Nuoc Cham is a nut-free, amber colored, Vietnamese dipping sauce. It is easy to make with simple ingredients like garlic, lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, and sriracha sauce. Nuoc Cham is perfect for dipping Vietnamese spring rolls, and as a sauce to pour over grilled meat with rice dishes and summer salads. This post has been updated with minor edits for readability (2/21/2023).
This recipe is inspired by Andrea Nguyen’s various Nuoc Cham recipes posted on her website, Saveur, and SF Gate and adapted to my preferences (less fish sauce, more tangy, smaller amount).
Disclaimer: Please check that all ingredients are suitable for your allergies and be sure to ask your medical care team regarding any allergy related questions (I do not share medical advice). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
A Delicious Nut-Free Vietnamese Style Dipping Sauce
Nuoc Cham (sounds like “nook chum”), is a popular Vietnamese dipping sauce that is delicious with many Vietnamese dishes. The simple ingredients in this nuoc cham recipe add a little bit of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors to many Vietnamese dishes including fresh Vietnamese spring rolls, which is why I posted the dipping sauce as a recipe by itself.
The traditional way to make nuoc cham is to make a paste from one Thai bird chili, sugar and garlic either in a mortar and pestle or using the side of chef’s knife or cleaver. Then dilute the paste in a small bowl by adding the lime juice, fish sauce, and water. You can also garnish with a little bit of julienned carrots and some chopped up chili.
Easy Preparation Tips
I simplify the recipe by using sriracha sauce or use chili garlic sauce from a jar and combine all the ingredients. And some of us are sensitive to spicy foods so I prefer to add the tiniest bit of heat with minimal effort.
I use the side of a cleaver or a chef’s knife to smash the garlic cloves, remove the skin, and then mince. A julienne peeler (affiliate link) makes quick work of making long beautiful julienned pieces of carrots that is perfect to garnish the Vietnamese dip or other dishes.
The Vietnamese dipping sauce can keep in your refrigerator for a day or two so I recommend making small batches as needed. This recipe makes about 1/2 cup of sauce which is probably enough for a family of 4 but double the recipe if you are preparing this for a crowd.
Allergy Aware Nuoc Cham
You will need to find a nut-free fish sauce for this recipe. My favorite fish sauce is made by Red Boat (affiliate link) as it is made in a fish-only facility (nut-free!). Red Boat fish sauce tastes very good to me without smelling very fishy. You can find Red Boat fish sauce at Trader Joe’s. If you use fish sauce a lot, Costco is the most cost effective.
I also found Simply Asia brand of fish sauce at Target. Simply Asia’s customer service rep on the phone told me that the Thai Kitchen fish sauce (affiliate) is made in a peanut free and tree nut free facility (except coconut). I haven’t had a chance to try the Simply Asia brand yet to compare but just wanted to mention an option that is easier to buy, less expensive, and still nut free.
This recipe is free of peanuts, tree nuts, soy, egg, milk, shellfish, sesame, and wheat as written.
Fish allergy: Unfortunately there is no comparable substitute for the flavor of fish sauce. You could try to substitute the umami flavor of fish sauce using soy sauce or a soy sauce alternative, use a small amount and gradually add more.
If you aren’t allergic to fish but don’t have fish sauce, you could try using Worcestershire sauce, which contains anchovy and tamarind for a similar flavor profile. However, note that that tamarind is a legume like peanuts and in rare instances, some people with a peanut allergy might have a cross-reaction. If you already use Worchestershire sauce without any allergy concerns, I recommend using half the amount (1 tablespoon) and gradually add more until you reach an umami level that you like.
Another fish-free, nut-free Vietnamese dipping sauce option is to make a sunflower seed butter dipping sauce which is great for dipping spring rolls and fresh cut veggies as a snack.
Vietnamese Dipping Sauce: Nuoc Cham
Nuoc Cham is a nut-free, amber colored, Vietnamese dipping sauce. It is easy to make with simple ingredients like garlic, lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, and sriracha sauce. Nuoc Cham is perfect for dipping Vietnamese spring rolls, and as a sauce to pour over grilled meat with rice dishes and summer salads.
- 2 tablespoon lime juice juice of 1/2 lime
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
- 1 clove garlic finely minced
- 1/4 cup hot water
- 1 tablespoon julienne carrots garnish
Combine ingredients, adjust to taste.*
You could use room temperature water instead of hot water, but be sure to stir the sauce until the sugar dissolves completely.
*Add more sriracha or serve on the side as desired.
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Any idea if Red Boat is also sesame/mustard free? Might you have a reliable phone number and/or email so that I can call the company?
Do the make hoisin and oyster sauce too?
I see Sriracha is often included in your recipes? Does the company have peanuts/tree nuts in factory?
Thanks a bunch…
I am very grateful for your contributions to the allergy community!
Hi Claudia, I sometimes check for sesame but never mustard because they’re not allergens we deal have. For your own safety, I think it’s best that you check with the manufacturers yourself. I also think that it helps the manufacturers to be more aware of their consumers’ allergy needs, that’s a win-win for everyone. Check this as a starting point. https://nutfreewok.com/whats-in-nut-free-woks-pantry/