste preference, as the sauce is potent.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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