Not all Instant Dashi brands are bad: how to pick the right one

                by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  December 20, 2020

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Dashi is a Japanese soup stock or cooking stock used in a variety of Japanese dishes.

This liquid stock (flavoring) is used as the base for all sorts of soups. The Japanese love it and the reason for that is because it accentuates the savory flavor as umami.

The flour base (also called batter) of grilled foods like the okonomiyaki and takoyaki also uses dashi as an essential flavoring ingredient.

Best Instant Dashi

In this post, I’ll be sharing the best instant dashi you can buy.

Here’s a quick overview of the options:

Instant Dashi brand Images
Best Powder: Kayanoya Ready-Made instant Dashi Stock Kayanoya instant dashi stock powder(view more images)
Kaiseki vegan dashi broth Freeze dried vegan dashi broth(view more images)
Ajinomoto Hondashi instant bonito soup stock Hondashi instant bonito soup stock(view more images)
Shimaya bonito stock powder Shimaya bonito stock powder(view more images)
Best Kombu Dashi Powder with No MSG: Shimaya Vegetarian Soup Stock Best Kombu Dashi Powder with No MSG: Shimaya Vegetarian Soup Stock)(view more images)
Kikkoman Concentrated Hontsuyu Soup Base Kikkoman Concentrated Hontsuyu Soup Base(view more images)

What is Dashi?

Dashi is a base flavor for soups, broths, and stocks. Think of dashi as a bouillon cube, giving flavor to soups.

The most popular form of dashi is a hot broth made with kombu, known as edible kelp and shavings of bonito, fermented tuna, or skipjack (kezurikatsuo). 

The most basic version of the dashi is a vegan broth made by cold-brewing kombu. The other types of dashi contain all kinds of flavor enhancers, dried fish, bonito flakes, soybeans, and adzuki beans. 

What does Dashi taste like?

It tastes savory and has different flavors of seafood. It is salty but has the flavors of seaweed and dried fish.

Most people describe dashi as a combination of marine flavors and glutamic acids which provide it with that umami flavor. 

Is Hondashi the same as dashi?

Hondashi is a specific type of instant dashi, most similar to a Western stock cube. It is like dashi but it is made from dried bonito fish – thus, it’s used for the same purpose as a base for food. 

Note that not all dashi is made with bonito flakes, so Hondashi gives food a special flavor. 

Best instant Dashi online

You can buy dashi in Asian grocery shops but there are cheap options online. Let’s take a closer look at each of these options:

Ready-Made instant Dashi Stock

You can always make Dashi yourself, or use one of these (even vegan) flavor substitutes. But there is also ready-made dashi powder or in some other form that is readily available in online stores and sometimes in local groceries near you.

They are cheap, easy to prepare, and they last long for many occasions where you can make up to 2 dozen dashi stocks per bottle or pack.

Instant dashi is a time-saver and meal-saver. It makes cooking so much easier because all you have to do is mix the powder with hot water to get a flavorful broth. 

But they do have some disadvantages and the most notable one is that they tend to not make the perfect blend that raw materials do, so you may only get 70% of the right flavor (umami) if you’ll use these things.

However, some customers who used it say that come manufacturers come very close in replicating the dashi stock savory flavor umami.

How do I dissolve dashi powder?

All dashi comes with cooking instructions that clearly tell you the ratio of water to the powder. All you have to do is add the recommended amount of granules or powder, add the hot water and stir. 

For most brands the ratio is 1:1 – so 1 cup of water, 1 teaspoon of dashi. But, always read instructions carefully because some dashi is stronger than others.

You can always dilute dashi with more water if you don’t want an intense flavor. 

Best Powder: Kayanoya Ready-Made instant Dashi Stock

Praised for its accurate umami savory flavor, this dashi stock powder from Kayanoya uses a unique blend of ingredients to help you make the perfect dashi stock even if you have no experience in making it.

Kayanoya instant dashi stock powder

The main ingredients are dried bonito flakes, dried sardine extract, roasted flying fish, dried round herring flakes, kelp, salt, soy sauce, and a few other preservatives.

Use 1 packet of this dashi stock powder for every 2 cups of water to mix it with any recipe that requires dashi in it.

You don’t need to open the packet, just use it like a teabag and add boiling water to create your broth. 

You can get the Kayanoya Dashi powder here

Kaiseki Vegan Dashi Broth Powder

A good way to preserve food is by free drying it and this Freeze Dried Japanese Vegan Dashi Broth Powder is the best example of it.

Although they did ground it to become a powdery substance, this dehydrated soup base is made from fresh vegetables with no other additives.

The Kaiseki vegetarian soup is ideal for sautéing or vegetable stew with rice, any stir-fried recipes, soba or udon noodles, and rice nigiri.

Enjoy the best of dashi broth on any meals while also benefiting from its nutrient-rich ingredients!

Check out the latest prices here on Amazon

Ajinomoto Hondashi instant Bonito Soup Stock

Ajinomoto has been a household name since after WWII and it is still a reliable brand even to this day.

With that in mind, their Hondashi Bonito Soup Stock is made from dried fish flakes (primarily Bonito), which when you mix with water and bring to boil will create your dashi stock.

Now you can cook any Japanese soup, broths, and stews with the Ajinomoto Bonito-dashi stock powder and replicate that accurate taste from traditional Japanese cuisines.

Check out prices and availability here

Standard Dried Shiitake Mushrooms, 30 grams

Dried shiitake mushrooms

(view more images)

This ready-made dashi stock is not pulverized but rather is made from dried shitake a mushroom that’s been specially preserved to retain all the savory flavors (umami) and nutrients.

The shitake mushroom has been used by Japanese cooks and chefs for thousands of years on both traditional and modern Japanese delicacies. You’ll find it in the likes of nabe hot pots, tempura, yakiniku, stir-fries, and miso soup.

Just soak it in water for 30 minutes or so and then strain it with a sieve and the resulting liquid will be your shitake dashi stock.

Check te latest prices here

Shimaya Bonito Dashi Stock – Powder

Here is a similar dried powdered bonito dashi stock, but it’s not just another generic dashi powder. You can be sure it tastes amazing because it has a 5/5 stars rating with 29 positive reviews given by customers.

Retaining the classic Japanese flavor of real dashi stock, this box contains 10 sachets of dashi soup stock (rich in the umami flavors which was extracted from bonito fish flakes) that is essential in most traditional Japanese foods.

You’ll surely enjoy cooking your favorite Japanese dishes with the Shimaya Bonito Dashi Stock as you’ll be able to cook like a real Japanese kitchen pro!

Check out it out here on Amazon

Also read: you can buy the katsuobushi, dried bonito flakes for dashi in bags

Best Kombu Dashi Powder with No MSG: Shimaya Vegetarian Soup Stock

Best Kombu Dashi Powder with No MSG: Shimaya Vegetarian Soup Stock)

(view more images)

This is the dashi powder many people prefer because it does not contain MSG. It is also vegetarian and tastes great. It is made from premium kelp and kombu for great umami flavor.

This product is a popular dashi on Amazon because it is free from MSG, which is a controversial additive in many foods. It is classified as an excitotoxin, which stimulates nerve cells. 

Check availability here

Kikkoman Concentrated Hontsuyu Soup Base

And last but not least is the ultimate Japanese seasoning – Kikkoman Concentrated Hontsuyu Soup Base!

Kikkoman always makes the best sauces and other seasonings and this one is as good as any of their best-selling products.

This hontsuyu soup base is made from bonito, sardine, and soda bonito fish flakes which give it an aggressive flavor (4x concentrated) that makes a great dashi stock suited for dishes like noodles, stews, stir-fries, nabe hot pots, and as a dressing or seasoning for other non-soup recipes.

The tsuyu is made from a combination of dashi (which in this case is from fish extracts), soy sauce, and mirin.

It’s available here on Amazon

Also check out my article on the most popular Japanese food

Here’s how to make Miso soup using any kind of instant Dashi powder or stock:

Origins of Dashi

Dashi is the cooking broth at the heart of Japanese cuisine.

Although it may not look like much, this clear broth is imbued with one of the five basic tastes called umami (savory). 

The dashi adds richness and depth to any recipe you cook, which is why Japanese chefs always keep this stock in their kitchen.

Approximately 800 years ago in Japan, the cooks started experimenting with kombu (a type of kelp) and mixing it with pure spring water. The kombu contains glutamate from which the dashi’s umami’s flavor is derived.

It’s amazing to know that making the dashi is incredibly simple yet it is used in half of all Japanese cuisines!

Kelp and bonito were combined in the mid-Edo period to create the modern-day dashi. This food base was most used in the Kansai region around Osaka. 

The Japanese use dashi because it’s so easy to make and cook with! Just boil water and add kombu plus some dried bonito flakes and the broth that results from that combination is your dashi stock (bonito is a fish that evolved from the tuna fish).

The dashi stock can be prepared in about 30 minutes or so, which is faster than the Western stocks that normally takes a couple of hours to cook.

It is practically impossible to truly appreciate Japanese cuisines without the dashi as any other substitute for the dashi doesn’t come close to bringing out the authentic flavor of the dishes when dashi is present in the ingredients.

What can I use instead of Dashi?

Honestly, there is nothing like dashi but you can substitute it with two umami food: anchovy paste and chicken broth. If you just ran out of dashi or don’t like the seafood flavor, use chicken broth.

It is considered to be savory so it will work well as a base. For a fish-like flavor, mix anchovy paste with some hot water and use that mixture as your stock. 

Is Dashi healthy?

Dashi is generally a healthy food because when it is made from dried fish flakes, it contains amino acids that contribute to a healthy body.

Kombu, the main ingredients in dashi is high in iodine, calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, magnesium, and vitamins B, C, D, and E. Therefore, dashi is not unhealthy. 

The only issue with Dashi is that many instant dashi powders use MSG (monosodium glutamate). This food additive is considered to be unhealthy because it stimulates your nervous system and can become addictive. 

But luckily, there are many dashi powders and cubes that are free from harmful additives. 

Types of Japanese Dashi

Kombu Dashi

Kombu dashi uses just two ingredients, pure water, and kombu kelp, making it an excellent broth option for vegans and vegetarians.

The 2 techniques used for preparing the kombu dashi are:

  1. nidashi (simmering)
  2. mizudashi (cold water extraction)

Using the nidashi technique, you must first place the kombu kelp in a pot of cold water. Then allow it to sit there for about 30 minutes – 3 hours.

Afterward, place it on top of the stove and boil the water over medium heat. Meanwhile, skim the water’s surface in order to remove any foam and keep the broth clear.

Remember to take out the kombu from the pot just before the water starts to boil. If you don’t, then the dashi stock may end up tasting bitter and slimy.

After boiling the dashi, strain the broth through a sieve to remove any foam or pieces. 

If you want to extract the dashi from kombu via cold water extraction, then cut a steep piece of kombu kelp. Next, put it in a small water container, and refrigerate it overnight.

Once done you can pour the dashi stock in a bottle container and use it sparingly on multiple dishes.

You will notice a clear, lightly colored broth with a deep umami flavor.

Iriko/Niboshi Dashi

Iriko dashi (also called niboshi dashi) is another kind of dashi made by mixing anchovies or baby dried sardines and water.

This dashi has a deep fishy flavor than the others and is preferred in the eastern Kanto region in Japan as it came from a tradition of fishing folks.

You can make the iriko dashi by simply putting baby dried sardines or anchovies in a pot with 2- 4 cups of water in it, bring it to boil and wait until the scent of the fish emerges.

When that happens, then this means that the dashi is ready.

It is believed by some people that the head and innards of dried fish cause the dashi to become bitter, so they remove it. Others don’t mind it and boil the dried fish as a whole.

And as for the dried fish in the dashi, you can strain then through a sieve to remove them from the broth or leave them as is.

Shiitake Dashi

Shitake dashi is made from the dried shitake mushrooms. It is famous in Japan  and many vegetarians or vegans prefer it because it adds a strong salty flavor to the dashi. 

This dashi doesn’t need boiling and all you have to do is to soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in lukewarm water.

It is not recommended that you use water that’s been heated to almost or at its boiling point. This may prevent the shitake mushroom from releasing the much needed savory umami flavor.

Unlike the kombu dashi though, the shitake dashi has a dark brown color to the broth.

Some people mix shitake dashi and kombu dashi to get the best of both flavors.

Also read: different kinds of Japanese soups you can make with these recipes

Bonito/Katsuo (Awase Dashi)

katsuobushi on udon

Awase dashi is the most common name for dashi these days.

The awase dashi has a more complex flavor when compared to other dashi types. It is made out of a combination of katsuobushi (bonito fish flakes) and kombu kelp.

First, you extract the kombu dashi by using the nidashi method.

Check the pot regularly when you’re simmering the kombu. Wait until the water is almost at its boiling point, then remove the kombu. After that add the bonito fish flakes to enhance the flavor.

As soon as the pot comes to a boil, turn off the stove. Allow the dried fish flakes to absorb the broth for a few minutes.

Make sure to check if the flakes have already sunk to the bottom of the pot before straining the broth.

It should have a delicate taste to it with a cadmium-like yellow tinge to it and a refined flavor.

You can keep the kombu and bonito flakes to make more dashi. The resulting dashi will actually have a stronger flavor than the first one.

Is dashi the same as miso?

Many people confuse dashi and miso. Both may be used as base flavors for soups and stocks, yet they are made from different ingredients.

Dashi is made with seaweed combined with smoked and dried fish, known as bonito. The Japanese make miso out of soybeans combined with rice or barley, depending on the type. 

Therefore, note that miso and dashi taste different. 

Is dashi the same as fish sauce?

Another misconception is that fish sauce and dashi are basically the same things. You can use fish sauce in many ways for all kinds of foods. Fish sauce is made from fermented fish and tastes much saltier than dashi. 

Now that you’re so familiar with dashi you’re probably wondering…

How do I store dashi? Does it go bad?

You can make a big pot of instant dashi and store it in the refrigerator for approximately 3 days. It goes bad after about 3 days so make sure to use it up. 

As for the dashi powders, cubes, and sauces, you can store them in the pantry for at least 6 months. If the packet is open, close it tight and use within a week so it doesn’t absorb too much moisture.

Every month new cooking tips in your email?

Japanese recipes, cooking tips and more with the first email our FREE mini-recipe guide "Japanese with ease"

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.