Are you curious about the subtle umami flavor in Japanese cuisine?
Well, it could be due to a powder known as dashi, which is made from seaweed and dried fish.
If you’re looking to make food with a delicious depth of flavor without overcomplicating your ingredients list, then mastering the art of using dashi powder might just be the answer.
It can be tricky to make food with dashi, so let’s take a look at how to use it — and the five best substitutes for when things don’t go exactly as planned.
What’s Dashi Powder?
Dashi is a traditional Japanese dish that’s made by boiling fish or seaweed with kombu (seaweed) or katsuobushi (dried smoked bonito flakes).
The resulting savory liquid is used to make miso soups, noodle dishes, and as a base for many of the other flavorings used in Japanese cooking.
Dashi powder is a concentrated form of this liquid that contains the same flavors and is used as a quick way to add flavor to dishes.
When it comes to using dashi powder, there are a few key points to consider.
The powder can be added directly to hot liquid with minimal additional seasoning, which makes it an ideal way to add flavor without adding additional calories.
It’s especially useful when making soups and stews, where it adds depth while also providing an umami (savory) finish.
It’s also important to note that dashi powder can be quite salty on its own — so use sparingly if needed or dilute with water for a lighter touch.
The 5 Best Substitutes for Dashi Powder
It has a powerful umami flavor that adds depth to many Japanese dishes such as soups and stews.
But, if you don’t have it on hand, there are several alternatives that can provide similar flavor profiles.
Here are five great substitutes for dashi powder:
1 – Chicken Stock Powder
Chicken stock powder is an excellent substitute for dashi powder in most cooking applications.
This can be used in soups and sauces, as well as in stocks for sushi rolls.
It often has a more intense flavor and bolder aroma than dashi powder, so it should be used sparingly.
For general-purpose cooking, chicken stock powder can be swapped out for dashi powder in a 1:1 ratio.
However, if you’re making something like beef stew or curry, it might not have quite enough of the smoky infusion needed to bring out all of the layers of flavor.
In that case, adjust the ratio according to taste by adding more or less depending on the desired intensity of flavor.
2 – Dried Bonito Shavings
The second best substitute for dashi powder is dried bonito shavings.
These shavings are made from smoked, dried skipjack or katsuo tuna.
The flavor of the bonito shavings gives a similarly savory Umami-rich taste as dashi powder, but it’s not as potent and will require you to use more of it.
When using these shavings, the dried flakes must be brewed in hot water before use in recipes.
You can find bonito flakes on the shelves of most Asian grocery stores and online.
To get a strong flavored dashi stock, simmer the flakes for at least 30 minutes.
For a subtler flavor, reduce the cooking time to 15 minutes or less.
3 – Dried Shiitake Mushroom Soup Stock
Dried shiitake mushroom soup stock is a great substitute for dashi powder.
It can be found in most health foods stores and specialty Asian food stores.
The flavor of this substitute is subtle and very mild in comparison to dashi powder, but it does have a nice umami flavor.
The preparation of dried mushroom soup stock is easy and quick—simply add a few tablespoons of the powdered mix to boiling water, stir until dissolved, and voila.
you have a delicious broth that can be used in your favorite recipes as asubstitute for dashi powder.
This substitute also has the advantage of being gluten-free and vegan friendly.
For those looking for an even simpler solution, check out our instant shiitake broth packets (available at most Asian grocery stores).
These packets are pre-made with dried shiitake mushrooms and mixed with spices to give your dish a distinct umami flavor.
Simply add the packet straight into your soup or stewing liquid — no need to boil first.
4 – Mentsuyu
Mentsuyu is a popular alternative to dashi powder, as it already contains bonito extract.
Mentsuyu is a multi-purpose condiment used in Japanese cuisine commonly used to make soups like ramen and udon.
Mentsuyu consists of a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, mirin (Think sweet Sake), and kombu(kelp) extract.
It also contains bonito flakes like Dashi powder and should be used in the same amount unless you very particularly enjoy an intense umami flavor.
It has a nice savory balance between the sweetness of the mirin, tangy soy sauce and savoriness of the bonito flakes.
You may find it sold both as a concentrated paste or in liquid form, either way, it can be utilized as an effective substitute for dashi powder in many recipes.
When substituting dashi powder with mentsuyu always cut down on other salts added since mentsuyu already contains sodium from its ingredients.
5 – Kombu Powder
Kombu powder is made from dried and ground kombu, a type of edible seaweed from the species Laminaria japonica.
It has a subtle flavor and is often used as a seasoning or stock base in many dishes.
It’s rich in essential minerals such as calcium, iodine, magnesium, and iron.
As a powder form, it’s easier to measure and incorporates into dishes easily, but still offers the same nutritional benefits as whole kombu.
Kombu powder makes a great substitute for dashi powder because of its mild yet distinct flavor profile.
When substituting with this ingredient, use 1 teaspoon of kombu powder for every 1 tablespoon of dashi powder called for in your recipe.
In conclusion, Dashi powder is a flavorful and versatile ingredient that can be used to make delicious Japanese dishes.
While it is not always possible to find this ingredient in regular grocery stores, there are several good substitutes available that can provide the same umami flavor and depth of taste.
Common substitutes for dashi powder include seaweed flakes, bonito flakes, miso paste, vegetable broth and anchovy paste.
No matter which ingredient you decide to use as a dashi substitute, you can be assured that your recipes will still turn out delicious and flavorful.
Each of these ingredients has its own distinctive flavor profile and can be used to create an array of dishes with just the right amount of umami taste.