Miso paste is a very popular ingredient in Japanese cuisine. It’s made from fermented soybeans that are flavored with salt and koji and the resulting paste has a deep, savory taste that has a salty-rich flavor profile. It is the textbook definition of umami flavor and a little miso paste goes a long way!
It’s commonly used in a variety of Japanese dishes such as ramen, soup, stir-fries, and marinades. If you decide to make any Japanese cuisine at home, it won’t be long before you find a recipe that requires some miso paste.
This is fine if you have some miso paste at home or can easily source some, but what do you do if you don’t have any at hand? Luckily, there are several substitutions you can make for miso paste in your cooking.
In this article, we’ve picked the eight best miso paste substitutions. We’ve picked a variety of different ingredients that work best in several different situations. Hopefully, there will be a substitution that will work for you.
1. Soy Sauce
This is a very common substitution for miso paste. Like miso paste, soy sauce is frequently used in Japanese cuisine, and like miso paste, it is made from soybeans. However, soy sauce also has wheat and salt in the mix and this gives it a very umami and salty flavor.
Soy sauce is often used as a marinade for meats and vegetables or as a dipping sauce for foods such as sashimi and sushi. It can also be used in stir-fries and soups as well.
Although both soy sauce and miso paste have very intense flavors, soy sauce is much saltier. If you use this instead of miso paste, don’t add any additional salt to the recipe before you add the soy sauce.
2. Fish Sauce
You’ll commonly find fish sauce as an ingredient in Thai cuisine. It’s a very savory and salty sauce that will enhance the flavor of your food. Like miso paste, you don’t need much fish sauce to make an impact and it will add a great depth of flavor to your dishes.
As fish sauce can be quite overpowering, it’s typically added at the end of the cooking process. This prevents it from overpowering any of the other flavors. You want to be careful when adding fish sauce so start with a small amount and add more if necessary.
We only recommend using fish sauce as a substitute for miso paste in dishes that are based on fish or vegetables. The flavor profile of fish sauce doesn’t always match well with meats such as chicken, lamb, or beef so use another substitution for these.
When you do use fish sauce, you may want to add a couple of other ingredients to balance it out a little. Salt and pepper are a must and a little vinegar or lime juice pairs with it excellently.
There are several different forms of tahini. It’s a delicious paste that is frequently used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s made from ground sesame seeds and has a milder taste than miso paste does.
The darker tahini has a stronger flavor than the lighter version of tahini does. Tahini is a healthy substitution for miso paste as it is loaded with protein, healthy fats, and several minerals.
When using it as a substitution for miso paste, you can add a little garlic and lemon juice to make a delicious dipping sauce. It’s not as salty as miso paste so you may want to add a little salt when using tahini in a recipe.
If you find that your tahini is still lacking a little flavor compared to miso paste, you put a little soy sauce or anchovy paste in as well.
Tamari is a Japanese variation of soy sauce. Like miso paste, it is made with soybeans but these are mixed with water and salt. The result is a delicious sauce that is thick and dark in color, while also having a very savory and umami flavor.
When used as a substitution for miso paste, it is best used in marinades, dipping sauces, and marinades. The latter is especially delicious when made with tamari but we do recommend adding other ingredients to it, such as sesame oil, garlic, honey, or ginger to get the best flavors.
It can be used as a straight dipping sauce for food items such as dumplings or sushi. If you add it to a stir fry, add it at the end of the cooking process or you may find that your stir fry will become too salty.
5. Soybean Paste
Soybean paste is a great versatile substitution for miso paste. Don’t forget that miso paste is largely made from soybeans so it’s no surprise that soybean paste is a good substitution for miso paste.
It has a very salty and umami flavor and is available in both white and red varieties. White soybean paste is a more general version that can be used in almost every dish whereas red soybean paste is more commonly used in Korean dishes.
Try to find soybean paste brands that are as simple as possible and aren’t loaded down with artificial flavors and preservatives. Soybean paste doesn’t need these and especially not when being used as a substitute for miso paste.
You can use soybean paste in soups and stews, as a marinade for meats, as a dipping sauce, or even as a sandwich spread. It should be kept refrigerated and used within six months of being opened.
6. Vegetable Or Meat Stock Cubes
This substitution is a little more unusual and unexpected but can work very well. Miso paste is often used to add flavor to dishes such as soups and stir-fries and you can use vegetable or meat stock cubes for this purpose instead.
Simply crumble the cubes and add them to your dish. They won’t be able to fully replicate the flavor of miso powder unfortunately, but they will add some flavor that would otherwise be missing if the miso paste was not substituted at all.
These stock cubes usually include a little more salt than miso paste does so if you use them, don’t add any extra salt. Instead, taste your dish first and only add the salt if it is needed.
7. Miso Powder
The powdered version of miso has a long shelf life, so if you only use miso paste sporadically and don’t want to buy the paste because you won’t use it all, miso powder is a good option.
It’s very easy to turn into miso paste as well! All you need to do is mix the powder with water in equal measure. For example, one tablespoon of miso powder should be mixed with one tablespoon of water. Mix the two until you get a nice, smooth paste.
You can use this miso powder mix in exactly the same way as you do miso paste. One teaspoon of each should be enough to flavor a portion of miso soup.
8. Homemade Miso Paste
One final suggestion is that you can make your own version of miso paste. There are several recipes out there for miso paste but our favorite only requires four ingredients.
These are half a cup of soya beans, three teaspoons of dark molasses sugar (or dark sugar or honey), three teaspoons of soy sauce (or Worcestershire sauce), and one teaspoon of salt.
All you need to do is put all of your ingredients together in a food processor or blender. Blend everything until you get a smooth and even paste. You can adjust the flavor profile to your tastes by adding more soy sauce or salt if you wish. The result should smell and taste very similar to miso due to the high soybean content.
Your homemade miso paste should be stored in an airtight container and placed in the fridge. It’ll be good for two to three weeks and can be used as a straight substitution for miso paste whenever a recipe calls for it.
There are many other recipes out there for homemade miso paste so why not give them a try instead of buying miso paste itself?
Making your own is especially useful if miso paste isn’t readily available in your area or if you don’t use it very often. You can easily control how much miso paste you make and this will prevent waste.
In this article, we introduced the eight best miso paste substitutions. Miso paste is a very unique ingredient so finding an exact substitution that is universal is difficult, but there are several options that all work in their own way.
We also included a quick recipe to make your own homemade miso paste and some advice on how to use miso powder instead.
The 8 Best Miso Paste SubstitutesCourse: Sides
- Pick a recipe from the list above
- Click the recipe name and visit the website
- Collect the ingredients and cook the food
- Enjoy – don’t forget to leave a review
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