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8 Best Shrimp Paste Substitutes

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Shrimp paste has a distinctive pungent aroma and intense salty flavor, and is a crucial ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisines; where it’s used to enhance depth and umami in dishes.

When unavailable or unsuitable due to dietary preferences, it’s important to find substitutes that can replicate its umami flavor profile. Otherwise you may be left with a bland recipe.

Shrimp paste curry in a bowl with shrimp.

What is Shrimp Paste?

Shrimp paste is created from fermented ground shrimp mixed with salt. It’s an essential component in many Asian dishes, especially for adding strong umami character and depth.

This paste is commonly incorporated into curries, sauces, and rice dishes, imparting a unique saltiness and intensity.

8 Shrimp Paste Substitutes

1. Fish Sauce

Fish sauce, a liquid condiment made from fermented fish and salt, provides a similar umami quality to shrimp paste.

Although less intense and in liquid form, it’s a versatile substitute in dressings, marinades, and cooking, particularly in Southeast Asian cuisine.

2. Anchovy Paste

Made from ground anchovies, oil, and salt, anchovy paste offers a comparable fishy and salty flavor profile.

It’s more concentrated than fish sauce and can be a good alternative in recipes requiring a small amount of shrimp paste. Its intense flavor suits sauces and marinades well.

3. Miso Paste

Miso paste, a Japanese staple made from fermented soybeans, provides a rich umami flavor and is a vegetarian alternative to shrimp paste.

Ideal for soups, dressings, and marinades, miso paste lacks the seafood flavor of shrimp paste but adds depth to vegetarian dishes.

4. Umeboshi Paste

Umeboshi paste, derived from pickled ume fruits, has a tangy and salty flavor. While it doesn’t replicate the seafood taste of shrimp paste, it adds a similar depth and saltiness to dishes and is a suitable vegetarian option for dressings and sauces.

5. Seaweed

Dried and ground seaweed can be a vegetarian substitute for shrimp paste, providing a briny, sea-like flavor.

It’s suitable for soups, stocks, and seasoning blends, mimicking the oceanic aspect of shrimp paste.

6. Oyster Sauce

Oyster sauce, made from oysters, sugar, and soy sauce, offers a rich umami flavor with a hint of sweetness.

It can be used as a substitute in dishes where a depth of flavor is needed, though it has a different texture and sweetness compared to shrimp paste.

7. Bonito Flakes

Bonito flakes, dried and smoked skipjack tuna, are used in Japanese cooking to add a smoky, umami flavor.

These flakes can be a good alternative in recipes that benefit from a fish-based umami element, similar to shrimp paste.

8. Dried Shiitake Mushrooms

Dried shiitake mushrooms, when rehydrated and minced, can substitute for shrimp paste in vegetarian recipes.

They offer an earthy umami flavor and can be used in a variety of dishes to add depth, though they lack the seafood flavor.

How to Incorporate These Substitutes

Choosing the right substitute for shrimp paste depends on the dish’s requirements and dietary preferences. Fish sauce and anchovy paste are closest in replicating shrimp paste’s umami and seafood flavor.

For vegetarian alternatives, miso paste, umeboshi paste, seaweed, and shiitake mushrooms provide umami and depth. It’s important to adjust quantities and balance flavors in the dish accordingly.

Final Thoughts

While shrimp paste has a unique role in Asian cuisine, these substitutes can provide similar umami qualities and depth to your dishes.

Each alternative offers unique characteristics, allowing for culinary flexibility and adaptability in a variety of recipes, ensuring that your dishes maintain their intended flavors and complexities.

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