Anchovy Substitutes

Anchovies are a distinctive ingredient, known for their strong, savory, and salty flavor. They are often used in recipes to add depth and complexity to a dish, enhancing the overall taste experience. However, not everyone enjoys the taste of anchovies or has them readily available in their pantry. Luckily, there are various substitutes that can provide a similar umami boost to your dishes, even if you don’t have any fish on hand.

In this article, we will explore some of the best anchovy substitutes that can help you achieve the desired flavor in your meals. These alternatives range from vegetable-based options to seafood variations, catering to different preferences and dietary restrictions. By understanding the characteristics of each substitute, you will be able to make a well-informed decision when adapting a recipe to your liking.

As you continue reading, you will discover the pros and cons of each alternative, as well as helpful tips on how to use these substitutes effectively in your cooking. This knowledge will enable you to elevate your culinary skills and cater to a wide range of tastes, while still achieving that desired umami-rich flavor.

Understanding Anchovy Substitutes

Anchovy Substitute - CHOW Tip

Anchovy Substitute Overview

When it comes to cooking, sometimes you may need to use anchovy substitutes in your recipes. There are various reasons why people might prefer using substitutes for anchovies, but the good news is that there are plenty of options to choose from. In this section, we’ll explore some common alternatives to anchovies and provide guidance on how to use them effectively.

Some popular anchovy substitutes include:

  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Soy Sauce
  • Capers
  • Olives
  • Kelp or seaweed-based products (for a vegetarian substitute for anchovies)

Reasons for Substituting Anchovies

There are a few key reasons why you might consider using an anchovy substitute in your cooking:

  1. Dietary Restrictions: Many people follow vegetarian or vegan diets and require a vegetarian substitute for anchovies. Others may have an allergy or intolerance to fish and seafood.
  2. Availability: Sometimes, it can be difficult to find fresh or canned anchovies in your local grocery store, so an alternative ingredient might be needed.
  3. Personal Preference: Not everyone enjoys the salty and strong flavor of anchovies, and some may like a milder option for their recipes.

No matter your reason for substituting anchovies, there’s a suitable option out there for you. By understanding the different anchovy substitutes available and their unique characteristics, you can confidently make adjustments to your recipes while still achieving delicious results.

Savory Alternatives

Substitute For Capers - Alternatives And Replacements

Umami-Enhancing Substitutes

Looking for a substitute for anchovies that still delivers a punch of umami flavor? Try using these sauces, which are known to impart a rich, meaty taste to your dishes:

  • Soy sauce: A must-have in Asian cuisine, soy sauce is fermented and made from soybeans, wheat, salt, and water. It can easily replace anchovies in recipes that call for a salty and umami depth.
  • Tamari: A close cousin to soy sauce, tamari is another fermented condiment made primarily from soybeans. It has a thicker consistency and is generally gluten-free, making it an excellent alternative for those with dietary restrictions.
  • Worcestershire sauce: A delicious blend of vinegar, molasses, sugar, salt, spices, and other flavorings, Worcestershire sauce has a distinct umami and slightly tangy taste. Just a few dashes can add complexity to your dishes in place of anchovies.

Savory Seasonings

If you prefer to use a dry seasoning instead of a sauce, consider these options for adding a savory, meaty flavor to your recipes:

  • Miso paste: Made from fermented soybeans, rice, or barley, miso paste has a thick consistency and delivers a beautifully rich taste. Use it sparingly, as its flavor can be intense. Mix the paste with some warm water to create a more easily blendable liquid.
  • Fermented condiments: Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickles can bring satisfying umami notes to your dishes. Chop them finely and use them as a substitute for anchovies in recipes requiring a tangy, savory kick.

Remember to adjust the quantities of these substitutes according to your taste and the nature of your recipe. Experiment with different combinations to find the perfect balance of flavors in your dishes.

Salty and Briny Options

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Salty Flavor Enhancers

Choosing the right salty flavor enhancer can make or break your dish when you’re looking for an anchovy substitute. One popular option for maintaining a salty taste is using anchovy paste. This paste can provide a similar flavor to anchovies without the need for the fish itself.

Another option is to use olives, especially kalamata olives. These dark, ripe olives from Kalamata come packed with a bold, savory taste that lends well to dishes requiring a salty touch. You can either chop them roughly or use them whole for added texture and flavor.

Briny Substitutes

Picking a briny substitute is equally important when recreating the unique taste of anchovies. Capers are an excellent choice, as they are essentially pickled flower buds that possess a distinctive, tangy flavor profile. Incorporating capers into your dish can provide both a briny character and a sharp, piquant taste.

You might also consider using other types of olives to find the perfect flavor balance in your dish. The world of olives offers a diverse range of options, from green to black varieties, each with their unique taste attributes. Don’t be afraid to experiment and discover which type of olive best suits your needs.

Remember, the key is understanding the desired taste you’re aiming for in your dish and selecting the appropriate salty and briny substitutes. By using the options mentioned above, you can achieve a delightful balance that elevates your culinary creations without the need for anchovies.

Plant-Based Substitutes

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Vegan and Vegetarian Substitutes

If you’re following a plant-based diet, finding a suitable anchovy substitute may seem challenging. However, there are various vegan and vegetarian alternatives available that mimic the umami and savory flavors of anchovies. Some of the popular choices include:

  1. Seaweed: Nori sheets or a kelp-based seasoning can be used in recipes calling for anchovy. Seaweed is not only a vegan option, but it also gives dishes a salty, ocean-like taste, closely replicating the anchovy flavor.
  2. Dried mushrooms: Both shiitake and porcini mushrooms have a deep, earthy flavor that contributes to the umami taste in recipes. Roughly chop or grind them to use as a vegetarian alternative to anchovies.
  3. Umeboshi paste: This pickled plum paste provides a tangy, salty, and savory flavor that can replace anchovy in some dishes. Ensure the paste is free of fish products to maintain a fully vegan option.
  4. Yeast extract: Spreadable yeast extracts, like Marmite or Vegemite, impart a strong, savory taste to dishes. Given their concentrated flavor profile, use them sparingly as a vegan alternative to anchovy.

Natural Plant Alternatives

In addition to the vegan and vegetarian substitutes, various natural plant alternatives can be used to emulate the anchovy flavor in your dishes. Two of the common options are:

  • Capers: These small pickled flower buds offer a tangy and briny flavor that complements dishes requiring an anchovy substitute.
  • Olive tapenade: A mixture of olives, capers, and other ingredients, tapenade is a flavorful spread that can work as an anchovy substitute in recipes like pasta or salads.

By opting for these plant-based substitutes, you can still enjoy rich, umami flavors in your favorite recipes, without using anchovies.

Cooking With Substitutes

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Incorporating anchovy substitutes into your dishes can be a simple and seamless process if you follow a few essential guidelines. This section will discuss recipe adaptations and substitute proportions for different dishes, whether you’re making pasta, pizza, soups, or dressings.

Recipe Adaptations

When replacing anchovies in recipes, it’s crucial to consider the dish’s texture, taste, and cooking method. Here are some adaptations to keep in mind for specific meals:

  • Pizza: For a fish-free alternative that still brings a savory depth, opt for ingredients like olives, capers, or mushrooms. These provide a similar umami flavor without altering the pizza’s overall texture.
  • Soups: In soups, especially those like Puttanesca, use a combination of ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes and olives to achieve a similar depth of flavor. Adjust your seasonings to account for the additional saltiness in these alternatives.
  • Pasta Puttanesca: This classic dish usually contains anchovies for their rich and briny flavor. A recommended substitute, such as mashed capers, will help maintain its distinctive taste.
  • Caesar Salad Dressing: Since anchovies are key to the dressing’s character, try making your homemade anchovy paste by combining Worcestershire sauce and capers, or using a store-bought vegan Worcestershire sauce.

Substitute Proportions

To ensure a successful substitution, keep these guidelines in mind for your dishes:

Dressing & MarinadeSoy sauce / Fish sauce1:1
Pasta PuttanescaMashed capers1 Tbsp per anchovy filllet
Caesar Salad DressingHomemade anchovy paste*1:1

*Homemade anchovy paste: 1 Tbsp capers + 1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce in place of 2 anchovy fillets.

Using a 1:1 ratio for substituting anchovies means that for every anchovy fillet or teaspoon of anchovy paste your recipe calls for, you can replace it with an equal amount of the chosen substitute. However, given that some substitutes are saltier than anchovies, it would be wise to taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.

By following these guidelines and making necessary adjustments, you can confidently incorporate anchovy substitutes into your recipes without compromising on flavor and texture.

Taste Profiles

Matching Flavor Complexities

When selecting a substitute for anchovies, it’s essential to consider the complex flavors they bring to a dish. Anchovies provide a salty, umami, and tangy taste, which can be challenging to replicate. A suitable alternative should ideally match these flavor complexities. For example, a combination of tamari or soy sauce with a bit of vinegar can provide the saltiness and tanginess that anchovies typically offer. You can adjust ratios to suit your palate, ensuring that the substitute enhances your recipe without overpowering it.

Sweet, Tart, and Bitter Balancers

Anchovies not only bring umami to a dish but also help balance sweet, tart, and bitter elements. When substituting anchovies, consider options that can provide this balancing act. Some potential substitutes include:

Bear in mind that these substitutes may not perfectly replicate the taste of anchovies, but they can provide a satisfactory alternative while maintaining the intended flavor balance of your dish. Feel free to explore and experiment with these options as you fine-tune your recipes according to your taste preferences.

Nutritional Considerations

Protein Content

When seeking an anchovy substitute, it’s essential to consider the protein content of your alternatives. Anchovies are known for their high protein levels, providing around 20 grams per 100 grams of fish. If you want to maintain a similar protein intake, opt for substitutes such as sardines, mackerel, or herring. Here’s a quick comparison:

FishProtein (per 100g)

Vitamins and Minerals

Anchovies are also a rich source of various vitamins and minerals, particularly iron and selenium. It’s crucial to choose a substitute that can provide similar nutritional benefits. Some options and their respective nutrient content are as follows:

  • Sardines: Sardines are a great source of iron and selenium, with 2.9 mg of iron and 38.8 mcg of selenium per 100 grams. They also offer high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, making them an excellent alternative to anchovies.
  • Mackerel: Mackerel contains 1.63 mg of iron and 63.7 mcg of selenium per 100 grams, making it another suitable anchovy substitute. Additionally, mackerel is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital for maintaining heart health.
  • Herring: Herring offers 1.3 mg of iron and 19.9 mcg of selenium per 100 grams. Like the other substitutes mentioned, herring is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

In summary, when looking for an anchovy substitute, both the protein content and the presence of vital vitamins and minerals should be considered. Sardines, mackerel, and herring all provide comparable nutritional benefits, making them excellent alternatives to anchovies.

Additional Flavorful Ingredients

When looking for anchovy substitutes, you may want to consider using additional flavorful ingredients to achieve a similar depth of flavor instead of a direct replacement. Here are some great options you can mix and match in your recipes.

  • Garlic – A staple in any kitchen, garlic adds rich, pungent flavor to dishes. Roasting the garlic before adding it to your dish enhances its natural sweetness and mellows the sharpness, making it a versatile addition to your recipe.
  • Thyme – Thyme is an aromatic herb that imparts a subtle, earthy flavor to dishes. Fresh thyme is an excellent choice for a wide range of recipes, including marinades, sauces, and slow-cooked meals. Its flavor complements that of garlic and black pepper.
  • Mustard – Available in various forms such as seeds, powder, and prepared spread, mustard introduces tang and heat to dishes. A small amount is powerful enough to impart intense flavor, similar to the saltiness of anchovies.

Some other seasonings to consider include:

IngredientFlavor ProfileBest For
Black pepperBold, spicySauces, marinades, stews
Herbs (parsley, basil, oregano)Fresh, green, aromaticPasta, salads, sauces

With these ingredients at your disposal, you can easily experiment and adjust recipes to your preference. Mixing and matching different ingredients allows you to create your unique flavor combinations, ensuring that your dishes are always satisfying and delicious.

Culinary Techniques

Blending Flavors

When searching for an anchovy substitute, it’s important to consider blending flavors to capture the essence of the umami-rich fish. A combination of beef and Parmesan cheese can be used to create a similar taste profile. For instance, you can make use of the following ingredients in your dish:

To enhance the flavor, cook the ground beef and add grated Parmesan cheese during the last few minutes of cooking. This will create a rich and savory base to mimic the taste of anchovies.

Another option is to make use of bacon in place of anchovy fillets. Try incorporating chopped bacon into your recipe to add a salty and smoky element. As bacon is also high in fat, you may need to adjust the amount of oil or butter used to avoid an overly greasy dish.

Enhancing with Fats

Fats play a crucial role in carrying and intensifying flavors to your dishes. Utilizing fats such as olive oil can help elevate the taste of your anchovy substitute. For example, if you are using Parmesan cheese as a replacement for anchovies, consider drizzling some olive oil in the dish. This will not only improve the texture but also the taste, allowing the flavors to blend together more harmoniously. In this case, a simple list of ingredients would include:

  1. Gnocchi (or any pasta of your choice)
  2. Grated Parmesan cheese
  3. Olive oil
  4. Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Prepare the gnocchi as directed and toss with a generous amount of olive oil, grated Parmesan cheese, and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes for some heat. This simple yet flavor-packed dish will provide a satisfying alternative to recipes that call for anchovies.

Remember, when you’re looking to substitute anchovies, don’t be afraid to experiment with various ingredients and culinary techniques. By blending flavors and enhancing with fats, you can effectively mimic the taste of this distinctive fish in your dishes.

Cultural and Dietary References

Mediterranean Influences

The Mediterranean region is known for its rich culinary heritage, full of flavors and vibrant colors. Anchovies are no exception, as they are a staple ingredient in many Mediterranean dishes. However, if you’re looking to replace anchovies in your cooking, there are other ingredients that still showcase the essence of Mediterranean cuisine. For example, tomatoes and plums are both notable ingredients that bring depth in flavor to various dishes. Consider incorporating these ingredients to enhance the dish while also providing a nod to the Mediterranean’s vibrant culinary history.

Diet-Specific Substitutes

In recent years, alternative diets have significantly influenced food choices and preferences. For vegetarians, finding suitable substitutes for anchovies is essential. Luckily, many options fit different dietary restrictions while providing an anchovy-like taste.

  • Tomato paste: A versatile and vegetarian-friendly option is tomato paste, which brings a savory, concentrated flavor similar to anchovies. Try using a tablespoon of tomato paste for every anchovy called for in a recipe.
  • Miso paste: Another excellent vegetarian choice is miso paste, made from fermented soybeans. The paste imparts a slightly sweet, umami-rich flavor, much like anchovies. Use one teaspoon of miso paste for every anchovy.
  • Plum: For those who adhere to a fruit-based diet, plums hold the potential to be a delicious substitute. Use finely diced, ripe plums to add a natural sweetness and subtle tang to dishes.

By exploring the versatile world of ingredients, you can find suitable and flavorful substitutes for anchovies that satisfy your cultural and dietary preferences. Remember to experiment with different alternatives for a customized dining experience that suits your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a suitable vegetarian alternative to anchovies for umami flavors?

A great vegetarian option to replace anchovies for umami flavors is using dried shiitake mushrooms. You can soak them in hot water to create a flavorful, umami-rich broth, which can be used in your recipes to add depth and savoriness.

Can sardines be effectively used in place of anchovies in dressings and sauces?

Yes, sardines can work as a substitute for anchovies in dressings and sauces. They share a similar fish taste, but sardines are milder and may not be as salty, so you might need to adjust the quantity accordingly to achieve your desired flavor.

How can capers be used to replicate the taste provided by anchovies?

Capers can replace anchovies in recipes where a tangy, salty, and slightly briny taste is sought. Rinse or soak the capers to reduce their saltiness, then chop or mash them before adding to your dish. Keep in mind that capers won’t provide the same fishiness as anchovies, but they can still add a delightful taste to your recipe.

What adjustments should be made when using miso as a substitute for anchovies?

When using miso as a substitute for anchovies, start with a small amount and taste to ensure you are achieving the desired flavor profile. Miso is a fermented soybean paste and has a naturally strong umami taste, but will not provide the fishy taste of anchovies. Depending on the type of miso used (white, yellow, or red), you may need to adjust the quantity and other seasonings in your dish.

In what ratios should anchovy paste and fillets be substituted for one another?

To substitute anchovy paste for anchovy fillets, use one teaspoon of paste for every one anchovy fillet. Conversely, if you need to replace anchovy paste with fillets, use one fillet per teaspoon of anchovy paste. Keep in mind that you may need to finely chop or mash the anchovy fillets to achieve the desired texture in your dish.

Which condiments can be used as a replacement for anchovies to achieve a similar savory profile?

Soy sauce, tamari, or liquid aminos can work as replacements for anchovies to achieve a similar savory profile in dishes. These condiments provide umami and saltiness, but do not have the fishy taste of anchovies. Start with small quantities, adjusting as needed for taste, and consider the sodium levels when adding other seasonings or ingredients.

Anchovy Substitutes + Recipe

Here's a simple and delicious recipe using anchovies: Anchovy and Garlic Pasta
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 334 kcal


  • 8 ounces of spaghetti or your favorite pasta
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 6 anchovy fillets chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmesan cheese optional


  • Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  • In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
  • Add the chopped anchovy fillets to the skillet and cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally until the anchovies start to break down and melt into the oil.
  • Stir in the red pepper flakes and chopped parsley, and cook for an additional minute.
  • Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and toss to coat the pasta with the anchovy and garlic mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve the pasta in individual bowls, garnished with grated Parmesan cheese if desired.


Calories: 334kcal
Keyword anchovy substitues
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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.
Cassie Marshall
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