Shrimp powder, also known as ground dried shrimp, is a versatile ingredient commonly used in many Asian cuisines.
Dried shrimp imparts a concentrated umami flavor along with a sweet brininess that enhances dishes like stir-fries, soups, curries, and sauces.
What is Shrimp Powder?
Shrimp powder comes from sun-dried shrimp that have been ground into a fine powder. Drying helps concentrate the flavor while grinding breaks down the dried shrimp into a flavoring powder that easily incorporates into dishes.
The tiny dried shrimp used are usually shell-on and may be whole or chopped before grinding. Larger shrimp and better quality dried shrimp tend to produce superior shrimp powder.
Shrimp powder boasts an intense taste of the sea, with concentrated savoriness or umami flavor. It also contains natural salts, giving it a slightly salty character. The sweetness of shrimp also shines through.
This powder imparts huge flavor impact and only small amounts are needed in recipes. It brings an addictive savoriness and seasoning that makes many Asian dishes shine.
Shrimp powder plays various culinary roles:
- Flavor-booster in soups, curries, stir-fries, and dipping sauces
- Adds savory depth and sweet brininess
- Used in marinades and spice rubs
- Sprinkle as final topping over some dishes
- Common ingredient when making chili pastes
- Binds and thickens sauces
How is Shrimp Powder Used?
There are several classic ways that cooks use shrimp powder to bring addictive flavor to dishes:
- Curries: A teaspoon or two of shrimp powder boosts richness in Thai or Malaysian curry pastes. It intensifies the overall flavor.
- Noodle dishes: Sprinkle some shrimp powder over noodle soups or stir-fried noodles. It adds sweet brininess and savoriness.
- Congee and rice porridge: Shrimp powder makes a tasty savory topping for congee, bringing a delicious umami hit.
- Fried rice: Just a pinch adds tons of flavor during stir-frying or sprinkle over finished fried rice.
- Dipping sauces: Mix in a bit of shrimp powder when making chili dipping sauces for spring rolls or summer rolls.
- Stir-fries: Add shrimp powder along with aromatics when stir-frying meat or vegetables. It boosts overall flavor.
- Salad dressings: Whisk just a small amount into Asian salad dressings for an addictive savoriness.
- Sprinkle topping: Lightly sprinkle shrimp powder over finished noodle and rice dishes for flavor and crunch.
Shrimp powder is commonly used in small quantities since the flavor potency is so high. But the possibilities are endless for any dish that would benefit from a boost of addictive umami richness.
Best Substitutes for Shrimp Powder
Certain ingredients can mimic the savory umami taste and sweet brininess of shrimp powder:
Anchovy paste makes an excellent substitute as it provides intense savoriness similar to dried shrimp. Made from pulverized anchovies, it adds plenty of natural glutamates that enhance mouth-watering umami flavors.
Use about half the amount of anchovy paste to replace shrimp powder. It has a more pronounced fishiness, so a little goes a long way.
Fish sauce is used heavily in Southeast Asian cooking. The fermented fish liquid has a bold umami richness not far off from shrimp itself.
When substituting shrimp powder with fish sauce, use about half the quantity. Fish sauce is very salty, so also reduce any salt called for in the recipe.
Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
Rehydrated dried shiitake mushrooms can mimic the meaty texture of shrimp. Their natural umami flavor also helps recreate the savory taste.
Use about 1/4 cup minced rehydrated shiitakes in place of a tablespoon of shrimp powder. Shiitakes lack the brininess though, so add a pinch of salt too.
Miso paste is a savory Japanese seasoning made from fermented soybeans. Its deep umami flavor makes it a handy shrimp powder swap.
For every tablespoon of shrimp powder, use 1 teaspoon of miso dissolved in a tablespoon of hot water. Reduce salt to balance the extra from miso.
Nutritional yeast is an inactive yeast prized for its savory, cheese-like flavor. When used with other umami ingredients like soy sauce or mushrooms, it can help replace shrimp powder's savoriness in vegan and vegetarian cooking.
Dried seaweed (nori, kombu, wakame) offers hints of natural ocean flavors that can help replace some savoriness and brininess of shrimp powder. Blend into a fine powder to use in place of shrimp powder.
Like dried shiitakes, mushroom powder provides meaty umami richness to mimic shrimp powder. Find it or make your own by pulverizing dried mushrooms. Use to directly replace shrimp powder.
Vegan Shrimp Powder Substitutes
Vegans and vegetarians have additional options to recreate the savory umami taste of shrimp powder:
- Nutritional yeast - This inactive yeast has a cheesy, nutty flavor that adds savory richness when used with other umami ingredients.
- Dried seaweed powder - Grinding dried seaweed into a fine powder provides ocean-like brininess.
- Soy sauce or tamari - Used along with other ingredients, these impart savoriness and saltiness reminiscent of shrimp powder.
- Tahini or peanut butter - When thinly spread on dishes, these seed and nut butters lend subtle savory richness.
- Mushroom powder - Powdered dried mushrooms like shiitakes offer plenty of natural umami.
- Tomato powder - Adds sweetness and enhances savory flavors of other ingredients.
- Liquid smoke - This provides smoky notes similar to dried shrimp. Use sparingly along with other flavors.
- Kelp granules - The granulated kelp packs an umami punch to replace shrimp powder when used with other flavors.
- Miso paste - Spread thinly on dishes or blended into sauces, miso gives deep savory umami.
- Fermented bean paste - Salty, savory pastes made from chickpeas, black beans, or lentils can boost umami.
- Nutritional yeast and soy sauce make a tasty combo to recreate savoriness when shrimp powder is not an option. Start with a 2:1 ratio for best results.
How to Use Shrimp Powder Substitutes
Most shrimp powder alternatives can be utilized in similar ways:
- Add directly to a dish during cooking for flavor infusion.
- Make a paste with seasonings to add umami richness to a sauce or marinade.
- Lightly spread or sprinkle over finished dishes to boost savory flavors.
- Mix into salad dressings, dipping sauces, or soup broths for added depth.
- Create a seasoning blend for sprinkling over rice, noodles, or stir-fries.
Keep in mind that using a substitute means flavor and saltiness may differ from shrimp powder. Taste as you go and adjust other seasonings accordingly for best results.
Some trial and error will be needed to find your perfect shrimp powder swap for specific dishes. But these savory ingredients open up possibilities to enjoy traditional recipes.
Tips for Using Shrimp Powder Substitutes
- Start with small amounts of substitutes and add more to taste. Potency varies.
- Cut back on additional salt in recipes since many substitutes are salty.
- Add sweetness from sugar or fruits if needed to balance saltiness.
- Opt for substitutes with better nutritional profiles when possible. For example, nut or seed butters over soy sauce.
- Substitute paste can be thinned with hot water for easier mixing into liquids.
- Blend pastes with neutral oils for drizzling over dishes to add flavor.
- Toast dried seaweed before grinding into powder for added depth.
- Soak dried mushrooms before grinding to rehydrate and soften them.
- Roasting vegetables or mushrooms boosts umami, so they make tastier substitutes.
|Substitute||Amount to Use||Notes|
|Anchovy paste||1/2 tsp per 1 tsp shrimp powder||Potent flavor, reduce salt|
|Fish sauce||1/2 tsp per 1 tsp shrimp powder||Very salty, cut back on added salt|
|Dried shiitakes||1/4 cup minced for 1 Tbsp powder||Need added salt for brininess|
|Miso paste||1 tsp dissolved in 1 Tbsp water for 1 Tbsp powder||Umami boost but watch saltiness|
|Nutritional yeast||1-2 Tbsp||Use with added source of umami|
|Dried seaweed||1-2 tsp powder||Grind into fine powder before use|
|Soy sauce/tamari||Start with 1/2 tsp||Add sweetener to balance|
What's the best shrimp powder substitute for stir-fries?
For stir-fries, dried shiitake mushroom powder adds nice umami flavor. Miso paste and soy sauce also work well.
Is fish sauce an okay substitute in shrimp curry paste?
Yes, fish sauce can mimic the brininess in curry paste. Use about half the amount of fish sauce and reduce any extra salt.
What's the best way to use anchovy paste as a sub?
Mix anchovy paste with olive oil or nut butter to make it easier to drizzle over finished dishes. Adds instant savory richness.
Can I use tomato powder to replace shrimp powder?
Yes, tomato powder adds sweetness and enhances the savory flavors of other umami-rich ingredients. Use in small amounts.
What can make a veggie shrimp powder swap more "seafood-like"?
Adding dried seaweed enhances ocean-like brininess. Kelp granules also pack an umami punch to make the flavor more reminiscent of shrimp.
While shrimp powder imparts incredible savory depth to dishes, several handy ingredients can mimic its intense umami richness. Anchovy paste, fish sauce, nutritional yeast, dried mushrooms, and seaweed make tasty substitutes.
Getting the perfect flavor balance may require some trial and error when swapping in substitutes. But with the right combinations, you can still enjoy your favorite traditional recipes. A world of savory umami possibilities exists beyond shrimp powder alone.