Dried shrimps are more than just a pantry item; they’re a culinary secret weapon that chefs and home cooks alike employ to infuse dishes with depth and flavor. Derived from shrimp that’s been meticulously sun-dried or dehydrated, this ingredient serves dual functions: as a robust flavor enhancer and a texture contributor in a variety of dishes, from soups to stir-fries. When it comes to capturing that unique umami punch, few ingredients offer such a concentration of seafood richness.
But what if you find yourself without this essential element? Whether you’re faced with an allergy, dietary restrictions, or simply can’t locate dried shrimps at your local store, you need not despair. This article outlines the seven best substitutes that can mimic the essential qualities of dried shrimps, each offering their unique benefits and considerations. So if you’ve ever found yourself asking, “What can I use instead of dried shrimps?” — read on. We’ve got you covered.
What is Dried Shrimps?
Dried shrimps are precisely what they sound like—shrimp that has been sun-dried or dehydrated to reduce its moisture content significantly. The result is a concentrated flavor powerhouse that can enliven soups, stews, sauces, and even snacks. Originating from various global cuisines, dried shrimps are often ground into powders or used whole. They serve not just as a flavoring but also as a thickening agent in many recipes.
Quick Glance at Dried Shrimp Substitutes
- Fish Sauce
- Anchovy Paste
- Shrimp Paste
- Umami Paste
- Chicken Bouillon
- Oyster Sauce
Best Substitutes For Dried Shrimps
Each of the following substitutes has been chosen with careful consideration, keeping in mind factors such as flavor profiles, accessibility, and ease of use.
Fish sauce, a liquid extracted during the fermentation of fish with sea salt, offers a depth of flavor that closely mimics that of dried shrimps. It provides the salty and umami nuances that make dried shrimps a favorite in many recipes.
While fish sauce is not an ideal replacement in dishes that require the texture of dried shrimps, it excels in recipes like soups and sauces, where the essence of seafood is more important than its physical presence. Moreover, fish sauce is relatively easy to find, stocked in the international aisle of most grocery stores.
A quick tip: Fish sauce is strong, so moderation is key. A couple of tablespoons should be enough to capture the salty, umami charm you’re after.
Anchovy paste is made from ground anchovies, and it offers a robust, fishy flavor profile that can act as a stand-in for dried shrimps. It works particularly well in dishes where the strong seafood flavor is integral but the texture less so, such as in sauces or dressings.
Aside from its flavor, one of the key advantages of anchovy paste is its consistency. It blends seamlessly into mixtures, making it easier to incorporate into a variety of dishes. It also comes in convenient tubes, ensuring that you use just the amount you need without waste.
Here’s a practical tip: Anchovy paste has a salty kick. Adjust other seasonings in your recipe to compensate for this characteristic.
Arguably the closest alternative to dried shrimps is shrimp paste. Made from fermented ground shrimp mixed with salt, it’s no surprise that this substitute delivers a comparable seafood flavor.
Because shrimp paste has a more pungent aroma and flavor, it’s particularly well-suited for recipes that demand a strong shrimp presence, such as stir-fries or traditional Southeast Asian dishes. The paste’s form also allows for easy portion control, ensuring that your recipes are perfectly seasoned.
Tip: Since shrimp paste is also a fermented product, its flavor may intensify over time. Use it judiciously and adjust according to taste.
Umami paste, usually a blend of various ingredients like tomatoes, garlic, and anchovies, offers a different but effective route for achieving that desired umami profile. It won’t replicate the seafood flavor, but it provides a complexity that makes dishes interesting.
Since it’s a blend, umami paste is less concentrated but versatile. It can be used in a variety of cuisines, from Italian to Japanese, making it a multipurpose ingredient in your kitchen.
One downside is its availability; it may not be as commonly found in stores as other substitutes. However, online shops often carry it, and it’s worth the effort to find it.
Miso, a Japanese fermented soybean paste, provides umami richness without any seafood involvement. Therefore, it’s a great option for vegetarians or those allergic to shellfish.
Because it’s made from soybeans, miso doesn’t offer the seafood flavor inherent to dried shrimps. But it excels in providing that umami richness that makes dishes deeply satisfying. Plus, it’s available in various types—from white miso, which is sweeter, to red miso, which is more robust—offering a range of flavors to play with.
Quick note: Miso is also salty, so keep an eye on the overall salt content of your dish.
Chicken bouillon cubes or granules are another option for those who can’t consume seafood. While they won’t provide the seafood flavor, they do offer a meaty, salty depth that can be beneficial in many dishes, particularly in soups and stews.
One of the significant advantages of chicken bouillon is its convenience. It’s readily available in most stores and has a long shelf life. It’s also quick to dissolve, making it an easy-to-use option for busy cooks.
Bear in mind, however, that the flavor profile is quite different. You’ll get meaty tones instead of seafood notes, but sometimes, that’s a delightful twist that can make a dish unexpectedly delicious.
Oyster sauce, made from oyster extracts and soy sauce, offers a thick, rich alternative that can mimic the deep flavors of dried shrimps. It’s less pungent than shrimp paste but provides a subtle sweetness that can be a game-changer in some recipes.
It excels in stir-fries and can also be used in marinades for an extra layer of flavor. Since it’s thicker than most other substitutes listed here, it also adds a bit of body to dishes, making it a dual-purpose ingredient.
A word of caution: Oyster sauce can be high in sodium. Always taste your dish before adding extra salt or other salty ingredients.
Substitutes for Dried Shrimps: Nutritional Profile
Conclusion: Savoring Substitutes
The absence of dried shrimps in your pantry doesn’t have to signify a culinary loss. As we’ve explored, the world is brimming with substitutes that not only mimic the flavors and textures of dried shrimps but also bring their unique qualities to the table. Whether you opt for the fishy intensity of anchovy paste or the vegetarian richness of miso, your culinary endeavors need not be compromised. Happy cooking!