One of my favorite things about cooking Japanese food is that there are so many different ingredients. But sometimes I hit a snag and run out of something crucial, like miso paste, for instance- but luckily, it’s always easy enough to find a substitute! Here are my suggestions for the best substitutes for miso paste.
Did you know that miso is a fermented paste made from soybeans? The Japanese monks who invented it were looking for ways to add more flavor and aroma, so they turned their attention towards vegetarian food. Miso is also rich in umami – or savory flavors! – so they are the perfect ingredient for bringing out the flavor of other foods.
Miso paste is an essential ingredient in Japanese cuisine, but you can’t always find it at your local grocery store… Luckily there are many alternatives! Even better, most substitutes contain umami-boosting ingredients that taste great together. Here are some suggestions to help you replace your miso paste next time it runs out:
7 Best Miso Paste Substitutes
This is my favorite substitute for miso because it’s available everywhere and has a similar taste. You can add soy sauce to marinades or use it in dipping sauces- just add a little salt if you want to give your dish more flavor! If you’re limiting your sodium intake, though, just omit the salt!
Soy sauce can be quite salty, but that’s okay because miso is also very salty. So even though soy sauce has a stronger flavor than miso paste, the two will taste about the same when they’re both done cooking. Before you add it to your sauce, though, taste the soy sauce on its own so you can adjust the total amount of miso paste or soy sauce that you add in.
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Like regular soy sauce, tamari is also made from fermented soybeans. It also contains less salt than regular soy sauce does. If possible, I recommend trying out different kinds of soy sauce to see which one you like best! But if tamari is all you can get your hands on, then go ahead and use that instead – it’s probably better than not having any miso at all!
Tamari is a little thicker than regular soy sauce, though, so if you want to use it as a substitute for miso paste, try diluting it by half with a little bit of water first. Make sure you taste it before adding tamari to your dish- if you don’t want it to be as salty, then cut back on the miso first!
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This is my third favorite substitute for miso because it’s great as a dip or spread. Blend tahini paste with olive oil and lemon juice to make a tasty dressing. You can also use it as a sauce for fish and vegetables or on top of hummus (use it as you would normally use miso). Or just mix sesame seeds into the tahini paste before using, to give your sauces more umami flavor!
Tahini paste is made from ground sesame seeds and is very high in fat. If you’re trying to eat healthier, I recommend using tahini as a dip instead of as a sauce, as you would normally use miso paste.
Tahini paste can be expensive, though, so if you don’t have access to it or can’t afford it, I recommend using another substitute for miso paste
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For those who don’t know, dashi is Japanese stock made from kelp and kombu seaweed. If you have dashi prepared already, then this is by far the easiest substitute for white miso paste- just add a few spoonfuls to your dish and stir well. No extra flavoring is needed!
Dashi is full of umami flavors, so you will automatically make your dish tastier by using it. You can also look for vegetarian dashi in Asian grocery stores – sometimes these are even organic!
You can use vegetarian dashi in most Japanese dishes that would normally call for miso paste. Before adding the dashi to your sauce, though, make sure to taste it on its own first. The dashi may well give your dish a salty flavor, so you’ll want to reduce the amount of miso paste or soy sauce that you add if necessary.
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This is another awesome substitute for miso because it’s so versatile. If you’re cooking Southeast Asian cuisine, then just mix some fish sauce into whatever else you’re making as a replacement- it’ll give those dishes more umami! I also love mixing soy sauce with fish sauce, just as a personal preference.
However, if the recipe calls for only one or the other, then go ahead and use that instead of mixing them together first. Fish sauce and soy sauce taste quite different, so don’t try to mix them together before adding them to your dish.
Fish sauce can be pricey, though, so if you substitute it with regular soy sauce, you’ll need to use more of it than usual so that the two sauces together taste about the same as miso paste does.
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For those who eat strictly vegan, this is an excellent option. Simply replace white miso with equal parts soybean paste and water – about 2/3 cup of water for every 4-6 tablespoons of soybean paste. (If you’re making miso soup, though, use only 1 part soybean paste to 8 parts water).
Soybean paste is just soaked soybeans ground into a paste. The taste is not too different from miso, so if you’re making vegan food, then this should be your go-to substitute for white miso paste.
You can also substitute miso with equal parts tamari and soybeans paste, just as a personal preference.
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Yes, salt is a substitute for white miso paste! Add some sea salt to your vegetables or tofu marinade if you need something to add flavor. Or combine salt with lemon juice for a great dipping sauce. Salt is useful for adding flavor to tofu, salads, and vegan dishes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is miso paste vegan?
Although most miso pastes are vegan, some brands of white miso paste use bonito extracts for flavoring. If you’re avoiding all animal products, then please check the label before buying to make sure!
Is soy sauce a substitute for white miso paste?
Yes! Just add about 1 tablespoon of soy sauce per tablespoon of miso that your recipe calls for. That’s it! By the way, try experimenting with different types of soy sauce and see which one tastes best in your recipes. You can also add a little sea salt if desired and stir well. Hooray for soy sauces!
Where can I find miso paste?
Most large grocery stores in North America carry miso paste – look for it near the tofu. Make sure to choose a white or yellow miso, not red or brown miso (unless you’re trying to make brown rice miso soup). If you can’t find any, then check your local Asian grocery store – they may have some!
Why is my substitute turning out too salty?
Miso paste doesn’t contain sodium (in fact, it’s very low in sodium), but soy sauces and tamaris do. So if you don’t add extra salt when using these substitutes, your dish will be far too salty- especially if you’re just adding soy sauce! Remember that most of us are used to overly salted foods, so you probably won’t even notice. Please taste your dish before serving!
What is the difference between miso paste and soybean paste?
Miso paste is made from fermented rice, barley, or brown rice alongside sea salt and koji (a special type of fungus). Soybean paste uses whole soybeans plus water, sea salt, sometimes sugar, and an added fermenting agent to help yeast grow.
Is miso paste gluten-free?
Yes! Most brands of miso paste are actually gluten-free. However, some brands may be blended with barley or other grains, so please check the label if you’re avoiding gluten.
Can I freeze miso?
Miso paste is a living food that should not be frozen because it will kill the enzymes and all the health benefits that come with them! You can store it in your fridge, though – just make sure to use a clean utensil every time you scoop some out of the container, so you don’t contaminate it! It’s ok to put another piece of tape over your jar if you feel like it needs more lids.
How long does miso last in the fridge?
Usually about 3-4 weeks (but remember, this depends on how much salt was used). Freshness is always questionable when you open a new package, even if there is a ‘use by date’, so use your judgment and always taste before adding to a recipe!
Is miso paste good for your health?
Yes! Miso is high in minerals and vitamins, and it’s also a probiotic food. It contains high levels of Vitamin C and B-complex, essential amino acids, omega 3 fatty acids, and antioxidants that reduce cancer risk. Plus, the fermentation process makes the nutrients more bioavailable (easier for our bodies to absorb).
So when you add miso paste to your dishes, it not only adds delicious umami punch but loads of health benefits too! By the way, when I say ‘salt,’ I don’t mean table salt or iodized salt – please use sea salt when you cook with miso paste if possible because table salts often contain dangerous additives like aluminum silicate (which prevent the salt from clumping) and iodine (which is not appropriate for internal use).
Talking about umami…What does it mean?
Umami is the 5th taste that we experience – it’s similar to ‘salty’ or ‘meaty’. It was identified by a Japanese scientist in 1908 but has only become popularized in North America recently. When you use miso paste, make sure you add it when your food starts cooking so the flavor can be absorbed!
What can you use miso paste for?
Miso paste is a staple in Japanese households, and it’s used in almost every meal – whether it’s blended in soups and sauces, mixed into salad dressing, or added to marinades. It can even be eaten straight from the spoon! My favorite way to eat miso paste is with avocado because you get all that umami flavor mixed with healthy fats – it’s such an amazing combo!
What can’t you use miso paste for?
Don’t use miso paste as a salt substitute – it will make your food taste too fishy and salty at the same time (because miso is salty)! Also, because miso contains soybeans, it’s not appropriate for people who are avoiding all forms of soy. Some brands of miso paste may also be blended with barley, so please check the label if you’re gluten-free.
You really can’t go wrong with these substitutes… Miso paste is full of umami, and you won’t lose that even if you use a different ingredient. Just experiment to see which one you like best!
Last update on 2022-05-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API