Patis: A History, Taste Test, and Nutritional Breakdown

We may earn a commission on qualified purchases made through one of our links. Learn more

Patis is a fish sauce popular in Filipino cuisine. It’s made from fermented fish, salt, and water. It’s a staple in many Filipino dishes, and it’s similar to soy sauce but has a distinct flavor.

It’s a complex ingredient that adds a special flavor to many dishes. Let’s look at the history of this amazing sauce and how it’s made.

What is patis

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:

Read for free

What Exactly is Patis and How is it Made?

Patis is a type of fish sauce that is a staple in many Southeast Asian kitchens. It is a complex condiment that is derived from fermented fish or shrimp and is used to bring an extra layer of flavor to many dishes. In terms of its flavor, patis is similar to soy sauce but has a distinct fishy taste and smell.

The Traditional Process of Making Patis

The process of producing patis is a long and complex one that takes a lot of work to achieve the high-quality product that people have come to love. Here are the key steps in making patis:

  • Small fish or shrimp are mixed with salt and left to ferment in the sun for several months.
  • The byproduct of this fermentation process is a liquid that is strained and bottled to create patis.

The Reason Why Patis is So Popular

Patis is a popular ingredient in many Southeast Asian dishes, especially in the Philippines. It is typically served with rice, pork, egg, and certain soups. It can also be used as a substitute for soy sauce in certain recipes. The reason why patis is so popular is that it adds a special flavor to dishes that cannot be found in any other ingredient.

The Different Types of Patis

There are many different types of patis, each with its own unique flavor and aroma. Some of the most common types of patis include:

  • Patis from anchovies
  • Patis from shrimp
  • Patis from a combination of fish and shrimp

The History and Origin of Patis

Patis has been a part of Southeast Asian cuisine for a long time. The word “patis” is actually a noun borrowed from the Bikol and Tagalog languages, which refers to a type of fish sauce. The classic patis that we know today is said to have originated in the central Philippines, particularly in the province of Kalinga.

The Pronunciation and Anagrams of Patis

For those who are new to patis, it can be challenging to pronounce correctly. The correct pronunciation is “pah-teess.” Interestingly, the word “patis” is an anagram of the word “spait,” which is an old English term for a type of fish.

How to Use Patis in Your Cooking

If you want to learn how to use patis in your cooking, here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Use patis as a substitute for soy sauce in certain recipes.
  • Add a small amount of patis to your dishes to bring out the flavors of the other ingredients.
  • Mix patis with other ingredients to create a special sauce for your dishes.
  • Use patis to marinate meat before cooking to add an extra layer of flavor.

What’s the Flavor Profile of Patis?

Patis is a fermented fish sauce that has a unique flavor profile. It’s salty, pungent, and fishy, with a briny and tangy taste. The flavor is bold and distinct, and it’s an acquired taste that may take some time for your taste buds to get used to. However, once you do, you’ll appreciate the complex notes of caramel, nutty, and earthy hints that make it an umami-rich condiment.

The Versatile Ingredient

Patis has a depth of character that makes it a versatile ingredient in Filipino cuisine. It can enhance the flavor of dishes made with meat, seafood, vegetables, soups, stews, marinades, and dipping sauces. It’s also a common substitute for soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce in Western cuisine, especially as a steak sauce or salad dressing. In Asian cuisine, it’s used as a dipping sauce, marinade, or stir-fry sauce.

The Sweet and Salty Balance

The flavor of Patis is a balance between sweetness and saltiness. Sugar is a prominent ingredient in the traditional recipe, which helps balance out the saltiness of the fermented fish and salt. This balance of flavors is what makes Patis a staple ingredient in Filipino households. You can find it in supermarkets and local markets at an affordable price point, and it’s definitely worth trying if you want to explore the flavors of Filipino cuisine.

The Centuries-Old Artisanal Production

The production of Patis has been a centuries-old process that involves fermenting fish and salt in small batches to achieve the perfect balance of flavor. Quality ingredients and time are essential to achieve the umami-rich depth of character that makes Patis a prominent brand in the market. The artisanal production process ensures that each bottle of Patis has a unique flavor profile that’s worth savoring.

The Fascinating History of Patis

Patis, also known as fish sauce, is a condiment that has been around for centuries. Its production began in ancient Southeast Asia, where people discovered that drying and fermenting fish could transform it into a delicious sauce. The process of making patis involves adding salt to fish and leaving it to ferment for a long time. Notes from the 3rd century AD show that a similar product called garum was produced by the Romans on the coast of Spain.

The Role of Patis in Trade and Food

Patis played a crucial role in the trade and food of ancient Southeast Asia. It was widely produced and sold by local makers, mainly as a substitute for salt. Certain ingredients were included to give it a unique flavor, and it was used to add a salty taste to a variety of dishes. It was also used as a way of getting meat to last longer in a hot and humid climate.

The Discovery of Patis by Western Explorers

Patis was discovered by western explorers in the 16th century, who noted its similarity to the Chinese sauce called soy. They also found that it was widely used in local cuisine and had different names depending on the region. The Spanish called it salsa de pescado, while the Filipinos called it patis.

The Modern Production of Patis

Today, patis is still widely produced in the Philippines, with some makers using traditional methods and others using modern factory techniques. The sauce consists of fish, salt, and water, with some makers adding other ingredients like shrimp or red shoulder onions to give it a unique flavor. The fish used in patis production is usually lower in fat content, making it a healthier choice than other fish sauces.

The Famous Role of Patis in Filipino Cuisine

Patis is a famous condiment in Filipino cuisine, and it is included in many traditional dishes. It is used to add flavor to soups, stews, and sauces, and is often served as a dipping sauce for grilled meats. Some people believe that it is difficult to cut certain pieces of meat without adding patis to the mix.

The Future of Patis

As the popularity of Filipino cuisine continues to grow, so does the popularity of patis. It is now widely available in many western countries, and is becoming a popular ingredient in many fusion dishes. While it may be difficult to find in some areas, those who have tried it know that patis is a unique and delicious addition to any meal.

Is Patis Good for Your Health?

Patis is a type of fish sauce that is commonly used in Filipino cuisine. It contains essential amino acids and iron, which are both significant for heart health. Patis is made from fermented fish, usually tahong, imparting a unique and enhancing flavor to any dish it is added to. But is it healthy?

Supports Sleep and Boosts Digestive System

Patis is a great ingredient to add to your diet if you’re looking to improve your health. It helps support sleep and boost your digestive system. The amino acids in patis can help reduce blood cholesterol levels, which can help improve heart health. Additionally, the iron in patis can help improve brain function and support the immune system.

Rich in Vitamins and Minerals

One tablespoon of patis contains a significant amount of vitamins and minerals, including:

  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin B6
  • Niacin
  • Thiamin
  • Riboflavin

These vitamins and minerals are essential for overall health and well-being.

How to Incorporate Patis into Your Diet

If you’re looking to add patis to your diet, start by using it as a condiment for your favorite dishes. Here are some ideas:

  • Use patis as a dipping sauce for grilled meats or vegetables.
  • Add patis to soups and stews to enhance the flavor.
  • Use patis as a marinade for fish or chicken.

Overall, patis can be a healthy addition to your diet when consumed in moderation. So go ahead and enjoy that delicious umami flavor while reaping the health benefits!

Exploring the Different Types of Fish Sauce: Patis vs Other Varieties

Fish sauce is a staple in many Southeast Asian countries, and each country has its own unique style of producing this complex sauce. While patis is the traditional fish sauce in the Philippines, there are many other types of fish sauce produced in different parts of the world. Here are some of the most prominent ones:

  • Nam pla: This is the Thai version of fish sauce, which is known for its strong flavor and is used in many Thai dishes.
  • Nuoc mam: This is the Vietnamese version of fish sauce, which is lighter in color and has a sweeter taste compared to other fish sauces.
  • Shottsuru: This is the traditional fish sauce in Japan, which is made by fermenting fish with salt and rice bran. It has a darker color and a heavier taste compared to other fish sauces.

How Patis Differs from Other Fish Sauces

Despite the different types of fish sauce available, patis remains a popular choice in the Philippines. Here are some ways in which patis differs from other fish sauces:

  • Production process: Patis is made by fermenting small fish with salt and sugar, and then letting it sit for several months until it becomes a dark, flavorful liquid. Other fish sauces may use different parts of the fish or break down the fish in different ways.
  • Flavor profile: Patis has a strong, salty taste that is essential in many Filipino dishes. Other fish sauces may have a sweeter or lighter taste, depending on the country of origin.
  • Color: Patis is known for its dark color, which comes from the fermentation process. Other fish sauces may be lighter or darker in color, depending on the production process.
  • Uses: Patis is a versatile sauce that can be used in a variety of dishes, from steamed fish to soups and stews. Other fish sauces may be more commonly used in specific dishes or cuisines.

Substituting Patis with Other Fish Sauces

If you’re unable to find patis in your local supermarket or online, don’t worry- there are plenty of other fish sauces that can be used as a substitute. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Look for other brands: While patis may be the most well-known fish sauce in the Philippines, there are other brands available that produce similar sauces.
  • Consider other types of fish sauce: If you’re comfortable trying other types of fish sauce, consider using nam pla, nuoc mam, or shottsuru instead.
  • Experiment with different dishes: While patis may be the main fish sauce used in many Filipino dishes, other types of fish sauce can also be used to add a unique flavor to your favorite recipes.

The Final Verdict: Is Patis Worth Trying?

If you’re a fan of Southeast Asian cuisine or looking to improve your cooking skills, patis is definitely worth trying. Here are some benefits of using patis in your dishes:

  • Adds a unique flavor: Patis has a complex flavor profile that can improve the taste of any dish.
  • Versatile: Patis can be used in a variety of dishes, making it a staple in many Filipino households.
  • Widely available: While some brands of patis may be harder to find than others, it is generally available in most Filipino supermarkets and online stores.

So, the next time you’re shopping for fish sauce, consider giving patis a try- you may just notice a difference in the taste of your dishes!

The Battle of the Sauces: Patis vs Toyo

Toyo is a traditional Filipino sauce made from soybeans and wheat. It is a common ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisine, used to enhance the flavor of soups, dipping sauces, and as a flavoring agent in cooking. Toyo has a deep brown color and a distinct, slightly sweet taste that is less fishy and oily than patis.

How is Toyo made?

Toyo is made by fermenting soybeans and wheat together with salt and water. The process takes a long time, usually several months, and involves collecting the juices from the fermented mixture and pressing them into barrels. The barrels are then kept warm, which helps to speed up the fermentation process and give the sauce a darker color. Toyo is a fermented condiment, just like patis, but it is made from a different type of ingredient.

Patis vs Toyo: The Key Differences

While both patis and toyo are fermented fish and soy sauces, there are some key differences between the two:

  • Patis is made from anchovies, while toyo is made from soybeans and wheat.
  • Patis has a more complex and pungent flavor, while toyo has a milder, slightly sweet taste.
  • Patis is a golden, clear liquid, while toyo is a deep brown color.
  • Patis tends to be more fishy and oily than toyo.
  • Patis is a popular condiment in Filipino cuisine, while toyo is a common ingredient in Southeast Asian cooking.

The Process of Producing Patis vs Toyo

The process of producing patis and toyo is similar in some ways, but different in others:

  • Both patis and toyo are fermented sauces, made by collecting the juices from a mixture of ingredients and allowing them to ferment slowly over several months.
  • Patis is made from anchovies, which are collected and fermented in small jars exposed to sunlight. Toyo, on the other hand, is made from soybeans and wheat, which are fermented in larger barrels.
  • The fermentation process for patis is slower than for toyo, taking up to 6 months to achieve the desired flavor. Toyo, on the other hand, can be ready in as little as 3 months.
  • Patis is a sacrifice of sorts, as the anchovies used to make it are a precious commodity that takes a lot of work to collect and prepare. Toyo, on the other hand, is a byproduct of the more common soybean crop.

The Best Way to Use Patis and Toyo

Both patis and toyo are versatile condiments that can be used in a variety of ways:

  • Patis is a classic ingredient in Filipino cuisine, used to flavor soups, stews, and dipping sauces. Its pungent, fishy flavor lends a distinct taste to any dish.
  • Toyo is a milder sauce that can be used to enhance the flavor of soups, marinades, and stir-fries. Its sweet, slightly nutty flavor is less overpowering than patis, making it a good choice for those who tend to shy away from strong flavors.
  • Patis and toyo can be used together in some dishes, such as adobo, to achieve a more complex flavor combination.


So there you have it- patis is a fish sauce used in Filipino cooking. It’s a complex condiment with a unique flavor profile and a long history. You can use it to add a special flavor to your dishes, especially rice, pork, and eggs. So, don’t be afraid to experiment with it!

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:

Read for free

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.