How to cook garum sauce at home

Garum sauce making process

History, composition and production of garum sauce

Garum is an ancient Roman fish sauce known since antiquity. Garum sauce was prepared from the remains of the fish, or rather from its entrails by fermentation.

Tanks for garum fermentation
Containers for garum fermentation.

Or simply by protein breakdown, as a result of which the product lasts longer. The Roman sauce garum was often used instead of salt and was loved by everyone, from ordinary people to senators and officials. Due to the specific smell, the production of garum sauce was located far from cities.

How is garum sauce made? Not difficult, but long. Various fish were used for the sauce: anchovies, sardines, tuna and sometimes mackerel and shellfish. Aromatic herbs (thyme, fennel, celery, sage, etc.) were placed at the bottom of stone bowls, and fish remains were placed on top. All this was covered with sea salt, covered and left to ferment under the sun.


Vessel for storing garum
Vessel for storing garum

The production time for the sauce could be up to six months; the minimum required was 2-3 months. Of course there were many types of sauce, depending on the type of fish and the addition of wine, vinegar or olive oil.

It also depended on the methods of cleaning the sauce from residues, the so-called “clean” sauce. garum or on the timing of fermentation. Of course, the sauce that was not aged for the required time was cheaper and more accessible.

Where can you add the sauce and what do you eat it with?

Basically anywhere, it’s like Worcestershire or soy sauce, add wherever you like. In salad dressings, various sauces, or use instead of salt by simply pouring it over the dish.

The sauce performs very well in various marinades for fish, meat or vegetables. Many Chinese or Vietnamese soups call for fish sauce. And of course seafood, it goes great with it!

Based on it you can make teriyaki sauce or  spicy sauce to meat.


Fish fermentation
Fish fermentation

Since garum is fish sauce, we will need fish accordingly. It is not necessary to chase anchovies; you can take sprat, capelin, mackerel, basically any fish. Or accumulate leftovers—fins, heads, tails, intestines—by freezing them in the freezer.

To obtain a liter of sauce you need approximately 2-3 kg of fish or waste, and take 1/8 of the salt from the fish. Also, to prepare garum you need to take stainless, glass or enamel dishes. So let’s figure out how garum sauce is made.


  • Fish/leftovers – 3 kg
  • Salt – 350-400 gr.
  • Mixture of herbs – 3 tbsp. l.
  • Mixed peppercorns – 1 tbsp. l.

How to cook:

  1. Place the fish in a container, sprinkling the layers with salt and spices; do not fill the container to the top, the sauce will increase.
  2. Then we put the container with the future sauce in a warm place; in winter, a battery will do.
  3. Let stand for a month to two, stirring occasionally.
  4. Then we filter and refrigerate for up to six months.
  5. At this time, the sauce will separate into the halex-top layer and the garum sauce itself.
  6. Carefully insert the tube through the chalex and pump the sauce.
  7. Bottle and you’re done!
Garum bundle
Garum bundle

As you can see, it is possible to prepare Italian garum sauce at home; in principle, it is not difficult, but it will take a long time. Just don’t use leftover fish after frying or boiling.

Use more innards and use your favorite spices. Try mixing ready-made garum with oil, garlic and vinegar to make various sauces.

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