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Nuac Mam Sauce (Vietnamese Fish Sauce)

If you love to cook and eat Vietnamese food, you will love this recipe. Nuac mam sauce is a staple condiment in Vietnamese cuisine and can be used in many different dishes.

It’s perfect for dipping spring rolls, savory pork pancakes, or adding to green mango salad!

An overhead view of chili peppers and lime pulp floating on top of nuac mam sauce.

This dipping sauce has a sweet, sour, salty, spicy, and fermented tang all at once and it adds a bold, complex flavor to any dish.

What is Nuac Mam Sauce?

Nuac mam sauce (or nuac cham sauce) is a traditional Vietnamese dipping sauce that you can find in any Vietnamese restaurant. It contains fermented fish sauce, water, lime juice, garlic, and chili. 

Nuac mam means “fish sauce,” while nuac cham means “sauce,” which could be any kind of sauce. Depending on who you talk to or which restaurant you ask, the words are often used interchangeably. 

Dipping a spring roll into sauce.

Here is Why You Will Love This Sauce:

  • Fast and easy to make
  • Adds authentic flavor to Asian dishes
  • Versatile. Use as a dip, dressing, or marinade.

Try drizzling this sauce over fried rice or mix it into some mayonnaise to use as a sandwich spread on a bahn mi sandwich. You can even use it to marinate grilled chicken breasts.

Ingredients used to make nuac mam sauce.

The Ingredients

  • Fish sauce. Fermented fish sauce has a savory, salty, umami flavor. It is the primary ingredient in this sauce. The amount of pungency and saltiness will vary depending on the brand you select. 
  • Water. Using hot water will help dissolve the sugar. 
  • Sugar. We used regular white sugar, but you can use honey or brown sugar if you want. 
  • Lime juice. Use fresh limes so you can scrape some of the lime pulp out of the fruit. 
  • Lime pulp. Use a fork to scrape some of the pulp out of a lime.
  • Garlic. Use a garlic press to get very fine bits of garlic. 
  • Chili paste. Adjust the amount of chili paste to get the level of heat that you desire. 
  • Chili peppers. Sliced red chili peppers give the sauce an authentic look but the chili paste makes it easy to adjust the spice level. 

Scraping lime pulp out of a lime.

How to Make It:

Here is a quick overview of the recipe. Scroll down to the printable recipe card to see all the details.

  1. Add the sugar to the hot water. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients.

Adding crushed garlic to a bowl of sauce.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Use hot water to dissolve the sugar. 
  • Adjust the flavor to suit your taste. If you want to add more of the fermented fish sauce, add very small amounts. A little bit goes a long way. 
  • Crush the garlic as finely as possible. A garlic press works well or even a mortar and pestal.

A spoon scooping out nuac mam sauce.

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An overhead view of chili peppers and lime pulp floating on top of nuac mam sauce.

Nuac Mam Sauce (Vietnamese Fish Sauce)

Yield: 2 cups
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Nước mắm sauce is a staple of Vietnamese cooking that adds an authentic flavor to the cuisine. It is sweet, sour, salty, tangy, and a little spicy.

It makes a fantastic dipping sauce for spring rolls and egg rolls or vinaigrette for mango salad. Try it on grilled meat, scrambled eggs, and steamed rice for a pop of flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (save some pulp)
  • 1 teaspoon pulp from fresh a lime
  • 3 to 4 large garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon chili paste
  • 1 to 2 red chili peppers, finely sliced

Instructions

  1. Combine the hot water and sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the fish sauce and lime juice. 
  2. Use a fork to scrape some of the pulp from the lime into the dish. 
  3. Stir in the garlic, chili paste, and sliced peppers. 
  4. Taste and add additional sugar or chili paste as desired. 
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 16 Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 23Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 373mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 0gSugar: 5gProtein: 0g

Nutrition information is a guideline only, is calculated automatically by third-party software, and absolute accuracy is not guaranteed.

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