Miso paste is a traditional Japanese seasoning made from soybeans that have been fermented with salt and a type of fungus called koji. It is commonly used in soups, marinades, and sauces to add a savory, umami flavor to dishes. However, miso paste can be difficult to find in some areas, or you may simply be out of it when you need it for a recipe. In such cases, it can be helpful to know some good substitutes for miso paste.
Miso paste can be white, red, or brown. They have slightly different tastes but can be used interchangeably.
The Best Miso Paste Substitutes
Soy sauce is often considered the best substitute for miso paste. It has a similar saltiness and umami flavor, and can be used in a 1:1 ratio as a replacement. While soy sauce doesn’t have the same fermentation flavor as miso, it can still add a rich, savory flavor to dishes. Be aware that soy sauce is often sweeter and less complex than miso so it may not have the same depth of flavor.
Another commonly used substitute for miso paste is Worcestershire sauce. It also has a similar umami flavor, and can be used in a 1:1 ratio as a replacement. However, Worcestershire sauce has a distinct flavor of its own, with a strong anchovy and tamarind taste. It can be a great substitute if you want to add a unique twist to your dish.
Fish sauce is another umami-rich alternative to miso paste. It is a staple in Southeast Asian cuisine and is made from fermented fish or shellfish. Fish sauce can be used to add a similar depth of flavor as miso paste, but should be used in smaller quantities as it can be quite strong. It can also be used to add a salty, fishy flavor to dishes, which might not be desirable in some cases.
A chili paste commonly used in Indonesian and Malaysian cooking called Sambal Oelek, can be used as a substitute for the saltiness and umami flavor of miso paste, but it will add a spicy kick to the dish. If you want to add a little heat to your dish, sambal oelek can be a great option.
Tahini, a paste made from ground sesame seeds, is another substitute that can be used for the nutty and creamy taste of miso paste. It can be used in small quantities to provide a similar depth of flavor. Tahini has a distinct flavor of its own so it’s important to use it in small quantities to not overpower the dish.
Another substitute for miso paste is a combination of soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sugar. This combination can create a similar salty, savory and slightly sweet flavor to miso paste. The ratio of soy sauce to rice vinegar to sugar can be adjusted to taste.
While miso paste is a unique and flavorful ingredient, several substitutes can be used to achieve a similar taste and texture. Soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce, sambal oelek, tahini, and a combination of soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sugar are all great options. It’s important to keep in mind that each substitute will have its own distinct flavor profile, so it’s best to experiment with small amounts until you find the right balance for your dish.
Ways to Use Miso Paste
- Soups: Miso paste is a common ingredient in Japanese miso soup, which is made by dissolving the paste in dashi (a broth made from fish and seaweed) and adding tofu and green onions. Miso soup is a comforting and healthy dish that can be enjoyed as a starter or a light meal. You can also use miso paste to make other types of soups, such as ramen or gazpacho, for added depth of flavor.
- Marinades and sauces: Miso paste can be used as a marinade for meats, fish, and vegetables. It can also be used to make sauces for dipping, glazes for grilled meats, or as a dressing for salads. The enzymes in the miso paste can also help to break down the proteins in the food, making it more tender.
- Stir-Fries: Miso paste can be added to stir-fries for a delicious and savory flavor. You can use it as a base for a sauce and add other ingredients such as soy sauce, sake, or mirin. It can also be used to add depth of flavor to vegetables or meat.
- Salad Dressings: Miso paste can be used to make a delicious salad dressing. Mix it with rice vinegar, sake, and sesame oil to create a simple yet flavorful dressing.
- Desserts: Miso paste can be used in sweet dishes too, such as ice cream, cookies, or cheesecake. It adds a unique depth of flavor and can be used in small quantities to create a balance of sweet and savory.
- Grilled Foods: Miso paste can be used as a baste for grilled foods. It can be mixed with honey, sake, and soy sauce and brushed on meats, fish or vegetables before grilling.
- Noodle Dishes: Miso paste can be added to noodle dishes for added depth of flavor. Mix it with dashi, soy sauce, and sake to make a simple yet delicious broth for udon or soba noodles.
- Dip and Spreads: Mixing miso paste with mayo or sour cream can make an interesting dip or spread. It can be added to cream cheese or butter to make a flavorful spread.
- Fried Foods: Mixing miso paste with flour and coating chicken or fish with it before frying creates a crispy and flavorful crust.
- Vegetables: Adding a small amount of miso paste to roasted or steamed vegetables can enhance their flavor and add a depth of umami.
When using miso paste, it’s important to remember that a little goes a long way. It is a very strong and pungent flavor, so it is best to start with small amounts and gradually add more to taste. Miso paste can also be mixed with other ingredients such as soy sauce, sake, or mirin to balance out its strong flavor. Miso paste can be found in most Asian grocery stores and some supermarkets. It can also be stored in the refrigerator for several months and can be used as needed. With a little creativity, miso paste can be used in a wide variety of dishes, adding depth of flavor and umami to any meal.