The 6 Best Vegan Substitutes For Anchovy

In many recipes, anchovy is listed as an ingredient, whether in pasta, paella, or some other pie or stew.

If you are vegan or vegetarian, you may want to make these recipes but don’t necessarily just want to leave certain ingredients out.

Or, you may simply want to learn how to substitute the ingredients that are excluded by your diet in a way that doesn’t affect the outcome of your dish.

These ingredients are included for no reason, so it can be worthwhile to understand how and why these ingredients might be used in our favorite dishes and recipes.

Then, we can learn how to replace what the ingredient may bring to a dish with something within our own diet.

Below we will talk about anchovies and why they may be used in cooking, as well as how you can achieve a similar flavor with a vegan substitute. Find out today so you can revamp tonight’s dinner!

Vegan Umami Bombs To Substitute

What Are Anchovies? 

So, anchovies are a small kind of fish, usually about the length of a finger. They are usually able to buy, packed into tins at the grocery store in oil, salt, or brine. You usually get a handful of anchovies per tin.

In general, the anchovy has a concentrated fishy and umami flavor. While concentrated, anchovies are often quite small and most recipes will only ask for one or two anchovy filets in a recipe.

It’s important to note that anchovies aren’t necessarily used to impart a fishy flavor. Of course, if you want to add a fishy flavor to pizza or something, if that’s what you like, then a whole tin of anchovies on a pizza, i’ve seen it before, would certainly impart a fishy taste.

That said, one or two within the larger context of a stew or pasta sauce can be really effective. Again, this won;t necessarily make your food taste fishy, but they will deepen the general umami flavor of your stew or sauce or whatever you may have.

Without necessarily adding the fish itself, you may not realize that this fishy flavor from anchovies is added in other ways.

For instance Worcestershire Sauce, or something like remoulade do have anchovies in, and they similarly are used to impart a deeper and more complex umami flavor to dishes.  

Vegan Substitutes for Anchovy

Now we are going to discuss some ways in which you can deepen the umami flavor of your vegan dishes without adding anchovy, in a view to have a replacement when a recipe or dish may require anchovies.

1. Miso Paste

Miso is an ingredient that some people may not be familiar with in the west. Put simply, Miso is an Asian word that describes a fermented bean paste.

Beans can be very umami in their flavor especially when fermented and turned into a paste like this.

Miso has recently become quite popular as the West has subsumed Asian cuisines into their own daily eating habits, and is easy to find in grocery stores as a result.

This said, there are quite a few types of miso out there, especially in Asia, but the two you will most commonly come across are white miso and red miso.

White miso is lighter in color and flavor and a little sweet, red miso on the other hand, is particularly earthy, dark, and umami in its flavors. In place of anchovies you can easily add a dollop of miso to your dishes for an umami bomb.

Like anchovies don’t make your food taste fishy, miso won’t make your food taste of miso but will add an extra dimension to your dishes, particularly its savory dimensions.

If you haven’t tried experimenting with miso before as a vegan person, it’s really worth a try.

2. Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is an extremely common seasoning in Asian cuisines that is mainly used to add saltiness, color, and specifically savoriness to many Asian dishes.

Like Miso, soy sauce is made from fermented soy beans but the more solid parts are broken down with acid, helping to turn this into a liquid condiment and seasoning sauce. Soy sauce has many of the same features as anchovies, simply not the fishy part.

There are many types of soy sauce out there, light and dark, Japanese or Chinese, no matter which you go for they will all bring slightly varied versions of umami to a dish.

Mainly the variations can bring different kinds of color to dishes too, but that’s not something you really want to worry about at this stage.

This said, soy sauce is an ideal and easy, quantifiable, way to bring lots of umami saltiness to a dish in the same way that an anchovy might.

3. Dried Mushrooms

Dried mushrooms are a great ingredient to become familiar with if you are a vegan or vegetarian, they have multiple uses, but all paths lead to umami heaven.

Let’s note here that there are loads of dried mushroom varieties out there in your local grocery stores. If you can’t find them in your grocery store, they will almost certainly be in your local Asian market.

There are shitake, chanterelles, morels, and more out there, they all bring mildly varied flavors but ultimately they all have that umami flavor we are looking for.

As the mushrooms are dried, one thing you can do is add boiling water to them to rehydrate the mushrooms. As this happens the liquid will become its own mushroom broth, that is very strong and umami in flavor.

In a dish that requires anchovies for savoriness, this dried mushroom broth can bring all the same flavors we want.

Moreover, the good thing is that if you want you can cut up the mushrooms themselves and add them in for even more umami flavor. Again, like anchovies, this isn’t necessarily going to make your food taste like mushrooms.

4. Vegan Demi-Glace

So, if you want to really pack in some umami flavor bombs, and potentially have some prepared for use in the future, without having to go to the store but using organic and whole foods, then a demi-glace is a good way to go.

A demi-glace is a type of french stock that has been reduced down to its most reduced form. Most French soups and stocks are just varying levels of reduction.

A demi-glace is usually an extremely reduced meat stock, such as chicken stock, which has been severely reduced.

To make a vegan demi-glace all you need to do is make a vegetable stock, something you may have done before, but we simply reduce it down greatly, which increases the concentration of the flavors greatly.

The outcome is an extremely savory sauce that is thick and coating and is potentially the biggest vegan umami bomb you can create at home. It does take some effort, but can be made in advance and stock you up for a while.

It brings potentially more umami flavor than an anchovy could, that’s for sure. Check out the linked recipe for more in depth steps on how to make this.

5. Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional Yeast is a fun one and is something worth being aware of as a vegan. It’s hard to explain what nutritional yeast is but is easier to understand if you have it in front of you.

It is essentially deactivated yeast that is turned into flakes. It has a distinct flavor that is very umami: both cheesy, earth, vegetal, and nutty.

Commonly, nutritional yeast is used in place of cheese as it brings that sort of umami flavor to a dish quite easily, as well as some added protein. It’s as simple as sprinkling in flakes of yeast onto your dish, or including them in a sauce.

You can use them the same way as anchovies to bring savoriness to a dish, albeit it’s not going to be fishy at all, which is arguably a good thing.

Final Thoughts

As you can see there are loads of vegan alternatives to anchovies out there. They may require a little work to create or to source, but they are all guaranteed to bring savoriness to a dish in the same way that an anchovy would.

Once you are aware of all these vegan umami bombs you can pick and choose which ones to use with which recipes.

Vegan Umami Bombs To Substitute Anchovies For

Recipe by AubreyCourse: Substitutes


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Some recipes use anchovies to add umami flavor to a dish, find below our favorite vegan alternatives you can use the same way to bring more flavor to your food!


  • Decide on what substitute you need
  • Pick a substitute from the list above
  • Read what you need to substitute with
  • Create the recipe and enjoy
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