dashi soup

Dashi Who? These Flavorful Alternatives Will Add Umami to Your Cooking!

Umami makes a good dish great, and no ingredient is as well known for its umami powers as Dashi. This stock can save your dish, but what do you do when the broth has dried up!?

In Japanese cooking, dashi is a key player that gives rich savory flavor to classic soups and batters. This powerful broth is made from a few basic ingredients that when put together make the perfect seasoning broth for a myriad of foods. Fortunately, dashi can be faked! With the right ingredients, you can substitute dashi without losing all the wonderful flavor!

Uses for Dashi

Dashi is scared of Japanese cooking. It is the Japanese trick for making food simply irresistible. Dashi comes in four varieties, awase (mixed flavor dashi), kombu (vegetarian dashi), iriko (anchovy dashi), and shiitake dashi (mushroom dashi). They are used in a wide range of dishes. Some common applications include:

  • Miso
  • Takoyaki
  • Ramen
  • Okonomiyaki
  • Teriyaki Sauce (sub the kelp for dashi broth)

Benefits of Dashi

Since dashi is actually a group of broths, the benefits vary but one common thread holds, dashi brings the flavor! No matter what style of dashi you use, it brings so much delicious savory flavor. Being a liquid makes it easy to incorporate dashi into soups, sauces, broths, and even baked goods.

With so many varieties of dashi, the health benefits vary. Typically, dashi is high in sodium, but low in calories. It often has added nutrients like magnesium and potassium from its primary ingredients.

How to Choose a Dashi Substitute

The key to choosing a dashi substitute is understanding that dashi is a broth, and any substitute chosen will have to be made into a liquid. For example, if you choose white fish as a substitute you would want to stew the fish first to make a broth that could replace liquid dashi.

The time you want to put into the substitution should be considered. Some of these substitutes take very little work to turn into something resembling dashi, while others may take an afternoon’s work. 

The 5 Best Dashi Substitutes

1White FishSoups, Batters, Sauces
2Stock or BrothSoups, Batters, Sauces
3Shiitake MushroomsSoups, Batters, Sauces
4Dried SeaweedSoups, Batters, Sauces
5Bonito FlakesSoups, Batters, Sauces

1. White Fish

white fish soup

Light and tasty white fish can be turned into a fish stock that makes an excellent dashi substitute. There are many different white fish available, like cod and haddock. Choosing a rich and flavorful white fish can lead to a very flavorful dashi substitute.

The biggest drawback of this option is the process involved in making fish stock. To make the best stock you need all the pieces of the fish, like their heads and bones, so this requires a whole broken-down fish. It also takes a long time to stew the most flavor out of the fish carcass.

This substitute works very well in place of iriko dashi and awase dashi. It has a great fishy flavor and just enough salty ocean brine to please your taste buds.

2. Stock or Broth

carrot broth

The most versatile and easy-to-use dashi substitute, broth, or stock can be a great choice. Stocks and broths come in a very wide range. You can get liquid broth or cubes, vegetables, meat, fish, etc. The options are endless when it comes to this dashi substitute.

If you are using a stock cube, you will have to mix it; otherwise, there is virtually no extra work required for this substitution. Stocks and broths are found everywhere and you can choose a flavor profile similar to dashi.

This substitute works well in almost every application, but it does tend to be salty. If you are using stock or brother, consider a low-sodium option or cut the broth with water to control the salt levels.

3. Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake Mushroom soup

Shiitake mushrooms are actually a key component of certain dashis, so they are a natural choice for a dashi substitute. They have a wonderfully earthy, umami flavor. Dried or fresh shiitakes can be stewed into a broth that perfectly takes the place of dashi.

To use this substitute the shiitakes should be combined with water and other seasonings to create a basic broth. This needs to stew for a while, so this substitute can be a bit more time-consuming. The finished broth has a remarkably similar flavor to that of dashi, though.

Shiitake broth can be used in sauces, batters, and soups as an equal substitute for dashi. This flavor profile works best for recipes calling for kombu or shiitake dashi. Thanks to its meatless nature, this substitute works for vegans and vegetarians.

4. Dried Seaweed

Dried Seaweed

Dried seaweed can be made into a broth that can be used as a substitute for dashi. There are many types of dried seaweed available and a broth can be made with one or several of these options. The most common seaweed used in dashi is Kombu.

Since you do have to make a broth, this substitute can be a little time-consuming. To make a seaweed broth, stew a mixture of seaweed and water on the stove to extract the rich seaweed flavor. If you use kombu seaweed the broth will have a flavor almost identical to vegetarian dashi.

A broth made from dried seaweed works extremely well as a dashi substitute in soups, sauces, batters, and more. It has a wonderful umami flavor and an excellent salty brine. It has no meat so it is safe for anyone to use.

5. Bonito Flakes

Bonito Flakes

Bonito flakes have an excellent fishy, umami flavor that makes them a perfect substitute for dashi. These airy flakes are salty and delightful, and when combined with water they can be made almost identical to dashi.

Bonito flakes are thin flakes of preserved fish. They’re easy to find in stores and online, and when stewed in water they can become a dashi-like broth. A broth made with only bonito flakes may be a little one-noted compared to dashi.

Bonito flake broth works well in conjunction with other flavors when used in recipes calling for awase dashi or iriko dashi. It has a smoky, fishy flavor that can bring out the best in broths, batters, and sauces. If using this dashi substitute, one may want to consider amping up other ingredients to add balance.

The Runner-Up

Stocks and broths were a close second. They do not require extra work and are ready to be added to any recipe you need. Stocks and broths come in so many varieties that matching the flavor profile of dashi is a breeze with this substitute.

The reason stocks and broths did not win is because of their generally high sodium content. They can bring so much flavor, but sometimes a little too much salt. This is a great substitute for dashi when used with a careful hand.

Best Overall Dashi Substitute

Shiitake mushroom broth is the overall best substitute for dashi. It has the most powerful umami flavor and despite being fish-free, it manages to mimic a little meatiness with its overall fungi flavor.

Shiitakes are easy to find in stores, and since they are sold both fresh and dried they are not subject to seasons. This dashi substitute works well in almost every application and can be enjoyed by any diet, making it an overall winning choice for a dashi substitute. 

dashi soup

5 Best Dashi Substitutes

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Servings 4


  • White Fish
  • Stock or Broth
  • Shiitake Mushrooms
  • Dried Seaweed
  • Bonito Flakes


  • From the list of substitutes above, pick your favorite to use in its place.
  • Use your imagination and be creative with these substitute recipes!

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