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Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce)

This is a classic Vietnamese dipping sauce made from fish sauce, water, vinegar, sugar, garlic, and chili pepper (optional). Sweet, sour, and savory. We use this sauce for everything from spring rolls, to summer rolls, grilled meats, and noodle dishes. Make a big batch and keep it in the fridge. It’s onolicious and always comes in handy.

A big bowl of Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce)
A big bowl of Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam ^_^

Why This Recipe Works

We always have a big jar of Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam in the fridge! We make a giant jar of this wonderful dipping sauce every month and use it throughout the month.

Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam is a classic Vietnamese dipping sauce. You’ve definitely see it at Vietnamese restaurants. It’s usually served on the side in a small bowl. You either pour the sauce over noodle and grilled meat dishes or use it to dip if you ordered Summer Rolls or spring rolls.

Like Teriyaki Sauce or any type of sauce, everyone has their formula or preferred ratio of ingredients for Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam. Try this recipe as is, and then feel free to adjust ratios to your preference when you remake it in the future.

The base of Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam is fish sauce. That fish sauce is then seasoned with white vinegar, sugar, and lots of minced garlic and Thai chili peppers. You also have to add water to the sauce otherwise it is too potent for dipping.

The resulting sauce is bright and tangy, a little sweet and a little savory. I love it! And I hope you will too ^_^

Spooning the Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce) into individual bowls for dipping.
Spooning the Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam into individual dipping bowls.

Nuoc Cham vs Nuoc Mam

Is this dipping sauce called Nuoc Cham or Nuoc Mam? It can be confusing. Let us explain ^_^

At home, we always call this dipping sauce Nuoc Mam.

Nuoc Mam refers to two things:

  • This dipping sauce recipe.
  • The bottle of fish sauce itself.

So when you say Nuoc Mam, people might not be sure if you’re referring to: 1) the dipping sauce or, 2) the actual bottle of fish sauce (which is an ingredient in many other recipes).

Because of this potential confusion, many recipes are titled Nuoc Cham. Nuoc Cham is the general name for Vietnamese dipping sauces. The only issue is that Nuoc Cham can refer to several different types of dipping sauce, so it’s not as specific as Nuoc Mam.

So what to do? To make things extra clear, you can always say “Nuoc Mam Dipping Sauce.” ^_^

Mincing garlic and chili peppers in the food processor.
Mincing garlic and chili peppers in the food processor.

Ingredients

Step by Step Directions

Let’s get cooking!

Prepare garlic and chili peppers
Mince the garlic and chili peppers, either by hand or in a food processor. Set aside.

Protip: Because we’re mincing so much garlic, we like to use a food processor. Mince it together with the chili peppers. The red color of the peppers combine to beautifully with the garlic.

Dissolve sugar.
In a large mixing bowl, use a whisk to dissolve the sugar in the water.

Add fish sauce and vinegar.
Stir in the fish sauce. Stir in the vinegar.

Add garlic and chili peppers.
Add the minced garlic and chili pepper. Stir to mix evenly.

Spoon and dip.
Spoon into individual dipping bowls. Ready to use for dipping!

Adding the minced garlic and chili peppers to the fish sauce dipping sauce base.
Adding the minced garlic and chili peppers.

FAQs and Tips

How long does this dipping sauce keep?

This recipe makes a very big portion of the Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce) Recipe. We like to make a lot at once because we cook Vietnamese food quite often at home.

The sauce also keeps for up to two months in refrigerator. Just make sure to store it in a sealed glass container. Then whenever you need some sauce, you can always spoon out a small serve. So easy and convenient.

What to use this dipping sauce for?

Oh so many dishes! We use it primarily for homemade Summer Rolls, spring rolls, and rice noodle dishes topped with grilled meats and Cha Trung (Vietnamese Egg Meatloaf).

Carrots!

Feel free to add thinly julienned carrots to this sauce if you’d like. We like to do this if we have carrots available at home. Adds a nice bit of color and flavor, but is not super necessary.

Sugar.

This ratio of sugar to other ingredients is classic. It may seem like a lot of sugar but it won’t taste like it by the time you’re done making the sauce. You can reduce the sugar a little but it will change the flavor.

Substitutions?

You can replace the white vinegar with fresh lime juice. The lime juice gives a different flavor profile – softer in flavor but also more tangy. Note: if you use lime juice, the dipping sauce will only keep for one week (versus two months when using white vinegar), so make a smaller batch.

A bowl of Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce).
Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam, ready for dipping.

Nuoc Mam / Nuoc Cham Recipe

See below and enjoy the nuoc mam / nuoc cham sauce ^_^

A big bowl of Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce)

Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce)

Yield: 5 cups of Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

This is a classic Vietnamese dipping sauce made from fish sauce, water, vinegar, sugar, garlic, and chili pepper (optional). Sweet, sour, and savory. We use this sauce for everything from spring rolls, to summer rolls, grilled meats, and noodle dishes. Make a big batch and keep it in the fridge. It's onolicious and always comes in handy.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Mince the garlic and chili peppers, either by hand or in a food processor. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, use a whisk to dissolve the sugar in the water.
  3. Stir in the fish sauce. Stir in the vinegar.
  4. Add the minced garlic and chili pepper. Stir to mix evenly.
  5. Spoon into individual dipping bowls. Ready to use for dipping!

Notes

  • Chili pepper is optional but delicious and gives a nice color. Since we make this in a large batch, I like to mince the garlic and chili pepper together in the food processor.
  • Store leftover dipping sauce in a sealed container in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to two months.
  • Feel free to halve or even quarter the recipe, just make sure to keep the same proportions of ingredients.
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