I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of miso paste substitutes to find the best one for every cooking or baking occasion.
Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or seeking an alternative tailored to your specific dietary requirements, rest assured that I’ve got you covered.
Soy sauce is the most accessible substitute for miso paste, while Tamari is a good option if you’re dealing with gluten sensitivities. If you’re avoiding soybeans, try using coconut aminos or fish sauce instead. If you’re making miso soup, try and get hold of chickpea miso.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I made small batches of chicken noodle soup to try different miso paste substitutes.
Miso paste is made from fermented soybeans with a peanut butter-like consistency and a salty, umami flavor that’ll elevate your dishes.
There are different types of miso paste, but the general rule is the lighter-colored varieties have a less intense flavor with a hint of sweetness, while the darker miso has a punchier, in-your-face taste.
Nothing can truly replace miso paste but I found plently of substitutes that will bring a similar umami flair.
Here are the substitutes I tested and the verdicts:
|How to Substitute
|Replace in a 1:1 ratio
|Use 1/2 the amount
|Use 1/2 the amount
|Use 1/2 the amount
|Replace 1 tbsp miso paste with 1/4 tbsp miso paste
|Replace in a 1:1 ratio for small amounts
|Replace with 1/4 the amount
|Replace with 1/2 the amount
Common uses for miso paste
Here are some popular ways to use miso paste and the best substitutes for those situations:
- For miso soup: Try using strained doenjang. It will taste earthier and saltier, so you may need to tweak the salt in your recipe. Or chickpea miso for a soy-free alternative.
- For marinades, glazes, and vinaigrettes: Try using soy sauce, doenjang, tamari, or coconut aminos.
- For stir-fries, soups, and stews: Try using soy sauce. Tamari and coconut aminos are great gluten-free options. You can also use fish sauce if you’re not cooking for those on a plant-based diet.
- For baked goods: Try using marmite or tahini.
If the reason you’re avoiding miso paste is because you have a soy allergy – chickpea miso is here to save the day.
You can make it yourself with this recipe, but it takes 6 months…
Not practical I know. But luckily it is becoming more common now in stores – although it’s not cheap.
Psst… this is the only substitute that will really work for miso soup (apart from doenjang, but this isn’t soy free).
How to substitute: replace miso paste in a 1:1 ratio with chickpea miso
Soy sauce is the easiest swap for miso paste (you can also use miso paste instead of soy sauce). It’s available anywhere, and you probably already have a bottle in your cupboard!
True to its name, it’s also made from fermented soy and will give your dishes that coveted umami kick.
The downside is that it has a more liquid consistency than miso, but it didn’t matter much in my chicken noodle soup.
You can stick with regular soy sauce, which is mainly salty and one-dimensional.
Or you can try other kinds like dark soy sauce for a hint of sweetness reminiscent of white miso paste.
Psst… go with a low-sodium version if you’re watching your salt intake!
How to substitute: replace miso paste with 1/ the amount of soy sauce
You can usually find tamari listed under soy sauce substitutes as a gluten-free option, but it also works as a miso paste alternative!
It’s basically the by-product of creating miso paste, so they aren’t strangers at all.
The catch with tamari is it isn’t as salty as miso, but this is easy to fix with some extra salt!
It has a rich, umami flavor with a subtle sweetness that worked like a charm to deepen my chicken noodle soup’s flavor.
How to substitute: replace miso paste with 1/2 the amount of tamari
Coconut aminos is another soy sauce substitute that doubles as a miso paste alternative for those allergic to soybeans.
As well as being soybean free it’s also gluten-free and vegan. Win-win!
It’s made from fermented coconut sap, but don’t let the name fool you – it doesn’t taste like coconuts.
Instead, it has a mildly salty flavor with a hint of sweetness, somewhat like white miso paste.
The only caveat with coconut aminos is it’s pricier, but I think it’s a worthy trade-off if you have dietary restrictions.
How to substitute: replace miso paste with 1/2 the amount of coconut aminos
Fish sauce is another simple substitute for miso paste.
It’s chock-full of umami goodness, with a similar funky twist to miso paste because it’s also fermented.
But here’s the catch – fish sauce is a lot saltier than miso paste and has a very potent flavor.
You only need a little bit! And I also added a spritz of lemon juice along with my fish sauce to brighten the flavor.
Pro tip: if you want to mimic red miso paste’s texture and appearance, try mixing fish sauce with pureed garbanzos (chickpeas) and tomato paste.
How to substitute: replace 1 tbsp miso paste with 1/4 tbsp fish sauce
Anchovy paste is another solid alternative if you’re allergic to soybeans and don’t mind eating seafood.
It’s made from anchovies, which are naturally packed with umami goodness.
And salty from the sea – like fish sauce this substitute was saltier than miso paste so you should use less.
If you can’t find anchovy paste, you can easily make some by mashing up whole anchovies. They’re super soft and easy to mash.
How to substitute: replace 1 tbsp miso paste with 1/4 tbsp anchovy paste and add more to taste
Marmite is often paired with toast, but this yeast spread also works as a miso paste substitute!
It may not be universally adored, but it has extra salty, umami notes, making it a good flavor enhancer.
A trick I found to take it closer to miso paste’s texture is mixing it with canned refried beans, a dash of honey, and a splash of beer.
It worked out pretty nicely in my chicken noodle soup, but I think Marmite alone would’ve done the job too.
How to substitute: replace miso paste in your recipe with 1/ the amount of marmite
Tahini is a creamy paste made from ground sesame seeds.
It has a slightly bitter, nutty undertone that mirrors the rich umami taste of miso. But it lacks the fermented, salty flavor profile.
To make it an even closer match for miso paste, mix in a splash of soy sauce.
Pro tip: be mindful of replacing large amounts of mico with tahini, because the nutty flavor can become quite promiment and might not go with your dish.
How to substitute: replace miso paste in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with tahini (if it’s a small amount less than 2 tbsp)
Other substitutes to consider
The suggestions above are my top picks for miso paste substitutes, but here are other alternatives you can consider:
- Miso powder- this basically freeze-dried then pulverized miso paste. You can add it straight to your dishes or mix it with a splash of water to form a paste. The only reason it’s not high up on the list is it can be tricky to find.
- Doenjang – this is a Korean condiment made from fermented soy beans, but its funkier than miso paste. It’s a brilliant sub, but if you can’t find miso paste it’s unlikely to will be able to find this!
- Sweet bean paste– this Chinese condiment is made from fermented soybeans, like miso paste. It’s packed with umami and has a similar salty flavor but with a more prominent sweetness.
- Umeboshi paste – this has a salty flavor like miso paste but with a prominent tangy kick. It may not be applicable for all dishes.
- Salt – miso will add saltiness to your dish, and amping the salt in your recipe is an easy way to bump up the flavor. The only downside is it won’t add umami to your dish and you can easily add too much.
- Other flavor enhancers – if all you’re after is an umami boost, there’s a whole host of other condiments loaded with it! Try Worcestershire, hoisin sauce, MSG, mushroom powder, or even tomato paste.
- Homemade miso paste – you can definitely make your own miso paste if you’re looking for a fun DIY project. It’s not a quick process because it involves fermentation– this recipe from Princess Bamboo requires a 6 month wait before you can use it.
Substitutes to avoid
I tried loads of suggestions for miso paste substitutes, but not all of them made my list! Here are three that didn’t will work ut only in very
If you’re making a soup or a stew that requires a miso base – then you can replace some of the stock with ready made miso soup, a very hearty vegetable broth, or dashi.
This will give the soup or stew a small dose of umami. But you’ll probably still have to add one of the other substitutes above for a fuller flavor.
Especially with dashi or vegetable stock which tend to be pretty light.
And if your dish isn’t a soup and doesn’t need much liquid – these substitutes are useless!
Can I use different miso pastes interchangeably?
You can use different types of miso pastes interchangeably, but it’s important to note that they each have unique flavors and saltiness levels.
White miso (shiro miso) is milder and sweeter, making it suitable for lighter soups, marinades, and dressings.
Red miso (aka miso) is fermented for longer, resulting in a deeper, saltier, and more complex flavor profile. It’s great for heartier dishes.
There’s also yellow miso (shinshu Mmso) which falls in between the two in terms of flavor intensity.
If you’re substituting one for another, you may need to adjust the quantity used. For example use less red miso in the place of white miso. And consider adding less salt.
15 BEST Miso Paste Substitutes + 3 To Avoid
- 1 kg soy beans
- 1 kg rice koji
- 400 grams salt
- 100 grams water
- Soak the soy beans overnight, then boil them in water for 2-3 hours. You can also use a pressure cooker.
- Once the soy beans are cooked and tender, drain them (save the bean water) and blitz them into a paste.
- Set aside 2-3 tbsp of salt. In a large clean bowl, mix rice koji and and the rest of the salt. Add in 2-3 tbsp of bean water to moisten the mixture.
- Mix the soybean paste and koji and salt mixture well. Shape into a ball and make sure it has no air. Pack the mixture into a container and sprinkle the surface with the remaining salt.
- Put the weight on top of the container, cover with paper, and let it sit in a cool, dark place for 6 months.
- After fermentation, transfer into a sterilized jar and keep in the fridge.