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Best Miso Substitutes

The 6 Best Miso Substitutes

Not everyone has miso in their home at all times, especially if you don’t do much cooking of Japanese dishes regularly. This ingredient is a staple in Japan and has a flavor that is difficult to replicate.

However, there are a few different seasonings and components that come close to the characteristics of authentic miso. If you are cooking a dish that includes miso and realize you don’t have any available, consider using one of the below options to create a delicious meal even without it.

What is miso

Miso is a fermented ingredient, just like soy sauce, and is created using soybeans. It also generally includes salts and other grains. There are many different varieties of miso that offer unique colors and strength of flavors.

Most miso contains grains, although there are a few that do not, which are ideal for gluten-free diets. Some are also free of soy, but this is also uncommon for this ingredient. Miso can be created at home, but there are also many options at the supermarket.

How healthy (or unhealthy) is it?

Miso is low calories and high protein with an umami flavor that fits all sorts of dishes. It also contains many minerals and includes folic acid, B vitamins, vitamin E, and vitamin K in large amounts.

Since miso is a fermented product, it also offers beneficial bacteria for the gut to help you stay happy and healthy. All in all, miso is a reasonably healthy item that can help you stay in good shape when using it in recipes.

Nutritional Breakdown

Miso

Amount (per 100 g)

% Recommended daily intake

Calories

43 g

2%

Total fat

6 g

7%

Saturated fat

1 g

7%

Cholesterol

0

0%

Protein

13 g

25%

Salt

3728 mg

196%

Carbohydrates

25 g

9%

Calcium

57 mg

6%

Iron

2 mg

11%

Potassium

210 mg

5%

(Based on nutritional information from USDA.)

What recipes are miso used in?

Many different recipes benefit from the use of miso, some of which may surprise you. Miso can be used in salad dressings, as well as several different soups to add extra flavor.

It can be used to make marinades for meats and vegetables or be used in stir-fries. Several different sauces can be made using miso and can also add an extra depth of flavor to onions on hamburgers or vegan alternatives to them.

Why do we need miso substitutes?

Since most people don’t keep miso in their kitchen, it’s common to require an alternative when cooking a dish that calls for it. There may also be situations where you would prefer to try experimenting with a recipe and want to use a miso substitute.

Those who are adhering to a diet without soy or gluten will also want to stay away from most forms of miso. Choosing an alternative without those ingredients will ensure you can enjoy the dish you are cooking.

Note:

🌱 = vegan


1. Soy sauce🌱

Best for: marinades, sauces, stews, noodles, and poultry.

Soy sauce

Soy sauce is similar to miso in that both of them are made using fermented ingredients. This means that they share some flavor characteristics with each other. Soy sauce is very flavorful and made of soybeans and white.

It’s also one of the most popular soy products on a global level. This sauce has been in use for more than a thousand years and continues to be popular today.

Advantages

Soy sauce has no animal products, which is a perk for vegetarians and vegans. While some of the miso substitutes do not use soy, soy does offer the best flavor option compared to miso. The two ingredients also have similar nutrients, but soy sauce typically has more salt than miso does.

Disadvantages

The disadvantage of choosing soy sauce for miso is that it’s a watery product, while miso is a paste. This means that it may not work well as a replacement for some recipes, while it does well with recipes for things like dressings and soups when the consistency isn’t as important. Since soy sauce has a large amount of sodium, it’s best to choose a different alternative if you are on a low sodium diet.

Nutritional breakdown

Soy sauce

Amount (per 100 g)

% Recommended daily intake

Calories

53 kcal

3%

Total fat

0.6 g

0.7%

Saturated fat

0.1 g

0.7%

Cholesterol

0

0%

Protein

8 g

16%

Salt

5493 mg

289%

Carbohydrates

5 g

2%

Calcium

33 mg

3%

Iron

1 mg

5%

Potassium

435 mg

11%

(Based on nutritional information from USDA.)

2. Tamari🌱

Best for: soups, marinades, dumplings, noodles, and fish.

Tamari is a liquid ingredient that is created through the process of making miso. It is thicker than soy sauce, which means it works well for making dipping sauces.

It is also more balanced in flavor than soy sauce, while being vegan and gluten-free for those with special diets. Tamari can be used right out of the bottle to add umami, salt, and nutrients to your favorite recipe.

Advantages

When compared to miso, tamari has the edge on dipping sauces as the salt is less pronounced. It also is convenient to use since you squeeze it out of a bottle and onto everything from tofu to noodles, fish, or dumplings. Tamari has a rich flavor that is more mellow than soy-based substitutions for miso. The thickness offers a better body that is present in miso.

Disadvantages

No ingredient used as a substitute is going to be perfect, and that applies to tamari as much as the other choices on this list. While it’s thicker in nature than soy sauce, it’s still a liquid, so it’s not going to have the same texture and feel of miso. When buying bottled tamari, you should also be aware that many of them contain excess salt. This can be a problem for those who limit their sodium intake.

Nutritional breakdown

Tamari

Amount (per 100 ml)

% Recommended daily intake

Calories

33 kcal

2%

Total fat

0 g

0%

Saturated fat

0 g

0%

Cholesterol

0 g

0%

Protein

0 g

0%

Salt

3067 mg

161%

Carbohydrates

7 g

3%

Calcium

0 mg

0%

Iron

0 mg

0%

Potassium

0 mg

0%

(Based on nutritional information from USDA.)

3. Tahini paste🌱

Best for: salad, hummus, turkey, gyros, and yogurt.

Tahini paste

Tahini is a paste that can substitute for miso and is created using ground sesame seeds. It’s a staple product in many areas, especially the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

This substitute for miso is gluten-free, vegan, and can easily be made on your own. It has a nutty flavor that is distinct from miso, but many people appreciate this difference. Store bought versions are also available and typically made of hulled sesame seeds.

Advantages

When using tahini paste, you get a product that both looks and works in much the same way as miso does. When it comes to the visual aspect of tahini paste and the way it combines in recipes, there are not many other options that offer the authenticity it does. Those who prefer a creamy and nutty flavor are likely to enjoy this product rather than the other substitutions that are often savory and saltier than tahini paste.

Disadvantages

As far as weaknesses go, tahini paste may look like miso, but it doesn’t taste the same. If you’re expecting that same flavor profile, you might be disappointed when the paste tastes more like a mild peanut butter. This means that if your recipe requires large amounts of miso, this might not be the substitution that you want to give a try.

Nutritional breakdown

Tahini paste

Amount (per 100 g)

% Recommended daily intake

Calories

3 kcal

0%

Total fat

54 g

65%

Saturated fat

8 g

53%

Cholesterol

0 g

0%

Protein

17 g

33%

Salt

115 mg

6%

Carbohydrates

21 g

8%

Calcium

426 mg

43%

Iron

9 mg

47%

Potassium

414 mg

10%

(Based on nutritional information from USDA.)


4. Salt

Best for: curry, broths, stocks, soups, and French fries.

Salt

If all you are looking for is the salty aspect that miso brings to the table, you can keep things simple by using salt as a substitute. As with other sauces that contain soy, miso offers a large amount of salt to brighten a dish.

While there are different flavors used in miso, those who are interested in a simple substitution can choose salt instead. It’s an inexpensive choice, and you likely already have a salt shaker or two in your kitchen that you can use for a quick meal.

Advantages

Those who want a quick substitution are going to want to go with salt instead of miso. Adding salt to a dish takes seconds at most and can add plenty of flavor to whatever you are making. Sea salt flakes can work well in many dishes and add a bit more pizazz to your cooking when having guests over to your home for dinner.

Disadvantages

Many people will find that using salt instead of miso results in less flavor for their dish. Unless you want a sole sodium flavor in the curry, stocks, and other dishes that you make, this may end up being a disappointing option. It is also not the best choice for anyone who is watching their sodium intake.

Nutritional breakdown

Salt

Amount (per 100 g)

% Recommended daily intake

Calories

0 kcal

0%

Total fat

0 g

0%

Saturated fat

0 g

0%

Cholesterol

0 g

0%

Protein

0 g

0%

Salt

39333 mg

2070%

Carbohydrates

0 g

0%

Calcium

0 mg

0%

Iron

0 mg

0%

Potassium

0 mg

0%

(Based on nutritional information from USDA.)

5. Vegetable stock🌱

Best for: soups, couscous, vegetables, pasta, and risotto.

Vegetable stock

Another alternative to miso that can be used in specific recipes is vegetable stock. Vegetable stock is a thin liquid that includes vegetables such as mushrooms, carrots, herbs, onions, celery, and parsley.

Homemade vegetable stock can be made by chopping up vegetables, covering them with water, and letting it simmer. There is also vegetable stock at grocery stores, which is more convenient and can save time.

Advantages

For those who are looking to create a soup that includes a small amount of miso, vegetable stock has a perfect texture to blend right in. While miso is a paste, the liquid of the vegetable stock won’t be a concern in a soup or other recipe like a stew. It also offers an excellent taste of vegetables and will have less salt than using miso would.

Disadvantages

While vegetable stock can work as a substitute for miso, it doesn’t work in most other dishes you create. The taste is not the same as miso, and its liquid consistency can be problematic if you need something to use as a thickener.

Nutritional breakdown

Vegetable stock

Amount (per 100 g)

% Recommended daily intake

Calories

6 kcal

0.3%

Total fat

0 g

0%

Saturated fat

0 g

0%

Cholesterol

0 mg

0%

Protein

0 g

0%

Salt

238 mg

13%

Carbohydrates

1 g

0.4%

Fiber

0 g

0%

Vitamin A

0 ug

0%

Vitamin E

0 ug

0%

(Based on nutritional information from USDA.)

6. Fish sauce 

Best for: stir fry, curry, sauces, pho, and dressings.

Fish sauce

A fish sauce is a simple miso substitute that is made of salt and fermented anchovies. It’s often used in Asia and can make a savory dish taste better, while also increasing the level of scent. As a miso substitute, it has the umami that works well with Asian dishes and other savory recipes you are looking to make.

Advantages

Fish sauce is a convenient option compared to miso as it is offered at most health food shops and supermarkets. In addition to that, it is often less expensive than miso so that you can get it on a budget. Fish sauce does not have grains, so it works for those who do not consume gluten and are not vegetarian or vegan. While the flavor isn’t entirely the same with fish sauce, it is similar enough that it works well in many situations.

Disadvantages

As you can see from the nutritional breakdown, fish sauce contains a large amount of salt. Anyone who is watching their sodium intake will likely want to choose a different substitute. It also is not vegan, so those who do not eat fish will want to select a different miso substitution.

Nutritional breakdown

Fish sauce

Amount (per 100 ml)

% Recommended daily intake

Calories

100 kcal

5%

Total fat

0 g

0%

Saturated fat

0 g

0%

Cholesterol

0 g

0%

Protein

0 g

0%

Salt

7600 mg

400%

Carbohydrates

0 g

0%

Fiber

0 g

0%

Vitamin A

0 ug

0%

Vitamin E

0 ug

0%

(Based on nutritional information from USDA.)

The Bottom Line

Miso is a popular ingredient for a variety of dishes, but it also isn’t common in most people’s kitchen. Thankfully, the many miso substitutes out there provide you with plenty of options if you’re out of miso or prefer to try something similar.

None of these substitutions are going to be precisely the same as miso, but some of them come close. Others are ideal when you want to try something new.

Top vegan picks

Many of the alternatives for miso are vegan, so you have a variety of choices available. As far as recommendations go, either soy sauce or tahini paste is likely to be the best option.

Soy sauce is convenient since most people already have it in their kitchen. While tahini paste is less common, it works well in soups that require only small amounts of miso. Tamari is an alternative that can be used for many different recipes.

Top healthy picks

Vegetable stock and tahini paste are the healthiest options when choosing a miso substitute. Stocks without excessive salt have many nutrients and can be beneficial to your health.

Tahini paste is also an excellent option as it has many nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. It doesn’t have a massive amount of calories, fat, or salt, so it easily works as a healthy substitute for miso.

Top convenient picks

Salt is the most suitable choice when looking for a miso substitute since it’s likely already in your kitchen. All you have to do is shake some into your recipe and move on to the rest of the steps. You could also consider vegetable stock from the store a convenient option, although salt is still the top alternative.

Top convincing picks

Every ingredient is different, and none are going to 100% replicate what miso offers. However, some have the chops to provide the same texture or flavor of miso and will be the closest to what you are looking for. As far as taste goes, tamari and soy sauce are two of the best choices.

Sources:

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/health-benefits-miso

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/is-soy-sauce-bad-for-you

https://www.thespruceeats.com/what-is-tamari-3376809

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