Fish Stock Substitute | Use this if you’re out or want to go vegetarian

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 30, 2020

Many people like to get everything right when cooking.

The secret behind cooking is using quality ingredients in the right amount to achieve the best results.

There are however some moments when you will not be able to use the required ingredients, and today I want to look at what to do when you don’t have fish stock.

Best Fish Stock substitutes

Although fish stock is a fantastic ingredient for various types of soups and broths, there are times when you might be required to use a substitute for this amazing ingredient.

Therefore, if you want to know what to add or use in your recipe to get the same consistency and taste in your meals, then this article is for you. I’ll discuss the different substitutes for fish stock.

But first, what is fish stock?

Fish stock is an amazing ingredient, which is mostly used as a base for sauces or soups. This ingredient is just the same as other vegetable or meat stock.

However, it’s made out of fish bones or fish heads. Fish stock is very easy to make since it requires particular parts of a fish and no other ingredients. However, it will need some seasoning.

Even though there are different variations of this stock, the Japanese version is the most common. This fish stock is referred to as dashi, a kelp , and fish stock, and it is set aside for dishes.

Its end product is a milky-white broth, with a sweet, rich umami flavor.

As highlighted earlier, there are different variations of fish stock, but the preparation method is the same. First, you boil the fish head or bones in simmering water for around 30 minutes.

This will assist in bringing out the amazing seafood flavor that many people like in certain dishes.

You can use fish bullion cubes, which you can find in your local supermarket to make the fish stock:

Knorr Fish Stock Cubes 8 Pack 50g
$9.89 ($0.71 / Ounce)

Easy fish stock to use in any dish. Just add water.

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Or there are pre-made fish stocks available:

Bar Harbor All Natural Fish Stock
$22.99 ($0.26 / Ounce)

All-natural fish stock with a great authentic taste.

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Vegan substitutes and other alternatives to fish stock

a fish soup

You don’t need to worry at all if you don’t have fish stock and you need to prepare some sauce or soup.

There are different varieties of fish stock substitutes, which can assist you to achieve the same results, just like with original fish stock.

Let’s look at a few options if you want to go vegan and don’t eat fish and some alternatives you might already have in your cupboard for a quick swap in the recipe you want to make right now:

Also read: how do you cook with these different Japanese noodles

Vegetable Broth

If you don’t want to add any fish to your dish but the recipe calls for fish stock, you can always use a vegetable broth instead.

You might want to add just a little bit of extra salt to get some of the ocean’s taste back, although the results won’t really be the same as you would miss the fishy flavor.

You might just have some vegetable broth bullion cubes lying around in the cupboard so maybe you’re able to make the swap right now if you’re looking to make your dish for tonight.

Kelp based broth

A little bit closer to the ocean and its flavors is a kelp based vegetable broth which is rich in vitamins, minerals, and protein.

You probably don’t have this one on hand, but Ocean’s Halo makes a great one and it’s probably the best vegan alternative to fish stock:

Organic Kelp Based Veggie Broth by Ocean's Halo
$11.46 ($0.36 / Fl Oz)

This delicious kelp-based broth is loaded with authentic flavors while delivering vitamins, minerals, protein! 

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This is Japanese fish stock, made traditionally using bonito fish flakes like these I talked about here. This fish stock is used in various noodle dishes, as well as miso soups.

There is also a vegan version of this fish stock substitute, which can be made using shiitake mushrooms and dried kombu kelp.

Even though this vegan version will not give you the expected seas food taste, you will be able to enjoy the sea-like and savory depth saltiness.

Check out our post on dashi substitutes here

Chicken broth

Here, you will need ½ a cup of vegetable broth or chicken broth, mixed with a ½ cup of water. This will also assist you to achieve the same results just like fish stock.

You will need to use broth to cut the water in order to prevent seafood flavors from being spoilt because both vegetable and chicken broths tend to be very salty and strong.

Clam juice

Bottled clam juice is an easy and common fish stock substitute for anyone who cannot make fish stock.

You can buy 2 or 3 bottles of the clam juice, but this will ultimately depend on the amount of stock required. Next, you need to boil the clam juice with half bouillon cube (vegetable).

Make sure the pot is uncovered for the liquid to evaporate fast. Ensure that the liquid reduces by around 25%.

With this, you will get the same flavor concentration while keeping the juice clear and light.

Mixing equal parts of vegetable broth and clam juice will assist you to achieve lighter and faster flavor. However, you should not reduce the amount of liquid used.

Other fish stocks

If you don’t have a problem with shellfish, then you can use other seafood to make the fish stock.

For instance, you can use crab, lobster shells, or shrimp, and some white wine and vegetables to make a simple shellfish stock.

This will give you the same results just like the fish stock made out of fish heads or bones.

Why do people love fish stock?

As mentioned earlier, the fish stock has different uses, mostly in sauces and soups. It is important to note that there are a variety of dishes across the world that require fish stock, particularly dishes made in Asia Cuisines.

However, have you ever known that fish stock has other uses, apart from enhancing flavors in meals? Different types of fish stock have different benefits.

What are these benefits?

Bottom line

It’s important to note that fish stock will add extra flavor to your dishes and also boost your health. However, you might have to replace your fish stock for some reason.

That’s the reason why you need to understand that different fish stock substitutes, that you can use in case you need them.

This will assist you to save valuable time and also assist you to achieve the best results for that favorite dish.

Also read: use this if you’re out of beef broth

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.