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Nước Chấm is a classic Vietnamese dipping sauce that is sweet, salty, tangy, and garlicky! This plant-based version uses vegan fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, garlic, and chili, resulting in a wonderful blend of flavors. It perfectly accompanies fresh spring rolls, bánh xèo, egg rolls, salads, and so much more!

Vietnamese dipping sauce with garlic and chili in a bowl.

This recipe was given to me by my Vietnamese mother-in-law years ago, so you can be sure it is as authentic as possible!

Nước chấm is definitely the one sauce that I prepare almost every week.

I rely on this sauce for a plethora of dishes, be it cold noodle salads like Bún chả giò, fresh spring rolls, or even something as simple as a fresh green papaya salad. The best part? It’s quick, simple, and makes use of pantry staples (at least in a Vietnamese household!).

⭐️ Why You Should Try It

  • A symphony of flavor. This sauce may be simple, but it certainly doesn’t lack flavor. The vegan fish sauce brings umami and saltiness, lime juice some freshness and tanginess, and the sugar adds just the right amount of sweetness to balance everything.
  • Less than 5 minutes to prepare. This sauce couldn’t be easier to make! Add all of the ingredients to a small bowl and whisk until combined. Plus, you can make a big batch and keep it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks!
  • Incredibly versatile. This sauce goes with basically everything! From fried appetizers like egg rolls, samosas, and taro fritters to noodle salads and fresh spring rolls, this sauce will elevate the flavors of your dishes!

📘 What is Nước Chấm

Nước chấm, sometimes simply called nước mắm, is a traditional Vietnamese dipping sauce that is prepared with fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, garlic, and chili. It is sweet, salty, tangy, garlicky, and spicy.

It’s one of the most popular condiments in Vietnam as it is served with hundreds of different dishes, such as egg rolls, fresh spring rolls, bánh xèo, rice noodle salads, bánh cuốn, or steamed vegetables.

Ingredients like sugar, vegan fish sauce, lime, garlic, and chili.

🧄 Ingredient Notes

Here is what you will need to prepare this dipping sauce:

  • Vegan fish sauce – Nuoc mam, or fish sauce, makes the base of this dipping sauce. You can use store-bought or homemade vegan fish sauce. We do not recommend replacing it with soy sauce as it would completely alter the taste of the sauce.
  • Sugar – You can use granulated or light brown sugar.
  • Lime juice – Use freshly squeezed lime juice for optimal flavor. It adds freshness and tanginess to the sauce.
  • Garlic – Use fresh garlic, not dried garlic.
  • Chili – We usually go with 1/2 Thai chili (also called Bird’s eye chili), but you can use more or omit it, depending on your spiciness tolerance.
  • Water – To dilute the sauce.

🥣 How to Make It

  1. Combine the sugar with the fish sauce. Add the sugar and fish sauce to a small bowl and stir to combine.
  2. Add the garlic and chili. Next, finely slice the garlic and chili and add them to the bowl.
  1. Dilute with water and lime juice. Pour in the water and lime juice and stir again until the sugar has completely dissolved. At this point, you can taste it and adjust the sweetness and saltiness to your liking.

📔 Tips

  • Heat the water. To help the sugar dissolve quicker, bring the water to a boil before combining it with the other ingredients. Alternatively, you can heat all of the ingredients together over medium heat for a few minutes.
  • Crush the garlic and chili. If you have a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic and chili to help them release even more flavor before adding them to the sauce.
  • Adjust the sweetness and saltiness. Depending on your taste and the brand of vegan fish sauce used, you might have to adjust the amount of sugar and/or vegan fish sauce. Also, be aware this recipe is based on Southern Vietnamese cuisine, which tends to be on the sweeter side.
  • Adjust the spiciness to taste. I recommend starting with 1/4 of Thai chili and adding more to taste.
  • Let the sauce rest. Let the sauce rest for 5-10 minutes before using. It will allow the garlic and chili to infuse the sauce.

🍊 Variations

Nước chấm is versatile and can be easily customized to your liking. Here are a few variations:

  • Replace lime juice with Calamansi juice: If you can find Calamansi fruits, use them instead of lime. It will add a hint of orange aroma to the sauce, which, in our opinion, tastes even better.
  • Add chili garlic sauce: For extra spiciness, add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of chili garlic sauce.
  • Add chopped ginger: “Nước mắm gừng” is a variant of this sauce that includes crushed fresh ginger. It’s particularly delicious served with steamed or sautéed greens.
  • Add pickles: For color and tanginess, add a spoonful of carrot and radish pickles.

🍚 What to Serve It With

The beauty of this dipping sauce is that it can be served with a wide array of dishes, such as:

  • Bánh hỏi: Rice vermicelli woven are wrapped in lettuce with herbs and some kind of protein before being dipped in nước chấm.
  • Egg rolls: Enhance the flavor of homemade egg rolls by dipping them into this sauce!
  • Goi cuốn: Also known as fresh spring rolls, you can serve these with nước chấm or with peanut dipping sauce.
  • Bánh xèo: These crispy rice flour crêpes are typically filled with mung bean sprouts, vegetables, and meat (or tofu). Bánh xèo is typically rolled in lettuce or perilla leaves and dipped in the sauce.
  • Bánh cuốn: Bánh cuốn consists of thin and wide steamed rice noodles served with mushrooms, mortadella, fried shallots, and fresh herbs. Nước chấm is then poured over the noodles to season everything. If you plan to serve this dipping sauce with bánh cuốn, omit the garlic as it is not typically used.
  • Cơm tấm: In this classic Southern Vietnamese dish, nước chấm is stirred into the broken rice to season it. You can find our recipe for vegan cơm tấm here.
  • Bún chả giò: This dish consists of thin rice noodles, egg rolls, pickles, and fresh herbs tossed with nước chấm and enjoyed chilled or at room temperature.
  • Steamed vegetables: Dip broccoli, spinach, morning glory, or okara into the sauce.
  • Salads: Use nước chấm as a dressing for your green salads!

❄️ Storing

  • To store: You can keep the sauce for up to 2 weeks if you bring it to a boil, and do not add any garlic or chili. You can add these later on when you plan to use the sauce.

💬 FAQ

My dipping sauce is too spicy. How can I fix it?

Start by straining the chili from the sauce. Next, add 2 tbsp water, 1 tbsp fish sauce, and 1 tbsp sugar to dilute the sauce and lower its spiciness.

Can I make this sauce sugar-free?

While I haven’t tried, you should be able to replace the sugar with your favorite sweetener.

I cannot find vegan fish sauce. Can I use soy sauce instead?

The first option I would recommend would be to make your own vegan fish sauce. Our recipe is simple and relies on just a few ingredients. The second option would be to use soy sauce, but you have to be aware that while it will give you a tasty sauce, it won’t equal the one made with fish sauce.

Top view of Vietnamese dipping sauce in a bowl.

If you love Vietnamese cuisine, this nước chấm recipe is a must-try! It delivers a harmonious balance of sweet, salty, and tangy flavors. And trust us, it tastes much better than any pre-made sauces you will find at the supermarket!

⭐️ Did you like this recipe? Let us know in the comments below, and tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest!

Nuoc cham with garlic and chili in a small bowl.
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Recipe

Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nước Chấm)

4.34 from 3 votes
Author: Thomas Pagot
Nuoc Cham is a classic Vietnamese dipping sauce that is sweet, salty, tangy, and garlicky! This plant-based version uses vegan fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, garlic, and chili, resulting in a wonderful blend of flavors. It perfectly accompanies fresh spring rolls, bánh xèo, egg rolls, salads, and so much more!
Prep Time : 15 minutes
Total Time : 15 minutes
Servings 2 servings
Calories 80 kcal

Ingredients
 

  • 2 tbsp vegan fish sauce
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 clove of garlic finely chopped
  • 1/2 Bird's eye chili finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions
 

  • Combine the sugar with the fish sauce. Add the sugar and fish sauce to a small bowl and stir to combine.
  • Next, add the chopped garlic and chili to the bowl.
  • Dilute with water and lime juice. Pour in the water and lime juice and stir again until the sugar has completely dissolved. At this point, you can taste it and adjust the sweetness and saltiness to your liking.
  • You can keep the sauce for up to 2 weeks if you bring it to a boil, and do not add any garlic or chili. You can add these later on when you plan to use the sauce.

Notes

  • Heat the water. To help the sugar dissolve quicker, bring the water to a boil before combining it with the other ingredients. Alternatively, you can heat all of the ingredients together over medium heat for a few minutes.
  • Crush the garlic and chili. If you have a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic and chili to help them release even more flavor before adding them to the sauce.
  • Adjust the sweetness and saltiness. Depending on your taste and the brand of vegan fish sauce used, you might have to adjust the amount of sugar and/or vegan fish sauce. Also, be aware this recipe is based on Southern Vietnamese cuisine, which tends to be on the sweeter side.
  • Adjust the spiciness to taste. I recommend starting with 1/4 of Thai chili and adding more to taste.
  • Let the sauce rest. Let the sauce rest for 5-10 minutes before using. It will allow the garlic and chili to infuse the sauce.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 serving | Calories: 80 kcal | Carbohydrates: 20.3 g | Protein: 1 g | Sodium: 1390 mg | Potassium: 67 mg | Fiber: 0.1 g | Sugar: 19.3 g | Calcium: 11 mg
Course : Condiment, Sauce
Cuisine : Vietnamese
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About the Author

Thomas Pagot is the founder, photographer, and recipe developer behind Full of Plants. He created the blog in 2016 as a personal cookbook for vegan recipes. Through years of recipe development, Thomas has successfully grown Full of Plants into a trusted resource for plant-based recipes.

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5 stars
Just tried it. It was easy to make and we enjoyed it with homemade spring rolls with lettuce and white rice noodles, delicious! Thank you for sharing.

3 stars
Hey Thomas

I made this using your homemade fish sauce. I had to dilute by doubling water and lime as it was way too sweet. I have made your other sauces for papaya salad and they were good. I just checked the recipe you have for dipping with your egg roll recipe and it’s 1tbsp of sugar to 1/4 of water and this one calls for 3 tbsp for 1/4 cups of water (that one used half the fish sauce as well so less salty).
https://fullofplants.com/easy-vegan-egg-rolls/#recipe.

5 stars
Hey, this nuoc cham is incredible. It tastes exactly like the one we make in southern Vietnam.