Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce (Nước Chấm)

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Vietnamese fish sauce, also known as nước chấm, is like liquid gold! This can be used as a dipping sauce or dressing. It’s sweet, salty, spicy, sour, umami, and so addictive!


Vietnamese fish sauce dipping sauce (nước chấm) in a mason jar

What is Nước Chấm?

Nước chấm translates to dipping sauce in Vietnamese. However it is a sauce of many names.

This sauce can be referred to simply as nước mắm, which is the same word for fish sauce by itself, or nước mắm pha, meaning mixed fish sauce.

It consists of fish sauce, lime or vinegar, sugar, garlic, and chilis.

Nước chấm is sweet, salty, spicy, sour, and very umami.

This can be used as a dipping sauce or dressing.

It’s an essential sauce in Vietnamese cuisine and accompanies many traditional Vietnamese dishes such as rice plates (cơm tấm), rice rolls (bánh cuốn), and vermicelli bowls (bún thịt nướng) to name a few.

It adds additional depth and complexity to any meal and leaves a lasting impression on your taste buds!

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Ingredients for Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce

In order to create a truly authentic nước chấm, you need only a few ingredients.

Before you begin making this Vietnamese fish sauce dipping sauce, you’ll need to gather the following:

  • Fish sauce: This salty and umami sauce is made by fermenting anchovies. Since this is eaten straight out of the bottle and not used for cooking, it is important to use a high quality fish sauce. The ingredient list should only be salt and anchovies. I recommend Red Boat Fish Sauce or the Three Crabs Brand.
  • Sugar: Add granulated sugar to balance out the saltiness. You can also use honey, other sugar substitutes, or sweeteners.
  • Lime juice: This is a fresh and zesty sauce that requires an acidic element. I think the best way to get that brightness is to use lime juice. Vinegar is a common substitute.
  • Garlic: Garlic is quintessential to Vietnamese food. Raw garlic gives it a nice bite and aroma.
  • Chili peppers: Vietnamese people love spice so Thai (bird’s eye) chilis are a must! However if you don’t want this sauce to be spicy, just leave this ingredient out.
  • Water: Add water to the sauce to dilute it since the other ingredients have very strong, concentrated flavors. Additionally, the sugar will dissolve quicker if you use warm water.
Vietnamese fish sauce nước chấm ingredients

How to Make Vietnamese Fish Sauce

Each ingredient contributes to the distinct taste profile of this Vietnamese fish sauce dipping sauce.

This is the recipe my mom taught me for the perfect balance of sweet, salty, spicy, garlicky, tangy, and umami.

Of course as always, a recipe card is at the end of this post so you can print it out, pin it to Pinterest, or save it for later.

Let’s walk through this simple nước chấm recipe step-by-step so you can make it easily at home!

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Step 1: Combine the Ingredients

In a bowl, combine fish sauce, granulated sugar, and warm water.

My mom’s recipe calls for a 1:1:3 ratio of these three ingredients respectively.

She then adds the remaining ingredients to taste: lime juice, minced garlic, and finely chopped chili peppers.

Traditionally, this sauce calls for Thai (bird’s eye) chili peppers but you can substitute it for your favorite chili pepper.

Adjust the amount to your desired level of spiciness.

how to make Vietnamese fish sauce dipping sauce

Step 2: Blend the Sauce

After you add all the ingredients to a bowl, stir vigorously until the sugar fully dissolves.

Warm water helps the sugar to dissolve quicker.

Using cold water will also work but you will have to stir more and/or longer to dissolve the sugar.

You can also add all of the ingredients into a storage container, seal it, and then shake to mix it up.

Vietnamese fish sauce dipping sauce (nước chấm)

Step 3: Balance the Flavors

The flavor of Vietnamese fish sauce dipping sauce is extremely personal.

Each region of Vietnam, and of course, each family’s recipe is different.

My family prefers it to be tart, more salty, and less sweet.

My dad is also diabetic so when we make it for him, we usually use Sweet’N Low instead of sugar.

Lastly, taste test, and adjust the amount of each ingredient to your liking.

The end result should be a nice balance of sweet, salty, tangy, and spicy.

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Vietnamese Fish Sauce Serving Suggestions

Nước chấm is a versatile condiment that elevates a wide range of Vietnamese dishes.

Here are a few popular ways to use this sauce:

  • Dipping sauce: Serve nước chấm as a dipping sauce alongside items like spring rolls, egg rolls, grilled meats, or lettuce wraps with fresh herbs
  • Dressing: Drizzle nước chấm as a dressing over dishes like rice plates, vermicelli noodle bowls, salads, rice rolls, Vietnamese pancake/crepe bánh xèo, or green papaya salad to add a burst of brightness and tang.
  • Wing sauce: Vietnamese fish sauce makes for a unique wing sauce. It is one of my favorite ways to eat wings. Toss chicken wings in this and you’ll be wanting to lick your fingers clean!
  • Marinade: Use nước chấm as a marinade for meats, seafood, or tofu before grilling or stir-frying to infuse them with a nice balance of Vietnamese flavors.
com suon Vietnamese rice place with nuoc cham

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Vietnamese Fish Sauce Storage Tips

Vietnamese fish sauce dipping sauce should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

It will last about 1-2 weeks.

Always use a clean utensil to scoop out the sauce to avoid introducing bacteria to it which will cause it to spoil faster.

Another way to extend the shelf life is to use vinegar instead of fresh lime juice.

Additionally, leave out the garlic and chilis. Fresh ingredients spoil quicker.

I often have just the base (fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, water) stored in the fridge which lasts longer on its own and then just add in freshly minced garlic and chilis upon serving.

Discard if the nước chấm appears cloudy.

Dishes to Eat with Nước Chấm

Vietnamese fish sauce (nước chấm) is a staple in Vietnamese cuisine and is used as a dip or dressing for so many dishes.

Here are a few recipes you should pair this sauce with!

Save This Recipe for Vietnamese Fish Sauce

Vietnamese fish sauce dipping sauce is a quick and easy condiment to make that instantly takes any meal to the next level.

Nước chấm is perfectly balanced and turns basic dishes into something exciting for the tastebuds with classic Vietnamese flavors.

I hope you recreate this recipe at home and add this flavorful sauce to your rotation of sauces!

If you try it then please leave a rating and comment below . I’d love to know what you think!

Did you make this recipe? I would love to see! Tag me on IG @feedmi_ or TikTok @feedmi

Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce (Nước Chấm)

Vietnamese fish sauce (nước chấm) is sweet, salty, spicy, sour, umami, and so addictive! It can be used as a dipping sauce or dressing.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 2 cups

Ingredients

  • cup fish sauce
  • cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 Thai (bird's eye) chilis, sliced
  • 1 lime, juiced

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl or container.
  • Stir or shake the sealed container until the sugar is fully dissolved.
  • Taste test and adjust to your liking.
  • Serve as a dipping sauce or dressing and enjoy!

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