Why it’s so good

Nam jim dressing (or nam jim sauce) is a delicious Thai chilli dipping sauce. It’s flavour is umami rich, sweet, zingy and spicy. With just 6 ingredients, it’s incredibly easy to make and it’s wonderful used as a dipping sauce for seafood, grilled meats or even as a salad dressing.

One of the really lovely things about this sauce is that it’s not necessarily a fixed recipe. Everyone will make it differently leaving lots of scope for you to make it to your taste and to suit what you’re serving it with.

For instance, some people will make it very sweet while others add very little sugar so that it has more of a savoury flavour. I like my sauces and dressing toward the sweeter side but not so sweet as say a bottled sweet chilli sauce. Nam jim dressing is so much more complex in flavour than those bottled sauces but still remains so easy to make. Others will make it very spicy but you can just as easily limit the spicy heat. Some will add coriander / cilantro while others don’t. It’s so, so adaptable.

You’ll love the ajaad sauce I serve with these Thai fish cakes too.

A glass bowl of nam jim sauce surrounded by prawns.

What is nam jim?

The Thai words nam jim essentially mean dipping sauce and this sauce is a basis for many in the Thai cuisine. This basic nam jim sauce (or dressing, the names are often used interchangeably) is often served on the side of dishes with grilled or steamed seafood. It contains chillies, garlic, fish sauce, lime juice and sugar (traditionally palm sugar) and the ingredients can be finely chopped or pounded using a mortar and pestle.

Other ingredients may be added or substituted and the consistency may be altered for other versions of nam jim, such as;

  • nam jim jaew (which includes shallots or green onions and toasted rice powder)
  • nam jim gai (which is much sweeter and thicker and often used with chicken)
  • ajaat/ajaad (which includes cucumber)

These are just 3 of an abundant list of Thai sauces but the basic recipe and the one shown here is versatile enough to be used for dipping meats or seafood or even as a salad dressing. It’s a very liquid sauce, not syrupy.

Ingredients in nam jim sauce

Ingredients for nam jim dressing.

Jump to the recipe for full ingredients and instructions.

  • Fish sauce: Nam jim dressing must have Thai fish sauce as it’s base. This is a pungent fermented sauce used in so many Thai recipes. Some recipes will use shrimp paste too.
  • Lime juice: The tang in nam jim most often comes from lime juice or sometimes rice wine vinegar. Sometimes tamarind paste is used.
  • Garlic: Nam jim is an umami rich sauce so a good hit of a garlic is a must.
  • Chillies: There are two types of chilli in this Thai dipping sauce. A long red chilli gives some texture and colour (and a little heat) while most of the heat comes from birdseye chillies (or dried chili flakes, like I use here).
  • Sugar: Traditionally, palm sugar would be used but as this sauce has evolved over time, it is quite acceptable to swap the palm sugar for the more convenient white sugar (or even brown sugar).
  • Coriander/Cilantro: There isn’t a lot of fresh coriander in this recipe. It’s enough to add some vibrant colour and a little herbal note. You can absolutely leave it out or even swap it for parsley if you want the colour but don’t like coriander.

How to make Thai dressing

Making nam jim dressing couldn’t be simpler. While you can finely chop the ingredients, like I do here, you can also use your mortar and pestle. In mere minutes, you have a gorgeous Thai dressing perfect for dipping or dressing salads.

Jump to the recipe for full ingredients and instructions.

1. Prepare the ingredients

Start by finely chopping the fresh chilli, coriander and garlic. I mince the garlic in a garlic mincer to make things even quicker. Juice the lime and you’re ready to combine everything.

2. Combine everything

If using a mortar and pestle, you can combine everything right in there. If you’re chopping your ingredients, just grab an old jam jar like I do or a mason jar and add everything right to the jar. Screw on the lid and give it a good shake to dissolve the sugar. You can also just mix it in a bowl and stir it together. Done!

Top down view of the dressing mixed in a jar.

What to use nam jim for

Nam jim is great served with plain steamed or grilled seafood, just like my butterflied prawns and my Thai fish cakes. It’s often served alongside Thai BBQ chicken as well. It brings these lighter meats to life.

Given it’s zingy and fresh flavour, it’s also great for lifting richer meats like beef right through to crispy roast pork. Simply serve it on the side for dipping.

Lastly, while possibly not common in Thailand (I’m not sure whether it is or isn’t), I absolutely adore this sauce on a salad, especially a Thai inspired salad. I make mine with some cucumber, mesclun mix and peppery rocket and loads of herbs like Thai basil, coriander and mint. Even dill is great.


Add a little dry-toasted and ground rice and shallot to your nam jim to turn it into a classic nam jim jaew. And since nam jim isn’t technically just one recipe, you can adjust it your taste. If you want it sweeter, add more sugar. Saltier? Add more fish sauce. You can even add some oyster sauce to thicken it up. Want it tangier? Add more lime juice or swap all or part of the lime juice for rice wine vinegar.

Nam jim dressing being drizzled over a prawn.


What is nam jim sauce made of?

The basic nam jim sauce shown here is made from Thai fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, chillies, sugar and coriander (cilantro).

Is nam jim dressing spicy to eat?

Yes, it contains chillies but the heat is up to you. My version shown here has what I would call a medium heat level. But this is entirely a “to taste” recipe and you can add as much or as little chilli heat as you like. If you don’t like a lot of heat, discard the seeds from the chillies and you can reduce the dried chillies too.

What is the difference between Nam Jim and Nam prik?

Nam prik is a version of nam jim. Very similar to the one shown here, nam prik will often have shallots and can be a chunkier sauce. It may or may not have sugar.

Yield and storage

This recipe makes about ½ a cup and can be stored in the fridge in an airtight jar for 1-2 weeks.

Nam jim dressing in a glass bowl with a spoon sticking out.

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Closeup, top down view of nam jim sauce in a glass bowl.
5 from 2 ratings
Nam jim sauce is a classic Thai chilli dipping sauce. All at once tangy, savoury, spicy with a little sweet, it's so versatile and so easy to make.


  • 1 long red chilli finely chopped with or without seeds
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • ½ teaspoon hot dried chilli flakes (or 2-4 birdseye chilli) to taste
  • ¼ cup lime juice from 2 limes
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce (notes 1)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh coriander (fresh cilantro) (notes 1)

For best results, always weigh ingredients where a weight is provided


  • Jam jar or mason jar with tight fitting lid


  • Finely chop the red chilli. Nam jim sauce is a spicy sauce but depending on how much spicy heat you like, you can put the seeds aside and add them back as much as you like after tasting.
  • In a mason jar, add the chopped chilli, minced garlic, chilli flakes, lime juice, sugar, fish sauce and coriander. Shake well and it's ready to use.
  • Please take a moment to leave a comment & rating. It's appreciated and so helpful.


  1. Tablespoons: I use a standard Australian 20ml tablespoon (equal to 4 teaspoons). Check yours before measuring.
  2. Yield: This recipe makes about ½ cup.
  3. Nutrition details are approximate only and based on 4 serves per ½ cup – scroll below the recipe to find the full nutritional information.
Have you tried this recipe?Don’t forget to leave a rating and comment below and let me know how it was! I love hearing from you. Nutrition information is approximate and derived from an online calculator. The brands you use may cause variations.
Nutrition Facts
Nam Jim Dressing
Amount Per Serving
Calories 65 Calories from Fat 1
% Daily Value*
Fat 0.1g0%
Saturated Fat 0.01g0%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.1g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.01g
Sodium 713mg31%
Potassium 98mg3%
Carbohydrates 16g5%
Fiber 0.4g2%
Sugar 14g16%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin A 197IU4%
Vitamin C 22mg27%
Calcium 14mg1%
Iron 0.3mg2%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.