Nuoc Cham – also known as the classic Vietnamese dipping sauce is ready in 5 minutes and blends a delicate balance of salty, spicy, sweet and sour for the best ever Asian dipping sauce. Perfect for noodle or rice bowls, drizzling over fish or dipping summer rolls into. Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, & Paleo
Vietnamese dipping sauce is a staple in my kitchen. It’s a recipe that I make almost weekly and sometimes I crave specifically all the flavors in this dipping sauce and nothing else will do.
If I’m making summer rolls I need this sauce. When I’m making pan seared fish (like my Chilean sea bass recipe) I must have this sauce to serve it with. It is simply the perfect balance of four very key flavors – salty, spicy, sweet and sour.
Traditionally Nuoc Cham sauce (the official and proper name for this sauce) is made with water, sugar, lime juice, fish sauce, fresh chili peppers and optional addition of garlic. While backpacking through Vietnam for 28 days back in 2012, my husband D and I found this sauce to be everywhere. We most likely consumed it daily with our meals. It is a staple in the Vietnamese kitchen and adds flavor to summer rolls, savory crepes, noodle bowls, etc.
I’ve decided to jazz this Vietnamese dipping sauce up a notch. Instead of sugar I add honey or maple syrup. In place of fresh chili peppers, which I rarely have on hand, I use Sambal Oelek a ground fresh chili paste or a paleo Sriracha (for a paleo version of this sauce). I also love the addition of minced ginger when combined with these flavors so always always add that. To add more depth of flavor to the sour taste I add rice vinegar and to make this dipping sauce perfect for drizzling on just about any protein I also add olive oil and sesame oil. As you can see this is no longer the classic Vietnamese dipping sauce but rather my own upgraded version.
Trust me when I say this sauce is amazing and will elevate any dish with Asian flavors. Anyone I’ve ever served this sauce to absolutely loves it, so while it is no longer the traditional version, it’s still the best sauce ever.
Ingredients in my Vietnamese dipping sauce:
- lime juice – this creates the sour flavor in the sauce
- ginger – minced ginger adds an additional element of flavor to this sauce
- fish sauce – this provides the salty element and gives it that savory umami richness. Using a quality fish sauce is key to this recipe. My current favorite brand is Red Boat.
- rice vinegar – to balance out the sour flavor from the lime juice
- maple syrup – this is to add sweetness and contrast with the lime juice and fish sauce. You can substitute honey, agave or palm sugar
- sesame oil – adds a hint of sesame flavor
- olive oil – traditionally a nuoc cham is made with water, but I’ve added oil, both sesame and olive instead to make this a richer creamier sauce, perfect for drizzling as well as dipping
- ground fresh chili paste – to add a bit of spice and a kick to the sauce. You can use fresh red bird’s eye chili peppers instead (though I never have those on hand), or a Paleo Sriracha sauce for a Paleo version of this recipe
- Optional ingredient – minced garlic – I prefer to keep this out but it’s simply a matter of personal preference.
How to make my Vietnamese dipping sauce:
- This Vietnamese sauce could not be easier to make – simply combine all of the ingredients in a jar and shake it up to mix.
What is Vietnamese fish sauce?
- Vietnamese fish sauce is a key ingredient in a Vietnamese kitchen. It’s strong and off putting pungent aroma aside, it truly adds depth of flavor and umami richness to everything it touches. It is used frequently in Vietnamese recipes in place of salt or soy sauce. The fish sauce is made from anchovies, salt and water. It does not need to be refrigerated and lasts a long time so it is an ingredient I highly recommend everyone have at home. It is key in Vietnamese and Thai recipes and there is no perfect substitute.
What is the best fish sauce for this recipe?
- My personal favorite fish sauce is the Red Boat Premium Fish Sauce. This sauce is paleo friendly and is made with only anchovies and sea salt. Three Crabs Fish Sauce is another good fish sauce though it is not Paleo approved. Each fish sauce is slightly different in saltyness so depending on which one you use, you may need to adjust the quantities of the other ingredients to get that perfect balance of sweet, salty, spicy and sour.
How long will this keep in the fridge?
- This sauce will keep for up 5-7 days in a sealed container in the fridge.
What can I serve this Vietnamese dipping sauce with?
- Summer Rolls
- Seared Chilean sea bass (or any other pan seared white fish)
- Drizzled on top of noodle bowls, rice bowls, etc
- fried spring rolls
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments section below. This is hands down one of my all time favorite sauce recipes and I find it truly elevates any Asian inspired dish.
5 minute Vietnamese dipping sauce is the perfect balance of sour, salty, sweet & spicy. This sauce elevates any Vietnamese inspired recipe and is a must make. Gluten Free, Dairy Free & Paleo.
Combine all ingredient in a jar, seal and shake.
To make this recipe paleo use fresh red bird's eye chili pepper or Paleo Sriracha in place of the chili paste.
Adjust to your taste preference - depending on how sweet, salty, spicy or sour you want the sauce to be you may need to add more maple syrup, fish sauce, chili sauce or lime juice.