Have you ever wondered what makes a sauce so hearty or a stew so flavorful? The answer is often fish stock.
It’s made from poaching fish bones in water with herbs and spices.
The liquid extract adds such an amazing depth of flavor to soups and stews that it can be difficult to find an adequate replacement when cooking without fish stock.
But don’t fret. There are plenty of sure-fire substitutes for the traditional flavor and taste.
Let’s talk about how to use fish stock, and then break down the top five best replacements if you prefer not to cook with fish stock.
What is Fish Stock?
Fish stock is a flavorful liquid made by boiling fish bones of any type of fish in water, along with other aromatics such as onions and herbs.
The addition of these ingredients brings out the umami and depth of flavor in the broth which results in an incredibly tasty and fragrant fish stock.
It has a light but full-bodied taste, and its texture is that of a thin liquid that’s slightly cloudy.
When cooked down, it can also be used to create a thicker sauce or gravy.
The most popular way to use fish stock is when making soups and stews, as it adds great dimension to the dish.
A little bit of fish stock added to your favorite chowder recipe or seafood soup can take it over the top.
Simply add your desired amount to the recipe at whatever stage you feel needed, usually towards the start or middle.
Fish stock can also be used for braising vegetables and other proteins like chicken, adding complexity without overpowering any flavors.
The 5 Best Substitutes for Fish Stock
Fish stock is a flavorful liquid that is made by simmering fish bones and scraps with vegetables, herbs and spices in water.
It can be used as a base for soups, sauces, gravies and other dishes.
But if you don’t have access to fish stock, here are five excellent substitutes you should consider:
1 – Seafood Stock
Seafood stock is the closest alternative to fish stock.
Seafood stock is made from simmering various fish and shellfish bones, rather than just one species as with fish stock.
Along with the bones, other ingredients such as white wine, herbs and mirepoix (onion, carrot and celery) are added for flavor and a concentrated liquid is produced after the mixture has simmered long enough.
The end result is a flavorful broth that can be used as a base for soups or sauces.
2 – Chicken Stock
Chicken stock is a flavorful broth made from slow-simmered chicken bones, mirepoix, and herbs.
The preparation of the stock varies, depending on the intended use.
For instance, if it’s being used to create a fish-based dish, like a fish pie or seafood chowder, it will include herbs that are similar to those used in fish stock.
Furthermore, many chefs prefer to use roasted chicken bones due to the added flavor they provide.
Chicken stock can also be substituted for fish stock when trying to replicate dishes without the inclusion of meat or fish products such as vegetarian sushi or vegan stir fry.
Using chicken stock in lieu of fish stock can add another layer of flavor and richness that might not otherwise be present in vegetable-based dishes.
3 – Clam Juice
Clam juice is a great substitute for fish stock and can often be found in the same section of your local grocery store.
While it is not nearly as strong as fish stock, it does add a similar salty umami flavor to dishes.
It’s especially good for seafood recipes, like chowders and soups, where you really want that fish flavor without using actual fish.
Keep in mind that clam juice is generally quite salty, so you may need to adjust the seasoning of your recipe accordingly.
Clam juice is also often found canned and may require some thinning before use.
4 – Miso Soup
Miso soup is a savory traditional Japanese soup made with a base of miso paste and dashi—a stock containing kombu (kelp) and katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes).
Miso paste is usually made from fermented soybeans and can vary in flavor from sweet to salty, depending on the variety.
To make miso soup, simply mix miso paste and dashi together with topped with other ingredients such as tofu, seaweed, or diced scallions.
Miso soup can be used as an alternative to fish stock in recipes that don’t require a long-simmered depth of flavor.
It can also be used subtly behind richer flavors like clam chowder or white wine sauces without altering their basic profiles.
5 – Vegetable Broth
Vegetable broth is a surprisingly effective and tasty fish stock substitute in most use cases.
This can be easily prepared at home or purchased from the store, making it accessible to cooks everywhere.
Its flavor profile is subtle and can pair well with both Asian and Western cuisine.
If you choose to make your own, mix vegetables based on what vegetables you have on hand – carrots, onions, celery stalks, mushrooms, and fennel are all good choices.
Alternatively, you could even opt for store-bought vegetable stock in powdered or liquid form.
Keep in mind that this option won’t be as fishy as real fish stock but could still provide a nice boost of flavor if used sparingly.
In conclusion, fish stock is an important ingredient in many recipes that adds depth, flavor, and umami notes to dishes.
However, if you find yourself in a bind and have no access to fish stock or need a vegetarian alternative, there are many good options for substitutions.
Vegetable stock is the closest match for fish stock in terms of level of flavor and can be used interchangeably in most cases.
Chicken broth and clam juice also provide a good balance when making substitutions, while beef broth may be too overpowering.
Finally, if all else fails, water or white wine will do the job in providing the necessary liquid volume without detracting from the flavor of the dish too much.