You are here for the best dashi substitutes, one of the major ingredients in Japanese cuisine that is highly diverse and visually attractive. Dashi is that underlying element that isn’t apparent to the eye. Dashi, as simple as it sounds, is a prominent part of Japanese cuisine. Let us talk about some of the best Dashi substitutes that you can use at your home.
Dashi is a type of stock that forms the basis of Japanese cuisine. It is used as the broth of miso soup, noodle soup, and as a simmering liquid. It is used in liquids to accentuate the savory, tongue-coating flavor known as ‘Umami.’
But do you just walk around your local grocery store and spot it there? I am certain the answer is what has brought you to us. It is not very commonly found and is also pretty expensive. That is the reason why dashi cannot be easily made at home.
Therefore, we are forced to find the best dashi substitutes. Wondering which are those? Some of the best dashi substitutes are chicken stock powder, monosodium glutamate, white fish, shellfish, hondashi, and powdered broth. Before we get on to the substitutes of dashi, let us explore dashi for a while.
Quick Peek: Dashi
The following scribbles tell you about what dashi is, its flavor, texture, uses, and health benefits.
What Is Dashi?
The word dashi comes from the verb dasu, which means to ‘take out.’ Dashi literally means the flavor or essence of an ingredient that is taken out with the help of a juice or liquid. (Don’t you love when words actually mean what they mean?)
Dashi refers to a group of stocks that forms an integral part of Japanese cuisine. It is made from various ingredients such as bonito fish flakes, dried kombu (sea kelp), dried shiitake mushrooms, and dried whole sardines.
I smell a question brewing somewhere in the nooks of your mind. You might be wondering, ‘So, is dashi simply a broth?’. You are right. It is a simple broth, alright, but it can tremendously enhance the flavor of your dishes. (If the flavor was Dr. Banner before, it becomes The Hulk when you add dashi).
Types of Dashi
So, there are many types of dashi commonly used in cooking. Let me give you a brief idea about a few of them.
- Katsuo Dashi – Also known as bonito soup stock, katsuo dashi is made from kombu kelp and katsuobushi (bonito fish flakes). It has a rich, complex umami flavor, unlike simple dashi.
- Kombu Dashi – It is also called dried kelp stock and is made using pure water and kombu kelp. It is a clear, pale-colored liquid with a profound umami flavor. It serves as an excellent broth option for vegans and vegetarians.
- Niboshi Dashi – Niboshi Dashi or iriko dashi is prepared using dried sardines or anchovies. It has a bold, fishy flavor and is famous in the Kanto region of Japan.
- Shiitake Dashi – As the name suggests, shiitake dashi is made from shiitake mushrooms. It has a deep umami flavor with a dark brown color. It is another great option for vegans and vegetarians.
- Awase Dashi – This type of dashi is a combination of both katsuo and kombu. The combined force of katsuo and kombu renders an intense umami flavor to the dishes.
Some of the other dashis are ago dashi, vegetable dashi, and shojin dashi.
Describing Dashi: Flavor and Consistency
Dashi can be called the heart of Japanese cuisine. This is not just because of the prominence of its own flavor but because of the way it enhances and harmonizes the flavors of other ingredients.
Depending on the ingredients, the flavor profile of dashi can vary. However, it has a strong savory, umami flavor that comes with the presence of glutamic acid (refer to my article on Best MSG Substitutes to know more about glutamic acid and the man behind the origin of umami flavor!) Dashi has a thin consistency similar to the chicken stock which you prepare at home, which makes it a perfect base for other soups.
Uses of Dashi
Dashi is the ultimate base that sets the flavor profile of all types of soups, the most notable being miso. Apart from that, dashi can also be used as the base liquid to simmer fish, eggs, and vegetables to extract their flavors.
Dashi can also be mixed with vinaigrettes for enriching salads and tempura. It can also be used as a flavorful brine for chicken and fish before they are cooked. Dashi is a great option to be considered in a plant-based diet. It can be used in clam soups, udon soups, soba soups, stir-fried dishes, and steamed fish dishes. Check out the ‘Recipes That You Can Enhance With Dashi’ section in this article for more info!
Is Dashi Healthy?
Dashi is a flavorful, healthy broth due to the ingredients it comprises. Kombu is deemed to be a nutritional powerhouse from the sea that helps in reducing blood cholesterol and hypertension. This flavorful broth is a rich source of iodine which is helpful in proper thyroid functioning.
Bonito flakes are incredibly beneficial in anti-aging, lowering blood pressure, mitigating the risk of depression, and providing relief from fatigue. Anchovies, as you might know, are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are imperative in boosting the cardiovascular system.
Why Should You Substitute Dashi?
Dashi is a powerful flavor-enhancing stock, and if so, why should you bother with its substitutes? First of all, it is not easy to spot dashi at your local stores like you can spot a bunch of tomatoes. If you are allergic to seafood, you will definitely have to refrain from using dashi which is based on seafood. Also, being aware of the alternatives to dashi can help you with a little experimentation which is never harmful, right?
So, enough with the talk on dashi, and let us move on to its best substitutes right away.
16 Best Dashi Substitutes
The sixteen best dashi substitutes that you can use are:
1. Chicken Stock Powder
Prominent ingredients present in chicken stock powder are salt, maltodextrin, sugar, corn starch, yeast extract, chicken, and additional seasoning that makes chicken stock powder a good dashi substitute. It also contains naturally occurring glutamates. Due to these reasons chicken stock powder is a prominent substitute of Dashi.
You may wonder what the difference is between stewed chicken broth and chicken stock powder. Chicken stock powder provides a thicker soup as compared to that stewed chicken. It is recommended you taste it before adding any seasoning while choosing to replace dashi.
2. Monosodium Glutamate
Monosodium glutamate, also known as MSG, is the best substitute for Dashi you could find on the basis of flavor. Dashi is mainly used to boost the umami flavor, which can also be achieved with MSG. It is produced by fermented sugar beets, starch, molasses, or sugar cane. It has a similar fermentation process as vinegar and wine.
MSG is very easily available in not only Asian supermarkets but all other grocery stores as well. The concentrated umami flavor makes it a great substitute for dashi.
3. White Fish
Whitefish comprise the category of ground fishes that live and feed on the bottom of seas or lakes. They have a mild, sweet flavor and a moist, firm texture. The stock of non-oily, mild white fishes can be a good dashi substitute. Whitefishes such as catfish, tilefish, halibut, bass, cod, haddock, and snapper can be simmered in water mixed with seasoning agents like garlic, onion, and celery.
Although the stocks of whitefishes work as fine replacements for dashi, you should, however, avoid tuna or mackerel since they have an intense, fishy flavor. Also, red meat should not be preferred since it can easily dominate other ingredients in the recipe.
We are once again twirling in the seawaters, and our next best substitute for dashi is shellfish. Shellfish is an umbrella term that comprises shrimp, crayfish, crab, lobster, clams, scallops, oysters, and mussels. Shellfish can have varying flavors depending on the method of cooking. Mostly, they have a mild, delicately sweet, salty flavor and a soft texture.
Preparing a stock using shrimp or prawns using seasonings such as garlic, white wine, tomato paste, thyme, and black pepper can help you simulate the exact flavor of dashi with a seafood flavor. The only downside is that the process of extracting flavors from shellfish is time-consuming.
The word ‘hondashi’ translates into ‘real broth’ in Japanese. It is simply dashi in granular form, which is used as a flavor base in soups and other dishes. It is sold by Ajinomoto Co Inc., the first company which sold Ajinomoto seasoning, basically the umami seasoning.
Hondashi comes in different varieties based on the ingredients used. Some of the hondashi flavors are based on bonito, kombu (kelp), niboshi (dried small sardines), and agodashi. Depending on the flavor preferences, they can be used as a great Dashi Substitute.
6. Powdered Broth
The powdered broth is a good substitute that you can use instead of dashi. You get to choose any variety depending on the flavor preferences. Powdered broth of chicken, fish, or shrimp is a considerable option.
However, refrain from using pork or cube powdered broth since there is a chance they may dominate the flavor of other ingredients in your dishes. The powdered broth is intensely flavored, so you should add water to dilute it and be mindful of the quantity you add to your dishes while choosing to dashi substitute.
7. Soy Sauce
Soy sauce is the most comfortably found substitute for Dashi. The best part is it has the same umami flavor as MSG and Dashi. So using double amounts of it gives you a taste similar to Dashi. It only makes the food darker than normal, but who cares? Soy sauce is a very good ingredient to substitute Dashi. If you can’t find soy sauce, we have its substitutes as well.
8. Shio Kombu [Dried Kelp]
Shio kombu or dried kelp is basically stewed seaweed sprinkled with salt. This must be the cheapest item in the entire list and the easiest to use instead of Dashi. It is quite salty, so you have to be careful when it comes to seasoning.
Shio kombu is dried; it does not need to be cooked. It can just be sprinkled on top of foods like steamed rice, tofu, salads, etc. This makes it the perfect option for anyone if you are considering substituting dashi..
9. Kombu Dashi
Kombu dashi is a variety of dashi made from kombu seaweed or simply kelp. It was from kombu that glutamic acid was found by the late Ikeda, which eventually came to be known as the fifth taste or the umami flavor.
Kombu dashi is also known as kombu-tsuyu. It is one of the dashi stocks which have an intense umami flavor that can be used as an alternative to dashi. That is one job less for you as you don’t have to worry about adding any other seasonings for a dashi flavor.
10. Kombu Tea
If you are looking to recreate kombu-based dashi, then obviously, you need a substitute that is based on kombu. Kombu tea is another perfect option for you as a dashi substitute. Kombu tea is available in a powdered form, and the same can be used to prepare a substitute for dashi. If not, you can make your own version of kombu tea in a few steps.
After soaking the kombu in water for over two hours, bring the kombu to a boil and simmer for three minutes. Discard the kombu after removing it from heat and add lemon juice, ginger juice, and light soy sauce. Kombu tea is ready with its enriching umami flavor ready to substitute dashi.
11. Tororo Kombu
Tororo kombu, also known as shredded kelp, is another great alternative for kombu-based dashi as well as for vegans and vegetarians. Tororo kombu is basically dried kelp that is exposed to either vinegar or water. It is then formed into blocks from which the flakes are scraped out. Dried kelp flakes have a structure and texture very similar to bonito flakes – thin and moist.
Tororo kombu has a salty, umami flavor similar to mushrooms. You can notice a white powder on the surface of these flakes, which is actually the key to its rich, umami flavor. (Don’t wash it off!) For kelp-based dashi, Tororo kombu or shredded kelp is a great dashi substitute due to the umami flavor.
12. Dried Bonito Shavings
Bonito is a type of predatory fish which holds a significant place in Japanese cuisine. Also known as katsuobushi, it is essentially used as a flavor-enhancing agent in many Japanese dishes. The taste of bonito can be deemed to be a cross between a mackerel and a tuna. It has a strong flavor with a firm texture. Katsuobushi is simply the shaved flakes of bonito fish which has been dried, smoked, and fermented.
Dried bonito shavings have a smoky, savory, and fishy flavor. With added seasonings, the stock dried bonito shavings can be a good dashi substitute. If you don’t have the patience of brewing a broth out of these shavings, simply sprinkle a few of them on your dishes for a flavor close to dashi.
13. Dried Shiitake Mushroom Soup Stock
Dried shiitake mushroom is an edible fungus used in Japanese cuisine to make for its umami properties. Just like Dashi, it makes food savory. The dried ones are richer in flavor than the fresh ones. Therefore, it is more preferred as well as recommended as a dashi substitute.
How to use dried shiitake mushroom soup stock;
- Take a bowl and pour hot water in it.
- Put the dried shiitake mushroom in it.
- Remove when softens and strain the liquid.
- The stalk is ready to be used.
Mentsuyu contains ingredients such as Dashi, soy sauce, sugar, mirin, and some other seasonings. It is used as the soup of many noodles such as soba, somen, and oden soup. ‘Ment’ translates to noodle and ‘suyu’ means soup, making the complete term be noodle soup.
Not only that, but mentsuyu is also used for simmering dishes and in other soups. It is recommended not to add too much additional seasoning, as it contains other seasonings while replacing dashi.
15. Shiro – Dashi
Shiro dashi is a dashi soup base that is made using dashi extract and soy sauce. Dashi extract is basically the mix of different ingredients such as seaweed, bonito, shiitake mushrooms, sardines, or anchovies. Usually, light soy sauce (also called usukuchi) is used while making Shiro dashi so that you don’t have to put up with the dark color of dark soy sauce. So, Shiro dashi is basically the same as mentsuyu without dark soy sauce.
Shiro-dashi comprises ingredients and seasoning agents, which vary depending on the manufacturers. You will have to check the list of ingredients while choosing Shiro-dashi to replace dashi. Shiro-dashi is a good dashi substitute in terms of flavor and color.
16. Fish Stock
Fish stock can be your last go-to option if you are looking for a dashi substitute based on bonito or sardines. It is thus one of the least considerable substitutes for dashi. You must be familiar with fish stock and its preparation method. Simmer fish bits and vegetables with added seasonings in water for hours, and you get a concentrated seafood base which is fish stock.
Now, if you have got the flavor of fish stock as intensely fishy, you got it all wrong. If prepared in the right way, fish stock will render only subtle hints of fishy flavor with a perfect balance of the flavors of vegetables and spices. Fish stock is easily available in grocery stores and can work as a considerable substitute for dashi with the addition of seaweed to it.
Recipes That You Can Enhance With Dashi
- Chicken Noodle Soup – Chicken noodle soup is flavor and comfort served in a bowl. It is flavored with a lot of vegetables and herbs. You can add a little bit of dashi to it as well. This will enhance the umami flavor of the soup, making it even better.
- Coconut Curry Noodle Bowl – Coconut curry noodle bowl is another great recipe that you can enhance with a touch of dashi. The recipe is loaded with veggies and is a little on the spicy side. If you want that umami kick, add a few drops of dashi to uplift the broth.
- Uncle Roger Egg Fried Rice – We all know that MSG adds a whole lot of flavor to egg fried rice. But you can add a little dashi to your delicious fried rice as well. Just a little dashi will work wonders for your recipe.
- Chicken Ramen Noodles – The broth is the soul of ramen. The flavorful the broth, the better your ramen experience. Believe it or not, dashi is a great addition to chicken ramen noodles. Just add a touch of dashi to your chicken ramen noodles and see the magic.
- Mongolian Hot Pot – Dashi is a Japanese ingredient. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use it to enhance other cuisines. This stands true for Mongolian hot pot. Just add some dashi and watch the hot pot boil with flavor and aroma.
What Brand Has The Best Dashi Substitute?
Dashi is a flavorful Japanese relish that we all crave but aren’t able to find. So in a situation like this, it’s best to resort to easily available substitutes. Here are some substitutes for Dashi you can have a look at. I’ve also mentioned the brands that provide these substitutes.
|Chicken Stock Powder||Kirkland, Knorr, Maggi|
|Shio Kombu [Dried Kelp]||Urban Platter|
|Dried Shiitake Mushrooms Soup Stock||Haribas|
|Shiro – Dashi||Shichifuku Brewing|
How To Substitute The Above Mentioned Ingredients For Dashi
- Chicken Stock Powder
- Monosodium Glutamate
- White Fish
- Powdered Broth
- Soy Sauce
- Shio Kombu
- Kombu Dashi
- Kombu Tea
- Tororo Kombu
- Dried Bonito Shavings
- Dried Shiitake Mushroom Soup Stock
- Fish Stock
- Go through the substitutes and see which one seems fit for the recipe.
- Collect your ingredients and use your preferred substitute.
- Use the substitute in the required amount and proceed to make the dish according to the recipe.
Dashi is the heart of Japanese cuisine. It’s a hidden gem that can be used in making any dish. But because making it at home is not everyone’s piece of cake, we need some easy dashi substitute that can be used by anyone.
These substitutes work wonders in place of Dashi and can help you get that savory umami in your Japanese food. Some of them are based on specific types of dashi while others can be used generally. Let me know your results of experimenting with them and see you soon with another article!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can you substitute dashi with fish sauce?
Dashi and fish sauce are basically rich sources of umami flavor. That said, they have striking differences with respect to flavor and texture. Thus, fish sauce can’t be used as a substitute for dashi. Fish stock is a considerable option although it should be your last call.
What can I use instead of dashi in miso soup?
Dashi can be substituted with seafood stock or chicken broth with a slight addition of fish sauce.
What is dashi powder made of?
Dashi powder is made from dried kelp and dried bonito flakes. The powder can be used to make stocks with a concentrated umami flavor.
Can I use vegetable broth instead of dashi?
The vegetable broth which does not contain vegetable bits can be used instead of dashi with added salt and pepper. The presence of vegetables may render a different flavor altogether to your dish.
Can I use oyster sauce instead of dashi?
Oyster sauce has a sweet, salty flavor. It can be used in sparring quantities to replace dashi. However, soy sauce is a much preferred option as a replacement for dashi.
Is dashi powder unhealthy?
Dashi powder is not unhealthy. It is a very healthy, versatile ingredient which renders the needed flavors without much addition of salt, sugar or fat.
What is a good dashi substitute in tamagoyaki?
Mentsuyu is a good substitute for dashi which can be used in tamagoyaki.
What are the two major ingredients of dashi?
Kelp and dried bonito flakes are the two major ingredients of a classic dashi. However, dashi can be prepared using various other ingredients such as anchovies, shiitake mushrooms and sardines.