Nam Jim Jaew is a Thai Chili Dipping Sauce with more tanginess and flavor packed into every spoonful than you will know what to do with! Also known as just Thai BBQ Sauce, this simple umami powerhouse is about to bring your grilled and fried foods to the next level f’real.
Ground toasted jasmine rice adds a slightly nutty backbone to carry the flavors of lime, shallots, vegan fish sauce and tamarind. Dried Thai chili flakes contribute just the right amount of heat, and the touch of palm sugar rounds off the ensemble with a subtle sweetness. If dipping sauces like nam prik pao, shatta, and nuoc cham are too much for you to handle, I think you are going to love Nam Jim!
This recipe takes only a few minutes to put together. Dive into the world of authentic Thai flavors and give your grill something to get excited about!
🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this recipe
🍚Toasted Rice Magic: The secret to nailing this sauce lies in toasting jasmine rice and then grinding it into a fine powder to use as part of the base. I know you are gonna love how it comes out!
✅Tested and Approved Worldwide: Like all the vegan recipes on my blog, this Nam Jim Jaew has undergone meticulous testing, first by me, and then by a team of hundreds of recipe testers who work with me all around the planet. No matter where on Earth you are, you will find this sauce is reliable and works well with varying brands of vegan fish sauce and tamarind concentrate.
🌶️Notable ingredients and substitutions
Jasmine Rice (Khao Hom Mali)
Toasted to perfection, jasmine rice adds a nuanced nuttiness to the sauce, elevating its flavor profile. If you have some left over from making this sauce, take my khao pad, tom yum fried rice, or lontong recipe for a spin! For those seeking alternatives, regular white rice, sticky rice, or basmati rice will work in this recipe too.
Shallots (Hom Daeng)
Shallots aren’t just for toppings like sambal dabu dabu an sambal matah! They are used as the primary kind of onion in Thai cuisine! If you hate how onions make you cry, I am pretty sure shallots are like the king of the making-me-cry kingdom or whatever. If you find yourself without shallots, fear not – red onions can step in seamlessly here.
Vegan Fish Sauce
For that coveted umami kick without the fishy business, enter vegan fish sauce. A plant-based alternative with a savory depth that brings dishes like ginisang munggo and banh trang tron. If vegan fish sauce isn't in your pantry, a mushroom-based vegan oyster sauce, like you would use in mie goreng and bihun goreng will work (although it’s a bit thicker and sweeter).
Thai Chili Flakes (Prik Bon)
Thai chili flakes, known as Prik Bon, bring the heat to Nam Jim Jaew with a pleasant fiery flavor. True Thai chili flakes can be found at better Asian grocery stores that specialize in Thai food ingredients. Otherwise, gochugaru (what you would use to make vegan kimchi or gochujang bbq sauce) is my favorite substitute. Otherwise, you can get away with just using crushed red pepper flakes, but expect more heat with less flavor. Grinding your own dried chili (byadagi or arbol are good varieties) is also a good option.
Palm Sugar (Nam Taan Peep)
Palm sugar balances the acidity of tamarind and lime juice in Nam Jim Jaew with a subtle sweetness. If you have some left over, it is a critical ingredient in many Southeast Asian desserts like klepon, kuih ketayap and kolak biji salak. If you can’t find palm sugar, coconut sugar, maple syrup, or brown sugar can be used interchangeably in this recipe.
*See the recipe card at the bottom of the page for exact quantities, nutritional info, and detailed cooking directions.
Isaan Style: For a taste of Northern Thailand’s culinary vibrancy, consider tweaking Nam Jim Jaew to match the region's preferences. Introduce minced green papaya (the hard raw papaya you would also use in making Filipino Achara) for a delightful crunch and a touch of intense tartness. Tweak the heat by incorporating thinly sliced bird's eye chilies, and savor the distinct flavors of Isaan in every dip.
Southern Thai Twist (Hat Yai Special): Venture down to Southern Thailand with a Nam Jim Jaew variation inspired by the flavors of Hat Yai. Mix in a spoonful of coconut milk along with some ground peanuts. This goes especially well over grilled seitan or fried tempeh with a talllllll cold glass of vegan Thai tea!
📖 How to make perfect Nam Jim Jaew
Nail this Thai dipping sauce on your first shot by following these step-by-step instructions with helpful tips. Or you can follow along with the easy-to-print recipe card towards the bottom of this page.
Toast of the Town:
Gently toast raw rice in a small, dry skillet over medium heat. Stir continuously for around 4-5 minutes until grains achieve a rich, golden brown hue. Keep moving to prevent burning.
This is a Real Grind:
Grind the toasted rice into a fine powder using a spice grinder, coffee grinder or mortar and pestle.
Mix Rice Powder and Aromatics:
Place the ground rice powder into a small bowl along with sliced shallots and scallion, vegan fish sauce, lime juice, tamarind paste, Thai chili flakes, minced cilantro leaves, and palm sugar (or coconut sugar, or brown sugar). Each ingredient contributes to the sauce's complexity, offering a perfect blend of sweet, savory, and spicy.
Harmonize the Flavors:
Mix all the ingredients thoroughly until the sugar dissolves.
✅ If you want a smoother sauce to use as a marinade, pulse everything together a few times in a blender.
Nam Jim Jaew is a versatile sauce that complements a variety of dishes, bringing an explosion of flavors to your table.
- Precise Toasting: Achieve perfection in the toasting step. Keep the heat medium. Continuously stir or shake the pan for 4-5 minutes until the rice turns a golden-brown. When the rice is toasted, immediately kick it out into your spice grinder so it doesn’t continue to darken and become bitter.
- Balancing Act: Pay attention to the balance of ingredients. Whether it's vegan fish sauce, lime juice, tamarind concentrate, or Thai chili flakes, each component plays a crucial role. I think the ratios in my recipe are perfect, but feel free to tweak it according to your taste.
- Storage Savvy: If not using the sauce immediately, store it in a sanitized (ideally briefly boiled and then dried, sealed container in the refrigerator. Properly stored nam jim jaew sauce maintains the freshness and flavor integrity for up to one week.
🤷♀️ Recipe FAQs
Nam Jim Jaew is known for being more flavorful than spicy. The spice level can be customized to your preference by adjusting the amount of Thai chili flakes, offering a versatile range from mild to fiery.
Stored in a clean, sealed container in the refrigerator, Nam Jim Jaew remains fresh for up to one week, ensuring its vibrant flavors are preserved.
Toasting the rice is crucial for enhancing the sauce's flavor profile and texture, providing a nutty undertone. Skipping this step may result in a less complex taste and a pastier consistency.
✌️My faves to serve with this sauce:
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Nam Jim Jaew
- Toast the raw rice in a small, dry skillet over medium heat. Stir continuously for about 4-5 minutes until the grains turn a rich, medium brown, but keep moving so as not to let it burn.
- Grind the toasted rice into a fine powder using either a mortar and pestle, spice grinder or a coffee grinder.
- Place the toasted rice powder into a small bowl with thinly sliced shallots, scallion, vegan fish sauce, lime juice, tamarind concentrate, Thai chili flakes, minced cilantro leaves, and palm sugar (or coconut sugar, or brown sugar).
- Mix all the ingredients thoroughly using the tines of a fork until the sugar dissolves, ensuring a well-balanced blend of flavors.
- Use immediately or store for up to one week in a clean, sealed container under refrigeration.