6 Best Dashi Substitutes

Dashi
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If you ask someone from Asia, they will tell you that you are looking in vain for dashi substitute because there is none.

However, sometimes we want to make a dish for which we don't have everything we need, and we have to find a suitable substitute. I'm here to help you 🙂

Dashi

Dashi is the heart of Japanese cuisine, an indispensable foundation that gives the dishes a perfect taste. It’s a traditional Japanese stock made from dried fish, meat, vegetables, seaweed, and mushrooms. Nowadays, making dashi is easy because you can often find it in instant bags, powder, or granules.

But if none are available, read on for the best dashi substitutes you can get today.

What Is Dashi?

As you have seen, dashi is a traditional "base" used to enhance the taste of various dishes. It is neither broth nor stock.

The most common ingredients for dashi are dried bonito, dried sardine, dried flying fish, kombu seaweed, and shiitake mushroom. All these ingredients are natural, characteristic of the climate, and full of pure natural scents.

Dashi with dried kombu

Dashi has a unique umami flavor and aroma with a slightly sweet and salty note. It's effortless to make. You can make dashi by cooking the main ingredients until the flavor is transferred to the stock. We usually use it for everyday dishes, such as clear soups, stews, salads, and fried foods.

However, sometimes we want to eat Japanese cuisine but need dashi to make it. So if you don't have dashi, don't worry; there are pretty good substitutes.

Best Substitutes for Dashi

If you're craving Japanese food these days, don't worry; these six alternatives to dashi will still meet your expectations.

1. Soy Sauce

Due to its rich flavor, soy sauce is a good substitute for dashi. Soy sauce also gives exactly that umami taste characteristic of Asian dishes. The downside to soy sauce is that the color is different from dashi, so you'll have to turn a blind eye to the sauce's brown color.

Although it doesn't taste identical, it can work when you have no choice. You can use Japanese soy sauce to reduce this difference and achieve a better taste. It differs from the Chinese because it is made from wheat and is more aromatic.

You can use dark soy sauce or light one. Since soy sauce is used in many sauces and dishes along with dashi, it will be a good enough substitute for it.

Depending on your preferences, you can use double the amount of soy sauce to get your desired taste. However, try it first and then add it if necessary.

2. Shellfish Stock

Shellfish Stock

If you have leftover shellfish or shrimp somewhere in the fridge, you can use them to prepare a stock that will replace the dashi. That will give you the taste and aroma of seafood. Also, if you still have lobster shells - a total hit. As a result, your stock will become more flavorful, and it will already resemble dashi.

The preparation is simple, but it may take a little longer because the leftover shells need more time to cook and develop the flavor you want. First, you must simmer the pieces for about 15 minutes until they take on color, and then add the garlic. Finally, add water and let it boil for about an hour. When everything is cooked, filter the soup and use it as a base for the dishes you want.

1 cup of shellfish stock:1 cup of dashi.

3. Shirodashi

Shirodashi

Shirodashi is an excellent substitute for dashi. It's made from white soy sauce, mirin, and sugar mixed with kombu-infused dashi or bonito-unfused, depending on the type you buy.

Since dashi is already part of shirodashi, this is a great substitute. The only difference could be the sweetness that shirodashi has because of the sugar and mirin. You can add a bit of soy sauce to give it some saltiness.

1 cup of shirodashi:1 cup of dashi

4. White Fish Stock

A stock of chunks of white fish is a perfect substitute for dashi, especially since the taste is almost identical. You can use scraps of catfish, cod, bream, or other white fish to make this stock.

All you have to do is sauté the bones and head, body pieces, and some aromatic ingredients like celery, garlic, and basil. You will get a pleasant smell and taste as a base for different dishes. However, this base may have a slightly more intense fishy flavor.

1 cup of white fish stock:1 cup of dashi

5. Dried Shiitake Mushrooms stock

Dried Shiitake Mushrooms

Dried shiitake mushrooms are an outstanding substitute for dashi because you can use them to make a delicious stock. The only thing is that the taste will still be of shiitake mushrooms, so it may not go well with all dishes, but you can use it with those with which the aroma of mushrooms goes well.

What should you do? Pour water over the dried shiitake mushrooms and leave them to stand for up to 30 minutes so that the mushrooms soften and release their aroma. Then, you can add more ingredients, including dried seaweed or spices. Simmer it all together to improve the taste. In the end, strain the liquid you got, add a little seasoning as desired, and you'll make the stock.

1 cup of dried shiitake mushroom stock:1 cup of dashi.

6. Chicken Stock

Chicken Stock

If none of the above are available, you can use chicken stock. Although it does not have that fishy taste, it will serve as a substitute for dashi.

You can use store-bought stock, use the broth of boiled chicken made from Instant Pot Chicken Soup or even make Instant Pot Chicken Stock.

That's how it is most often used in Japan. If you add dried algae, spices, and soy sauce to that base, you will get an umami taste that can replace dashi.

1 cup of chicken stock:1 cup of dashi

A Table of Substitutes for Dashi

Substitutes Characteristics Replace on cup for
Soy Sauce Dark Color; Salty Flavor, Umami taste 2 tablespoon
Shellfish Stock Dark Golden Color; Fishy Flavor 1 cup
Shirodashi Light Color; Sweet and Salty Flavor 1 cup
White Fish Stock Light Color; Fishy Flavor 1 cup
Dried Shiitake Mushrooms Dark Color; Shiitake Mushroom Flavor and Aroma 1 cup
Chicken Stock Light Color; Umami Taste, Non-fishy Flavor 1 cup

Although dashi is challenging to replace due to its specific taste that is hard to beat, there are a few faithful substitutes. You can find some of them in Asian grocery stores, but most of them you can make yourself. If you make your stock that will substitute for dashi, you will get better and fresher aromas.

Dashi FAQs

What Is Dashi?

Dashi is a traditional Japanese base used to enhance the taste of various dishes. It’s made from dried seaweed, fish, and other spices.

What Does Dashi Taste Like?

Dashi has a unique umami flavor and aroma with a slightly sweet-salty note.

What Is the Best Substitute for Dashi?

The best substitutes for dashi are stocks made from white fish, shellfish, shiitake mushrooms, chicken, or pork. Equally suitable substitutes are Shirodashi and Soy Sauce.

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