Nuoc Cham is a tasty and versatile Vietnamese dipping sauce and dressing. When you think of many Vietnamese dishes, it’s hard to imagine having them without it!
What is Nuoc Cham?
Nuoc cham is salty, sweet, and tangy sauce made from fish sauce, garlic, lime juice, sugar, chilies, and vinegar. It has a signature fish sauce funk/umami and a subtle heat.
Unlike common American-style dipping sauces, it has an almost watery consistency. It is indeed thinned out with water to mellow and meld all the elements together, but don’t let that make you think it’s not flavorful!
An All Purpose Dipping Sauce, Dressing & Condiment
This nuoc cham can play many roles at the dinner table.
It’s perfect for dipping summer rolls and cha gio (Vietnamese fried spring rolls), and it also makes a great dressing for rice noodle salads like Sarah’s Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Grilled Chicken.
It’s also delicious with any grilled meat in general. Dip your meat in it or pour the nuoc cham over a side of rice. Trust me, you’ll be reaching for it mid-meal.
Whether you’re using nuoc cham as a dressing, dipping sauce or even a marinade for meats, it’s so versatile and tasty.
Here are some dishes that would go great with some nuoc cham on the side!
- Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Chicken
- Vietnamese Style Banh Mi Burger
- Lemongrass Chicken Banh Mi
- Spicy Meatball Banh Mi
- Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Seared Shrimp
- Vietnamese Noodle Salad with Seared Pork Chops
Or, if you want something even simpler, I really like to make an informal summer salad using one or more of the suggested of the items below:
- Any green or red leaf lettuce
- Shredded carrot
- Shredded daikon radish
- Sliced cucumber
- Shredded cabbage
- Chopped or sliced tomatoes
- Sweet green, yellow or red peppers
Additions to make it a meal:
- Grilled meat like chicken, pork, or beef
- Grilled or poached shrimp
- Cold mung bean noodles
- Cha gio (fried spring rolls), cut into bite sized pieces
- Cold or pan-seared tofu
Aromatics and herbs:
Add just about anything you like to make a tasty salad with this dressing!
One Final Note
If you’d like to make a larger batch of nuoc cham, you can store it in a clean jar (just like regular salad dressing) to have it handy. You can keep it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, but make sure you always use clean utensils when handling it.
Our recipe makes a small portion, but it’s easy to multiply the quantities and make a larger batch. Since it’s so easy to make, though, I generally prefer to make it fresh or the night before.
Nuoc Cham Recipe Instructions
In a small bowl, dissolve the sugar into the hot water. Once dissolved, stir in the fish sauce…
And the rice vinegar.
When you are ready to serve the nuoc cham, add the freshly squeezed lime juice…
And chopped chilies. These items are best added fresh.
- In a small bowl, dissolve the sugar into the hot water. Once dissolved, stir in the fish sauce and rice vinegar.
- When you are ready to serve the nuoc cham, add the freshly squeezed lime juice, minced garlic, and chopped chilies. These items are best added fresh.
- If you like more heat, use fresh chopped Thai chili peppers instead of Holland chilies. They’ll give the sauce a spicier kick!