I’ve personally tried and tested a range of different anchovy paste substitutes to find the best one, whatever your reason for avoiding anchovies is and whatever dish you’re cooking.
Maybe you’ve simply run out?
Or maybe you’re allergic, you don’t like the taste, or you’re looking for a plant-based alternative.
Here’s the quick answer.
The best substitute for anchovy paste is mashed anchovy fillets. Swap one teaspoon of anchovy paste for one mashed anchovy fillet. Fish sauce or Worcestershire sauce are also great options. For plant based substitutes, try a yeast extract like marmite, miso paste, or mashed capers.
To find the best substitute for anchovy paste, I made my own Caesar salad dressing and tested out 14 different options.
The main reason for using anchovy paste in a dish is to add a burst of umami flavor. The paste amplifies the other flavors and brings a tangible depth.
I was looking for a substitute that brought just as much complexity without altering the flavor too much.
Here’s what I tested and my verdicts:
|Substitute||Sub 1 tsp anchovy paste for||Plant based?||Verdict|
|Anchovy fillets||1 mashed fillet||No||10/10|
|Fish sauce||1/2 tsp||No||10/10|
|Worcestershire sauce||1 tsp||Can be||9/10|
|Shrimp paste||1/4 tsp (add slowly)||No||8/10|
|Capers or olives||1 mashed tsp||Yes||7/10|
|Mushroom paste or powder||1 tsp||Yes||7/10|
|Soy sauce||1 tsp||Yes||6/10|
Anchovy fillets and fish sauce most closely mimick the salty, savoury flavour of anchovy paste.
Worcestershire sauce, miso paste, yeast extract, and shrimp paste all have the same depth as anchovy paste, but each one bought slightly different flavor notes.
Things like capers, mushroom paste, and soy sauce have significantly different flavor profiles, but still added the much-needed umami oomph.
Common dishes that use anchovy paste and the best substitutes
- Caesar salad: anchovy fillets, Worcestershire sauce, mashed capers
- Pasta puttanesca: anchovy fillets, Worcestershire sauce, marmite
Anchovy fillets are the best substitute for anchovy paste, especially for uncooked dishes like salad dressings.
They taste very similar, and you can easily mash them into a paste.
Or if you’re planning to use a food processor anyway, you can throw the whole anchovy in.
I thought the mashed anchovies had a slightly fresher, brighter flavor that worked really well in my salad dressing.
How to substitute: 1 teaspoon of anchovy paste = 1 mashed anchovy fillet
Looking for an anchovy paste substitute for a Caesar salad dressing?
Try Worcestershire sauce.
Rumor has it that the original Caesar dressing used Worcestershire sauce instead of anchovy paste anyway!
Heidi from Foodie Crush says ‘if you really can’t stand the anchovy flair, substitute it for 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice’.
Be careful not to add too much though, because it will thin out your sauce.
Worcestershire sauce bought a sweet-sour note to my dressing that I didn’t get with anchovy paste, but it had a similar effect of amplifying the other flavors.
How to substitute: 1 teaspoon anchovy paste = 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
When I say umami, one of the first things you probably think of is miso.
The Japanese staple has a complicated flavor that’s hard to define, but is utterly delicious. And that’s exactly how you can describe umami.
It’s got the right level of saltiness, making it a great vegan or vegetarian substitute for anchovy paste.
Pro tip: if you’re a fan of Korean cooking, Doenjang is another option.
How to substitute: 1 teaspoon anchovy paste = 1 teaspoon miso paste
Fish sauce is another great substitute for anchovy paste – in certain dishes.
They have a very similar flavor profile, which makes sense when you consider that anchovies (or some other small, strongly flavored fish) are one of the main ingredients in fish sauce.
For example, in my fish sauce, anchovy extract makes up 68%.
However, the sauce is very concentrated so it has more of a metallic taste.
And in dishes like Caesar salad dressing where anchovies are one of the main flavors, using fish sauce instead can be too much. If you do need to use it, add a very small amount.
Fish sauce comes into its own in dishes where anchovies are just adding a background umami hit and depth of flavor, like Shepherds pie.
How to substitute: 1 teaspoon anchovy paste = ½ a teaspoon of fish sauce
Marmite / vegemite
I am a self confessed marmite lover.
And it’s been a secret ingredient in my spaghetti bolognese for years because of the richness it adds.
It’s made from fermented yeast and is extremely high in glutamates, which gives it the umami flavor we’re after. Vegetmite will work too (or any own brand yeast extract).
Psst… I added a splash of soy sauce to my Casear dressing as well for some extra saltiness.
How to substitute: 1 teaspoon anchovy paste = 1 teaspoon marmite
Shrimp paste isn’t something most people are going to have on hand, but if you do happen to have some, it’s a great swap for anchovy paste.
It’s salty, briney, and packed with flavor!
Although it’s a lot more concentrated than anchovy paste, so start off with a small amount and then add more to taste.
Psst.. I also have an article on the best substitutes for shrimp paste.
How to substitute: 1 teaspoon anchovy paste = 1/4 teaspoon shrimp paste
Capers / olives
Mashed capers or kalamata olives may sound inoffensive, but they’re flavor powerhouses.
They’re incredibly briney, giving them a similar flavor profile to anchovy paste.
And you can easily mash them with your fork if you’re after a paste consistency.
You could even try olive tapenade which tends to have both capers and anchovies as added ingredients.
I found them to be more subtle in my salad dressing, so they’re a good option if you prefer softer flavors.
How to substitute: 1 teaspoon anchovy paste = 1 teaspoon mashed capers
Another vegan-friendly substitute for anchovy paste is mushroom paste.
Mushrooms feature in so many vegan dishes because of their deep, earthy, and you guessed it… umami flavor.
You can also use mushroom powder and mix it with water to form a paste. Or make your own paste from whole mushrooms.
Pro tip: the mushrooms didn’t add the same saltiness that anchovies did to my Caeser dressing, but you can always just add a pinch more salt!
How to substitute: 1 teaspoon anchovy paste = 1 teaspoon mushroom paste
Soy sauce isn’t the best substitute for anchovies because it doesn’t have the same depth of flavor. Its umami-ness is more surface level.
But if you’re in a real pinch and you have some in your cupboard (which most people do), it’s better than nothing.
Don’t go overboard when you’re adding it because I found the soy sauce to be quite thinning, and it can have a dramatic effect on color (especially for a creamy dressing like Caesar salad dressing).
How to substitute: 1 teaspoon anchovy paste = 1 teaspoon soy sauce
Other anchovy paste substitute options
If none of the substitutes above work for you, here are a few more options.
These substitutes are moving further away from the flavor of anchovy paste, but they’re still full of umami so will add depth and flavor to a dish you think is lacking.
- Seaweed – this will add the essence of the sea to your dish, and you can mince it up to make it paste like. Or use it as a crunchy topping for you dish. The flavor won’t be as strong as anchovy paste though, so you may want to add a splash of soy sauce or something aswell.
- MSG powder – this is pure umami flavor, so it will bring an addictive depth to your dish but won’t have any ocean-y flavors. Some people also report sensitivities to it.
- Umeboshi paste – this a Japanese paste made from pickled plums that will replicate the umami, salty flavor of anchovy paste. But it’s not a very common ingredient so it’s unlikely that you have some to hand!
- Oyster sauce – oyster sauce is full of umami, but is also quite a bit sweeter than anchovy paste. You’ll need something sour to balance it out like a splash of vinegar or lemon juice.
- Maggi seasoning sauce – this sauce is packed with bold savory depth, but it has an extra smokey element as well that you don’t get with anchovy paste.
14 Best Substitutes For Anchovy Paste
- 1 tsp Anchovy paste
- 1/2 tsp Fish sauce
- 1 mashed Anchovy fillet
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp Marmite / Vegemite
- 1 tsp Miso paste
- 1 tsp Shrimp paste
- 1 tsp Capers / Olives mashed
- 1 tsp Mushroom paste
- 1 tsp Soy sauce
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen anchovy paste substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.