Having a passion for Asian cooking, dried shrimp often top my list of ingredients when preparing a flavorful dish. But sometimes, the pantry might be empty, and dried shrimp can be hard to find. However, there's no need to fret – using a few clever substitutes; you can recreate traditional dishes' flavor without breaking your back! I'm sharing my favorite alternatives to dried shrimp in this blog post to make your favorite recipes easier.
So, what are the best substitutes for dried shrimp? When I'm looking to substitute for dried shrimp, my go-to options are shrimp paste, dried anchovies, or fish sauce. They provide a great seafood flavor similar to dried shrimp's sweet, salty, umami flavor. If you're looking for vegan alternatives, then fried garlic and fresh shiitake mushrooms work well. They won't give you the seafood flavor, but they will provide a savory substitute for dried shrimp.
What are dried shrimps used for?
Dried shrimps are a great source of umami and seafood-like flavors in many Asian cuisines. In Chinese cuisine, dried shrimp is often used in northern and southern recipes to add flavor and texture to stir-fries, broths, and dumplings. I particularly love using them in fried rice, congee, or sticky rice.
My mom rehydrates the shrimp in water for 20 to 30 minutes before using it in stir-fries. This helps to soften the shrimp and release a bit of flavor. It also allows the fat and juices that are cooked off to be incorporated into the dish, giving it added texture and dimension.
But if you're like me, you don't have time to soak dried shrimp and prefer the ease of just cutting them up. I use a food processor to chop dried shrimp for soups and stews finely. The salty flavor of dried shrimp is one of my favorite things about it – why waste that by soaking it in hot water? So I chop it up and add it to the dish, letting it cook until soft. It's quick, easy, and full of flavor! Plus, chopped dried shrimp looks great sprinkled over a finished dish.
If you want to soak dried shrimp to soften it, try adding aromatics like ginger, garlic, or scallions to the soaking water. Not only will they impart flavor in addition to softening the shrimp, but they also make for a tasty broth!
The best substitute for dried shrimp
For the home cook who wants to add a little umami flavor to their dishes, there is no better substitute for dried shrimp than these three ingredients. Though not a direct replacement, these three ingredients can be an excellent alternative when dried shrimp is unavailable.
1 Fish Sauce
Why is fish sauce an excellent alternative to dried shrimp? The best thing about the fish sauce is that it has a similar flavor to dried shrimp, making it an excellent substitute. It also contains umami, which gives food dishes a savory and slightly salty taste. Fish sauce is versatile and can be used in many other recipes, such as marinades or sauces.
How to use it:
Fish sauce is an excellent substitute for dried shrimp in various recipes, and there are many ways to cook with fish sauce. It provides a unique flavor that is savory and slightly salty, making it perfect for adding depth to dishes.
It is best to start with a small amount of fish sauce and then adjust the flavor to your liking. For added flavor, you can also mix it with other ingredients, such as garlic, ginger, or chilies. A combination of fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice can use fish sauce as a base for sauces or marinades.
2 Shrimp paste
I love using shrimp paste in my cooking. It adds a unique and delicious flavor to many dishes, from fried rice to stir-fries. The fermented shrimp paste has an intense umami taste that is unlike any other ingredient, and it's a great way to add complexity to a dish.
It also adds a nice saltiness that pairs perfectly with other ingredients. Shrimp paste is easy to find in most grocery stores or Asian markets, and it's a fantastic way to bring an authentic Southeast Asian taste to my cooking.
How to use shrimp paste as a substitute for dried shrimp?
Shrimp paste is also much saltier than dried shrimp, so you can use half the amount when substituting. This makes it a much easier and more convenient option than trying to find the best balance of salt and sweetness with other ingredients.
Dissolve the paste in a liquid such as water or broth. This will create a flavorful stock you can use as a base for your dish. Be sure to taste the stock before adding other ingredients, as shrimp paste can be quite pungent.
When adding the shrimp paste to a dish, adjust the other ingredients accordingly. Depending on how much shrimp paste is used, it can impart more saltiness than dried shrimp, so you may need to reduce the added salt. Finally, it's best to add the shrimp paste at the beginning of the cooking process to ensure the best flavor.
3 Dried Anchovies fillet:
I love dried anchovies! Their unique flavor and texture make them the perfect addition to many dishes. The skin is packed with umami goodness, and the tiny bones give a nice crunch to the dish. Plus, they're still small and delicate enough to be enjoyed without much effort. Whether stir-frying vegetables or making soup, I always add a handful of dried anchovies for an extra burst of umami flavor. I always reach for my jar of dried anchovies whenever I'm in the kitchen!
How to use dried anchovies as a substitute for dried shrimp?
Anchovies fillet is a great alternative to dried shrimp, especially when you're in a pinch! They have a similar brininess and can easily be mashed into a paste. All you need to do is take anchovy fillets, mash them up with a teaspoon of fish sauce and some sugar, and voila – you have a flavorful anchovy paste! It's perfect for adding to soups, stir-fries, or marinades.
4 Katsuobushi or bonito flakes
Katsuobushi is a type of dried, fermented skipjack tuna—also known as bonito flakes—widely used in Japanese cuisine. It can be added to dishes like stews and soups or shaved over noodles or vegetables to add savory umami flavor. As soon as it touches my tongue, I can feel the intense smoky flavor of Katsuobushi exploding in my mouth. It's like no other flavor I've ever experienced before – almost like chewing on a Knorr cube or an unsalted dry-cured ham. Katsuobushi's paper-thin texture undoubtedly adds to the experience, making it unforgettable every time I eat it.
How to use Katsoubushi or bonito flakes as a substitute for dried shrimp?
Kombu dashi, or soup stock, works well as a substitute for dried shrimp when making traditional Japanese dishes. To create it, you need to simmer some katsuobushi flakes in hot water until the stock has reached your desired taste and thickness. After that, you can use the broth just like you would with dried shrimp—for making ramen, miso soup, and other noodle dishes.
Bonito flakes can also be used as a topping and garnish to add flavor and texture to any dish. Sprinkle some on top of noodles, eggs, rice, vegetables, tofu—you name it! It's also great for filling rice balls or using okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes) as an ingredient.
5 Powdered Shiitake mushrooms
The secret ingredient to making any dish truly delicious? Powdered shiitake mushrooms! I'm not kidding; it's awesome. It adds a depth of flavor and umami you can't get from any other ingredient. Plus, it doesn't taste like mushrooms at all — I think it complements the flavors in a dish rather than overpowering them. I always have a jar of this stuff in my pantry because it's versatile and adds a fantastic savoriness to just about anything.
How to use it:
Elevating a dish without adding too many extra ingredients or steps is easy. Plus, Shiitake mushrooms are incredibly nutritious, so you can feel good about using them! Sprinkle some on top of your dish before serving, and it takes whatever you're making to the next level.