Vietnamese Fish Sauce Recipe (Nước Chấm)


Getting the hang of making this Vietnamese dipping sauce (nước chấm) is an important step to making your cuisine just right. Since it’s just about everywhere in Vietnamese cooking, it’s simply referred to as “dipping sauce”.

I used the Three Crabs brand fish sauce. Depending on the kind you use, you will need to adjust the amount used. This nước chấm deal is all about making it to fit your taste.

Commonly Eaten With…

Of course there other types of sauces Vietnamese people use, but this is the one primarily made with fish sauce. You’ll usually find a bowl of this sauce next to to foods like chả giò (egg rolls), spring rolls or summer rolls, bánh xèo, bánh hỏi, bánh cuốn, grilled meats such as in this dish, and fried fish just to scratch the surface.

For different dishes there are slight variations on nước chấm, but we will use this as a base recipe that works great for most things. You can adjust it to your own taste if needed depending on what it’s going with.

Brewing A Batch

Citrus – Start by mixing the water with sugar and lime or lemon. This is basically lemonade. If it’s too sweet, add some water. If it’s not sour enough add some more citrus. Citrus varies a lot from fruit to fruit, so use your taste buds. Following this recipe exactly each time can produce different results since limes or lemons can vary in liquid, pulp, acidity, etc. But don’t even think about using bottled juice.

nuoc-cham1Fish sauce – Slowly add the fish sauce in increments to slowly reach what the recipe calls for and taste it along the way. After you get used to making this, you can start to tell by the color of the sauce when you are getting close.

Optional additions – Add chopped chilies or finely chopped garlic to the sauce if you like. Chilies are a must for me, and garlic is nice too.

If you live in a household in which each person is going to be picky about their nước chấm, having a mellow base dipping sauce is ideal for that. They can adjust in their own bowls if they want extra fish sauce, lime, sugar, chilies or garlic.

Keep in an airtight jar in the fridge so all your other food doesn’t smell like this sauce.


Sometimes you’ll see people put their own twists on this recipe. It’s all about making it your own. I’ve seen some recipes that swap out sugar for some other juices.

In restaurants this is made in big batches. They’ll typically use vinegar for bite instead of lemons since it’s easier and cheaper.

Also, restaurants will not want to bother finely chopping garlic for your dipping sauce either. This is one you can easily add yourself at home.


5.0 from 5 reviews
Vietnamese Dipping Fish Sauce Recipe (Nước Chấm/Nước Mắm Chấm)
Prep time
Total time
  • 6 tbsp. water
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1.5 to 2 tbsp. fresh lime or lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. fish sauce
Optional Ingredients
  • finely chopped garlic
  • bird's eye / Thai chilies
  1. Combine water and sugar in a bowl.
  2. Add lime or lemon juice in increments until you like how it tastes
  3. Add fish sauce in increments until you like how it tastes
  4. Top with garlic and chilies



Like this recipe? Subscribe to my newsletter!

13 thoughts on “Vietnamese Fish Sauce Recipe (Nước Chấm)

  1. My mom makes a simple syrup, boiling the sugar and water first and for some reason it taste so much better because the sugar completely dissolves.

  2. Howdy,

    It’s so great to find your wonderful (and alluring) blog.

    There are so many different recipes for dipping sauce in Vietnam. The one I like best is smashing some garlic, chilli with sugar, add lime juice, add some water (only if I want diluted sauce for Bún or Rolls), then some fish sauce. I like to crush garlic and chilli at first because it adds a strong taste to the sauce, which is really great when combining with other food.
    Just want to share my favorite recipe with you.
    Keep doing great work 😀

    1. Hey Trung, smashing the garlic and chile instead of cutting them sounds easy, and a good way to avoid eating them if you just wanted to impart flavor. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  3. Your blog is SUCH a gem, and I am so happy to have stumbled across it! You have some amazing Vietnamese dishes here (and have covered all of my favs, like bun bo hue & banh xeo)!

  4. Thanks for this simple recipe! I make a batch with just the lime, water, and sugar, and we add garlic/chilli per individual’s taste.

    I look forward to using the other recipes on your site! 🙂

    1. Yup it can be pretty easy once you know how it’s supposed to taste. I was completely lost without trying a recipe, despite having eaten this a lot.

      Thanks for sharing and let me know if you have any questions about recipes you try!

  5. Hi Huy,

    On a trip to Vietnam past May I simply fell in love with everything the Vietnamese kitchen has to offer. Stumbling over your blog after my travels have ended may have been one of the best things to happen to me since!
    Also, this recipe is one of the essentials, I feel. There’s barely any food that isn’t served with this sauce in (south) Vietnam.
    Greetings from Germany!

  6. Having toured around Vietnam and eating a lot of vietnamese in Sydney, and tried a bunch of recipes from different books, this is by far THE BEST recipe for this dipping sauce I have ever tasted. the lime totally makes it.

    1. What an awesome compliment Debbie, I’m glad you liked it! I often notice different ratios being used, and even sub for lemons for specific dishes can work well too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe: