I’ve personally tried and tested a range of different fish stock substitutes to find the best one.
Whatever your reason for avoiding fish stock is and whatever dish you’re cooking.
The best substitute for fish stock is clam juice or another type of seafood stock. Both have the essence of the ocean. You can also use dashi, vegetable stock, or miso soup. If you can get your hands on any seafood, you can make your own stock. In a pinch, try mixing fish sauce or white wine with water.
Keep reading for more details.
I whipped up a basic seafood risotto to try out 9 different fish stock substitutes.
Fish stock has a delicate flavor and brings the essence of the ocean to your dishes. I was looking for a substitute that could replicate mild briny flavor and bring some depth to my risotto.
Here’s what I tested and my verdicts:
|Clam juice||Sub in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Shrimp stock||Sub in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Dashi||Sub in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Vegetable stock||Sub in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Miso soup||Sub in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Chicken stock||Sub in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|White wine + water||Sub in a 1:1 ratio||6/10|
|Fish sauce + water||Sub in a 1:1 ratio||6/10|
|Homemade fish stock||Sub in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
Remember you can always mix and match these substitutes too. Chicken stock mixed with some clam juice is a great substitute.
Read next: best substitutes for shrimp stock
Common dishes that use fish stock and the best substitutes
Here are some common use cases for fish stock and the best substitutes for those situations:
- Soups and stews: clam juice, chicken or vegetable stock, dashi
- Risotto, paella, or gumbo: clam juice, miso soup, dashi
The best substitutes for fish stock
Here I go into more detail about each substitute and how you can use it.
Clam juice has got the perfect blend of briny, oceanic flavors to mimic fish stock. It was the best substitute I tried, and my risotto tasted amazing!
You can find bottled clam juice in grocery stores (usually near the canned fish). Or you can make your own by steaming fresh clams.
Clam juice isn’t overly strong, but it has a delicious flavor that will lift your whole dish. And you can always dilute it with water or stock if you want a lighter flavor.
Pro tip: to add more depth of flavor to the clam juice, I like to mix it with water and then simmer it with aromatics like onions, carrots, celery, or garlic. You can add a bay leaf or your favorite dried herbs too.
How to substitute: replace fish stock in a 1:1 ratio with clam juice, being mindful the clam juice can be more salty so you may need to dilute it with water. Taste as you go.
Fisk stock is typically made from fish heads and bones.
But there’s plenty of other seafood stocks you can try, each one will have a unique flavor. But they’ll all bring the flavors of the ocean.
Shellfish stock is the most common type of stock after fish stock. It’s made with shrimp, lobster, or crab. I find it slightly sweeter than fish stock, which is very clean tasting.
But in most dishes this differences won’t matter too much!
How to substitute: replace fish stock in a 1:1 ratio with another type of seafood stock.
Dashi is a Japanese seafood stock made from seaweed (kombu) and bonito flakes (dried, fermented fish).
It’s FULL of umami flavor and has a hint of the sea, making it an excellent substitute for fish stock. Some people actually prefer using dashi over fish stock because it has more complexity.
I make it myself at home because it’s super easy. But you can also get it in powder form in shops (sold under the name Hondashi).
Psst… you can also make vegan dashi.
How to substitute: replace fish stock in a 1:1 ratio with dashi.
A basic vegetable stock can be a great fish stock substitute (especially if you’re vegan or vegetarian).
It’s cheap, easily accessible, and you probably already have some in your cupboards.
While it won’t have the same seafood flavor, it will provide a neutral base for your recipe and bring the same salty, savory notes.
To bring the taste closer to fish stock, consider adding some seaweed or bontio flakes. You could also add a dash of fish sauce, although this will add more umami rather than replicating the delicate flavors of fish stock.
Pro tip: pick a high-quality vegetable stock or make your own for the best results.
How to substitute: replace fish stock in a 1:1 ratio with vegetable stock.
Miso soup is an ideal substitute for fish stock in Asian dishes.
Miso is a fermented soybean paste that offers a rich umami flavor. You can mix it with water to form a flavorful broth – and you can adjust the amount of paste you use to get a stronger or weaker flavor.
It’s not got the same seafood notes as fish stock, but it will provide a savory base and lots of depth to your dish.
Pro tip: miso paste can be very salty, so you may need to adjust your seasoning.
And there are different types of miso with differing flavors. White miso has a milder and sweeter taste, while red miso is stronger and more pungent.
How to substitute: replace fish stock in a 1:1 ratio with miso broth.
Chicken stock is very similar to vegetable stock in that it doesn’t taste like fish stock, but it sill offers a solid base for your dish. And it’s a staple in most kitchens.
I recommend adding a splash of white vinegar or some lemon juice to lighten the flavor. The acidity of these ingredients will brighten your whole dish.
You can also dilute the stock with water if you think it’s too strong. And always go for the low sodium option if you can.
Pro tip: get some clam juice and combine this with your chicken stock for a 5* fish stock substitute!
How to substitute: replace fish stock in a 1:1 ratio with chicken stock
White wine and water
A simple mix of white wine and water isn’t the most ideal fish stock substitute, but it’ll definitely do in a pinch.
White wine has a bright flavor that complements seafood, and the water will make sure the wine flavor doesn’t become overpowering.
In my experiment I combined equal parts of both. The result was a makeshift broth that added a light acidity and depth to my risotto. For less acidity, use less wine (and vice versa).
A dry white wine is best, but you can use whatever you’ve got to hand.
How to substitute: replace fish stock in a 1:1 ratio with your white wine and water mixture.
Fish sauce and water
Using fish sauce as a substitute for seafood stock isn’t as good a substitute as you might think, but it will bring depth to your dish.
It’s best to use when the dish has lots of other strong flavors. I would avoid using it in a dish where all the flavors are quite mild because it could overpower everything.
Fish stock has a delicate, briny flavor. While fish sauce leans more towards salty and pungent. It also has a lot more umami than fish stock.
To use fish sauce as a substitute you’ll need to dilute it with water. Start by combining 1 teaspoon fish sauce with a cup of water, and then adjust to taste.
You could also try using oyster sauce or Worcestershire sauce.
How to substitute: replace fish stock in a 1:1 ratio with your fish sauce and water mixture.
Homemade seafood stock
If you have access to some sort of seafood, you can make your own fish stock.
It’s best if you have leftover shells from shellfish or white dish, but you can even use canned sardines if there’s no other option (and i mean no other option)
Here’s a quick guide to making your own fish stock (get more details here).
- Prep your seafood by rinsing it off to remove any debris or oil.
- Gently fry the seafood on a medium heat along with finely chopped aromatics like carrots and celery to release its flavors.
- Add enough cold water to the pot to fully submerge the seafood.
- Add herbs like bay leaf, parsley, thyme, and peppercorns to help round out the flavor.
- Simmer the mixture for 30 minutes. Skimming off any foam or impurities that rise to the surface.
- Strain before use.
Psst.. if you’re using something like sardines, don’t use too many. They have a much stronger fishy taste than leftover shells and can easily overwhelm the dish.
You can also skip the fish and make seaweed stock by boiling water with seaweed!
How to substitute: replace fish stock in a 1:1 ratio with your homemade stock.
Best Fish Stock Substitutes [Tried and Tested]
- 1 cup Clam juice dilute with water if needed
- 1 cup Shrimp stock
- 1 cup Dashi
- 1 cup Vegetable stock dilute with water if needed
- 1 cup Miso soup weak miso soup
- 1 cup Chicken stock dilute with water if needed
- 1 cup White wine + water
- 1 cup Fish sauce + water
- 1 cup Homemade fish stock
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen fish stock substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.