What’s A Good Substitute For Dashi? (#11 Might Surprise You!)

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Are you planning to cook a Japanese dish for your next dinner with family or friends? You might have come across dashi in your miso or ramen soup recipe, a staple for Japanese food.

You can find this ingredient in many Japanese dishes like miso, noodle soups, and different kinds of simmered dishes.

If you have no dashi around, you’re on the right page. There are so many dashi substitutes to choose from!

Read on as we show you the best dashi substitutes you can easily find at home or the supermarket.

The 11 Best Substitutes for Dashi Stock and Powder You Might Not Know!

Dashi is a base stock for Japanese cooking, which we can also use as flour seasoning for Japanese food like okonomiyaki or takoyaki.

We can make dashi from any food, such as tofu, meat, tomatoes, and the like. But in Japanese foods, dashi soup stock is strictly made of kombu, edible kelp, and dried bonito flakes.

These ingredients are steeped and simmered in boiling water for 3-5 minutes, then strained.

  • Fun fact: Some dashi varieties also have dried shiitake mushrooms, small sardines, or other ingredients to add more of a savory flavor!

While dashi is very popular in Japanese cuisine, it’s not easy to find in supermarkets. In fact, not all Asian grocery stores carry it!

We would usually order online, but if you’re in a pinch, you can use any of these dashi substitutes:

1. Kombu Dashi

Also known as Kombu-tsuyu, this is similar to Mentsuyu and Shiro-dashi. However, it uses kombu dashi, a dashi broth made of dried kelp.

If you love the kombu flavor, we recommend using this as a substitute for dashi. Some may not contain soy sauce but expect it to have salt and sugar.

When using this as a dashi substitute, start with smaller amounts and work your way up.

2. Mentsuyu

Mentsuyu is made of dashi, mirin, soy sauce, sugar, and other seasonings. The main ingredients in Mentsuyu’s dashi are usually dried bonito shavings and kombu.

The term “men” translates to noodle while “tsuyu” means soup, so as the name suggests, this ingredient is used for noodle soup, particularly when consuming somen, soba, or udon noodles.

Besides that, you can use Mentsuyu for other simmered dishes or soups, mainly traditional Japanese steamed foods that require sugar and soy sauce!

Note that you should not overuse additional seasonings, as Mentsuyu already contains enough seasonings compared to dashi. If you add too much, the dish will have too much of a strong, rich flavor.

3. Shiro-Dashi

Shiro-dashi is similar to Mentsuyu. The main difference between these two ingredients is their color. There are two kinds of soy sauce: black (standard soy sauce) and yellowish (light-colored soy sauce).

Shiro-dashi uses lighter-colored soy sauce. Japanese would use Shiro-dashi over Mentsuyu when making their dishes to prevent making their food appear darker.

Some Mentsuyu would contain bonito dashi soup stock solely, while Shiro-dashi would contain kombu and help, though this also depends on the manufacturers.

Because Shiro-dashi also has additional seasonings, it’s best to use a smaller amount of it than what the recipe calls for with dashi.

4. Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is one of the essential sources of umami flavor in Asian cuisines, making it an excellent substitute for dashi. It’s a dipping sauce and a vital ingredient for many different dishes.

That said, soy sauce doesn’t have the clean flavor dashi does, though it provides that desired umami profile you’re looking for.

Furthermore, note that soy sauce is dark in color, which will affect your dish’s appearance. Soy sauce makes a good dashi substitute if you can overlook that.

  • You Might Not Know: Soy sauce is the world’s oldest condiment, used in China for over 2,500 years!

Since we use dashi and soy sauce together in many Japanese recipes, you can replace the dashi component by doubling your recipe’s amount of soy sauce.

5. Honda

Hondashi is a famous brand of Japanese-style dashi granules, which you can find all over Japan. It differs from dashi based on the raw ingredients.

You can find Hindashi made of dried kelp, bonito flakes, niboshi, agodashi, and more. Some of these are mixed dashi.

Many Japanese would use these granules rather than make their own substitute for dashi. These granules are well preserved and available for many different Japanese dishes, from simmered foods to miso and noodle soups.

That said, Hondashi has nothing else than the dashi component, so we recommend adding other seasonings like miso, sugar, or soy sauce.

6. Chicken Stock

Also called chicken broth, it’s made of stewed chicken meat, bones, and vegetables. You probably already have this ingredient at home in the form of powdered or cubed broth!

We usually use chicken broth in Chinese cuisine, but we can also find it in other Asian cuisines, like in Japanese. You may even find Japanese stock! That’s why it still makes an excellent dashi substitute, especially if you’re in a pinch.

Chicken broth provides a pleasant umami taste in many dishes. However, it would have a strong salty taste, so taste test as you add chicken stock to avoid overpowering the dish.

Besides chicken stock, you can also use fish stock, beef broth, and other powdered broth or Japanese stock.

You can also try using white meat fish scraps or shellfish scraps from the fish market to make broth. White meat fishes made into a broth have an umami profile, and it’s easy to find these fish scraps.

Shellfish stock is a bit harder to do as it requires other ingredients like tomato paste, olive oil, and even fresh thyme or other herbs and vegetables to enhance the flavor.

7. Bonito Flakes

Bonito flakes are another excellent dashi substitute! You can find a small pack of these shavings to replace dashi soup stock, and it’s very easy to use.

Fun fact: Bonito is rich in protein and inosinate, a vital umami substance.

Simply sprinkle 1-3 tablespoons of the shavings over your dish, whether it’s cold tofu, soup, salad, or Japanese-style stews. You’ll notice how the taste dramatically improves with just a small amount of it!

8. Kombu Tea

Kombu tea is a kind of dried kombu powder used to make tea. As the name suggests, this is usually made with hot water to make tea. However, you can use kombu tea powder rather than dashi powder.

Since this powder is soluble, you can sprinkle some of it on soups and stir-fried dishes. When you add kombu tea to dishes, it makes them even more delicious and flavorful!

Do note that some kombu tea varieties include other flavors like plum, so search for one better suited for cooking.

9. Shio Kombu

Also known as salted kelp, this is the processed product of kombu, made from simmering kombu and coating with salt.

We recommend using this as a substitute for dashi because it’s a cheaper alternative that’s easy to use.

Since it’s a dry ingredient, simply sprinkle Shio Kombu over your cold tofu salads, or mix it with steamed rice!

If you want to make a dashi soup base, all you need to do is to put Shio Kombu in boiling water. It’s great for making fishcake stews or oden.

Do note that Shio Kombu is salty, so taste test as you add other seasonings.

Besides salted kelp, you can also use shredded kelp, which is packed dried seaweed made from drying kombu for a day and soaking it in vinegar water. Afterward, it’s packaged in blocks, and people would shave the cross-section of it thinly.

Like your typical dried kombu, it has a lot of umami and is already ready to use out of its package without needing to heat it. Use this dashi substitute as you would with dried bonito shavings on noodles or soups.

10. Dried Shiitake Mushrooms Soup Stock

Many Japanese mushrooms have a ton of umami, like shiitake mushrooms.

You must soak 2-3 pieces of this mushroom in boiling water, which will have you make shiitake dashi soup stock! We recommend letting that rest for at least six hours or overnight.

After using the mushrooms, you can consume them and add them to your recipe for more flavor.

This dashi soup stock is excellent in soup, stews, one-pot dishes, among other recipes. But it’s not suitable for miso since you get a strong shiitake mushroom smell.

11. Monosodium Glutamate

Dashi would boost umami flavors, which MSG can do as well, making it a good dashi substitute.

MSG is produced using starch, sugar beets, and molasses or sugar cane, which is then fermented the same way wine, vinegar, and yogurt are.

What’s great about using MSG is that this ingredient is readily available in Asian and Western supermarkets. You might already have this substitute for dashi soup stock at home!

Frequently Asked Questions About Dashi

After learning about the different dashi substitutes, you’re probably left with a few questions. We answer your queries on dashi soup stock below!

1. What’s the umami flavor found in dashi?

Umami is a crucial element to dashi’s unique and exotic flavor. It’s the “fifth flavor” following salty, sour, sweet, and biter. (*)

Many people consider dashi the reason behind umami flavor, the specific taste receptor.

There are two kinds of umami.

  • Nucleotides are synergistic umami, which play an essential role in enhancing the umami flavor present in glutamate-rich foods. Katsuobushi and dried shiitake mushrooms have nucleotides.
  • Basal umami (free glutamate) is found in apples, miso, peas, soy sauce, walnuts, among other foods.

When you add a small amount of these foods, or other ingredients rich in nucleotides to food containing glutamate, you can make the umami flavor dominant by eight times or more.

If you want a very intense umami flavor in dashi stock, we recommend combining katsuobushi or dried shiitakes with kombu.

2. Is dashi healthy?

Dashi stock’s health benefits will depend on what it’s made of. If dashi stock contains the actual ingredients, such as katsuobushi, it can be healthy.

Dashi stock is usually rich in amino acids, aids in weight loss, and has anti-aging effects! However, we can’t confirm that you reap the same benefits in instant dashi brands.

3. Where can you get dashi?

You can purchase dashi in supermarkets or Asian specialty stores. Understandably, dashi isn’t always readily available.

Fortunately, you can head to online stores that sell dashi or use a dashi substitute from ingredients you have at home.

4. What is the best dashi substitute for miso soup?

We highly recommend making homemade dashi if you have no dashi for miso soup. Alternatively, you can use miso paste, which achieves the taste you want.

5. Can you make homemade dashi from scratch?

Yes, we also recommend making dashi! It isn’t a popular option as the ingredients may also be hard to find, but it’s worth exploring. If you’re interested in making dashi, here’s an easy recipe to follow.

Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 piece of dried kelp
  • 1 cup of katsuobushi
  • 4 cups of water
  • A bit of fish sauce for flavoring (optional)

Follow these directions:

  1. Prepare your ingredients by cutting the kombu in half with kitchen shears. Cut a few slits into it for every piece until reaching the middle. Three slits per piece are adequate to release the flavor. Do not wash your kombu, even if there’s a white powdery substance, as that’s what gives the intense flavor.
  2. Add your water and kombu to a medium-sized pot, then let it heat on low to medium heat for about ten minutes, or until it’s almost at a boil.
  3. Remove bubbly foam on top of the dashi with a skimmer or spoon.
  4. When the mixture begins boiling, remove the kombu and discard them. Add all your katsuobushi, letting it sit until you have boiling water.
  5. Once the dashi boils, turn down the heat, letting it simmer for 30-40 seconds.
  6. Turn off the heat, then strain your dashi in a clean jar or bowl with a fine-mesh sieve.
  7. You can now use your dashi stock!

Wrapping It Up

Hopefully, you found an excellent dashi substitute to go with your recipes!

If you have any questions or want to share your tips using a dashi alternative, share them in the comments section below. We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

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