Fish sauce making is not as daunting as it may seem. In traditional fisherman’s villages on the coasts of the Mediterranean and beyond home cooks have been making this for centuries.  The Romans made it already.  But why would you go through the effort of making your own? The answer is simple: the quality; the depth of the flavor; the knowledge that a few drops carry a lot of weight in your recipe.

Add fish sauce in making other sauces, glace and broths.  The broth for Vietnamese Pho is spiced up using a good fish sauce. And you can store it for a long time in your cabinet. Thanks to the high salt content.

The art of making fish sauce

It is not difficult, nor time consuming to make your own fish sauce. The comments that outsiders make are that it looks messy, cannot be safe or is smelly. But the smell is minimal and mostly pleasant and by using sufficient salt nothing unsafe can happen. And I make this sauce in my hot kitchen in Hong Kong, reaching in summer 35 C. And leaving it there brewing for almost 2 years.  The optimal salt to fresh fish ratio is 3 to 1  by weight. No need to clean the small fish. Leave the heads on and the bones and intestines in. The enzymes in the intestines will do an excellent job.

When it is time to harvest, the whole pot will be filtered, and the juices collected and if you want filtered twice.

Use it where the savory depth is needed. When made in this way, the result surpasses many times any store-bought product.

That is all!

Special equipment

glass or porcelain jar that can be loosely covered

fish sauce ©️ Nel Brouwer-van den Bergh

Fish sauce

Prep Time 180 days
Cook Time 0 minutes
Total Time 180 days
Course Condiment
Cuisine Global
Servings 80



  • 3 lbs seasalt
  • 1 lb fresh, small fish anchovies, sardines, capelin etc



  • Make a saturated solution of salt in water, this is your brine. Add so much salt, not everything can dissolve
  • Buy fresh fish. You could use frozen fish, but fresh is preferred
  • Rinse the fish and let the water drip off
  • Weigh the salt and the fish and mix in a ration of 3 to 1
  • Pack fish and salt in a jar
  • Add brine. Ensure there is brine floating on top
  • Place a weight on top
  • Cover the pot to prevent most of the evaporation of the water
  • Check once in a while. After 180 days you can use
  • Strain the pot. Discard the fish or what is left. Use the liquid. if need be, filter over a coarse cloth.
  • The fish sauce can be stored for years at ambient temperature


Method: cold fermentation
Food allergy & intolerance information: none
Keyword anchovies, capelin, fish, fish sauce, sardines


ferment during a minimum of 3 months to obtain reasonable quality, but taste development will continue after that.

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