5 Best Dried Shrimp Substitutes

Shrimp are already some of the tastiest seafood items out there. The fact that there are plenty of ways to enjoy these little critter crustaceans is even better!

We’re particularly big fans of the small dried shrimp that you can find in many seafood markets. They give that distinct seafood flavor, only now, in a miniature, crunchy form.

Originally being farmed in Southeast Asia, you’ve probably seen an explosion of recipes for these little guys online. Perhaps even if you don’t have access to dried shrimp yourself.

Does this mean that the joys of this little seafood are out of your reach? Maybe. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t still give these recipes a good old college try!

But then how are you supposed to make these dishes without dried shrimp? Well, with one of the substitutes on this list, of course!

5 Best Dried Shrimp Substitutes

What Are Dried Shrimp?

Before we get into those alternative ingredients, however, it’s probably worth explaining what makes dried shrimp stand out so much in the first place.

As the name implies, dried shrimp is exactly that. A small prawn or shrimp variety that has been dried out and reduced in size, usually by sun-drying them.

As a result of them being dried out in the sun, their already bright and savory seafood flavors are made even more intense, giving you a bright-tasting food that bursts with umami flavor in your mouth.

Dried shrimp can often feel tough and chewy in your mouth, which is why many recipes call for them to be soaked in water for 5 to 10 minutes, making them a little softer and less chewy, without losing their powerful flavor.

Drying the shrimp not only changes the flavor profile and texture of these kinds of seafood, but it also allows them to stay fresh a little longer too (although we still recommend freezing or refrigerating them if you aren’t using them the day that you purchase them), so they have a longer shelf life than many typical seafood ingredients.

Thanks to these qualities, dried shrimp is used across many Asian recipes, from Pad Thais to Chinese dumpling stir-fries, and so on.

As they are caught and used across Southeast Asia, it’s often possible to get these shrimps from Asian food markets.

In Chinese, dried shrimp are called ‘hai mi’ or ‘xia mi’. In Vietnamese, they are known as ‘tom kho’, ‘kung haeng’ in Thai, or ‘udang kering’ in Malaysia or Singapore.

Of course, you may not have an East Asian food market near you, or perhaps are looking for a vegetarian alternative to use.

In these cases, the following list of substitutes should be considered!

1. Shrimp Paste

Arguably the best substitute for dried shrimp out there, shrimp paste is a phenomenal little ingredient that every cook of East Asian cuisine should have in their pantry!

As the name implies, shrimp paste is made from pounded shrimp that has been fermented, turning these little crustaceans into a paste that can be added to any recipe.

In terms of how it tastes, shrimp paste is an almost perfect swap, having that same bright umami flavor that you love in a good dried shrimp dish. And because the shrimp that go into shrimp paste has been fermented, it still has a very distinct seafood flavor to it.

Plus, it’s a substitute that you will be able to find in many stores too, making it an option that can sometimes be easier to get a hold of than actually dried shrimp.

Arguably, the only issue that you may have is that it doesn’t have quite the same sweetness on its own. Even then, a dash of sugar is often more than enough to counter this.

Overall, this should be the first substitute that you reach for when trying to swap out dried shrimp for anything!

2. Fish Sauce

Right behind shrimp paste, however, fish sauce has to be one of the best substitutes that you can use. Not just for replacing dried shrimp, but for pretty much any kind of seafood flavor!

Made from the oils produces by fermenting fish, fish sauce is another classic staple ingredient of many recipes, meaning that it’s also an ingredient that is often stocked in pretty much any good supermarket or store.

This is probably one of the easiest substitutes to get a hold of, at least on this list.

So, it’s accessible, but what is it like to cook with? How good of a dried shrimp alternative is it?

Well, pretty good, as it turns out!

That classic seafood, umami flavor that you’re looking for is here in fish sauce, making it perfect for adding to broths and sups that you would otherwise add a handful of dried shrimp too.

It’s not perfect. Fish sauce doesn’t have the same punchy sweetness that dried shrimp have (nothing that can’t be solved with a little sugar), and the texture of the fish sauce is nothing like that of a dried fish, whether soaked or otherwise presented.

However, if it’s a seafood flavor that you want, then it’s a seafood flavor that you’re going to get with this substitute!

3. Shiitake Mushrooms

Both of the food options that we’ve talked about so far are great, but they aren’t exactly vegetarian-friendly. They both still use animal-based ingredients, after all.

Time to change that with our next entry!

What shiitake mushrooms bring to the table, both metaphorically and literally, is an umami flavor that is surprisingly similar to that of seafood, especially dried shrimp, making it a pretty good vegetarian/vegan option for people who want those same tastes, without breaking their dieting schedule or allergies.

Shiitake mushrooms are also an ingredient that is frequently used in many East and Southeast Asian dishes, so the flavor profile also blends well with many of the recipes that would normally call for dried shrimp.

There are a few differences that you’ll need to take into account, of course. Aside from the texture, you’ll probably also need to add a little extra salt and sugar to get the perfect flavor match.

If you are swapping out dried shrimp for shiitake mushrooms, make sure to add 5 mushrooms for every handful of dried shrimp that you would have typically used.

4. Soy Sauce

Staying with those umami substitutes for a little while longer, pretty much everyone will have at least heard of soy sauce, if not already used in their cooking.

However, you may be surprised to learn that it’s also a pretty good substitute for dried shrimp, too. At least, when it comes to its flavor.

With soy sauce, you get a perfect balance of salty umami flavor alongside just a little sweetness too, making it perfect for adding to soups or stews for extra flavor or adding it to stir fries as a marinade sauce. So it’s certainly got the versatility down too!

Sourcing soy sauce isn’t going to be difficult either. Pretty much anywhere that has an international food aisle is going to have soy sauce, so grabbing the right bottle for your meal shouldn’t be an issue!

You won’t get the same texture as you would actual seafood, of course. But if it’s flavors that you’re mainly looking for, you can do a lot worse than soy sauce!

5. Dried Anchovies

If it’s the texture of dried shrimp that you’re looking to replicate in a dish, then you need to be looking for some other type of dried seafood. Specifically, you should be trying to find some dried anchovies!

Being another seafood like dried shrimp, you’re guaranteed a similar level of seafood salty flavors, alongside a distinct umami flavor.

Plus, as we’ve already mentioned, the texture is virtually a 1-to-1 comparison, right down to them changing their texture when soaked for a good 5 to 10 minutes too!

You won’t get the same sweet flavor as you would with dried shrimp. Still, that’s nothing a little sugar or soy sauce can’t fix!

Final Notes

So, as you can see, getting the perfect substitute for dried shrimp isn’t easy.

But at the very least, with all these food options, you have plenty of choices that you can make!

5 Best Dried Shrimp Substitutes

Recipe by AubreyCourse: Substitutes


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  • Shrimp Paste

  • Fish Sauce

  • Shiitake Mushrooms

  • Soy Sauce

  • Dried Anchovies


  • 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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