Nước chấm is a classic Vietnamese condiment that's sweet, savory, with a little tang and heat. This quintessential Vietnamese dipping sauce can be used with a variety of dishes from dipping sauce for egg rolls to dressing for grilled pork vermicelli.
I'm not sure about you, but we both can't get enough of the Vietnamese dipping sauce that comes with almost everything we order at Vietnamese restaurants. That's called nước chấm.
It's got the perfect balance between sweet and savory with a little garlicky flavor and heat. I honestly didn't know something so flavorful was so easy to make, until a colleague showed us back when we were in college.
Now, we'd make extra nước chấm for days when we're in the mood to make Vietnamese dishes or if we just need more sauce for our Vietnamese takeout leftovers.
What is nước chấm?
Nước chấm, in general, translates to "dipping sauce" in Vietnamese. It is a sweet, tangy, savory, and sometimes slightly spicy condiment made with fish sauce, sugar, water, and lime juice. You'd often find minced garlic and hot chili peppers added for extra flavor. Sometimes, nước chấm is also known as nước mắm pha "or mixed fish sauce".
What to eat with nước chấm
This dipping sauce can be paired with a variety of Vietnamese dishes from main dishes to appetizers. Here are some of our favorites:
- Bún thịt nướng (Vietnamese grilled pork vermicelli)
- Bánh xèo (Vietnamese savory crepes)
- Chả giò (Vietnamese fried egg rolls)
- Sườn Nướng (Vietnamese grilled pork chop)
- Tofu gỏi cuốn (fresh spring rolls with tofu)
- Any grilled meats and seafood
- As a salad dressing
Please scroll down to the recipe card for the ingredient quantities!
- Water - Regular room temperature water is fine, but if you are making a larger batch to store for later, we recommend using filtered or bottled water.
- Sugar - Granulated sugar is perfect for this because it'll dissolve fast.
- Fish sauce - One of the main flavorings of this Vietnamese dipping sauce. Fish sauce gives nước chấm the iconic, savory and funky flavor.
- Lime juice - To give the sauce a bit of acidity and some fresh citrusy flavor. Highly recommend fresh lime juice.
- Garlic (optional) - This gives the dipping sauce some garlic flavor. As you let the sauce sit, the spicy garlicky flavor will mellow out.
- Bird eye chili (optional) - This is also known as Thai chili pepper. You can use either the red or green chilis, or both. They'll also add some nice colors to your sauce.
How to make nước chấm
Nước chấm is super easy to make and you can easily adjust the taste to your preference. Plus, it takes only 5 minutes or less!
1. In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix until the sugar has dissolved. Taste the sauce and adjust the sweetness if needed.
2. Use the sauce immediately or transfer to a sanitized jar or bottle. Keep refrigerated.
How to sterilize jars
If you are making a bigger batch of nước chấm to use over a longer period of time, we recommend sterilizing your jars before using.
The easiest way to sterilize your glass jar or canning jar is by boiling them. Just bring a pot of water to a boil and gently submerge the jar into the water completely. Let it boil for 10 minutes for altitudes of 1000 feet or less and add an additional minute per 1000 feet.
Once the jar is done boiling, carefully remove the jars and let them cool completely before using.
- If you're short on time, use half warm or hot water to help dissolve the sugar faster. Also, hold the rest of the ingredients until the sugar has dissolved before adding.
- Use fresh lime for best flavor. Don't use the bottled lime juice. If you're using the nước chấm right after making, you'll definitely taste the difference. Fresh lime adds a citrusy flavor that can't be replace with bottled lime juice.
- If you prefer a more mellow flavor, refrigerate the dipping sauce overnight.
You can use the dipping sauce immediately after making or if you have extras or made a larger batch, you can store it in the fridge for up to 1 week.
However, if you stored the sauce in a sterilized jar/container, it can last in the fridge for up to 2 to 3 weeks. Although, we recommend using it within 2 weeks for best flavor. If you plan on storing for more than a week, make sure to use clean utensils every time!
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Nước chấm (Vietnamese Dipping Sauce)
- In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix until the sugar has dissolved. Taste the sauce and adjust the sweetness if needed.
- Use the sauce immediately or transfer to a sanitized jar or bottle. Keep refrigerated.
- If you're in a rush, you can use partial hot or warm water to help you dissolve the sugar faster.