Miso paste is a fermented paste, often made using soybeans. It is a staple ingredient in a lot of Japanese and Asian dishes. It is incredibly savory and salty, often described as adding an umami flavor to any dishes it is included in.
There are a number of different types of miso paste, so it is important to research your dish to ensure you purchase the correct one for your intended use.
If you cannot get your hands on miso for any reason, we have compiled a list of the top 10 substitutes that you might just have lying about your pantry.
While it may not seem like the most obvious substitution, anchovy paste and miso paste share a lot of the same flavor notes, especially the umami tone that they supply.
In a number of recipes, miso paste is named as a good vegan substitute for anchovy paste.
Both substances have a similar texture too, making the substitution even more of a breeze. It is important to pay attention to the fat content of the paste, as anchovy paste is prone to being quite oily which could adversely impact your dish.
This can be used in equal quantities to the miso paste that the recipe calls for.
This is a type of strongly-flavored broth with a deep and complex flavor profile. The main flavor notes are fish and salt, but these are more muted than some of the other substitutes in this list.
Dashi is made by combining bonito fish flakes and dried kelp with water to produce an amber-colored broth. This works well as a miso paste substitute, but pay attention to the textural differences.
Dashi is a thin liquid and so will not work in all recipes that call for miso paste. Pay close attention to the other liquids in your recipe to prevent making it overly watery.
Again, this can be used as a direct substitute for miso paste.
Fermented Black Beans
This is also referred to as Douchi, and is a staple in Chinese cooking. Black beans are fermented in a similar manner to soybeans to produce the Douchi.
The flavor profile of the resultant paste is very similar to that of miso, although the texture is much coarser.
Fish sauce is a staple ingredient in many Asian dishes and you may well have a bottle in the cupboard or pantry if you cook Asian cuisine regularly.
There are a number of similarities to soy sauce in terms of flavor, and this too will add umami notes to your food.
Fish sauce also undergoes a process of fermentation, making it even more similar in taste to miso paste. This is a great substitute for people with gluten or soy allergies without needing to compromise on the flavor.
It is a very strongly flavored sauce. If your recipe calls for a tablespoon of miso paste you should substitute ½ teaspoon of fish sauce. You can always add more to taste.
Salt seems like too simple of a substitution to even consider. Sometimes though, it is the simplest things that are the most useful.
Everyone has salt on hand in their home, meaning that it is unlikely you will ever be out of it.
The issue with salt compared to the other substitution suggestions is that salt imparts no additional flavors to your dish, which could leave it tasting as though it is lacking depth.
You should be careful with the substitution to avoid over-salting your dish. We recommend beginning with ½ teaspoon of salt for each teaspoon of miso paste your recipe calls for.
Soybean Paste (Doenjang)
This is an ingredient that is commonly found in Korean cuisine. This is a fairly similar texture and consistency to miso paste, making it an easy-to-use substitute.
The issue with Doenjang is that it can be even harder to locate than miso paste. It is also very high in salt when compared to miso paste, and it can be very easy to over-season your food.
We advise halving the quantity of miso paste that the recipe calls for when substituting for Doenjang. This means that if your recipe calls for 1 tablespoon miso paste, you will use ½ tablespoon Doenjang.
Tahini is a sesame seed paste popular in Mediterranean cuisine and one of the most vital ingredients in hummus. It is a rich and creamy sauce that adds immeasurable depth and complexity of flavor to any dish it is used in.
The flavor profile of tahini is not hugely close to that of miso paste. This means that it works best as a substitute when your recipe only calls for small quantities of miso paste.
If your recipe is miso flavored, you will not achieve the same results using tahini instead.
Tamari (Or Soy Sauce)
Tamari is a gluten-free version of soy sauce. Both of these products are produced through the fermentation of soybeans. This lends them a very similar flavor profile to miso paste.
Tamari is slightly lower in salt than soy sauce, and so seasoning levels may need adjusting depending on which substance you opt for.
Tamari also has a slightly thicker consistency than soy sauce, making it easier to substitute for miso paste. It is recommended that you halve the quantities the recipe calls for of miso paste when substituting for tamari.
Tomato paste is another of those substitutions that sounds odd, but trust us, it works! Tomato paste is an easily accessible substitute with similar notes of richness, acidity, and savoriness.
You should bear in mind that the color of tomato paste could cause your overall dish to become discolored, particularly if you are adding large quantities of it.
Some people like to combine their tomato paste with a little soy sauce for a more accurate imitation of miso paste.
Vegetable stock is a staple store cupboard ingredient in almost every home.
The flavor profile is not a close match to miso paste, but it is similar enough to work in a pinch. You can substitute vegetable stock directly for miso paste.
There are 2 main considerations to take into account with this substitution: the salt content and the consistency. Stock is very liquid, and so it can change the overall consistency of your dish, especially if you are using large quantities.
It is also a very salty liquid, and you should be prepared to dial back the additional seasonings in your dish to counteract this.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where Do I Find Miso Paste?
Miso paste is typically not too hard to locate. Many large grocery stores will stock it, either in their world food aisle or in the refrigerated section.
If you cannot find it here, you will be able to stock up on it at any Asian grocery store.
When buying miso paste we recommended looking for one that does not contain stabilizers or preservatives. There are a number of different types of miso paste, and it is important to choose the right one for your recipe.
How Do You Store Miso?
As miso is a fermented food, it holds up very well in storage. It is advised to store miso in the refrigerator in the container that you purchased it in.
Provided that you seal the container tightly, your miso paste should keep for up to a year without deterioration in quality.
Lighter varieties of miso will begin to turn before the darker varieties, as they are less fermented. Miso paste is prone to oxidation (the process that turns the flesh of cut apples brown) and can become discolored during storage.
To prevent this, we recommend placing a sheet of plastic wrap on the exposed surface of the miso paste before sealing with the lid.
Is Miso Good For You?
Yes, miso paste has a number of positive health impacts. It is relatively low in calories and fat and contains decent amounts of manganese, copper, zinc, and Vitamin K.
It is also a source of B vitamins, iron, calcium, magnesium, choline, phosphorus, and selenium.
Soybean miso paste is a complete protein source. This is because soybeans contain all of the essential amino acids required for optimal health.
The fermentation process that the miso paste undergoes also means that the resultant product contains a lot of probiotics, important bacteria to retain the health of your gut microbiome.