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.
When making a Japanese soup, you want to start off with an easy to dissolve dashi powder like the Ajinomoto – Hon Dashi (Soup Stock) because it’s full of umami flavor and goes well with almost anything.
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: Ajinomoto – Hon Dashi (Soup Stock)||(view more images)|
Best vegan: Muso From Japan Umami Broth, Vegan Dashi powder
|(view more images)|
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|Best mushroom dashi: HYOSHIRO Original Mushroom Dashi Stock Powder||(view more images)|
|Best Kombu Dashi Powder with No MSG: Shimaya Vegetarian Soup Stock||(view more images)|
|Kikkoman Concentrated Hontsuyu Soup Base||(view more images)|
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 What is Dashi?
- 2 Best instant Dashi online
- 2.1 Ready-Made instant Dashi Stock
- 2.2 Best Powder: Ajinomoto – Hon Dashi (Soup Stock)
- 2.3 Best vegan: Muso From Japan Umami Broth, Vegan Dashi powder
- 2.4 Best paste: Hikari Organic Dashi Miso Paste, Bonito and Kelp Stock
- 2.5 Best mushroom dashi: HYOSHIRO Original Mushroom Dashi Stock Powder
- 2.6 Best Kombu Dashi Powder with No MSG: Shimaya Vegetarian Soup Stock
- 2.7 Kikkoman Concentrated Hontsuyu Soup Base
- 3 Origins of Dashi
- 4 Why you should keep instant dashi in your pantry
- 5 Types of Japanese Dashi
- 6 Takeaway
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 (what’s the difference with dashi anyway?), 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.
Best Powder: Ajinomoto – Hon Dashi (Soup Stock)
Praised for its accurate umami savory flavor, this dashi stock powder from Ajinomoto uses a unique blend of ingredients to help you make the perfect dashi stock even if you have no experience in making it. This is the true kelp and bonito flavor you’re looking for in a soup base.
The main ingredients are dried bonito flakes, kelp, salt, soy sauce, and a few other preservatives. This dashi stock contains MSG (Monosodium glutamate) and yeast extract but most Japanese stocks do.
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. Ajinomoto has been a household name since WWII.
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 tea bag and add boiling water to create your broth.
Best vegan: Muso From Japan Umami Broth, Vegan Dashi powder
Vegan dashi is not made with fish (bonito flakes) and instead, it’s made with kelp which still gives it a bit of that sea flavor. This Japanese stock is packaged in small pockets (envelopes) and you simply place it in water and you’ve got that tasty umami taste.
Although they did ground it to become a powdery substance, this dehydrated soup base is made from fresh vegetables with no other additives.
The ingredients include Oligosaccharide (made from tapioca and/or sweet potato), sea salt, test extract (yeast, dextrin, salt0, shiitake mushroom powder, kombucha seaweed powder). There is no MSG but does contain yeast.
The vegan dashi 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 meal while also benefiting from its nutrient-rich ingredients!
Best paste: Hikari Organic Dashi Miso Paste, Bonito and Kelp Stock
When you want to get the most flavor out of dashi stock, a paste offers that intensity. This is a great miso paste with dashi, so it combines two popular soup base flavors.
What sets this dashi apart is that it’s made with fermented miso paste. It combines five types of dashi for a stronger flavor.
Therefore, you don’t need to use as much to get all that yummy aroma.
The ingredient list is pretty natural and contains: Organic Soybean Paste, Water, Alcohol, Salt, Yeast Extract, Dried Bonito Powder, Kelp Powder, Dried Frigate Mackerel Powder, Dried Anchovy Powder, Dried Scad Powder.
This product is organic, gluten-free, and non-GMO but it does contain yeast extract.
Check the price on Amazon: Hikari Organic Dashi Miso Paste, Bonito and Kelp Stock
Best mushroom dashi: HYOSHIRO Original Mushroom Dashi Stock Powder
This ready-made dashi stock is made of some rare mushrooms, including tamogi (phantom mushrooms) which are only available in some parts of Hokkaido during the summer. These are the original dashi mushrooms, not shiitake.
But, this mushroom base also contains shiitake and kelp which adds a subtle sweetness and a richer flavor.
The powder also contains an antioxidant called ergothione and an immune booster called β-glucan. It’s overall the healthiest packaged dashi stock.
It will taste great in noodle soup, meat stew, and rice dishes.
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.
It offers that intense mushroom taste you’re probably after if you prefer mushrooms over kelp.
Best Kombu Dashi Powder with No MSG: Shimaya Vegetarian Soup Stock
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.
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 (more about that here) is made from a combination of dashi (which in this case is from fish extracts), soy sauce, and mirin.
The product contains high fructose corn syrup and MSG.
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 take 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.
How do I dissolve dashi powder?
Dissolving the dashi is really simple, so don’t worry, there’s not much to know.
All you have to do is dissolve the dashi granules in some hot water. The ratio of water to powder is usually listed on the packaging so make sure to read that first. 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.
But, 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.
How to make dashi using dashi powder
Here’s the thing, if you use instant dashi powder, you don’t need to make it. You can either sprinkle it directly over your food for added flavor or sprinkle it into hot water or soup to give it flavor.
But, if you want to make dashi, then you dissolve the powder or cube just like I mentioned above. If you have dashi packets, then let them soak in hot water until they release the flavor.
Why you should keep instant dashi in your pantry
Dashi stock is one of those ingredients that you can get so much use out of. It’s not only used to make soup and noodle dishes.
In fact, there are so many uses for this Japanese pantry staple that you’re sure to use dashi in all kinds of Asian and Western dishes to add more flavor to your food.
The thing is that instant dashi powder is so easy to use – simply add a tablespoon or two to water or your liquid and voila, you have a good base.
Dashi stock is very versatile because it has a milder seafood flavor with a hint of smokiness. Therefore it pairs well with all kinds of meat, seafood, and vegetable dishes. Usually, you add dashi to long-simmered broths to enhance the taste.
It can also be used to substitute other liquids in Western recipes. For example, you can use it to replace the water in polenta or shrimp sauces and even in glazes. Also, you can combine it with soy sauce for a more intense flavor.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) and is it really that bad for you?
Did you know that MSG is actually a natural component in sea plants like kelp? Although people always say that it’s added to food as a flavor enhancer, it does occur naturally in some foods.
MSG in dashi stock is added to mimic the kombu’s glutamic acid. This monosodium glutamate is used as the additive that makes the dashi taste umami.
But, generally, it’s added to food as a flavor enhancer and it’s not really healthy.
Here’s what you should know though:
- MSG is a flavor enhancer
- it is usually found in Chinese and Japanese food and a lot of powders and canned foods
- there are no immediate health risks associated with eating MSG
“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified MSG as a food ingredient that’s “generally recognized as safe,” but its use remains controversial. For this reason, when MSG is added to food, the FDA requires that it be listed on the label.” (Mayo Clinic)
People often say that if you have too much MSG, it increases your risk of obesity and other metabolic disorders. However, the studies have mixed results and there is no real danger if consumed in moderation.
Some studies even claim it’s better than using salt while cooking because it contains less sodium.
If you buy packaged dashi stock, it most likely contains MSG but it’s not a big health issue.
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.
Overall, dashi is an important base for a lot of Japanese food and these dishes are pretty healthy so there’s not much to worry about.
Types of Japanese Dashi
There are different types of dashi, some are vegan and made from mushrooms and kombu (kelp) and most have bonito flakes (fish) or dried bonito powder. You can find all types of dashi in Japanese grocery stores. In America, Asian grocery stores will likely carry this type of stock.
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:
- nidashi (simmering)
- 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 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.
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.
Bonito/Katsuo (Awase Dashi)
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 (check the water to granules ratio here) 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 it within a week so it doesn’t absorb too much moisture.
I highly recommend storing instant dashi powder or dashi packet seasoning in your pantry because it’s one of the most versatile and tasty stocks.
The dashi flavor is mild enough to suit most palates and it also offers that classic Japanese umami flavor that sets dishes apart from Western ones.
When you’re running short on time, you can always boil some water, add the dashi like the Ajinomoto – Hon Dashi (Soup Stock), and then put your noodles in for a quick and delicious meal.
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