If you are a fan of Japanese food, you probably know miso very well. This delicious soybean paste is part of many sauces, soups, broths, and dressings. There are times, though, when it may be difficult to find it, and it is always a good idea to know what to use instead.
What Is Miso?
Miso is the product of fermenting soybeans into a paste that also contains either rice or barley, salt, and koji. The flavor is salty, umami, and slightly nutty. There are many varieties of miso, so it can be either light or white, or dark or red.
This paste is often part of Japanese cooking, including sauces, dressings, soups, broth, and batter. Miso can be eaten raw or cooked, but it is best added toward the end of the cooking process, as over-boiling can reduce its flavor and health benefits.
Because it is buttery and soft, you can melt this paste, or boil into different textures. It is a great addition to dishes that need a hint of salt and umami.
What Can I Replace Miso With?
Whether it is hard to find or you need another option, these miso substitutes can work wonders in plenty of your recipes:
For Ramen, Soups, and Sauces
#1. Soy Sauce
When it comes to umami, soy sauce is a great substitute to use in place of miso. Since it also comes from soybeans, this choice has a somewhat similar flavor, though it is much saltier. You can use soy sauce in cooking ramen, soups, and sauces.
You can find soy sauce anywhere, but certainly at your local grocery or convenience store.
We suggest you start by using half the amount that the recipe indicates, then taste as you go, and add more if necessary. Keep in mind too that this choice is darker in color and can alter the final product.
See More: Soy Sauce Substitutes
This is the Japanese equivalent of soy sauce, but it contains no wheat. It is darker, less salty, and has a strong umami power. This sauce can be a bit harder to find, but your local grocery or organic store may have it.
Use about half the amount that the recipe asks for, as you don’t want to overpower your dish with too much salt and color.
Tamari sauce is great for ramen, soups, marinades, and sauces. Keep in mind too that this is a liquid, not a paste, so you will need to adjust the rest of the ingredients.
This Japanese broth comes from cooking water, dried kelp, and bonito fish flakes. This clear broth is salty and has a hint of fish, so take that into account when you use it. In many cases, dashi is the base for miso soup, but it can also be good for sauces, ramen, and other soups.
While this option is not available commercially, you can make it easily at home. You can find this ingredient in most Asian food stores or organic markets. Use the same amount of dashi that the recipe indicates, but reduce the other liquids as well.
For Stir-Fry, Marinades, and Salmon
#4. Vegetable Stock
While not the best option, vegetable stock can impart a salty and sort of umami flavor as well. You can buy stock anywhere, but you can also make it at home for a very low-cost. You can add vegetable stock any time you want to cook stir-fry, marinades, and vegetable dishes.
Keep in mind that when you buy a vegetable stock, it also has extra salt, so you may want to reduce the amount you add. Consider using the same amount of vegetable stock as you would miso.
#5. Fish Sauce
This is a completely different flavor, but fish sauce is a common ingredient in many Asian dishes. You can find fish sauce in any grocery store these days, usually by the international food aisle. Use fish sauce when cooking soups, marinades, salmon, and stir-fry.
We suggest that for every one tablespoon of miso soup, you add half a tablespoon of fish sauce as the flavor can be pungent. Consider also reducing the liquids a bit, and for a closer taste, add a dash of soy sauce.
See More: Fish Sauce Shelf Life
This option may seem out of place in this list, but tahini paste is a very good alternative to miso in many dishes. This paste comes from ground sesame seeds and it has a buttery texture with a nutty and somewhat bitter flavor.
You can find tahini in most grocery stores, but a health store or organic market will surely have it.
Try adding the same amount of tahini, but consider that this choice is denser and can impart a more bitter flavor. Use tahini when you are cooking salmon, making sauces, dressings, and marinades.
See More: Tahini Alternatives
This one may seem too obvious, but miso usually adds saltiness to recipes, so using salt in its place makes sense sometimes.
This option works well especially when you have little time and need a quick substitute. Simply add a dash of salt in place of miso paste and your dish will turn out great.
See More: Does Salt Go Bad?
Miso tends to taste salty and umami, but the flavors and aroma depend on the variety and level of fermentation. For the most part, miso paste is salty, sweet, and earthy. However, the darker kinds tend to be more bitter.
Since miso is a good source of vitamins and minerals, it is generally safe to consume. It is also a fermented food, so it will be a good source of healthy bacteria for your gut. You should be aware that there is added salt in miso, so you should be aware of it when you use it.
The main difference between these two types of miso is the grain they have been fermented with. White miso comes from soybeans that are fermented along with white rice. Red miso, on the other hand, comes from those soybeans that are fermented with barley or other grains.
Japanese cuisine is known for its umami, so miso is an essential ingredient in plenty of dishes. Yet, it can be hard to find at times or can be expensive, so any of these 7 alternatives can work in creating great flavors. You can even mix these options to create the same aroma and taste as miso.
Up Next: Does Miso Paste Go Bad?
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