If you run out of dashi, the essential ingredient for delicious and authentic Japanese cooking, your kitchen may already have an excellent dashi substitute.
Planning to make some tempura udon, or maybe some miso soup, for your next meal? You don’t need to make a last-minute trip to your neighborhood Asian store or forget about your Japanese noodle craving altogether.
Although dashi has that distinct and unique umami flavor, you can find a substitute with a similar taste.
A fundamental ingredient in Japanese cooking, dashi is a base stock that gives soups, stews, rice bowls, simmered dishes, and dipping sauces that strong umami flavor.
Dashi typically uses unique ingredients such as dried bonito flakes, dried shiitake mushrooms, or dried kelp that are matured, soaked, and heated to draw out their special flavors.
There are also vegan or vegetarian-friendly alternatives, such as dried shiitake mushrooms and kombu dashi.
You use it in clear or ramen soup, miso soup, and various simmering liquids.
Sometimes, you mix it in flour for grilled foods like takoyaki (a ball-shaped snack with chopped octopus filling) or okonomiyaki (a pancake dish cooked on a teppan).
According to Sonoko Sakai’s book Japanese Home Cooking, dashi may be simple and easy to make, but “it’s the foundation of Japanese cuisine, and the success of a Japanese dish often lies in the flavor of the dash.”
Dashi has a distinct taste that sets it apart from other types of stock.
If you’re unfamiliar with it, dashi will taste unrecognizable.
However, some people describe it as having a sweet, meaty, or savory flavor, while others describe it as having a seafood flavor.
Even though dashi doesn’t have a strong salty taste, it’s high in sodium. But it doesn’t contain trans fat and is low in sugar and cholesterol.
It’s not easy to find dashi at your local grocery.
Some people may also be allergic to seafood, which dashi is mainly made up of. So, knowing some suitable substitute for dashi that you can experiment with can be handy.
Remember that a good dashi substitute brings out the umami flavor, so take your dish to another level by choosing a dashi alternative that will extract this flavor.
Here are the best dashi substitutes for you to use.
Starting this list of the best dashi substitutes is something vegan and vegetarian-friendly.
Because of its strong meaty taste, it makes an excellent dashi alternative.
Dried shiitake mushrooms are flavorful and can last for months if stored in a cool and dry place.
Your shiitake dashi will also be ready in as short as 10 minutes, so no preparations are required.
Put the shiitake mushrooms in about four cups of water and let them soak for 30 minutes (or until they are soft enough).
Remove the mushrooms, and that’s it! Use the water the mushrooms soaked in as your vegan dashi substitute for any umami-flavored dish.
Pinch your shiitake mushrooms to extract more of their flavors. And don’t throw the mushrooms away. Put them in a container or a plastic bag and store them in your freezer for future use.
Love shellfish? Don’t throw those leftovers just yet; you can use them (including the shellfish scraps) to prepare Japanese dashi stock.
It’s another flavorful dashi substitute that will give your dish that seafood taste and aroma.
Unlike the dried shiitake mushrooms, you’ll need to simmer the shellfish and shellfish scraps for around 15 minutes, add some garlic, and then add water.
Let it boil for up to an hour. Afterward, you can strain the shellfish and shellfish scraps and use the broth as your base for Japanese recipes that call for dashi.
For this dashi broth, one cup of shellfish stock makes one cup of dashi.
It’s a condiment that Asian households have and an essential ingredient in Asian cooking.
The dark color and salty soy sauce flavor make it an excellent dashi substitute.
If you don’t have dashi now, try soy sauce, even if its color differs entirely from dashi. It will be perfect for soy sauce-based soups.
Although it won’t taste exactly like authentic dashi, soy sauce can make any dish richer, tastier, and more aromatic.
There are many types of soy sauce. Make sure to use light or dark Japanese soy sauce, not Chinese soy sauce, which is saltier and less fragrant.
Did you know that white meat fishes also make a good dashi substitute?
If you enjoy a stronger fish flavor in your dish, then use white fish like cod, bream, bass, tilefish, or catfish as a dashi alternative.
White meat fish like halibut or pollock will also work well for white fish broths.
Bring the fish head, bones, chunks, and fish scraps to a simmer to prepare this dashi soup stock. Add garlic, onions, basil, and celery for more dashi flavor.
You’ll need a cup of white fish stock for one cup of dashi.
If you don’t like the strong fish taste in your dashi substitute, try chicken broth or chicken stock.
You can opt for the store-bought ones or make your own using chicken meat, chicken bones, vegetables, and other aromatics such as onions, peppercorns, garlic, parsley, bay leaves, and fresh thyme.
Add more or use less chicken, depending on how rich you want your chicken stock to be.
Use chicken parts, like the legs, bones, and wings, for more flavor. And make sure to keep your chicken stock at a low simmer.
Chicken broth is a good soup base and stand-in for dashi. Use one cup of chicken broth for one cup of dashi. You can store any leftover chicken stock in the freezer, lasting up to three months.
A vegetable broth can also be a good dashi soup stock for those who prefer the vegetable option.
You can buy it in any grocery or make one from scratch. For this, you can use fresh vegetables or even saved vegetable scraps.
Although it won’t replicate the authentic dashi taste, you’ll enjoy the rich flavor of your dish.
Choose flavorful vegetables like celery, mushrooms (and their stems), garlic, onions, tomatoes, and potatoes. You can also add fresh or dried herbs.
Get started on your vegetable broth by sauteing your fresh ingredients (garlic, onions, carrots, tomatoes, etc.) in olive oil and salt for five to 10 minutes.
Then add enough water so all your vegetables are fully covered, and just let it boil.
Reduce the heat and let it simmer for around 30 minutes. Afterward, you can strain the vegetables.
You now have a homemade vegetable broth that you can use for recipes requiring dashi.
Use only good-quality vegetable broth to add depth to your dish, even without dashi. Avoid using broccoli or cauliflower as it gives the broth a bitter taste.
One of the main ingredients of dashi is kombu (dried kelp or dried seaweed), so you can use it for your homemade dashi.
Because you’re using dried kelp or dried seaweed, you won’t need to use as much seasoning as it’s already packed with flavors.
The great thing about using dried kelp is it can draw out umami while preserving a dish’s original flavors.
When you use these types of dashi substitutes, it’s hard to fail at cooking something.
To make kombu dashi, put four cups of water in a deep pot and soak your kombu for half an hour. Put it on low heat, removing the dashi broth from the heat before it comes to a boil.
Remove the kombu from the broth. Use it immediately for your dish, or store it in the refrigerator for future use. It’s as quick and easy as that!
Elevate your five-minute dinners and impress your loved ones using kombu dashi on soba noodles, steamed vegetables, or fried tofu.
Maybe you’re pressed for time and can’t do the soaking and boiling required in making dashi. That’s okay.
You can opt for powdered broth or chicken stock powder instead.
It’s the quickest and easiest way to make dashi stock, and you can take your pick from shrimp, fish, or chicken powdered broth, depending on what the recipe needs.
Don’t use powdered pork or beef broth because it has stranger meat flavors.
Follow the instructions on the package. Add more water as needed to ensure the powdered or cubed broth will not overpower the dashi taste.
One of the most convenient and best dashi substitutes is dried bonito shavings.
These shredded bonito fish flakes give that distinct umami taste to Japanese dishes.
You can buy it at any Asian store, so stock up on dried bonito shavings whenever you want to make dashi stock.
Meanwhile, if you’re in a rush or are not in the mood for making dashi stock from scratch, you can sprinkle dried bonito flakes on your dish.
It works well on miso soups, stews, and salads.
Avoid squeezing or pressing the bonito shavings too hard if you don’t want that tangy taste. One to three teaspoons of dried bonito shavings make one cup of dashi.
If you like your Japanese dish on the salty side, using salted kelp (shio kombu) as a dashi substitute also works.
It’s a versatile ingredient that adds a savory flavor to soups and stews.
Use it sparingly so you don’t end up with a dish that’s too salty and has no umami flavor.
There are two ways to use it as an instant dashi.
First, use it dry by sprinkling a teaspoon of salted kelp on your dishes. It’s perfect for salads, cold tofu, and even hot rice. One teaspoon is equivalent to one cup of dashi.
You can also mix it in hot water as a dashi stock. One cup of salted kelp in hot water makes one cup of dashi.
Make cold water dashi with your salted kelp. Put it in a bowl with a liter of water. Cover the bowl and let it soak for three hours. Afterward, transfer it into a sealed jar or bottle and refrigerate. Use your cold water dashi within five days.
One of the most accessible dashi substitutes is monosodium glutamate (MSG).
You can buy it at any supermarket or Asian grocery, and it can be used for any kind of dish, not just Japanese cuisine.
It has that strong, concentrated umami flavor, and you only need two teaspoons of MSG for a tablespoon of dashi.
So, if you don’t have the other dashi substitutes mentioned on this list, you can get MSG more easily.
To achieve that umami flavor in a dry dish, MSG is here to the rescue.
Since monosodium glutamate is saltier than dashi, adjust the amount you’ll use accordingly. Some people are also sensitive to MSG, so consider this when using it as a dashi substitute.
Hondashi means ‘real broth’ in Japanese, and it makes an excellent dashi substitute.
It’s a staple in Japanese households, and you can find it at any Asian grocery in the US.
This dashi powder is often used as a flavor base in soups and other Japanese dishes.
It easily dissolves in water so that you can have a dashi stock in minutes.
Like MSG, sprinkle it on your cooking, with the amount depending on your preference.
Since different varieties are available, get the one with kombu and bonito flavors to get that dashi taste.
We recommend adding other seasonings, such as soy sauce, sugar, or miso paste, to enhance the flavors of your dish.
Using hondashi can result in a weak fish flavor. So use additional dashi substitutes like kombu or shiitake mushroom stock.
Yes, you can use chicken stock instead of dashi, even if it doesn’t have that distinctive fishy taste.
Tori dashi, Japan’s most common dashi variety, uses chicken bones to extract the richest flavors.
You can chicken stock to soups and other recipes that need dashi.
Miso soup is a total crowd-pleaser and can be a great comfort dish all year long.
You can enhance a regular miso soup by adding dashi.
If there’s no dashi available, the best-tasting alternatives include instant dashi powder, vegetable stock, or fish stock.
Although a popular umami condiment made from fish, fish sauce tastes fishier and saltier.
It also has a different texture and flavor than dashi.
Use soy sauce instead. You can also try a mushroom and soy sauce broth or vegetable broth.
If you love Japanese foods, you can benefit from its flavorful dishes loaded with healthy properties. Using dashi to bring out the ingredients’ natural flavors is one way to enjoy delicious food while promoting good health.
If you suddenly crave Japanese food and realize you don’t have everything in your kitchen, try a dashi substitute from this list. These are guaranteed to pass the taste test and meet your expectations.
The right amount of dashi can make a dish and bring out the umami flavor. Like everything in cooking, use these dashi substitutes in moderation. You may even have to experiment with these dashi alternatives a few times to find the best one for your dish.