Sweet, tart and salty. What a fantastic combination of flavours that work so well together. Intertwined to entertain, this fish sauce dressing with lime is a delicious Thai salad dressing recipe.
Why You’ll Love Our Fish Sauce Lime Dressing
Our easy fish sauce vinaigrette takes inspiration from classic Thai salad dressings that are perfectly balanced with tang, salt and sweetness.
The blend of fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, and a touch of oil can really spruce a variety of Asian-style salads. I also love to use it as a dipping sauce or even toss together for simple cold rice noodle salad meal.
And remember that Thai cuisine often emphasises the balance of flavours, so this recipe is flexible enough to adjust the ingredients to suit your taste.
Feel for more tangy flavours, add more lime juice. If you need a bit more sweetness, add more sugar. And for a dipping sauce that needs more umami salty flavours, just add a little more fish sauce.
What Goes in Thai Salad Dressing?
Classic Thai salad dressings typically begin with three fundamental ingredients: fish sauce, lime juice, and palm sugar. While palm sugar is traditional, brown sugar serves as an accessible substitute.
From there, you can adapt and add other ingredients to increase flavour and add heat.
Our yum woon sen glass noodle salad uses fresh chilli and garlic to create the popular Thai salad dressing with fish sauce. Whilst our Thai grilled pork salad recipe, moo nam tok, adds chilli flakes for more subtle heat. and if you want something different, try our tamarind nam jim dressing that substitutes lime juice with tamarind and lemon juice for a more fruity tang.
What is Fish Sauce?
If you’ve never had a whiff of pure fish sauce, your first impression will no doubt be “funky”! This concentrated liquid is incredibly pungent, but its flavours certainly warrant its wide usage.
This umami liquid is salty, briny and sweet and it is used in many traditional Southeast Asian dishes that you are familiar with. Fish sauce is quintessential in many South East Asian sauces and dressings like the popular Vietnamese dipping sauce, nuoc cham.
Fish sauce is made by fermenting fish in large barrels, usually with high oil content such as anchovies and mackerel.
This is done by adding a lot of salt to the fish and allowing it to do its work over time, with a minimum of 2 years for a good condiment.
This fermentation process allows the natural bacteria to break down the fish which then produces a brown to black liquid.
Due to how pungent fish sauce is, it is best always to be cautious about how much you use.
It has no qualms about taking over the flavours of your dish, so I wouldn’t be too liberal with it. Less is more in this instance.
Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make fish sauce vinaigrette dressing:
Lime: The acidity of the lime juice counteracts the strong flavour of the fish sauce, creating a harmonious balance in the recipe.
Avocado oil: As the fish sauce is so strong, using a bland vegetable oil such as avocado oil will allow the fish sauce to shine. I use Chosen Foods 100% Pure Avocado Oil every day as my cooking oil, and it’s brilliant.
Brown sugar: Adding some caramel and coffee-like undertones to the dressing. The brown sugar will also add to the overall sweetness of the salad.
Variations and Substitutions
Vegan option: Switch the fish sauce with a vegan fish sauce or soy sauce in the salad dressing if you need a vegetarian dressing.
Spicy version: Add fresh chilli to the dressing for a spicy fish sauce dressing.
Lime substitute: If you don’t have lime on hand, substitute with lemon juice or rice vinegar for the acidity.
Extra tang: I occasionally incorporate more lime juice depending on the dish I’m pairing with the fish sauce dressing. Adjust according to your taste preference.
Step by step instructions for how to make fish sauce vinaigrette dressing:
In a small bowl, dissolve brown sugar in hot water.
Then add fish sauce, lime juice and avocado oil.
Mix until well combined.
How to Make This Dressing Perfectly [Expert Tips]
Use a quality fish sauce: There are varying quality and prices when it comes to fish sauce brands. For dressings and sauces, we recommend using a high quality brand. Superior fish sauces have a higher anchovy-to-salt ratio, delivering a rich umami flavour rather than just saltiness.
Choosing the right oil for the salad dressing: You could go without the oil in the fish sauce salad dressing, but I love the subtle aromas of avocado oil. You can, of course, substitute with grapeseed oil or mild olive oil.
Steer clear of coconut oil, which I initially experimented with, as it solidifies upon cooling. Ensure you choose the appropriate oil for the dressing to prevent undesirable lumps or textures.
Taste and adjust: Like I have said before, Thai salad dressings focus on creating a balance between the sweet, salt and tang. Fish sauce can be overpowering, so less is more. Taste the fish sauce salad dressing and adjust if required.
How to Store
Store in an airtight jar or bottle in the fridge. You can keep this for up to 2 weeks.
Best Salad For this Dressing
Colourful summer mango salad recipe that is bursting with fresh, vibrant tropical flavours. Effortless to put together, the combination of sweet mangoes and toasted coconut flakes with a tangy lime dressing is utterly delicious.
Fish Sauce Lime Vinaigrette
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- In a small bowl, dissolve brown sugar with hot water.
- Then add fish sauce, lime juice and avocado oil. Mix until well combined.
- Switch the fish sauce with a vegan fish sauce or soy sauce in the salad dressing if you need a vegetarian dressing.
- Add fresh chilli to the dressing for a spicy Thai salad dressing.
- For dressings and sauces, we recommend using a high quality brand. Superior fish sauces have a higher anchovy-to-salt ratio, delivering a rich umami flavour rather than just saltiness.
- You could go without the oil in the fish sauce salad dressing, but I love the subtle aromas of avocado oil. You can, of course, substitute with grapeseed oil or mild olive oil.
- Taste the dressing and adjust if required.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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