I’ve personally tried and tested a range of different shrimp stock substitutes to find the best one.
Whatever your reason for avoiding shrimp stock is and whatever dish you’re cooking.
The best substitute for shrimp stock is to use a shrimp bouillon cube or another type of seafood stock. If you have shrimp shells, you can also make your own shrimp stock. Chicken stock or clam juice are good options but will bring different flavor notes. And in a pinch, water will work but expect the dish to have less depth.
Keep reading for more details.
I whipped up a basic gumbo to try out 9 different shrimp stock substitutes.
Shrimp stock brings a rich seafood flavor and depth to dishes, giving them more complexity. I was looking for a substitute that could match the ocean-y notes and also bring complexity.
Here’s what I tested and my verdicts:
|Shrimp bouillon cube||Sub in a 1:1 ratio, adding extra flavor with herbs||8/10|
|Fish stock||Sub in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Homemade shrimp stock||Sub in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Clam juice||Sub in a 1:1 ratio, dilute with water if needed||9/10|
|Chicken broth (or vegetable)||Sub in a 1:1 ratio, dilute with water if needed||8/10|
|Dashi||Sub in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Water||Sub in a 1:1 ratio, adding extra flavor if needed||6/10|
|Shrimp paste + water||Sub in a 1:1 ratio, taste before using||6/10|
|Oyster sauce + water||Sub in a 1:1 ratio, taste before using||6/10|
Remember you can always mix and match these substitutes too. Chicken stock mixed with some clam juice is a great substitute.
Read next: what to use instead of clam juice
Shrimp bouillon cube
The Knorr shrimp bouillon cube is a convenient option when you’re short on time or don’t have other alternatives at hand. All you have to do is dissolve it in some water.
I found the flavor to be somewhat flat and salty initially, but simmering it with herbs like bay leaves, thyme, or parsley massively improved the flavor.
You can also balance out the saltiness by adding a squeeze of lemon or a pinch of sugar.
How to substitute: replace shrimp stock in your recipe with an equal amount of Knorr shrimp bouillon cube broth, made according to package instructions.
Fish stock is a versatile substitute that adapts well to a range of dishes, from gumbo to paella.
It has a cleaner taste than shrimp stock, but it will still lend a pleasing seafood undertone to your dish.
You should be able to find some in your local grocery store (but make sure to check the ingredients if you’re allergic to shellfish), or you can make it yourself if you happen to have some fish bones to hand!
Pro tip: adding a touch of paprika or a tomato-based product like ketchup will replicate the shrimp stock’s reddish color.
Read next: the best substitutes for fish stock
How to substitute: replace shrimp stock in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with fish stock.
Homemade shrimp stock
If you have lots of shrimp shells on hand, it’s very quick to make your own shrimp stock.
Here’s how (for more details here’s a delicious recipe):
- In a large pot, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium heat.
- Add the shrimp shells and sauté for about 5 minutes, until they turn pink.
- Add 4 cups of water, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped carrot, 1 chopped celery stalk, a bay leaf, and a few sprigs of fresh parsley.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and let it simmer for about 45 minutes.
- Strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer, discarding the solids.
- Your homemade shrimp stock is now ready to use!
It might take a bit of time. But if you can make your own stock it’s well worth it.
You can also use other shell fish like lobster or crab, or even some fish bones if you have any lying around.
How to substitute: replace shrimp stock in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with homemade shrimp stock.
Another option that will flavor your dish with ocean flavors is clam juice.
With its super briny flavor and a hint of sweetness, clam juice brings its own unique character to your dish.
I thought clam juice on its own would be too overpowering for my gumbo, so I diluted it with water (3 parts clam juice, 1 part water) before adding it. This also made sure the dish didn’t get too salty.
You can also mix it with low salt chicken, vegetable, or fish stock.
Like fish stock, clam juice is readily available in most grocery stores but you can also make it at home by simmering clams in water.
How to substitute: replace shrimp stock in your recipe with a mixture of equal parts clam juice and water or stock.
Chicken broth (or vegetable)
Chicken broth worked pretty well as a substitute for shrimp stock in my gumbo, and it’s something most people will have on hand.
I kept my broth on the mild side, so the final result wasn’t too meaty for the delicate seafood (and don’t worry… it definitely didn’t taste like chicken!).
If you have a few spare shrimp shells, I recommend sauteeing them in a pan before adding your broth to infuse some seafood flavor in there. If you have a lot of shells, then you can make your own shrimp stock!
If you need to use chicken stock, dilute it with some water so it’s not too strong. And stick with the low sodium kind.
Psst… vegetable broth will also work if you’re looking for a vegetarian alternative.
How to substitute: replace shrimp stock in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with vegetable or chicken stock.
For an unconventional twist on shrimp stock, consider using dashi. It’s a Japanese seafood stock known for its deep umami flavor.
You can make dashi from scratch using kombu (kelp seaweed) and bonito flakes, or you can buy instant dashi granules for a quick option.
Dashi has the familiar taste of the sea to it, but it added more of a savory, smokey undertone to my gumbo compared to shrimp stock’s sweet notes.
If you have a Japanese or Asian dish this would be the perfect substitute!
How to substitute: replace shrimp stock in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with dashi.
When all else fails, water can work as a last-ditch shrimp stock substitute.
It’s best when the majority of the flavor comes from other ingredients in your dish rather than shrimp stock. And even then you may have to add extra herbs or spices to compensate for the lack of depth in the dish.
A splash of something rich in umami can help like soy sauce or fish sauce.
How to substitute: replace shrimp stock in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with water.
Shrimp paste + water
I’m going to caveat this section by saying this will not taste anything like shrimp stock.
But, it will add some salty richness to the dish which you may prefer over plain water.
Shrimp paste packs a punch, so I recommend using it sparingly. You only need a small amount. And taste your ‘stock’ before you add it to your dish so you can adjust the flavor if needed.
Start by mixing a teaspoon of shrimp paste with a cup of water, and then adjust to taste.
How to substitute: replace shrimp stock in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with your watered down shrimp paste.
Oyster sauce + water
Another option that doesn’t taste anything like shrimp stock but can add a hint of the ocean to your dish.
Oyster sauce has a salty-sweet profile that very vaguely (and I mean very vaguely) mimics the flavor of shrimp stock once you dilute it with water.
Again, be careful with how much you add, because oyster sauce has a strong flavor that can easily overtake a gently-flavored seafood dish.
I’d mix a teaspoon of oyster sauce with a cup of water and then adjust as necessary.
How to substitute: replace shrimp stock in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with the diluted oyster sauce mixture.
Best Shrimp Stock Substitutes [Tried and Tested]
- 1 Shrimp bouillon cube
- 1 cup Fish stock
- 1 cup Homemade shrimp stock
- 1 cup Clam juice dilute with water if needed
- 1 cup Chicken broth (or vegetable) dilute with water if needed
- 1 cup Dashi
- 1 cup Water
- 1 cup Shrimp paste + water taste before using
- 1 cup Oyster sauce + water taste before using
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen shrimp stock substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.