Nuoc Cham Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

Delicious and tangy nuoc cham is a fabulous mix of bright and zesty flavors that is well-loved and widely used in Vietnam. With fish sauce as its main ingredient, you can curate the amount of citrus, hot chilis, and sugar to get just the right flavor for whatever you’re cooking or dipping!

closeup: nuoc cham in a small white ramekin with peppers showing

Have you ever wanted a dipping sauce that’s tangy, salty, sour, and spicy all at once? Well, you found it with this nuoc cham recipe.

Nuoc cham, sometimes referred to as nuoc mam, is a very common Vietnamese dipping sauce. It’s easy to mix together in no time at all and as versatile as you need it to be. The measurements and ratios of ingredients in this recipe are to my personal preference, but the flavor can be adjusted however you like.

overhead closeup: my nuoc cham recipe in a glass jar with spices and seasonings showing

Want it saltier? Add more fish sauce. Not sour enough? Squeeze in some more lime juice. It’s so easy to customize.

I like to make my own condiments and spice blends whenever possible, including this nuoc cham recipe, teriyaki, spicy chili crisp, sweet and sour sauce, and more!

blue pin marks vietnam on map of asia

Tip From Kevin

Endless dipping

Nuoc cham can be used as a dipping sauce, a dressing for a salad or noodle bowl, or as a marinade for chicken wings. I love it for dipping egg rolls, spring rolls, spooned over fried fish and so much more. It’s great with tempura shrimp as well (see pictured below).

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

(Be sure to check the recipe card for a full list of ingredients and quantities)

  • Fresh Lime Juice – Freshly squeezed juice — whether lemon or lime — is a must. Concentrated, artificial juices from the bottle overpower the other delicate flavors in this recipe.
  • Fish Sauce – This is a fermented ingredient made from salted fish. It’s used frequently in Asian cuisine to add that salty, savory umami flavor. And it’s one that you really can’t substitute — find it among the other Asian ingredients at the grocery store. 
  • Chili Paste Huy Fong Sambal Oelek Ground Chili Paste is my go to. A thick, potent paste that adds plenty of hot chili flavor in even small quantities. I’ll sometimes use Huy Fong Chili Garlic Sauce when I want to give sauces an extra kick!
  • Garlic – Mince the garlic as finely as you can for a smooth sauce. 
  • Red Chili If you can, use a Bird’s Eye chili to keep this recipe authentic. It’s quite hot and very common in cooking throughout Southeast Asia, including Vietnam.
  • Hot Water – The water must be warm for the sugar to quickly and easily dissolve. 
  • Sugar Granulated white sugar is just fine, but feel free to employ your favorite granulated sugar substitute.
a small white ramekin with nuoc mam

How to Make Nuoc Cham

  1. Combine Water & Sugar. Add the hot water and sugar to a mixing bowl. Whisk together until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Add Lime & Adjust. Pour in the lime juice, stir, and taste — it should taste like a sweet lemonade or limeade. If the citrus flavor isn’t strong enough, add another tablespoon.
  3. Mix In Remaining Ingredients. Stir in the fish sauce, chili paste, and garlic. Finally, add the sliced red chiles and whisk them in.
  4. Store or Serve. Serve right away or refrigerate in an airtight container.
  • Mason Jar – If you’re making this Vietnamese dipping sauce in bulk or ahead of time, I find it’s very handy to make it in a mason jar! You can easily close the lid and shake to mix it up, and you won’t waste any dishes between preparing and storing.
  • Juice Squeezer – This tool will help you get the most out of your lemons and limes!

Storing and Serving

Many prefer Vietnamese dipping sauce chilled. If you do as well, transfer your prepared condiment to the fridge to chill for 30 minutes before serving.

This condiment must be kept refrigerated. Stored properly, it will last for up to 2 weeks. 

To make in bulk and freeze for later use, be sure to leave at least half an inch of space in the storage container. The liquid will expand as it freezes, and a container that’s filled to the brim could break open or burst. Use within 3 months.

nuoc cham sauce in a white ramekin with crispy shrimp

Frequently Asked Questions

What foods are eaten with nuoc cham?

This condiment is frequently enjoyed with fresh foods, grilled proteins, and salads alike. 

Try pairing this nuoc cham recipe with Vietnamese spring rolls or egg rolls, dumplings or pot stickers, or grilled beef, chicken, or pork. It also pairs very well with seafood, which could always use a little brightening from the sour sauce.

Is nuoc cham the same thing as fish sauce?

Not necessarily. While a main flavor, fish sauce is just one of many ingredients in this condiment.

What is the difference between nuoc mam and nuoc cham?

“Nuoc mam” means fish sauce, and often refers to the individual fermented fish sauce.

“Nuoc cham” translates directly to dipping sauce, and so the name has become associated with a whole variety of Vietnamese sauces. Generally, though, it’s associated with this specific Vietnamese dipping sauce. 

The terms are often used interchangeably and in reference to this sweet, spicy, and sour condiment.

dipping crispy shrimp in a small white bowl of my nuoc cham recipe

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Nuoc Cham Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

Nuoc cham is a spicy, salty, sweet, and sour Vietnamese dipping sauce made with chilis, fish sauce, and lime. Whip some up in 5 minutes!
Servings: 1.5 cups
Prep: 5 minutes
Total: 5 minutes


  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1/2 cup sugar (See Note 1)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (3 limes)
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce
  • 2 tsp chili paste
  • 3 cloves garlic finely minced
  • 1 red chile finely sliced (preferably bird's eye)


  • Add hot water and sugar to a medium bowl or mason jar. Whisk or close lid and shake to combine.
  • Add lime juice, then taste for sweetness. The flavor should be similar to sweetened lemonade (or limeade). Add a tablespoon more if needed.
  • Add fish sauce, chili paste, garlic and whisk or close lid and shake to combine. Add the Thai chilies which add more heat.
  • Serve as a dipping sauce for spring rolls, egg rolls, summer rolls, or with beef, chicken, pork, or seafood.


  1. This is how I prefer the flavors as directed by ingredient amounts. The flavor of this dipping sauce can be adjusted to suit your taste preference. Add smaller amounts at a time, then taste for flavor and add more if needed. Remember, you can always add more of something, but you can’t remove it after it’s been added. It’s important to taste the nuoc chom as you make it.
  1. Nutrition shown is for total 1 1/2 cups, as serving sizes may be different for each person.
  2. Store in airtight container, refrigerated, for 2 weeks.


Calories: 332kcal | Carbohydrates: 83g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 0.5g | Saturated Fat: 0.03g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.01g | Sodium: 6086mg | Potassium: 464mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 73g | Vitamin A: 349IU | Vitamin C: 71mg | Calcium: 66mg | Iron: 1mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: condiments
Cuisine: Asian, Vietnamese
Author: Kevin
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
titled image (and shown): vietnamese nuoc cham dipping sauce


I was bitten by the cooking bug as a kid cooking and baking along side my mom. After an ROP restaurant course in high school, I went to work in restaurants and catering. My love of travel and food has led me across the world and I love to share those foods with family and friends.

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