Dashi vs Bonito flakes: Are They the Same? Differences explained

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  August 21, 2022

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The short answer to this is yes. Dashi, the fish stock base in most Japanese dishes, is bonito stock. But that happens to be a little deceptive.

Dashi is a bit more complicated than just bonito.

Dashi vs Bonito

What is Dashi?

People make dashi with bonito, or katsuobushi, a dried and aged tuna that gives dashi its umami flavor. Sometimes there are shiitake mushrooms in the stock, as well as sardines or anchovies.

Favorite Asian Recipes
Favorite Asian Recipes

But dashi almost always has kombu as well. That’s a kind of sea kelp that has a deep flavor, and it’s where most of the umami comes from. Dashi cooks in about 20 minutes. The dried kombu leaves go in whole and simmer with the rest of the ingredients, including the bonito.

https://youtu.be/sjnJLS-hMgA

Also read: this is how you make dashi or a great substitute

Instant Dashi – Is the Bonito in There?

You can get instant dashi powder or granules and use them in water in these measurements here, or liquid alternatives. These are full of MSG and other flavor enhancers and tend to taste like the instant food they are, not like the simmered bonito stock so loved in Japanese cuisine.

There are people that swear by the instant, though. The bonito is in there, whether it’s powdered or flaked. It’s a matter of taste. You can discover it in Japanese grocery stores that are well-stocked. Even the powdered flavor completes your recipes well.

Dashi is Bonito, and So Much More

Bonito is the fish part of dashi, but it’s only one part. With the kombu kelp, shiitake mushrooms, and if you add sardines or anchovies, dashi is only partially that delicious dried and aged bonito fish called katsuobushi. Whether you like homemade or instant, you know it’s crucial to your cooking.

Are you ready to head to your local Japanese grocery store? Time to add dashi to that list and grab your wallet and keys. You know you want that best bonito flavor!

Also read: this is how you make a vegan miso soup without bonito in your stock

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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.