Anchovy paste is one of those culinary conundrums, you either love it or hate it, but that umami flavor is undeniable. We’re here today to help you find an ideal anchovy paste substitute.
Aside from the salty element that anchovy paste imparts on the dish or sauce it is added to, it lends a umami flavor that is typically specific to itself, and itself alone.
However, how can you achieve the same flavor balance by finding a substitute for anchovy paste?
And is there an anchovy paste alternative that still packs the same umami punch?
The idea here is to continue to refine, reinvent, and rejuvenate our culinary adventures.
While a specific flavor profile may make us scrunch our noses and culinary detectives we are determined to find ways of driving our culinary creations into flavor town.
Whether you’re an anchovy enthusiast or taking a substitution stance, we’ve got you and your taste buds covered. Read on to learn more!
Before we can break down the flavor profile of anchovy paste, we need to better understand the components that comprise it.
Anchovy paste is essentially pureed anchovies that are combined with vinegar, spices, a small amount of sugar, and water to create a mixture known as anchovy paste.
This paste has been used for centuries to impart flavor and complexity to a myriad of dishes.
Because of its undeniable umami flavor, it works well with creamy-based sauces and dressings.
Its flavor is pungently fishy and salty because the anchovies are cured before they are made into a paste.
When foods are cured, their flavor profile is intensified, therefore a little goes a long way.
When working with anchovy paste, balance is key.
How is anchovy paste often used?
From traditional condiment to recipe reviver, anchovy paste has come a long way from its expected appearance in Caesar dressing.
With its salty and savory notes, anchovy paste works best in recipes by elevating the complex flavor profile.
While oftentimes discerning, anchovy paste can pack a dynamic flavor punch to an otherwise drab recipe.
The next time you host a gathering, consider this humble addition.
Your dishes will be dressed to impress and so will your culinary skills.
We’ve put together a list of recipes that showcase anchovy paste uses in full effect.
If you want to level up your pasta game, this recipe may just do the trick.
We love the savory, umami flavor the anchovy paste imparts to this dish—perfect, elevated comfort food for those chilly winter nights.
The common misconception about anchovies is that they are specific to salads or pasta dishes, but alas we aim to break the mold!
A surprisingly fresh twist—the marriage of sweet, succulent carrots is balanced so nicely by the salty goodness of anchovies.
If you are a salty/sweet aficionado, you know the oh-so-satisfying joy of this flavor marriage.
Whether you’re a friend or foe of this little salty, briny fish—this recipe may change your vantage point.
A rather unexpected pairing, the smoky sweetness of the red peppers coupled with the briny goodness of the anchovy paste will have you double dipping!
Perhaps it’s true when they say opposites attract, and this yummy dip is no exception.
Anchovy paste works so well here, lending another layer of meaty, briny complexity to an otherwise standard dip.
Often missing in many veggie dips is that sense of balance, richness and substance.
The addition of anchovy paste adds all that and then some.
Your crusty bread—and taste buds—will thank you.
If you’re looking for a quick tomato sauce, then this recipe is for you.
Sometimes, you want a tasty meal and you want it done quickly.
Enter—Chef John’s Tomato Sauce!
Here’s why we love it: When added to a sauce, anchovy paste melts, leaving behind a complex flavor to the dish.
This imparts hearty, meaty goodness to the sauce, which makes the sauce seem like it’s been simmering away all day.
A total win for you, chef.
While possibly an unexpected addition to onion dip—onions have a umami flavor all their own.
When matched with anchovies, they work together in perfect harmony to add a complex yet pleasant flavor note.
It’ll make your guests pleasantly perplexed while digging in for more.
Consider serving this up with crust bread in addition to the traditional cracker.
Your party participants will be pleased.
Substitutes and how to use them
Whether you’re pro anchovy paste or con you may find yourself in a predicament that evades your ability to use them—perhaps you’ve run out, or your grocery store doesn’t carry anchovy paste, or you just downright don’t like anchovies.
What is a culinary creator to do?
The good news is anchovy paste can mirror many substitutions due to their similar flavor profiles and unique umami presence.
So don’t give up hope!
Tune into our anchovy paste alternative so you can whip up that recipe you’ve been craving.
1. Soy sauce
Soy sauce is an excellent anchovy paste alternative for the fact that it’s super salty, has a complex flavor, and packs a total umami punch.
It can seamlessly be added to any recipe that calls for anchovy paste.
For example, if you’re fresh out of anchovy paste and looking to whip up a tasty Caesar salad– don’t panic.
Simply swamp out the anchovy paste for soy sauce–delish!
Check out our super yummy caesar salad dressing recipe that doesn’t use anchovies.
2. Kalamata Olives/Tapenade
These salty, briny little kalamata olives are the bee’s knees to an anchovy paste alternative.
Their meaty texture profile paired with their salty goodness, make them super user-friendly.
As a tapenade, you can eat it with a crusty piece of bread, or crackers.
Feeling extra bold?
Remember that tomato sauce recipe we discussed earlier?
Use kalamata olive tapenade in your sauce.
3. Miso paste
Used in Japanese cooking for centuries, miso paste is derived from fermented soybeans.
Just a teaspoon of this flavor-packed paste can add quite a bit of complex goodness to your next dish.
Most known for miso soup, this anchovy substitute has many more capabilities than swimming with some broth.
Due to its briny flavor profile, the addition of miso paste can elevate the complexity of many average dishes.
Consider this miso dressing.
A versatile condiment that plays beautifully with salad, drizzled across vegetables, or as a sauce for salmon.
The flavor partnerships are endless.
If you want to come super close to the flavor profile of anchovy paste, without actually using it, then this anchovy paste alternative is just what you’ve been looking for.
Also known as nori, it has a similar flavor profile to anchovy paste.
Often sold as dry sheets, it’s perfect for adding to soups, sauces, even pasta.
You can stir it right in, or crumble it along the top for some much needed salty crunch.
Or, try these deliciously fresh nori wraps.
These little flavor bombs are best known for their appearance in dishes like chicken piccata, but did you know they make a great anchovy paste alternative for a myriad of dishes?
Because of their salty, slightly citrusy profile, they work well with other fish, poultry as well as vegetables.
And thanks to their versatility, capers can be used in side dishes—try adding them to your next potato salad for a kick of added complexity.
6. Umeboshi Paste
Derived from pickled plums, umeboshi paste has been a dipping sauce and flavor enhancer in Japanese cuisine.
Since umeboshi paste has an intense salty flavor, and a similar texture to anchovy paste, it makes the perfect anchovy alternative.
Looking to add some umeboshi goodness to your next dish?
This umeboshi chicken might be just what the dinner doctors ordered.
7. Shrimp Paste
Originating in Southeast Asia, Shrimp paste or prawn sauce is a fermented condiment commonly found in Southern Chinese cuisines.
It is made from finely crushed shrimp or krill mixed with salt and then fermented.
Similar to the flavor profile of anchovy paste, it lends recipes that complex, umami flavor.
So if you’re looking to bump your dish up a notch on the taste index, try this anchovy paste alternative in your next recipe.
The bottom line
The anchovy paste controversy has been a discussion for ages.
Whether you identify yourself as a friend or foe of this culinary flavor gem, there’s no denying that you have options on how to use it, or not use it at all.
Anchovy paste pacts a unique flavor of salty, briny, and overall umami goodness many of us have grown to appreciate.
And while you may be on the outskirts of that appreciation factor, there are a plethora of anchovy paste alternatives that you can use in your daily dishes without sacrificing flavor.
Next time you’re looking for a way to level up your culinary game consider an anchovy paste alternative.
And don’t forget—these alternatives are not just specific to main courses—your side dishes want to be part of the action too!
- 1 T cooking oil
- 2 shallots
- 3 cloves
- 1 1/2 T shrimp paste
- 1 c cooked rice, cold
- black pepper
- Heat cooking oil in a frying pan.
- Saute shallots, cloves and garlic until aromatic, about five minutes on medium.
- Add the shrimp paste and continue sauteeing for a minute.
- Remove whole cloves and discard.
- Fold in the rice, add some black pepper, then toss gently.