I personally taste-tested a variety of dashi powder substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion. Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or want a swap that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
The best substitute for dashi powder is making your own dashi. You can use a traditional recipe with bonito flakes and kombu, or use other ingredients like dried shiitake mushrooms or dried anchovies. If you’re using dashi powder as a flavor enhancer, try MSG powder or bouillon cubes.
I made small batches of this soba noodle soup (it’s delicious btw) to test different dashi powder substitutes.
Dashi powder, also called “instant dashi,” is the powdered or granulated form of the classic Japanese soup stock. The most common way to use dashi powder is to dissolve it in water to make a stock or soup base, but you can also use it as a flavor enhancer.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Homemade Awase Dashi||1 cup dashi powder broth = 2 cup homemade dashi||10/10|
|Bonito Flakes||1 tsp dashi powder = 1/2 cup bonito flakes, packed||8/10|
|Dried Shiitake Mushrooms||1 tsp dashi powder = 1 1/2 pieces of dried shiitake mushrooms||8/10|
|Dried Anchovies||1 tsp dashi powder = 1/8 cup dried anchovies||8/10|
|Bouillon Cubes/Powder||1 tsp dashi powder = 1/2 tsp boullion||7/10|
|MSG Powder||Start with 1/2 the amount, add to taste||7/10|
Nothing beats the convenience of dashi powder, but did you know making it from scratch is pretty straightforward? You need bonito flakes and kombu, but both these ingredients are easy to find. If you can’t find them in your regular food store, look in an Asian grocery store (they might be cheaper here too).
After gathering the ingredients, you simply need to boil the kombu and bonito flakes before straining them. The leftover liquid is your homemade dashi!
Psst… make extra and freeze it so you always have some to hand.
How to Substitute: Replace 1 cup of dashi powder broth with 1 cup of homemade dashi.
Bonito flakes, also known as katsuobushi, are dried, smoked, and fermented skipjack tuna. These processes infuse the flakes with so much flavor and umami that you can use them on their own to make a base stock in place of dashi powder.
Alternatively, you can add the flakes whole into whatever you’re cooking. Or grind them up into a powder and then use them in exactly the same way as dashi powder.
How to Substitute: Replace 1 tsp dashi powder with 1/2 cup bonito flakes.
Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
Dried shiitake mushrooms make a great vegan or vegetarian substitute for dashi powder. They won’t give you the same briny notes as dashi powder, but shiitake mushrooms are jam-packed with earthy, umami goodness that will add depth and complexity to your dishes.
You can use them in two ways. The first is by soaking the mushrooms in hot water, to create a delicious broth. This was what I did for my soba noodles.
The second method is to blitz the mushrooms with a bit of salt, creating dried shiitake powder. You can sprinkle this over anything — from soups to stews, and even stir-fries.
How to Substitute: Replace 1 tsp dashi powder with 1 1/2 pieces of dried shiitake mushrooms.
Anchovies are naturally rich in glutamates, and drying them further intensifies their umami punch, making them a suitable substitute for dashi powder.
Like with dried shiitake mushrooms and bonito flakes, you can turn these little fish into a quick stock by boiling them with water. Or you can grind them into a powder to use as an instant flavor enhancer, just like dashi powder.
Dried anchovies are widely available in Asian grocery stores – you might see them labeled as iriko and niboshi, but you can use either. And I like to remove the heads and guts of the anchovies because these have a bitter taste.
Psst… if you can’t find dried anchovies you can also use anchovy paste. It’s made from fresh anchovies but still has lots of umami.
How to Substitute: Replace 1 tsp dashi powder with 1/8 cup dried anchovies.
If you’re all about convenience, you can’t go wrong replacing dashi powder with bouillon cubes or powder.
I highly recommend sticking with vegetable or fish bouillon cubes when substituting dashi powder. The beef variety is too rich and meaty and will quickly overpower any delicate flavors in your dish. Chicken is better, but it can still be slightly too potent.
I would also use less than the amount of dashi powder called for to start with, then add more to taste. Dashi is a subtle flavor and you don’t need much bouillon powder to match it.
Pro tip: Go for a low-sodium option if you can.
How to Substitute: Replace 1 tsp of dashi powder with 1/2 tsp boullion powder.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) often gets a bad rep for being unhealthy, but did you know the Food and Drug Administration has recognized it to be safe?
On its own, MSG has a salty flavor, but when you mix it into your dish you can’t taste that saltiness. Instead, it boosts all the other flavors and gives the dish a deeper, more savory flavor. Which is exactly what dashi powder does! All you’re missing is the hint of brine.
The MSG definitely lifted my soba noodle soup to another level.
How to Substitute: Replace 1 tsp dashi powder with ½ the amount of MSG powder, and add more to taste.
Substitutes To Avoid
I don’t recommend using anything like soy sauce or fish sauce to replace dashi powder.
These condiments do have some umami qualities to them, but they’re also a lot stronger than dashi and can drown out the other ingredients. This is especially true if the recipe already calls for some soy sauce or fish sauce. Adding double isn’t a good idea!
Best Dashi Powder Substitutes + What To Avoid
- 1 cup homemade awase dashi
- 1/2 cup bonito flakes
- 1 1/2 pieces dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1/8 cup dried anchovies
- 1/4 bouillon cube
- 1 cup low-sodium broth
- 1/2 tsp MSG powder, add more to taste
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen dashi powder substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.