Not everyone likes anchovies, as the flavor is salty and specific. Others follow a strict vegetarian or vegan diet, which makes anchovy paste an absolute no.
Whatever the reason is, if your recipe calls for anchovy paste, you certainly need to know what alternatives can work well.
Whether it is a Caesar salad, an Italian pasta sauce, or dressing, anchovy paste is a key ingredient for flavor and texture. But sometimes this item is hard to come by, as it can be scarce and expensive. So you should know what other foods can help result in a similar flavor and final product.
What Is Anchovy Paste?
What exactly is anchovy paste?
Anchovies are part of the Engraulidae family of saltwater fish. This small fish is found in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans. Because they have a soft texture and unique taste, they are considered a delicacy and sold as a canned fillet, or as a paste, and sometimes, even as cured meat.
Anchovy paste is sold in tubes, making it easy to use for sauces, dressings, soups, and more. Since some people dislike the smell or look of anchovies, then this is a good way to keep the flavor without seeing or touching the fish.
What Can I Replace Anchovy Paste With?
These are the best and tastiest anchovy paste substitutes you can use:
#1. Anchovy Fillets
If the reason you’re substituting anchovy paste isn’t the fact that you’re vegetarian or vegan, then using anchovy fillets is the best alternative. Since the fish hasn’t been cured, the flavor is a bit different, and in the canning process, oil is added as well as salt, so these fillets are very salty.
When replacing anchovy paste, keep in mind that one fillet equals ½ a teaspoon of anchovy paste. Be careful to adjust for salt and liquid, as the fillets will change this. Also, you can find anchovy fillets in any grocery store or delicatessen.
#2. Fish Sauce
This Asian sauce is smelly and pungent, but very tasty and common in many dishes. You may even have some at home already if you like to prepare things like fried rice, noodles, or soup. While it may be a good replacement for anchovy paste, it is not meant to be used in salads or dressings. Use it in sauces and meat, instead.
Remember too that this sauce has a strong aroma, so use it sparingly. Use about ½ of what the recipe calls for. Fish sauce can be found in grocery stores, and also specialty stores.
#3. Worcestershire Sauce
This sauce is special in this list because it’s part of the original recipe for the classic Caesar salad, along with anchovies, and also because it contains them too. The flavor is very unique and can’t truly be explained. It creates an umami flavor and smell that will make you want more.
You can use the same amount that the recipe calls for but adjust for other seasonings, as well as for liquid. You can find Worcestershire sauce pretty much everywhere, but certainly at your local grocery store.
Related: Top 7 Worcestershire Sauce Substitutes You Can Use in Your Cooking
Because anchovy paste is salty, capers make a great substitution that will also bring in some fiber and texture, and a vegan option.
Usually, capers come pickled in salt or vinegar, and that makes their flavor similar to anchovies. To use them instead of anchovy paste, use ½ a tablespoon of capers for every one teaspoon of anchovy paste.
Since capers are commonly used in salads, sauces, and fish dishes, they can be bought in any grocery store. Make sure you remove some of the liquid before using, otherwise, your dish can become too salty or too acidic.
Related: 6 Best Caper Substitutes For Your Favorite Italian Meal
#5. Chopped Kalamata Olives
Chopped kalamata olives is another vegan-safe option. This one does not have the same salty flavor but is fruity and sweet. Using this spice is a good way to add texture to the recipe, and color as well. These olives can be bought in any grocery store, and they usually come cured in red wine vinegar.
If you are using this choice instead of anchovy paste, consider using one tablespoon for every one teaspoon of anchovy paste. Also, use them in salads and dressings, as they go very well with vegetables and fresh ingredients.
#6. Umeboshi Paste
This Japanese condiment is made from pickled plums, and it is traditionally used as a side dish accompanying rice, or tucked into a ball, made with nori and rice. This paste is salty and acidic, and it has a strong aroma, but it is another safe option for vegetarians and vegans.
To replace anchovy paste, use about half of the amount indicated as you don’t want to change the flavor profile of the dish too much. Umeboshi paste is hard to find, but if you like making Japanese food, you may already have some, or you can look for it in an Asian specialty store.
All these options are appropriate to replace anchovies or anchovy paste in Caesar salad dressing, but the best option may be Worcestershire sauce, capers, or kalamata olives. Consider grinding the capers and olives for a better texture and thickening effect.
Not really. Sardines are going to have a different flavor and feel, which is often too salty for any dish. However, anchovies can be used in place of sardines. If you don’t have any other option, consider using a few pieces of sardines with some of these other ingredients instead.
Yes. Anchovies in a can come ready to be eaten, just like tuna or salmon does. They are often coated in oil and salt, so you can simply pick them out of the tin and eat them. These go very well with saltines or bread.
While not everyone loves the smell and taste of anchovies, anchovy paste is often used as the main ingredient in some recipes. Replace anchovy paste with any of these ingredients instead so that your dish doesn’t suffer, and may even end up being tastier than before!
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