Easy fishball sauce made from soy sauce, minced garlic, and siling labuyo chili peppers. Discover how to make this sweet and spicy Filipino sauce recipe from scratch today.
Filipino street food sits right up there among world cuisine, and this easy fishball sauce demonstrates exactly why. Just like other East Asian street food, deep-fried snacks are particularly popular, with street vendors setting up their stalls with pans and hot oil so they can quickly cook to order.
One of the region’s most iconic dishes is fishballs, which are served in a deliciously thick sweet-but-spicy sauce perfect for dipping. The crisp of the battered fishballs sits perfectly with the sauce’s mix of soy sauce, chili peppers, and crushed garlic.
The good news is that you can make your own fishball sauce at home. Made with just a handful of everyday ingredients and needing only ten minutes to reduce, this easy dipping sauce recipe is a great addition to any home cook’s repertoire.
What is Fishball Sauce?
Fishball sauce is a thick, rich sauce spiced with garlic, shallot, chilis, soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Some vendors make theirs spicier by adding more chilis, while others prefer a sweeter recipe with a higher ratio of brown sugar.
It’s the perfect accompaniment for piping hot golden fishballs, as well as any other fried street foods. The thickness and high sugar content help it stick to the batter, ensuring you get plenty of spice in every bite
What is Fishball Sauce Used for?
Fishball sauce is the standard sauce for dipping fishballs, a deep-fried dough ball with spices and ground-up fish inside. Vendors typically sell these crispy treats on skewers, making loading up on the sauce easy without getting your fingers sticky.
Despite its name, the sweet and spicy concoction is also delicious with kwek-kwek (battered and fried quail eggs), calamares (fried squid rings), and chicken balls.
How to Make Fishball Sauce
Our full recipe is below but this Filipino fishball sauce is easy to make in just a few steps:
- Make the Cornstarch Slurry: Combine cornstarch and water until your form a smooth paste
- Heat the Sauce: Bring water to a boil before adding flour, brown sugar, and soy sauce. Whisk until the brown sugar has dissolved.
- Add the Slurry: Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the cornstarch paste. Whisk frequently until the sauce has absorbed the paste and thickened.
- Add the Final Ingredients: Stir in chopped shallots, minced garlic, and sliced siling labuyo chilies.
- Enjoy: Allow the sauce to cool for a few minutes before serving immediately with fried fishballs!
How to Thicken Fishball Sauce
Fishball sauce uses both cornstarch and flour as thickeners, but if you need to make your sauce even thicker there are a couple of methods you can use.
The first method is cooking your fishball sauce longer. As more water evaporates from the heat, the ratio of cornstarch to liquid increases, creating a thicker sauce. Just be sure to watch your saucepan closely to ensure the sauce doesn’t scorch on the bottom.
Fishball sauce will also thicken as it cools if you’re willing to wait a few minutes before dipping your fried delicacies. Just set it aside until it comes to room temperature, then enjoy.
Alternatively, you can start with a higher concentration of cornstarch in your slurry. You’ll need to be conservative in how much you add, as too much can make your sauce gel-like and unpleasant to eat.
With this method, finding the perfect ratio will take some experimentation, as you won’t know how thick your sauce is until it’s cooked.
It might be tempting to add more cornstarch while cooking rather than starting with a slurry, but it’s not recommended. You’re more likely to end up with lumps in your sauce.
You can store fishball sauce in the refrigerator once it has thoroughly cooled. Be sure to use an airtight container to lock in the flavor and keep it fresh.
Many home cooks use repurposed jam jars or mason jars to store fishball sauce because they provide a tight seal.
Fishball sauce can last up to a week in the refrigerator, so long as the container is sealed. If you want to warm up your sauce, scoop out the amount you plan to eat rather than heating the entire container.
You can also make larger batches and store them in the freezer in zip-sealed bags. It will keep in the freezer for up to three months.
The safest way to thaw fishball sauce is to allow it to come to temperature in the refrigerator, which should take between 24-48 hours, depending on how large the bag is.
If you need a faster method, you can put the sauce bag in a bowl and place it in the sink. Run cold water over the bag until the sauce has defrosted.
- Siling labuyo can be difficult to find, so if you don’t have any to hand then just swap in Thai chilies. Thai chili peppers are similar in spice and appearance.
- Need to thin your fishball sauce? Add water one tablespoon at a time until it reaches your desired consistency.
- 2 cups water
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 shallots chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 siling labuyo stemmed and thinly sliced
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- Mix cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl until the cornstarch dissolves completely. Your slurry should be completely smooth. Otherwise, you risk lumps of cornstarch in your sauce. Set aside.
- Add remaining water, flour, brown sugar, soy sauce, salt, and pepper to a saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil. Whisk occasionally until the brown sugar has completely dissolved.
- Still whisking, pour in the cornstarch slurry. Reduce the heat to medium and continue whisking for 5 minutes until the sauce is thick.
- Once thickened, reduce the heat to low and add shallots, garlic, and chilis to the saucepan. Continue to simmer for 2 minutes.
- Remove sauce from the heat and serve immediately.
- If you can’t find siling labuyo, swap in Thai chilies