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The Best Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Mam Cham) – Quickest Way

Vietnamese cuisine boasts a remarkable diversity of dipping sauces that elevate each dish with creativity and distinct flavors. While some types of sauces may share similarities, they transform when paired with specific dishes, offering a truly fascinating experience.

Let me share a lighthearted story about a tourist visiting Vietnam to see his friend. His friend suggested enjoying each dish with its unique dipping sauce, but the foreign visitor decided to try all the different sauces since he believed they were all delicious. Vietnamese people typically pair peanut sauce with steamed rice rolls, while they prefer sweet chili garlic sauce with Bánh Xèo (Vietnamese savory crepe). Interestingly, the foreign gentleman used both sauces for a single dish. This anecdote sets the stage for today’s topic.

As you know, this article focuses on Vietnamese dipping sauces, particularly the most common one: The Best Vietnamese Dipping Sauce. This sauce blends spiciness from chilies, sweetness from sugar, and sourness from lime to provide the most exceptional culinary experience.

Variations of Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

Vietnamese cuisine is renowned for its intricate flavors and harmonious balance of ingredients. A quintessential element of this cuisine is dipping sauces, which are an integral part of many dishes. Among these, Vietnamese dipping sauces are particularly noteworthy for their diverse flavors, which enhance the overall dining experience. Let’s delve into some variations of Vietnamese dipping sauce:

Nuoc Cham (Nuoc Mam Pha) : Perhaps the most famous Vietnamese dipping sauce, Nuoc Cham is a versatile blend of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavors. It usually consists of fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, garlic, and chili. Nuoc Cham is commonly served alongside dishes like spring rolls, grilled meats, and rice vermicelli bowls. It’s a well-balanced sauce that tantalizes the taste buds with its complexity. 

Because of its popularity and flexibility, we chose it today to give you the instruction on how to make Nuoc Cham. Before diving into the instruction, you can explore more kinds of Vietnamese dipping sauce below.

Nuoc Mam Gung: This sauce features a potent combination of fish sauce, fresh ginger, sugar, and lime juice. The ginger provides a zesty kick that pairs wonderfully with seafood and various fried dishes. Nuoc Mam Gung is particularly popular with dishes like steamed dishes such as steamed beef, steamed squid.

Mam Nem: Also known as a fermented anchovy dipping sauce, Mam Nem offers a pungent and unique taste. Made from fermented anchovies, garlic, sugar, and chilies, this sauce boasts a robust umami flavor profile. It’s often served with boiled vegetables and meats or Banh Xeo, providing a strong and distinctive taste that many locals cherish.

Tuong Ot: Tuong Ot is a spicy chili sauce that adds a fiery punch to dishes. Made from various types of chili peppers, garlic, sugar, and sometimes vinegar, it’s a staple on many Vietnamese tables. This sauce is commonly paired with grilled meats, seafood, and noodles to infuse them with a spicy heat.

Nuoc Leo: Also known as hoisin peanut sauce, Nuoc Leo is a creamy, nutty dipping sauce. It typically combines hoisin sauce, peanut butter, coconut milk, and various spices. This sauce is often served with fresh spring rolls, Banh Cuon providing a delightful contrast to the fresh ingredients wrapped inside.

Nuoc Tuong: Commonly known as soy sauce, Nuoc Tuong is not exclusive to Vietnamese cuisine, but it is still used as a dipping sauce. It offers a salty and savory flavor that compliments a variety of dishes, particularly stir-fried noodles, rice dishes, and dumplings.

Besides these kinds of dipping sauce, there are a bunch of others. However, the most popular, as we mentioned, is Mam Cham (Nuoc Mam Pha). Now let’s explore how to make it.


  • 300 grams of sugar
  • 250 ml of fish sauce
  • 200 ml of filtered water
  • Juice of 3 limes – approximately 100 ml of lime juice
  • 70 grams of Bird’s eye chili or goat horn pepper 
  • 70 grams of peeled garlic


  • Small bowl for containing the dipping sauce.
  • a saucepan for cooking dipping sauce (method 1)
  • a mortar and pestle set (method 2)


There are various methods for making different dipping sauces, but for this popular chili garlic fish sauce, we provide you with two approaches. 

The first method is a more elaborate and meticulous one, thus taking more time compared to the second method. However, in return, this method yields a more fragrant and flavorful dipping sauce. 

This approach is suitable if you intend to prepare a larger quantity of sauce to store in the refrigerator for multiple uses. Nonetheless, don’t worry too much because the process is also quite swift, taking only around 10 – 15 minutes.

As for the second method, this is an extremely quick approach, just around 5 minutes. While not as tasty as the first method, it’s still quite delightful and not far off from the initial methods. If you’re looking for a fast and uncomplicated dipping sauce for a simple meal, give this method a try.

Below are detailed instructions for two methods:

Method 1 – Suitable Way When Making Dipping Sauce for Storing

Combine 250 ml of filtered water and 300 grams of fish sauce in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. While simmering, stir to dissolve the 300 grams of sugar quickly, maintaining a gentle simmer.

Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat and continue stirring the fish sauce. Then, turn off the stove and let the fish sauce cool.

Crush the garlic using a knife, then finely mince it (note that the finer the minced garlic, the better the taste; you can use a food processor or garlic grinder but be cautious not to over-process the garlic into a paste).

Similarly, finely mince the bird’s eye chilies.

Cut the limes and extract about 100 ml of lime juice.

When the sugar fish sauce mixture has cooled, it reaches a certain thickness. If you boil the sugar fish sauce mixture for too long, the cooled fish sauce will become excessively thick, resulting in an unfavorable texture.

Next, add 100 ml of lime juice to the sugar fish sauce mixture and stir. It’s important to add the lime juice after the fish sauce has cooled; otherwise, the sauce might become bitter. Then, add the minced garlic and minced chili and mix thoroughly.

The outcome is a flavorful chili garlic dipping sauce that’s fragrant and delicately thick, with a hint of sour from the lime, sweetness from the sugar, and the savory note of fish sauce. With the given quantity of ingredients, you’ll yield approximately 450 milliliters of dipping sauce. You can store it in a jar, keep it refrigerated, and use it whenever you desire. 

Alternatively, if you’re looking for a quick preparation and just need a small bowl of dipping sauce for today’s meal, you can proceed to the second method – we’ll guide you through this faster approach.

Method 2 – Quick Way Making for Instant Using

As you’re making a smaller quantity suitable for a single meal, we’ve adjusted the ingredients accordingly:

  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2.5 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 1 tablespoon of lime juice
  • 1-2 bird’s eye chilies (depending on your spice preference and the heat level of the chilies you’re using)
  • 3 cloves of garlic

Note that you can also use this method to make a larger quantity.

To proceed, simply place the sugar, chilies, and garlic into a mortar, then use a pestle to crush everything together.

The finer the crush, the more flavorful the dipping sauce. It’s recommended not to crush each component separately, as this could result in the sugar not integrating well with the garlic and chilies. Additionally, when you add the sugar to the mixture of garlic and chilies, it aids in easier crushing, preventing any scattering.

You can also use a grinding mortar to process the garlic and chilies, then transfer the mixture to a small bowl for further crushing if you don’t have a traditional mortar and pestle set.

After thoroughly crushing everything, add the fish sauce, lime juice, and water, and mix well. This will yield a bowl of sweet, tangy, and fragrant dipping sauce.

In fact, this is the traditional method for making dipping sauce and is quite common in Vietnamese households due to its convenience.

Both methods mentioned above have their own advantages and disadvantages, but they don’t seem significantly different since both yield delicious dipping sauce in a short amount of time.

How to Serve Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

This dipping sauce is very easy to enjoy and versatile, suitable for various types of dishes. You can use it as a dip for boiled pork and vegetables or enjoy it with hot rice. In addition, it pairs well with many other dishes, such as:

  • Grilled Pork and Rice Vermicelli 
  • Vietnamese savory pancake (Bánh Xèo)
  • Steamed Broken Rice and Grilled Pork (Cơm Tấm Thịt Nướng)
  • Fresh spring rolls (Gỏi Cuốn)
  • Steamed rice rolls (Bánh Cuốn)
  • Kebab rice noodles (Bún chả)
  • Snails (Ốc)
  • Seafood

How to Store Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

The dipping sauce can be stored in an airtight container and kept refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Make sure to label the container with the date when you made the dipping sauce so that you know how long it has been stored and can consume it before its expiry date. 

When using, simply pour a sufficient amount for the meal into a small bowl, and leave it outside so that the dipping sauce can come to room temperature before using.

Common Mistakes When Making Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

There are a few common mistakes that people make when making Vietnamese dipping sauce:

Adding too much sugar: This can cause the taste of the dipping sauce to be overly sweet and ruins the flavor balance. It’s important to follow the recipe instructions and adjust accordingly until you find an optimal ratio for yourself. 

Not crushing enough garlic, chilies, and sugar together: This will cause the flavor of the dipping sauce to be lacking in complexity.

Adding citrus juice before boiling the fish sauce mixture: This may cause the fish sauce to become bitter due to the acidity of the citrus juice. It’s recommended to wait until after boiling for a few minutes before adding any citrus juices. 

By avoiding these mistakes, you can make sure that your dipping sauce is flavorful and balanced! With the right technique and ingredients, even a beginner cook can easily make delicious Vietnamese dipping sauce. So, what are you waiting for? Give it a try and enjoy the flavors of Vietnam! 


The Vietnamese dipping sauce is an essential condiment in Vietnamese cuisine. It is light yet flavorful and provides a delicious accompaniment to many dishes, including grilled meat, seafood, noodles, spring rolls, and more. With two easy methods, you can make this delicious dipping sauce in just a few minutes. So get creative with your ingredients and enjoy the amazing flavors of Vietnam!


What Is The Difference Between Nuoc Mam (Nước Mắm) And Nuoc Cham (Nước Chấm)

Nuoc Mam (Nước Mắm) is a type of fish sauce used as a condiment and for cooking in Vietnamese cuisine, while Nuoc Cham (Nước Chấm) is the name given to a dipping sauce made from Nuoc Mam. It usually includes other ingredients such as sugar, garlic, chili peppers and lime juice.

What Does Nuoc Cham (Nước Chấm) Taste Like?

Nuoc Cham (Nước Chấm) is a sweet, sour and fragrant dipping sauce with the savory note of fish sauce. Depending on individual preference, can add a custom amount of ingredients.

What Dishes Go Well With Nuoc Cham (Nước Chấm)?

Nuoc Cham (Nước Chấm) is a versatile condiment that pairs well with many dishes, such as grilled pork and vermicelli, Vietnamese savory pancake (Bánh Xèo), steamed broken rice and grilled pork (Cơm Tấm Thịt Nướng), fresh spring rolls (Gỏi Cuốn), steamed rice rolls (Bánh Cuốn), kebab rice noodles (Bún chả), and snails (Ốc). Additionally, it can also be enjoyed with boiled pork and vegetables or hot steamed rice. 

Is Hoisin Sauce The Same As Fish Sauce?

Hoisin sauce is not the same as fish sauce. Hoisin sauce is a thick, syrupy sweet-spicy and savory condiment made from fermented soybeans, spices, and sugar. Fish sauce is made from fermented anchovies or other small fish and salt. They are very different in terms of ingredients, flavor profile, texture, and color. Therefore, they can’t be used interchangeably in recipes and should only be used as per the recipe instructions for best results.