What Is Miso?
Miso is Japanese fermented food made from soybean, malted cereals (koji), and salt. It’s used as seasonings for various kind of dishes such as soup, stir-fried dish, stews.
The taste differ depending on the types of miso, and is usually salty. But some of them have sweet taste.
Interested in learning more about miso?
What Is Miso and Is It Healthy?
[Ultimate Guide] Different Types of Miso
What’s the Difference Between White Miso and Red Miso?
Seasoning Substitute for Miso
1. Soy sauce
Soy sauce is also fermented food made from soybean and koji just like miso, so it becomes good substitute. The flavor of soy sauce is a little different from miso, but it definitely gives you genuine Japanese style flavor.
When you want to make miso soup (or even other miso dishes), but are run out of miso, please use soy sauce instead of miso. To prevent making too salty dish, add soy sauce little by little while tasting it.
Mentsuyu is Japanese seasoning mostly used as noodle soup base. (Noodles are, for example, soba, udon, and somen.) It’s a mixture of dashi (made from dried bonito, dried small sardines, or kelp), soy sauce, mirin and sugar. There are similar seasonings called Hontsuyu or Kombutsuyu.
Mentsuyu can be made from scratch at home but just buying the bottle of mentsuyu makes the cooking much easier since it already contains dashi and other seasonings.
Mentsuyu has more complex flavor than only soy sauce because it has umami and koku from dashi (stock), mirin, and sugar, so it can be great substitute for miso. I recommend to use it for not only soup but any kind of dishes such as stir-fried dish, stews, and even for salad.
I think you can get it at some Asian store in your country or online store.
When you search online, please search for the following:
Shiro-dashi is Japanese seasoning made from dashi (made from dried bonito, dried small sardines, or kelp), light-colored soy sauce, mirin and sugar. So it can be said that shiro-dashi is “a clear version of mentsuyu”. (Shiro means “white” by the way.)
Because it’s clear yellow in color, it’s suitable for making food that you don’t want to make brown in color, for example, noodle soup and dashi roll egg (Japanese-style rolled omelette).
Anyway, this seasoning is also great substitute for miso. You can use it for all kinds of dishes including soup, stir-fried dish, and stews.
You can search for “shiro dashi” when you buy it online.
Note for both mentsuyu and shiro-dashi: Their sweetness and saltiness vary depending on manufacturer, so adjust the amount of those seasonings to your liking.
Make Miso Substitute from Scratch
You can actually make miso substitute at home so easy. Prepare the following seasonings, and just mix them.
・1 Tbsp Soy sauce
・1 Tbsp Mirin (or 1 Tsp Sugar)
・1 Tbsp Sake (or 1 Tbsp White wine)
・1 Tbsp Roasted soybean flour (Kinako)*
・A pinch of salt
*By adding kinako, the texture will be more like miso, but if you can’t find any it’s fine to omit it.
When You Have Just A Little Shortage of Miso
When you realize that you have just a little shortage of miso during cooking, you can add the following seasonings:
Basically miso is salty seasoning, so adding a little bit of salt is recommended when you have shortage of miso. Add a pinch of salt after putting all the miso, then add more salt little by little while tasting it.
2. Soy sauce
As well as salt, you can add soy sauce little by little after putting all the miso. Soy sauce is pair wonderfully with miso because they are both fermented food made from soybean and koji.
3. Soy sauce + Mirin
By adding both soy sauce and mirin, the dish can get more complex flavor and become mild.
If you like sweet taste, please add more mirin.
4. Soy sauce + Mirin + Sugar
Although I think it’s a rare case, if you have a little shortage of sweet white miso, you can add sugar too.