Top 8 Easy Substitutes for Dashi to Complete Your Japanese Dish

While it’s not always easy to achieve the distinct dashi flavor with other ingredients, there are some substitutes that deliver incredible results.

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Dashi is a delicious, staple ingredient in Japanese cuisine that is not commonly used outside Asian meals.

It’s usually made from water and a salty ingredient obtained from kombu, shiitake mushrooms, dried sardines, bonito scales, and anchovies.

Some people also make different types of dashi from various kinds of food like meat, tofu, mushrooms, and tomatoes. However, such dashi doesn’t taste like the original dashi.

Now, if you want to prepare a Japanese recipe that requires dashi, it means you’ll need to use the one made with kombu and dried fish shavings.

Unfortunately, making dashi stock is quite hard and requires a lot of time. You might also not have access to all the ingredients you need to make good dashi.

That’s why we’ve prepared a guide for the best dashi substitutes that you can use instead of making dashi from scratch.

Dashi Substitute

8 Best Dashi Substitutes to Complete Your Japanese Dish

  1. Monosodium Glutamate 

Popularly known as MSG, monosodium glutamate is an excellent ingredient to use if you don’t have dashi.

The recently invented substitute is usually made with soybeans and other ingredients that boost umami when used on various dishes. It delivers a strong meaty flavor to your meals.

Most people prefer using MSG instead of dashi since it’s readily available in local stores and groceries. You can get it right away when you need to use dashi.

  1. Shiitake Mushrooms and Dried Seaweed

The vegan community can freely substitute dashi with shiitake mushrooms and dried seaweed as they provide an excellent umami flavor.

To make dashi substitute with these ingredients, you need to soak them for about 30 minutes, then boil the mixture for 10 minutes.

Depending on the quantity of the stock you want, you can add water or the liquid from your soaked ingredients and simmer for a few more minutes.

If you don’t want to use seaweed, you can use other vegetables of your choice, but be sure to boil them for about 20 minutes and strain the soup.

  1. Chicken Broth

Chicken broth also comes in handy when substituting dashi as it has a simple yet satisfying umami flavor.

The best thing about chicken broth is that it’s easily available, and you might have it packed in stock. It’s also faster and convenient to prepare chicken broth at home since you don’t need many ingredients.

While chicken broth gives a perfect flavor when served as a soup base, we don’t recommend using stock or beef broth as it has a stronger taste.

If you choose to use this alternative, you can use an equal amount to dashi stock. But you’ll note a difference in taste since the chicken broth doesn’t have the seaweed taste.

  1. White Fish or Shellfish

With white fish or shellfish, you can make a flavorful substitute that tastes almost similar to commercial dashi.

You just need to cut the head, tail, and skin of a white fish or shellfish and simmer them in boiling water.

These fish parts are usually cheap or free in the fish market, so you don’t have to buy the whole fish, especially if you are looking for a more affordable option.

Then mix then simmered fish parts with sautéed vegetables like garlic and onions before adding soy sauce or sugar to make it taste like real dashi.

  1. Mentsuyu 

This is a tasty sauce made from soy sauce, dashi, mirin, and other spices. It’s mainly used for soups when eating dishes like soba and somen noodles.

Most people also use Mentsuyu for simmered dishes to get a bold taste and umami flavor.

If you choose to use Mentsuyu as a dashi substitute, you should add less amounts as it’s stronger than dashi. Adding excess Mentsuyu will give your food a too strong taste.

You can use it as a base soup for dishes like grilled chicken with miso sauce.

  1. Soy Sauce

Another easy and quick way to substitute dashi is by using soy sauce, which works well with Japanese dishes.

In fact, most Japanese meals contain some soy sauce, and adding light or dark sauce can provide more flavor to your food.

If you have no dashi stock and are using a recipe that calls for it, you can use soy sauce. Be sure to double the quantity for perfect results.

However, you’ll need to bear in mind that soy sauce will darken your meal, whether light or dark. But this won’t be an issue if you can just overlook the color.

  1. Powdered Broth

This is the easiest way to replace dashi stock in your recipe, as you have several options that will work well.

You can use powdered chicken broth, fish, or shrimp broth. But you should avoid strong stocks like beef and pork stock powder since they are way too different from dashi.

The powdered versions of chicken, fish come while already seasoned, so you need to add more water than required.

However, you’ll want to be careful not to dilute too much to avoid losing taste or adding more salt.

  1. Hondashi Granules

Hondashi granules are usually made from bonito, kelp, dried tiny sardines, agodashi, and other seasonings.

Most Japanese people prefer these granules to dashi ingredients, as making dashi from scratch takes time.

Hondashi granules are well-preserved and readily available in most Japanese and Asian stores. You can use them for simmered food, soups, and otherJapanese dishes.

FAQs

Q: Can I Use Fish Sauce for Dashi?

A: Yes, you can use fish sauce instead of dashi. However, you should only use it in small amounts since the fish sauce has a salty flavor.

Fish sauce is also more concentrated and can overpower your meal when used in large amounts.

Q: What Is Used Instead of Dashi in Miso Soup? 

A: Soy sauce. Soy sauce is the best alternative if you want to use a dashi alternative when making miso soup. But you must add the miso paste to get the rich flavor.

Miso soup made with soy sauce tastes great with soba noodles, rice, or veggies for a much healthier dinner.

You can also use chicken or fish broth as they don’t have a too strong taste that would otherwise overpower the soup’s flavor.

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