Nuoc Cham is a versatile Vietnamese sauce that adds a burst of flavor to a variety of dishes. It's used for dipping items like spring rolls or summer rolls, as a marinade for grilled meats, and as a dressing for rice noodle salads. This staple of Vietnamese cuisine takes only 5 minutes to make!
First things first! Wondering how to pronounce Nuoc Cham?
It sounds like nook - mam.
❤️ Why you'll love this recipe
- It's an easy homemade version, adapted from an authentic recipe. This homemade version of Nuoc Cham that I've adapted from the classic is a traditional dressing or dipping sauce you'll find on every menu in Vietnam. Like many Vietnamese or Thai foods, it's sweet, sour, salty, hot, and savory all at once.
- It pairs well with a variety of dishes, both traditional Vietnamese dishes, like Banh Xeo (Vietnamese Crepes), Banh Mi (stuffed baguette) or Goi Cuon (Spring Rolls) and Western dishes, like grilled shrimp skewers, glazed salmon or rice noodle salad.
I like to serve it as a dressing as well. It's delicious with this Vietnamese Prawn (or Shrimp) Noodle Bowl.
🛒 Ingredients and substitutions
You'll find a complete list of ingredients with quantities in the recipe card below. But before we get to the full recipe, here are a few notes about the ingredients.
- Water: Nuoc Cham is a much thinner dipping sauce than you may be used to. Water helps to mellow the strong flavors in this sauce.
- Lime juice: freshly squeezed is a must in this recipe. Bottled lime juice does not have the same fresh flavor.
- Fish sauce: Made from fermented fish (often anchovies), the odor of fish sauce can be offensive. But don't worry: you won't smell it in the dipping sauce.
- Unseasoned rice vinegar: sometimes called Japanese rice vinegar. It's less acidic than other kinds of vinegar and is a staple in Vietnamese cooking.
- Garlic: use fresh cloves.
- Sugar: or other sweetener. You can substitute your favorite sweetener.
- Thai red chili: While Thai chili is traditional, if you can't find one, you could substitute a serrano pepper.
All these ingredients are available in your local grocery store, sometimes in the International Foods section.
Whisk these Vietnamese dressing ingredients in a small bowl or shake in a small Mason jar and set aside while you prepare your main dish.
🍽 When to serve Nuoc cham
Nuoc cham is a versatile Vietnamese dipping sauce that adds a burst of flavor to a variety of dishes. Here's a list of both authentic Vietnamese and Western dishes that pair well with Nuoc cham:
- Spring Rolls: Fresh spring rolls filled with shrimp, herbs, rice vermicelli, or and sometimes pork with a bowl of Nuoc cham on the side.
- Banh Xeo (Vietnamese Crepes): Crispy rice flour crepes filled with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts, and mushrooms, often served with Nuoc cham.
- Grilled Shrimp Skewers: Marinated shrimp skewers grilled to perfection, served with this tasty dipping sauce.
- Honey-Garlic Chicken Wings: Crispy chicken wings served with sauce for dipping.
- Crunchy Thai Noodle Salad: Serve with Nuoc cham instead of peanut sauce dressing.
- Grilled Vegetable Platter: Assorted grilled vegetables such as bell peppers, zucchini, and mushrooms served with Nuoc cham as a refreshing accompaniment.
⏰ Storage Instructions
Store this Vietnamese dipping sauce in an airtight container in the fridge. It will last for up to a month.
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Nuoc Cham - Vietnamese Dipping Sauce
- 2 - 3 tablespoons sugar, or other sweetener, or more depending on your tastes.
- 2 to 4 tablespoons lime juice from 1 or 2 limes freshly squeezed
- 2 tablesppons rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Thai red bird chili pepper, minced
- ¼ cup water, or more, to taste
- Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl, or shake together in a jar with a lid.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking. If it's too sweet, add another squeeze of lime, if it's too sour, add more sweetener.
- Let stand for 30 minutes or so to allow the flavors to blend.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month.