Anchovies are a special type of topping. They are not for everyone but there are many people out there who really enjoy them. The thing is, they aren’t always easy to find or get.
There might also be times where someone requested anchovies and you just want to use a similar alternative to see if it’s any better.
Thankfully, if you like the flavor of anchovies or want something similar, there are substitutes that a person can use when they need to. Some of the substitutes really might surprise you because many times, it’s just the use of a sauce or paste but there are several different options.
What is the best substitute for anchovies? The best substitute for anchovies varies by dish. Worcestershire sauce is one of the most common choices as anchovies are in the ingredient list. Other substitutes include fish sauce, shrimp paste, sardines, soy sauce, miso, capers, kalamata olives.
In this guide, we will share with you the best substitutes for anchovies. Whether you’re enjoying a hearty salad, need a pizza topping alternative, or simply just need something suitable for that gourmet sauce you’re making, we’ve got you covered!
Stick with us to learn the best substitutes for anchovies.
A Guide to Using Substitutes for Anchovies
There are a number of different things that one might use anchovies for. They are popular with chefs particularly for dressings and dips but they really are considered to be a versatile ingredient in the kitchen.
Here are some common uses for anchovies:
- Pizza topping
- Dressing (Caesar)
- Salad topping
- Anchovies paste
- Pasta Sauce
- French tart
These are just a few examples. The key takeaway is that they can be versatile if you are willing to test it out.
Now, let’s take a look at some alternatives and what they might be most suitable for.
1. Worcestershire Sauce
One of the most common substitutes for anchovies is Worcestershire sauce. This is because the sauce actually contains anchovies as one of the ingredients so you get that bold and funky flavor without having to have anchovies directly.
You may have been using Worcestershire sauce for things and never had any idea what was in it until you read this guide. Most people would not put Worcestershire sauce on their pizza, but it totally is an option if you want the flavor.
Worcestershire sauce makes a good substitute for things like casseroles, soups, stews, sauces, and marinades. You can add a touch of it to Cesar dressing, or any other type of sauce or dressing you might want to make.
This comes in liquid form so it is very easy to add in to whatever you are making to enjoy a funky flavor that really might set a dish apart.
Don’t stop using Worcestershire sauce just because you discovered it has anchovies in it! Keep using it for your normal dishes but maybe find some new dishes and sauces that you can try it out in and give that extra burst of flavor to.
If you need a good recommendation for Worcestershire sauce, we recommend the Lea & Perrins brand. This is an all-natural sauce and one of the original creators of Worcestershire sauce as well. Their sauce is Kosher and flavorful with flavor that you just simply won’t find elsewhere.
2. Fish Sauce
Here is another sauce option for your anchovy substitution. Again, a sauce can be used in just about any dish you make. Whether you want to mix into pizza sauce, add it to a soup or stew, or want to get that funky flavor in your dressing, fish sauce might be helpful.
We will note that fish sauce can be pretty strong so you will want to use very small amounts. In most cases, we would recommend Worcestershire over fish sauce for things like Caesar dressing or most sauces.
You will probably want to use very small amounts, however, typically about 1/2 of a teaspoon or less. Fish sauce is pretty strong in flavor.
The thing about fish sauce is that it is really very potent in flavor. If you use fish sauce, be sure to use it in something that will not be over powering. Use it for options like soups, stews, stocks, or braises. You can use it in a paste as well.
If you are looking for a good fish sauce, try this option from Thai Kitchen. They make a lot of really great Asian sauce options and the fish sauce is made with quality ingredients. They do have anchovies in the sauce but keep in mind that it is strong in flavor. This one has just four ingredients and no MSG.
3. Shrimp Paste
If you are making an Asian dish or perhaps want to be able to add to your pizza for anchovy flavor, you can always use a shrimp paste to replace your anchovies or anchovy paste. You would use shrimp paste in the same increments that you use anchovy paste in.
Pastes like these are commonly used in Southeast Asian and Southern Chinese foods. You can easily make your own shrimp paste or anchovy paste simply by grinding up the meat and fermenting it with salt. However, you can also purchase them; shrimp paste is often easier to find than anchovy paste.
Shrimp paste will give you that touch of funky flavor without the strong notes of anchovy as well if you just want something that is a little bit lighter.
Shrimp paste and anchovy paste both are pretty strong in flavor so you will want to accommodate for that when you are creating your recipe, whatever it may be.
Here is a popular shrimp paste from Thai Shrimp that you can try if needed.
If you’re looking for a real fish substitute for anchovies, you can try sardines. This is a challenging one because the flavors really are different, as are the textures.
Sardine flavor is much lighter than anchovy flavor. So if you like the thought of say anchovies and crackers but want something lighter, a sardine can be effective.
However, you can use sardine fillets in place of anchovy fillets if you prepare your dish properly. In this case, you will want to be sure to add a touch of a sauce like Worcestershire sauce to really pull the anchovy flavor into the dish.
The nice thing about sardines is that they give you a lightly flavored alternative. They make a great substitute when it is more about the appearance of the food and being able to have the fillets available for use.
Keep in mind that the flavors are distinctly different so it won’t quite taste the same. You can help this by using some Worcestershire or fish sauce on the sardines for whatever it is that you are serving.
Sardines are often much easier to find at most grocery stores so this could be your workaround if needed. Just don’t forget the Worcestershire. If you need a recommendation, we like this choice from household favorite Chicken of the Sea.
5. Soy Sauce
Another popular substitute for anchovies when you need that funky flavor is soy sauce. This is a sauce so it is best when used for dressings, sauces, soups, and similar items. You could add soy sauce to pasta sauce or perhaps pizza sauce as well.
There are absolutely no anchovies in soy sauce. It is made primarily with water, soybeans, wheat, salt, and alcohol but the flavor is rich so it gives you a suitable flavor substitute if you just want to add that funky touch that really stands out.
The nice thing about soy sauce is it relatively easy to find or make on your own. A lot of people have soy sauce in their fridge or pantry so it makes a great substitute when you need a quick and easy fix.
Since this is a sauce it can be easily added into just about anything you are making. Whether you’re whipping up a Caesar dressing, making some pizza, or creating some other dish, it can be a versatile substitute that works.
If you need a good soy sauce, we recommend Kikkoman Japanese made soy sauce. It is bold and strong and flavor, which is where the substitution properties really come into play, making it a credible alternative.
6. Miso – Vegan Alternative
Miso is a great option when you need an anchovy substitute that is meatless. Miso uses soybeans to create a paste that is rich and flavorful. Miso is designed to be nutritious and give you that rich, umami flavor that things like anchovies and pastes are known for.
Miso can be found in different varieties. It is typically a paste or a liquid and either one can be used for a lot of different things as well.
On the same note, Miso is also nutritious and has a lot of nutrition benefits to it. Most miso is rich with things like protein, folic acid, minerals, B vitamins, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K.
Miso can be made in different ways but is typically primarily soybeans. Just watch your ingredient list to know whether there are added ingredients or preservatives in the mix. Since the flavor is rich, this can be a suitable anchovy substitute
Miso is best used as a substitute for recipes that use broth like soups. It can also work for marinades or mixed with veggies and into casseroles. Some people add it to noodle dishes as part of the broth in the dish.
Miso is versatile. While it won’t taste just like anchovies, it will have that bold and rich flavor that most people use anchovies for so it works really great as a substitute.
This Miso Soybean paste from PuroRaw is a great option and it is 100% organic with rich flavor and all-natural ingredients. You can’t go wrong here.
You may have seen or heard of anchovies on pizza and maybe you’re intrigued but just don’t know where to start.
Or maybe you want an alternative because you love this option! Capers are the next best thing to having anchovies on your pizza. You can use capers as a topping or you can mix them into your pizza sauce, it works either way.
Capers make a popular substitute because they aren’t just a sauce or a paste, they are a small little pea-sized object that typically come in salt and vinegar mixtures. The flavor is very similar overall to an anchovy with less of a fish flavor to it.
You can create a paste or simply use them as they are and they will work wonderfully as an anchovy substitute.
Capers come from a bush and they are actually small buds. What makes them a good alternative is how they are prepared and sold. Capers have a nice funk to their flavor without being too strong or overwhelming when you create your dish.
Our caper recommendation comes from Mina Non-Pareil, which translates to has no equal so it ultimately speaks for itself on the quality.
8. Kalamata Olives
Finally, our last recommendation for an anchovy substitute is Kalamata olives. These olives make another great vegan-friendly alternative. They are known for being almost sweet and sour at the same time.
Kalamata olives have just a hint of fruity flavor but what really stands out is the tang in the juice that the olives come in.
Use the olives for texture and the juice for some flavor and it makes a really great option that includes no meat. If you are substituting for anchovy paste, you would use almost equal measurements to what you might have used for paste.
The nice thing about olives is they are versatile so if you want something for a paste or if you perhaps want something that you can add to your salad, this is your winner! They are fresh and flavorful and they can be used for several different options.
We like this option from Roland Foods. They are sourced from Greece and they are flavorful and rich as well.
We hope that you find this guide to choosing an anchovy substitute to be both helpful and informative. We made every effort to provide an alternative for just about any situation and to provide versatility so there would be something for different preferences as well.
We invite you to take a look at our question and answer section below to see if there is any additional information that might be useful for you.
Are There Vegetarian Substitutes for Anchovies?
There are vegetarian alternatives to anchovies. You could use something like the Kalamata olives, miso, or perhaps even seaweed to create an alternative.
While we didn’t mention seaweed in our list of options, it has a bold flavor and texture that can easily replace anchovies in many types of dishes. Use seaweed for things like salad or pizza.
What Makes Anchovies So Salty in Flavor?
The saltiness comes from a curing process with the fish. They cure in salt and vinegar, which is what gives them that salty and funky flavor that really stands out. This is why other salty foods like soy sauce and fish sauce make suitable alternatives.
Can You Make Your Own Anchovy Paste?
You can make your own paste and you can make it with anchovies or you can make it with an alternative substitute like capers or shrimp as well. The paste typically includes garlic, thyme, mustard, vinegar, black pepper, and a bit of oil. It can be made in other ways as well.