Vegan Vietnamese Dressing (Nước Chấm Chay)

I’d like to share a personal dressing favorite that brings together the vibrant, aromatic world of Vietnamese cuisine and the compassionate approach of veganism to the kitchen— Nước Chấm Chay or Vegan Nước Chấm.

vegan vietnamese dressing

🤗 My Experience With Nước Chấm Chay

Allow me to take you on a journey that started in the bustling streets of Da Nang, a city nestled in the heart of Vietnam, known for its beautiful beaches and, of course, its variety of restaurants (lots of vegan ones, too!) and coffee shops.

It was in Da Nang that I first came across Nước Chấm, a staple Vietnamese dressing that graces tables from the humblest of street-food stalls to the most refined restaurants; a dressing that could even transform the plainest seitan into a delectable treat bursting with flavor.

Picture a watery sauce that dances on your tongue, bringing together the perfect balance of salty, sweet, tangy, and spicy elements—a symphony of flavors that elevates every dish it accompanies.

During my stay in Da Nang, I went to several vegan restaurants that served this dressing alongside meals, adding a burst of flavor that was nothing short of magic. However, traditional Nước Chấm typically contains fish sauce, an ingredient that brings a depth of umami but isn’t suitable for those like you and me.

The game-changer arrived when, to my surprise and delight, I stumbled upon vegan fish sauce in a local Vietnamese supermarket (shout out to Lotte Mart). Inspired by this find, I set out to create my version of Nước Chấm, a recipe that could bring the memorable taste of this Vietnamese staple to your vegan table.

🗒️ Ingredients You’ll Need


Now that you’re familiar with my Vietnamese experience and how I got my inspiration to create Nước Chấm Chay, let’s set the stage for the recipe.

Each ingredient plays a necessary role, and in my opinion, I don’t think you should skip any single one.

Warm water is necessary to dissolve the sugar and evenly distribute all the flavors, creating a more harmonious blend.

Vegan fish sauce is the ingredient that sparked the birth of this recipe, so if possible, stick to it instead of standard soy sauce. The vegan fish sauce brings that salty, umami depth that’s characteristic of the original Nước Chấm.

Sugar balances out the tanginess and saltiness, rounding off the flavors in our dressing. It basically ensures there’s more of a balance, rather than one or two ingredients overwhelming the rest.

Lime juice is also super necessary because it adds a tangy brightness that awakens your taste buds while complementing other flavors.

Garlic brings a subtle depth and pungency that gives our vegan Nước Chấm its signature kick.

Chili or red pepper flakes add that much-needed heat element to the recipe, and you can certainly adjust it to your liking.

Each of these ingredients can be found in a large supermarket near you, online, or even in a local Asian store if you have one nearby.

👨🏻‍🍳 How To Make This Delicious Vegan Vietnamese Dressing

vegan nuom cham

With our flavor-packed ingredients ready, let’s jump into the heart of the action: making our very own Nước Chấm Chay!

Here are 4 easy steps to making this veganized Vietnamese dressing:

1. Combine the vegan fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and warm water.

Grab a small bowl and whisk these ingredients together and watch as the sugar dissolves into the warm water, mingling with the tangy lime juice and the rich vegan fish sauce.

Make sure the sugar is thoroughly dissolved before moving to the next step as you’ll want a smooth, well-blended dressing that can be poured over your dishes, not one with noticeable clumps of sugar.

2. Add the minced garlic and sliced red chili or red pepper flakes.

Now it’s time to introduce the heat and the kick. Scatter in your minced garlic and red chili or pepper flakes, mixing well to ensure they’re nicely incorporated.

Here I’d like to mention that you should mince the garlic as finely as possible, as its flavor will propagate better throughout the dressing.

3. Adjust the flavors to your preference.

This is where your personal taste comes into play. Give your dressing a taste test. Need more sweetness? Add a sprinkle of sugar. Craving more tanginess? Squeeze in some extra lime juice. Miss the saltiness? A dash more vegan fish sauce will do the trick. This is your dressing, after all—make it exactly how you love it!

4. Allow the dressing to sit.

Patience, my friend, is the final ingredient. Let your vegan Nước Chấm sit for at least 15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together.

You also want it to cool down before pouring it over your food.

👌🏻 What Goes Well With Nước Chấm Chay?

Nước Chấm Chay

Quite frankly, Nước Chấm Chay pairs beautifully with a wide range of dishes, but if you’re feeling stuck, here are a few suggestions:

Rice dishes: Whether it’s a simple bowl of steamed jasmine rice or a more elaborate vegan fried rice, a drizzle of this dressing can improve your dish by leaps and bounds, adding depth and a more compelling flavor profile.

Salads: Think of a fresh, crunchy salad dressed with this Nước Chấm Chay. While I wouldn’t recommend it for a fruity salad, I’d say it’s pretty good for a salad with neutral flavors.

Spring rolls: Vegetable spring rolls are a staple in many Southeast Asian meals, and they always taste better when you dip them in a sauce. Nước Chấm Chay can be that sauce. The tangy, spicy, and sweet flavors of the dressing complement the freshness of the spring rolls beautifully.

Tofu and seitan dishes: If you’re someone that often likes to include these two protein sources in your meals but struggle to make them taste good, then you can use Nước Chấm Chay to add that burst of flavor. I’m sure you’d love fried tofu (or even seitan) with this sauce.

These are just a few suggestions, and there are certainly more creative ways to make use of this dressing’s full potential.

If you’re not super comfortable with culinary (on the whole), I’m sure you can pair this dressing with many dishes that could use a flavor lift.

❓Frequently Asked Questions

What is vegan fish sauce made of?

To be very honest, the vegan fish sauce we bought in Vietnam was made of fermented soybeans and a few other additives.

However, some versions sold in the West can be made from a variety of ingredients, including mushrooms, onions, and celery.

Can I make vegan fish sauce from scratch?

Yes, it’s possible to make vegan fish sauce at home. Although I haven’t made it (yet), you can probably make it from a variety of fermented vegetables, such as mushrooms, onions, celery, etc.

The only recipes I found online are ones from The Minimalist Baker and Feasting at Home, so feel free to check them out.

Can I use soy sauce instead of vegan dish sauce?

Soy sauce can be used as a vegan fish sauce replacement as it will add a similar saltiness and umami flavor to the dressing.

However, it’s not something I would recommend because the essence is not there, and it doesn’t really do much to replicate the flavor of the traditional fish sauce.

With this being said, if you’re in a pinch and don’t have any vegan fish sauce on hand, you might be able to do it with soy sauce.

How long does Nước Chấm Chay last?

If you’re planning to make it ahead of time, you can keep it in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

The saltiness of the sauce, derived from the vegan fish sauce, helps it stay fresh for a longer duration​.

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vegan vietnamese dressing

Vegan Vietnamese Dressing (Nước Chấm Chay)

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  • Author: Alexandre Valente
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 2 people 1x
  • Diet: Vegan


Salty, sweet, tangy, and spicy; these are the adjectives I can best use to describe this Vegan Vietnamese Dressing (Nước Chấm Chay).


  • 4 tbsps of warm water
  • 2 tbsps vegan fish sauce (Not so cool alternative: Soy sauce)
  • 1 tbsp of sugar
  • 1 tbsp of lime juice
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 chili pepper (Alternative: Red chili flakes)


  1. In a small bowl, combine 2 tbsp of vegan fish sauce (or soy sauce), 1 tbsp of lime juice, 1 tbsp of sugar, and 4 tbsp of warm water. Whisk until the sugar dissolves completely.
  2. Add minced garlic and sliced red chili or red pepper flakes to the liquid mixture.
  3. Taste the dressing and adjust the flavors as needed. Add more sugar if you want it sweeter, more lime juice for added tanginess, or more vegan fish sauce for extra saltiness.
  4. Allow the dressing to sit for at least 15 minutes before using. This allows the flavors to meld together for a more robust taste.
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Category: Dressing
  • Cuisine: Vietnamese

🙏🏻 Before you go, I’ve got a favor to ask!

I’d love to get your feedback on this recipe! Feel free to leave a comment below detailing your experience— and let others know how you feel about it!

Of course, you can also ask any questions you may have about the recipe— and we’ll try to respond ASAP.

vegetarian vietnamese dressing

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