Living so close to one of the largest Vietnamese populations, I've become very familiar with fish sauce over the years. Fish sauce is used with food in many southeast Asian countries, but Vietnam is probably the most prominent users and producers of this pungent, yet delicious condiment, but is it keto friendly?
Fish sauce has only 0.7 grams of net carbs per tablespoon, making it ok to use as a condiment or cooking while following a keto diet. However, certain restaurants may have added sugars to their fish sauce, such as those found in Vietnamese restaurants (nouc mam).
In this article, I'll go over everything you need to know about fish sauce, including the carb count, different brands, what it is, and some keto-friendly recipes with fish sauce.
Can You Have Fish Sauce On Keto?
Yes, you can have fish sauce while following a ketogenic diet. Fish sauce is a low-carb condiment when used in moderation, but be wary of fish sauce from Asian restaurants as they may have added sugars.
Depending on what country you're in, the fish sauce goes by many names. The Vietnamese have their dipping sauce, which is referred to as nouc mam.
On the other hand, being Filipino, I grew up knowing fish sauce as “patis.” Thai people may refer to the fish sauce as nam pla.
Regardless of what it's called, almost all variations of fish sauce are made the same primary way, using fermented fish.
Is Fish Sauce Low Carb?
Plain fish sauce is low-carb, very low-carb.One tablespoon (18g) of fish sauce will only have 0.7 grams of net carbs. 1
As long as you're not dousing your food in fish sauce, you can use a generous amount before having to worry about a significant amount of carbohydrates, which makes fish sauce very keto-friendly.You can look at your net carbs for the day, almost like a budget you get to spend.
Most people fall somewhere between 20 and 50 grams of net carbs to get and stay in ketosis. Depending on how many carbohydrates you eat per day will effectively determine if something is keto-friendly or not.
Think about it this way, if you had a budget of 20 carbs and something had 10 grams of carbohydrates, that might not be as keto-friendly to you versus someone who was eating 50 grams of carbohydrates per day.
In this case, fish sauce is low-carb enough to make it keto-friendly for everyone.
What Is Fish Sauce?
As the name implies, fish sauce… is well… sauce made form fish. Duh right?
To be more exact, fish sauce is a condiment that is generally prepared from fermented anchovies and salt, although some brands may add small amounts of sugar and/or wheat to give it a lighter-sweeter taste profile.
At its core, the purest of fish oil is just three ingredients, and those are:
How Is Fish Sauce Made?
After purchasing the fish, the manufacturer's next step is to ferment it in a big vat mixed with salt. Over six months, the fish is stirred daily as it begins to break down to a “smoothie-like” consistency.
Sounds kind of gross so far, huh?
Eventually, the solids sink, and the liquid will rise to the top, making it ready for the next step.
This fish smoothie is then transferred to cloth-lined baskets where the liquid drips out into another tub underneath. This extracted liquid is what goes on to become the fish sauce.
All-in-all, this entire process takes nine months to a year.
However, some big companies cut corners to produce fish sauce much quicker. This process is how traditional fish sauce is made.
Keto Recipes And Ideas For Fish Sauce
Looking for ways to incorporate some fish sauce into your ketogenic diet? Here are just a couple of ways I like to use fish sauce in my every day cooking.
Stock or broth
Add it to chicken stock, beef stock, or bone broth to give it a more bold flavor. Some people may even choose to add it to their pho broth.
Add fish sauce to a salad dressing. A few drops can add some savoriness to a vinaigrette or whatever favorite dressing you like to use.
Fatty cuts of meat
Salt makes specific cuts of meat shine, especially if they are on the fattier side. Try rubbing in a bit of fish sauce with whatever you were planning to rub on it for some added flavor.
Are you planning to do some braising? Try adding some fish sauce to the aromatics of almost any braised meat dish.
We all know how versatile cauliflower is by now, from pizza crust to mashed cauliflower… adding in a bit of fish sauce to cauliflower before roasting will give it a unique and bold flavor.
Lots of places dip whatever they are about to fry in fish sauce to season and create a bind for their flour before frying, almost like what you would do with eggs.
Want to make some fried chicken? Try dipping it in fish sauce before using your favorite keto-friendly flour or crushed pork rinds.
Fish sauce is almost used as a salt in southeast Asian dishes. Use the fish sauce in place of salt when you sautee that next batch of spinach.
In traditional Vietnamese egg dishes, you'll often find fish sauce in the eggs. Want a little extra punch with your eggs? Give it a go.
Using fish sauce as a dipping sauce is quite common in many Southeast Asian countries. Try mixing some fish sauce with a bit of chili's if you enjoy some heat, chopped garlic, maybe some soy sauce, and a citrus like lemon or lime.
If you want to re-create something like the Vietnamese dipping sauce Nouc mam, then you can use a sugar-free substitute like stevia to give it that little extra sweetness.
Best Fish Sauce Brands For Keto
When it comes to fish sauce, most of them are made the same way and with the same ingredients. However, certain brands do add a little sugar and wheat to make the fish sauce lighter and sweeter, but this raises the carb count.
Below is a list of fish sauce brands that have only 1 gram of net carbs or less. Red Boat gluten free and Four Elephants are my personal go-to.
- Red Boat 40N
- Red Boat Gluten Free
- New Town 60N
- Lucky Brand Thai
- Thai Kitchen Premium
- Ma Mi Original
- Golden Boy
- Four Elephants
Fish sauce is quite a versatile and keto-friendly ingredient that you can use in your keto cooking.
Use the fish sauce as a substitute for salt, in soups like pho, marinades, and much more.
Just be wary of fish sauce served at Asian restaurants since they typically will add sugar to fish sauce-based dips and sauces.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Fish sauce shelf stable?
Fish sauce takes a while during the production and fermentation process. It will sit fine on the shelf for 2-3 years without any refrigeration.
Does Fish sauce contain preservatives?
Traditional fish sauce contains no preservatives due to the high amount of salt and amino acids. The bottle stuff that's sold commercially however does contain a fair amount of preservatives.
What are the raw materials for Fish sauce?
Fish sauce is prepared with brackish water, seawater, freshwater fishes, and salt. The overall fermentation process can take between 12-18 months.