Very small fish that can be used in many dishes like soups, salads, pasta, and even to make tomato sauce, anchovies can be an incredible ingredient in many culinary masterpieces by both home cooks and professional chefs.
They can be used in various forms. In the kitchen, anchovies can appear as a paste, fresh fillets, or canned fillets. I have to say that the paste version of these incredible little fish is the most popular form.
And I also have to add that it is one of the main ingredients of the popular Caesar salad, alongside eggs, olive oil, cheese, and garlic. Black pepper can be added in some cases.
And this is all fantastic, but if one day you decide to make your own Caesar salad or some kind of soup or pasta, but you don’t have any anchovy paste on hand, what will you do?
You will head to the grocery store, but they don’t have any either. You are in trouble. Or are you? Of course, not! There are alternatives and I am here to help you find the best anchovy paste substitute out there.
Find Your Ideal Anchovy Paste Substitute
Here is the list of 11 best substitutes for anchovy paste that you can find out there. So, let’s begin, shall we?
1. Anchovy Fillets: Fresh Or Canned, You Choose
As I already said at the beginning of this article, there are a few forms of anchovy that you can find in the grocery store. Three, to be precise. You can find anchovy paste, for which we are searching for a substitute together, fresh anchovy filets, and canned anchovy fillets.
After eliminating the first option, which you don’t have at the time, you are left with fresh or canned anchovy fillets. It is up to you to choose if you find both of them in the grocery store. If you choose the fresh version of anchovy fillets, you will get some different flavors.
The paste version has a distinct flavor due to the curing process. Also, when you use it in your fish dish, you will have to use 1 fillet for half a teaspoon of anchovy paste. So keep that in mind!
When it comes to the canned version of anchovy fillets, you have to know that they sit in oil and that they are saltier than fresh, so you’ll need to balance the salt level.
You can also make your own anchovy paste by mashing the fillets, but you have to keep in mind that the flavor will be more intense, so don’t use as much of it as you would with the store-bought one.
2. Fish Sauce: Popular Asian Condiment
Asian fish sauce is a very common anchovy paste substitute because it can be easily found in many grocery stores and supermarkets. You can even order it on Amazon.
But, it has a little problem and this is its taste, which is very pungent. A pungent taste may not be the best thing for your dish. It can also give your dish an undesirable aroma, so you have to be careful when adding it because if you add it a lot, your dish could be in trouble.
The most common recipes that call for this sauce include braises, stocks, Asian marinades, and stews. And it can also be used in Caesar salad.
3. Worcestershire Sauce: Flavorful Alternative
Worcestershire sauce is one incredible condiment that originates from England and it is an ingredient in many popular dishes. This flavorful sauce is actually a mix of many ingredients including anchovy, so it is not a surprise that it found its place on this list.
Other ingredients that form this fermented liquid include tamarind, vinegar, soy sauce, onion, garlic, and chili peppers. Although this sauce contains anchovies, it won’t give you that undesirable fishy taste and that is awesome.
4. Soy Sauce: Very Similar Flavor
If you want your substitute to just copy the flavor of anchovies, then soy sauce is the perfect solution for you.
Although it has a liquid consistency, it is a perfect copy of anchovy paste in terms of flavor and saltiness level. It will give you that popular umami flavor similar to other popular seafood, seaweed, and soy-based foods. That’s incredible, isn’t it?
Soy sauce is made of water, soybeans, alcohol, wheat, and salt and it doesn’t contain any anchovy. But as I already said, if that thick texture of anchovy sauce is not important to you, then this alternative is just great.
I will also add that this incredible sauce can be added to many types of dishes including sauces, dressings, soups, etc.
5. Shrimp Paste: Gift Of Asian Cuisine
This one is also a paste, and that fact alone makes it a suitable anchovy paste substitute. Also, it can give your dish a bit of that funky flavor without strong notes of fishy flavor, which is great.
This paste is also easier to find when compared with anchovy paste. And that is another factor that has influenced the choice to place this paste on the list.
Shrimp paste is the most commonly used ingredient in southern Chinese and Southeast Asian cuisine and it is a part of popular Thai cuisine. It is mostly used in curries and sauces and, if you have decided to use it instead of anchovy paste, then you can use it in the same proportion.
6. Kalamata Olives: Crushed Ones
This vegan-friendly alternative is known for being almost sweet and sour at the same time and it also possesses a hint of fruity flavor and a little tanginess that sets it apart.
If you really want the best of it, then the crushed version of these olives is the best. They have nice color and are full of rich flavor without that unwanted fishy aroma.
This option is very versatile and it can be used in almost any type of dish. If you plan to substitute it for anchovy paste, then you can use an equal amount of it in any dish you choose.
7. Seaweed: Easier To Find
Seaweed, also known as nori, is very similar to anchovy paste so it can make a great substitute for the same. Seaweed possesses that recognizable umami flavor similar to anchovy, alongside other popular seafood like bonito fish, bonito flakes, tuna, sardines, cod, etc.
This kind of taste is one of the five main tastes, alongside bitter, salty, sweet, and sour. Umami is actually a Japanese word that means “a pleasant savory taste” in English.
Scientifically speaking, it is a consequence of the so-called guanylate acid that is present in seaweed. It is a staple of Japanese cuisine.
It is very easy to find seaweed, it is also very similar in terms of saltiness to anchovy, and it can be used in almost any dish as an anchovy paste substitute. Dried sheets of seaweed are the most common form of this ingredient and it works great for most dishes.
8. Capers: Great Addition To Fish Dishes
Capers are pea-sized buds that grow on a low-growing shrub that originates from the Mediterranean region. They are very versatile and are not only used in the kitchen, but also for medicinal purposes and even in cosmetics.
These amazing buds are pickled in vinegar and salt to preserve their flavor. When it comes to that flavor profile, it could be said that they don’t possess a strong flavor and that this is somewhat sharp and tangy.
Capers can be used in many fish and seafood dishes and they are used to add some depth to dishes like pizza or pasta sauce. If you choose capers as an anchovy paste substitute then you’ll have to use half the amount of recommended anchovy paste.
9. Miso Paste: Very Salty Alternative
Another paste on the list of anchovy paste substitutes is miso paste. This paste is also another staple of Japanese cuisine that has broken into the western market.
This paste has an intense flavor and it is quite salty and dense. That strong flavor is the consequence of salt seasoning and the so-called Koji.
Koji is the fungus used in many culinary processes and, in this case, it is used for fermenting. That is exactly what gives this paste its strong flavor.
The main reason for using this paste as a substitute for anchovy paste is consistency. It gives your dish a perfect consistency.
But you also have to know that anchovy paste is more oily and thick and miso is more dense and dry, so you’ll want to add some oil for balancing out the consistency.
10. Umeboshi Paste: Rich And Salty Flavor
Made of pickled plums, this fantastic Japanese ingredient makes a great anchovy paste substitute. It appears in a nice pink color and is very similar to anchovy paste in terms of rich and salty flavor, as well as its thick texture.
But before you use it, make sure that you drain away that saltwater because of the better taste.
I have to add that this incredible paste, besides its rich flavor and wonderful texture, also has incredible nutritional value. It is rich in iron and calcium and has some powerful antioxidant properties.
In Japan, this paste is traditionally used as a side dish alongside rice. It is also common in fish sauces and Thai dishes, and you can also add it to salad dressings, including Caesar salad dressing.
11. Sardines: If You Want To Substitute Fillets!
I added this one to the list just in case you are in search of some whole anchovy substitutes. In this case, sardines could be a decent alternative if you have run out of options entirely.
The flavors and textures of these two are not quite the same because the sardine flavor is much lighter so you’ll need to make some adjustments. I will give you one main cooking tip.
You can add some Worcestershire sauce and you’ll get that similar anchovy flavor in your dish. Your problem is solved!
In the end, I also have to add that sardines are much easier to find than anchovies so that is definitely also in your favor!
Choose Your Best Substitute
So, among all of these amazing alternatives, I am sure that you can easily find your best anchovy paste substitute which will satisfy the needs of your fish dish.
Each of these fantastic substitutes has at least one similarity to anchovy paste, be it taste, texture, or aroma, so I’m confident that you definitely can’t go wrong with any of them.