Dashi is a staple in Japanese cooking, so if you don’t have Dashi it can be difficult to follow a lot of those amazing recipes. Fortunately, you can go a long way to fixing that by using a good dashi substitute.
Not all substitutes are equal, so we will be focusing on the two best substitutes for dashi only.
Dashi stocks are used in miso soup, noodle soups, and other broth-based dishes. It is used to emphasize the savory flavor called Umami. Because of the role that Dashi plays in these dishes, you can substitute it with other Umami-containing broths or sauces.
Here’s what you can try instead:
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
MSG was invented by a scientist who figured out how to isolate glutamate from the same seaweed used when making kombu dashi.
You can buy MSG in most grocery stores making it an easily accessible substitute. Glutamate is responsible for some of the meatiness of the flavor in dashi. So when you add MSG you’re adding the same basic chemical to your food.
Glutamate is present in soybeans which are what is used to make soy sauce. Since soy sauce is used widely in Asian cooking, especially in Japan, it is possible to substitute soy sauce for dashi.
In many recipes you’ll be instructed to use both soy sauce and dashi – in these situations, it would be better to use MSG. If you do not have MSG to hand you can always ‘double up’ on the soy sauce meaning that you will use it twice.
If MSG or soy sauce won’t cut it for you then you can always try to make your dashi substitute.
Step 1: Rehydrate dried shiitake mushrooms
Step 2: Strain the mushrooms and keep the water
Step 3: Add kombu and bonito flakes to the mix
Step 4: Give a quick stir
Step 5: Add a little soy sauce to taste (optional)
There you have it, none of these substitutes will be as perfect as the real thing, just ask any Japanese chef. That being the case, if you’re looking for something that will create a great meal at home and work as a passable dashi substitute then these options will all help you do that.