Fish stock adds a ton of dimension to many savory recipes and is a fantastic way to adjust the consistency without diluting the flavor. It is easy to incorporate, no matter what form it comes in.
All that being said, because of its popularity, it is especially frustrating to find sometimes, especially if you’re not living close to the ocean!
So, what are the best substitutions for fish stock? The best substitute for fish stock is fish stock in another form, such as powdered or cubed. If you can’t find any version, other options include fish broth or other stocks like chicken, vegetable, Takumi, prawn, clam, and seaweed stocks.
In today’s article, we will be discussing the many different substitutions for fish stock, and trust us, there are more than you might think!
We will have a detailed look at how to substitute the different forms of fish stock, as well as the pros and cons of each.
Then, we will look at all the substitutions, how to swap them, and exactly what their benefits are as a substitution.
If you love making food, especially savory recipes, then you have definitely come across a recipe or two that calls for stock.
For those of you who aren’t entirely sure what “stock” is, to put it simply, it is a savory liquid made from either only vegetables or a combination of vegetables and meaty bones.
These stocks can also include a variety of herbs and spices to add even more flavor.
While this might not sound too appetizing, stock is one of the most flavorful cooking liquids out there and is never used as-is, but always incorporated into other recipes to add depth and flavor.
While there are many different types of stock, fish stock specifically is made using a mirepoix mix (carrots, onions, and celery) and fish bones and heads.
These ingredients are cooked for roughly 30 minutes. Overcooking stock will only result in a “spoiled” flavor.
There are many different types of fish stocks available. Regular fish stock (which will be what we are discussing today) is made from mirepoix and fish bones.
Then you get dashi, which is a Japanese fish stock made by cooking fish flakes with kelp. You can also get prawn stock, which is made from, you guessed it, prawn shells.
Forms of Fish Stock
As with virtually all types of stock, you can get them in different forms. The most common form of fish stock is usually dried or in powder form.
This is also the form that can be found the easiest in most countries or states, especially the ones that aren’t close to the water.
Dried or powdered fish stock is a dehydrated form that can be rehydrated at home by simply adding some boiling water.
The benefits of using fish stock powder are that it has an extremely long shelf life due to its low moisture levels and added preservatives.
This powder can last in the cupboard for several months, even years, compared to liquid stock, which only lasts a few days.
Then you can get fish stock cubes, which is a form of dried stock but only tightly compacted into tiny cubes. They work in exactly the same way the powder does, only they have already been portioned so that each cube makes 1 cup stock.
The downside to powdered fish stock or fish stock cubes is that the flavor isn’t intense and not nearly as good as fresh stock.
Next, we move on to liquid stock, which is the form you have when you make it. Liquid stock is made from water, mirepoix, and fish bones. Once it has finished cooking, the bones and vegetables are strained and the liquid fish stock remains.
This stock is sold fresh, but sometimes extremely difficult to find, mainly due to its short shelf life and the fact that there are alternative forms.
Liquid stock has a very fresh fish flavor and is obviously the best option to use. It doesn’t have a long shelf life and must be kept in the refrigerator at all times.
The last form you will find is fish stock concentrate. This concentrate is made when you reduce liquid fish stock into a very thick, syrup-like consistency.
The flavor, as the name suggests, is very concentrated and the moisture levels very low. This means that fish stock concentrate has a longer shelf life compared to liquid stock, but still not as long as fish stock powder or cubes.
Uses For Fish Stock
There aren’t a ton of different uses for fish stock, but there are a ton of different recipes and flavors you can use it with. Fish stock is used to add flavor and adjust the consistency – that’s about it.
Fish stock can be used to make sauces, marinades, and poaching liquids. It is also often used in stews, casseroles, and soups.
It can also be used as a cooking liquid for dishes like risotto, rice, pasta, and much more.
Keep in mind that no matter what you do with the stock, it is best to use fish stock with seafood recipes only. It has a very fishy flavor that may not go great in a beef stew, for example.
The Best Substitutions For Fish Stock
So, what was the actual point of discussing all the different forms of fish stock? Well, the easiest and best substitution for fish stock is using an alternative form. It sounds so obvious, but you would be surprised how few people think about it!
1. Different Forms of Fish Stock
So, as we’ve mentioned before, you can get powdered fish stock, stock cubed, liquid stock, and fish stock concentrate.
To make 1 cup of liquid stock from powdered stock, combine 1 teaspoon powder with 1 cup of boiling water and mix it with a fork. Many stock powders have some bits and pieces that won’t dissolve, so don’t worry too much about them.
To create a more intense flavor, add another teaspoon or two of stock powder. Keep in mind that this powder contains a ton of sodium (salt), so don’t go overboard.
To make 1 cup fish stock using the stock cubes, combine 1 cube with 1 cup boiling water and again mix it with a fork.
Liquid stock can be measured precisely and it doesn’t require any additional steps.
Fish stock concentrate usually comes in individual sachets of about 1 tbsp. Each sachet can be mixed with 1 cup of boiling water. Alternatively, 1 tbsp of concentrate can be mixed with 1 cup of boiling water.
1 tsp powdered stock + 1 cup boiling water
1 cube stock + 1 cup water
1 sachet concentrate + 1 cup boiling water
1 tbsp concentrate + 1 cup boiling water
2. Make Your Own Fish Stock
The next substitution is to make your own fish stock. Although many people prefer buying a substitution (which we will get to shortly), some might want a precise alternative.
Making stock is very easy and doesn’t require a ton of work. A basic stock recipe is water, fish bones, and mirepoix. You can add extra spices and herbs if you’d like.
Simply simmer for 30 minutes, then strain the ingredients and use the stock. You will want to season the stock either before using it in a recipe or after you’ve added it to a recipe.
Many methods include roasting the bones and heads before making the stock. Although this isn’t necessary, it does add an extra meaty and fishy flavor.
3. Fish Broth
Our first fish stock alternative is fish broth, and before you ask; no, fish stock and fish broth are not the same thing, despite often being interchangeably used.
Fish broth can sometimes be found much easier than fish stock and also comes in a liquid and powdered form (not cubed or concentrate) – think of it like instant soup.
Fish broth is made using actual pieces of fish meat, compared to stock which is made using the offcuts like bones. This means that broth has an even more intense fishy, meaty, and flavorful taste.
Broth is also simmered for much longer, meaning you often get a thicker product. This is important to remember, as it may change the consistency of certain recipes like sauces.
4. Vegetable Stock
This is by far your next best option if you cannot find any fish stocks or broths. The reason we chose vegetable stock above other meaty stocks is that it is made of only vegetables, so it should blend nicely with your recipe.
Using other stocks like beef or lamb stock might eliminate the fishy flavors you want to achieve.
Vegetable stock also comes in dried, liquid, and concentrate forms and can be substituted in exactly the same way the original recipe calls for.
For an alternative to vegetable stock, you can use a mushroom stock which will give a much more intense umami flavor compared to normal vegetable stock.
5. Takumi Stock Powder
This isn’t a well-known product because not many people in North America are that familiar with Japanese cuisine beyond the basics.
That being said, you will be able to find this stock powder at your local Asian grocery store or food market, or you can buy it online. Takumi stock powder is a fantastic substitute that is made from mushrooms and kelp.
The mushrooms add the umami-salty flavor while the kelp provides the strong hints of fish.
Different brands of Takumi powder provide different instructions for making, but if you cannot find it, we’d recommend using 1 tsp powder with 1 cup boiling water. You can always add more if you feel that you need it.
6. Shrimp, Prawn, or Clam Stock
These are extremely similar to fish stock, only made using different ingredients.
All of these ingredients naturally come from the ocean and provide the same fishy flavors that fish stock would. The biggest difference is still the taste though, and many people won’t be able to consume these due to allergies.
You can also make your own by simply boiling together some water, salt, and prawn, shrimp, or clamshells. The amazing thing about stocks is that you can use anything.
If you cannot find fish stock, and you cannot find any of these stocks, or if you do not like the flavors of these specific fish-based stocks, don’t worry, because you can make stock using anything!
You can make crawfish stock, lobster stock, mussel stock, or crab stock – your possibilities are endless!
7. Clam Juice
Bottled clam juice is easy to come by if you know where to look. When using clam juice as a fish stock substitution, you will need to put in some extra work.
If the recipe calls for 1 cup fish stock, buy 2 cups clam juice. Then, combine the clam juice with ½ tsp (or half a cube) vegetable stock. Simmer the liquid, uncovered, until about 25% has evaporated.
If you cannot find clam juice, you can combine 1 part water and 1 part chicken broth.
8. Chicken Stock
Before moving on to some vegan substitutions, our final meat alternative is chicken stock. Many people might be screaming “Beef stock! Beef stock!” at their monitors right about now, but to us, it just doesn’t make sense.
Sure, you can substitute chicken, beef, lamb, and pork stock with each other without problems, but that’s because none of those have massively different flavor profiles.
Fish, on the other hand, is very different, and honestly, none except chicken and vegetable stock will work. Chicken stock works because it is also white meat and doesn’t have an overwhelming flavor.
Just like fish stock and vegetable stock, it comes in many different forms (dried, liquid, and concentrate) making it much easier to substitute.
Dashi is a type of fish stock made from fish flakes and seaweed. This stock is very salty and has strong umami flavors.
What makes dashi a great substitution is how easily you can find it and that it also has a vegan version.
This vegan type is made using kombu kelp and shitake mushrooms (the fish flakes are left out). The combination of these two flavors still gives you a fishy flavor.
10. Seaweed Stock
For our vegan friends, seaweed stock is an extremely popular meat-free alternative that is packed with salty and umami flavors. Even seaweed itself is becoming a popular snack.
There are many different kinds, each with its own flavor profile, so make sure to try different ones and share your experience.
A very popular type of seaweed stock is called Wakame Seaweed Stock, which is made from a specific type of edible seaweed, Wakame. You also can get kelp stocks, like Kombu stocks, which are very similar in flavor.
You aren’t very likely to find fresh versions of this stock, especially in Western countries. However, it is very easy to make.
Simply boil some seaweed with onions and mushrooms and just like that, you have your very own wakame seaweed stock!
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