Nuoc Cham Recipe | Sauced

A dish of nuac cham on a plate of Vietnamese food

Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

While growing up, the pinnacle of my "international" diet were dishes like General Tso's chicken and Greek diner gyros. It took me a while to break from that mold, but nuoc cham—a Vietnamese dipping sauce—holds a special place in my life as it represents a baby step out of a previous sheltered food-view that my suburban upbringing created.

Upon moving to New York, one of my first friends in my new home was Vietnamese and I quickly found myself being brought to his favorite, Mother-approved, joint in Chinatown. Sporting a limited palate at the time, the menu caused more apprehensive than excitement, but with that initial taste of a fried spring roll dipped nuoc cham, my journey as serious eater started to take shape.

That sweet, sour, and salty sauce had an irresistible mixture of flavors that were instantly attractive. The combination of that and the crackling crust of the spring roll let me know, in no uncertain terms, that I had a love for food deeper than I had previously known.

At its simplest, Nuoc Cham is a mixture of water, sugar, lime juice, and fish sauce, creating the base that's a staple of Vietnamese flavor. I personally like some extra additions of garlic and chili for an added bite and a little heat, but neither of those lessen the defining characteristics of this excellent sauce that can brighten seafood, add a salty tang to beef or pork, or soak into a bowl or vermicelli for a delicious snack.

Recipe Facts



Prep: 5 mins
Active: 5 mins
Total: 5 mins
Serves: 16 servings
Makes: 2 cups

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  • 1 cup hot water

  • 1/2 cup white sugar

  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

  • 1/3 cup Vietnamese fish sauce

  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 small bird’s eye chili, minced optional


  1. In a small bowl, whisk together water and sugar until sugar dissolves. Add in lime juice, fish sauce, garlic, and chili (if using) and stir to combine. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
29 Calories
0g Fat
7g Carbs
0g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 29
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 467mg 20%
Total Carbohydrate 7g 3%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 7g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 2mg 12%
Calcium 5mg 0%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 28mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)