I’ve personally tried and tested a range of dried shrimp substitutes for cooking to find the best one.
Whatever your reason for avoiding dried shrimp is and whatever dish you’re cooking.
Here’s the quick answer.
The best substitutes for dried shrimp are shrimp paste, fish sauce, and dried salted anchovies. Other dried seafood you can try include crayfish or scallops. For convenient options, go with oyster sauce or anchovy paste. For vegan substitutes, try dried mushrooms, fish mint, or nori.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I whipped up basic fried rice to put all the dried shrimp substitutes to the test.
Dried shrimp are loaded with umami and have briny, salty notes. They’re used in stir fries, broths, dumplings, and even congee. I was looking for a substitute that could replicate the oceanic flavor.
Here’s what I tested and the verdicts:
|Fish sauce||¼ cup dried shrimp = 2 tbsp fish sauce||10/10|
|Dried crayfish||replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Dried salted anchovies||replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Dried mushrooms||replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Dried scallops||replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Anchovy paste||¼ cup dried shrimp = 2 tbsp anchovy paste||8/10|
|Oyster sauce||¼ cup dried shrimp = 3 tbsp oyster sauce||7/10|
|Shrimp paste||¼ cup dried shrimp = 1 tbsp shrimp paste||10/10|
|Fish mint||replace in a 1:1 ratio||7/10|
|Shaved bonito flakes||replace in a 1:1 ratio||6/10|
|Nori (for toppings)||replace in a 1:1 ratio||7/10|
|Fried garlic (for toppings)||replace in a 1:1 ratio||6/10|
Common uses for dried shrimp and the best substitutes
Here are some common use cases for dried shrimp and the best substitutes for those situations:
- In stir fires (like pad thai or fried rice) – shrimp paste, oyster sauce, dried mushrooms
- Soup stocks and sauces – fish sauce, dried mushrooms, dried anchovies
- For dumpling and spring roll fillings – dried crayfish, dried mushrooms, shrimp paste
- For salads and congee – fish sauce, dried crayfish, dried scallops, fish mint
- For toppings – dried crayfish, fried garlic, nori
Shrimp paste is a fantastic substitute for dried shrimp (unless you’re using the dried shrimp as a topping… I have options for this later on)
It offers a salty, briny twist that’ll remind you of dried shrimp, but with a distinct “fermented” bite. And shrimp paste is a LOT stronger than dried shrimp, so start with just half the amount called for, give your food a taste, and adjust as you go.
Small amounts of shrimp paste will meld into the background of your dish, adding flavor without being too in-your-face! You might also want to add a touch of sugar because dried shrimp is sweeter than shrimp paste.
How to substitute: ¼ cup dried shrimp = 1 tbsp shrimp paste / Korean salted shrimp
Fish sauce is a solid substitute for dried shrimp (and vice versa) if you’re dealing with a shrimp allergy or simply don’t have any dried shrimp on hand.
It’s a cupboard staple if you like Asian cuisine, so it should save you a trip to the grocery store. And it’ll give your dishes a distinctive salty, umami kick, just like dried shrimp.
One downside with this substitute is it won’t bulk up your dish or add any texture, but I think the flavor is worth the trade-off!
Heads up if you have a shrimp allergy – always check the ingredients list. Some fish sauces will contain shrimp or shrimp derivatives.
Pro-tip: go with a Thai fish sauce brand. They’re saltier and will better replicate dried shrimp.
How to substitute: ¼ cup dried shrimp = 2 tbsp fish sauce
You might’ve seen a pack of this ingredient and have wondered, “is this shrimp?”
The good news is pretty much! Dried crayfish have the same concentrated salty flavor as dried shrimp.
They’re typically used in African cuisine, but you can add them to any dish that needs a seafood boost – from stir-fries to paella!
Pro-tip: to make the most of this substitute, try toasting the dried crayfish in a dry pan before using it in a recipe.
How to substitute: replace dried shrimp in a 1:1 ratio with dried crayfish
You can replicate dried shrimp’s briny, umami flavor with dried anchovies (preferably the salted kind).
I get my anchovies in the Korean section of the grocery store, where they’re sold in various sizes. The small ones are particularly well-suited for stir-fries, while larger ones can be used in soups, stews, and even for a quick snack.
Anchovies can be very salty, so you’ll need to watch out for the dish becoming over salted. Taste it before adding extra salt.
Psst… you can also dried sardines. Or fresh anchovy filets, but the umami flavor won’t be as potent.
How to substitute: replace dried shrimp in a 1:1 ratio with dried anchovies
Mushrooms don’t have the same salty flavor as dried shrimp, but they’re naturally rich in glutamates, making them an excellent vegan source of umami.
And you can always add a splash of vegan fish sauce or vegan oyster sauce as well to help replicate the brininess of dried shrimp.
Dried shiitake mushrooms have the most umami, so I use these. And I might also throw a few fresh ones in if I have them!
You’ll need to reconstitute the mushrooms before using them (here’s a how-to guide).
Or if you don’t want whole mushrooms in your dish, give them a blitz to transform them into mushroom powder you can sprinkle straight into your dish.
How to substitute: replace dried shrimp in a 1:1 ratio with dried mushrooms
Think dried shrimp is too fishy? Consider using dried scallops instead.
They offer a similar umami-rich taste, but they’re less salty taste and have stronger sweet notes.
You’ll need to plan ahead slightly because dried scallops need a 25-40 minute soak to soften up, although this will depend on how big your scallops are.
But if you’re making a dish that requires a long cooking time, you can skip rehydrating them.
The downside with these is they can be more expensive than dried shrimp, but their unique taste and tenderness make them a worthy alternative.
How to substitute: replace dried shrimp in a 1:1 ratio with dried scallops
Anchovy paste is a quick and easy substitute you can consider using in place of dried shrimp.
It’s much more common in the average cooks kitchen, so you might have some lying around! And it’s a convenient option for anyone who want a quick savory flavor boost without dealing with unfamiliar ingredients.
It’s not as salty as dried shrimp or dried anchovies, so you may want to add in a spalsh of soy sauce as well to make up for this.
How to substitute: ¼ cup dried shrimp = 2 tbsp anchovy paste
Oyster sauce doesn’t taste like dried shrimp, but it’s an effortless way to take your dish to the next level.
True to its name, this condiment is made from oysters which give it a briny hint, and the addition of soy sauce and sugar creates a sweet-but-savory effect.
It wont add an overwhelming flavor to your dish, but will help enhance all the other flavors you have going on.
If you have any sugar in your recipe, you may want to hold back because oyster sauce is much sweeter than dried shrimp.
How to substitute: ¼ cup dried shrimp = 3 tbsp oyster sauce
Fish mint, or “diep ca” in Vietnamese, is an herb with a slightly fishy notes that you can use instead of dried shrimp if you’re vegan.
The seafood taste it imparts is much more subtle than with the other substitutes, but you can always amp it up by using vegan fish sauce to season your dish.
This herb works best as a fresh garnish or a last-minute addition to dishes, rather than as a direct replacement for dried shrimp in recipes.
Pro-tip: you won’t find this in the fresh produce section, but check out your local garden centre to see if you can find a pot of fish mint you can cultivate.
How to substitute: ⅓ cup dried shrimp = ¼ cup fresh mint, chopped
Shaved bonito flakes
Shaved bonito flakes, also known as “katsuobushi,” are paper-thin flakes made from dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna.
They boast a pungent, fishy taste, albeit milder than your usual dried shrimp.
These delicate flakes are a quick way to garnish your dish with umami (even if they won’t add a crunchy bite) or to give your simple stir-fry dish a flavor boost.
And with the popularity of Japanese cuisine nowadays, you can easily find a bag in your local grocery store’s international aisle.
How to substitute: ¼ cup shrimp = ¼ cup bonito flakes (for dishes)
If you’re using the dried shrimp as a garnish, nori can do a pretty good job at replacing it (and it’s vegan).
Nori is dried seaweed, so it’ll bring the sweet-salty flavors of the ocean and a it makes a nice decoration!
It’s also a nutritional powerhouse, and I think it’s incredibly addicting. I like snacking on it.
How to substitute: 1 tbsp dried shrimp = 1 tbsp nori
Another easy and delicious topping you can use instead of dried shrimp is fried garlic.
Obviously the flavours will be completely different, but who doesn’t love garlic! I doubt you’ll get any complaints (I didn’t).
And if you don’t like the sound of nori or garlic, here are other options you can consider:
- Crushed peanuts
- Fried shallots
- Crunchy noodles
Just remember to use seasoning sauces like soy sauce or fish sauce to bump up your dishes savory goodness.
How to substitute: 1 tbsp dried shrimp = 1 tbsp fried garlic
More options to consider
These ingredients are veering further away from dried shrimp(or are hard to get hold of), but you can definitely use them if you have them on hand:
- Miso paste – a good option if you’re vegan. This fermented soybean paste brings a salty punch and an earthy, umami kick. White miso is a great starting point because it’s less pungent, but you can also use darker-colored varieties, like red miso for a bolder taste.
- Dashi powder – mix this powder into your dishes for an instant umami hit. It’s made from a combination of dried seaweed and bonito flakes so has all the flavors of the ocean.
- Korean salted shrimp – this popular Korean ingredient is made from small salted and fermented shrimp. It’s normally used to add a rich savory flavor and saltiness to kimchi, but you it can do the same for and dish you use it it! Use half the amount to substitute, because it’s got a strong flavor.
- Fresh shrimp – fresh/frozen shrimp is nothing like its dried counterpart, but it’s an okay substitute if you only want to bulk up your dishes. And to make up for the flavor loss by not using dried shrimp, I recommend incorporating condiments like soy sauce, fish sauce, or oyster sauce to your dish.
- Dried cuttlefish – dried cuttlefish is a lesser-known ingredient but it shares dried shrimps’ oceanic, umami notes and you can add it to stocks, soups, and stir-fries. Or you can process them into floss and use them to add texture to your dishes.
Best Substitutes for Dried Shrimp [Tried And Tested]
- 1 tbsp shrimp paste
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- ¼ cup dried crayfish
- ¼ cup dried salted anchovies
- ¼ cup dried mushrooms
- ¼ cup dried scallops
- 2 ½ tbsp anchovy paste
- 3 tbsp oyster sauce
- ¼ cup fish mint, chopped
- ¼ cup bonito flakes, for dishes
- 1 tbsp fried garlic
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen dried shrimp substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.