Does Miso Soup Have Fish? Yes, But Not Always!
Miso soup is a steaming broth of healthy vegetables, tofu, noodles, and salty umaminess that could make anyone swoon. But does it have fish?
Traditionally, miso soup is made with fish. The base broth is prepared either with katsuobushi or Niboshi, both of which are derived from fish and are non-vegan. There’s also a variety of dashi prepared with seaweed, but it’s not traditional or authentic.
The ingredients? A good fine dashi stock and miso paste; nothing fancy really, but incredibly tasty. That being said, let’s dive a little deep into the question and check out the vegan miso soup alternative recipe at the end!
In this post we'll cover:
Does miso soup have fish?
Traditional miso soup is made with dashi stock. Dashi stock is of two types.
One is prepared with bonito flakes, known as katsuo dashi, and the other is prepared with dried anchovies, known as niboshi dashi.
While both are suitable for people on a vegetarian diet, they are not for people on a purely vegan diet.
There are also European versions of miso soup, which are prepared with chicken stock instead of dashi. But those are neither vegetarian nor vegan.
The other ingredient used in miso soup is, of course, miso. Unlike dashi, miso paste is an entirely vegan ingredient with no animal-derived ingredients.
It is created from fermented beans inoculated with koji, which also gives it the distinct salty and umami taste.
While miso soup doesn’t have fish directly in it, it does use primarily fish-derived ingredients, which are the main tastemakers of the soup.
But here’s the catch! Just because most of the traditional recipes use fish or non-vegan stock, doesn’t mean you have to!
Can you make miso soup without fish?
While staying true to the traditional recipe requires you to use fish products, you can also mimic the tastes with vegan ingredients.
There are many other options you can go with if you want to use something other than fish for some reason.
The most common choice for a fish-free miso recipe is using kombu leaves and shiitake mushrooms.
Together, these ingredients are healthy and 100% vegan alternatives to traditional ingredients.
All you need to do is to simmer them in water for a few minutes, and you will have an incredible dashi stock, just enough to make you quite a few bowls of miso soup for the week.
What’s more, the taste is just the same, having a dominant umami flavor with some earthy, smoky, and somewhat salty flavor from the kombu leaves.
Compared to the original recipe, it doesn’t have that signature fishiness, but that doesn’t matter much since it can often be a little overwhelming, even for non vegans.
What are the common ingredients of a non-fish (vegan) miso soup?
If you are planning to make miso soup without the traditional ingredients, the following are some common ingredients you must have at hand:
- kombu leaves
- Shiitake mushrooms
- miso paste
- soba noodles
- snap peas
- green beans
You can also use vegetable stock as a base if you don’t have kombu leaves or shiitake mushrooms available anywhere near you.
Or, if you are not vegan, you have various options, from fish to chicken stock and anything in between.
Bottom line of the story? Miso soup is incomplete without fish or fish-derived ingredients if you want a completely authentic experience.
However, it does not mean you cannot make it without fish.
If you are on a strict vegan diet but still want to experience that umami touch that a niboshi or katsuobushi dashi adds to the soup, you can use kombu leaves or shiitake mushrooms for the purpose.
Although it has the characteristic pungency, it mimics the umami flavor and makes a perfect dashi base for a nutritious and delicious miso soup.
For a complete guide on making a vegan miso soup, check out our vegan Shiitake + Kombu Combo miso soup recipe
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.