Is Dashi a Miso Paste? Don’t Confuse One With The Other

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If you are new to Japanese cuisine, it’s OK to be what we call “miso confused”.

Given that both miso and dashi often go together in many Japanese dishes, it is easy to confuse both with each other.

However, miso paste and dashi are not one and the same thing.

Is Dashi a Miso Paste? Don't Confuse One With The Other

Miso paste is a salty ingredient made by fermenting soybean with salt and koji, while dashi is an umami-rich broth used as a base for traditional Japanese dishes. It is prepared by simmering dried sardines, bonito flakes, shiitake mushrooms, or kombu leaves in water.

Now that it is clear that both are entirely different things, let’s dig a little deep and compare both from some major angles.

At the end of this article, you will have a full idea of what dashi and miso are, whether you can interchangeably use them, and some good substitutes you can use instead.

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Miso paste vs. dashi: a basic comparison

Here’s how miso and dashi differ from each other.

What is miso paste?

Miso paste is a fermented Japanese food ingredient prepared by fermenting soybeans with koji and salt.

It has a super salty taste, with subtle hints of sweetness and sourness, similar to soy sauce, but not so close.

The taste intensity and color of miso can differ depending on the type of koji used, the total duration of fermentation, and the type of grains used for preparation.

Depending on the aforementioned factors, there are three main types of miso pastes, namely:

  • Shiro miso: It has white color, minimum saltiness, and a very mellow flavor that goes well in every dish that calls for miso.
  • Aka miso: It has a red color and is highly salty and intense in flavor. It is often used as a substitute for shiro miso but in lower quantity.
  • Shinshu miso: It is yellow and has a flavor intensity that sits between shiro miso and aka miso. It is a great substitute for both of the aforementioned types and hence, more versatile.

Miso is the soul of Japanese cuisine and a primary ingredient of almost more than half of its popular dishes.

Although it also has some hints of umaminess within, it is not as conspicuous as the other flavors.

What is miso paste used for?

As we have mentioned earlier, miso paste is one of those ingredients you can put in any Japanese dish, and it will only taste amazing.

You can even use it in dishes that aren’t necessarily traditional.

If we have to be super-specific about the use of miso, a bunch of traditional dishes cross our mind, such as miso soup, miso ramen, miso katsu, and miso stir-fries.

Some people also love to use it as a dressing for their salads as well for some extra flavor punch.

Find the best recipes with miso paste listed here

What is dashi?

Dashi is a simple stock used as a base for numerous Japanese dishes. Traditionally, It is prepared by simmering bonito flakes or dried sardines in water.

If you cannot find those for some reason or not compromise your vegan diet, you can also use kombu leaves, shiitake mushrooms, or even vegetables to prepare dashi.

While all of the above have the umami flavor dominant, they all come with a bunch of different and distinct tastes, some being a little earthy, others briny, while some even fishy.

Depending on the ingredients used, dashi is classified into many varieties. Awase dashi, Katsuo-dashi, Kombu-dashi, Niboshi-dashi, and Shiitake-dashi are a few to name.

What is dashi used for?

Unlike miso, which is the main ingredient of almost every traditional dish, dashi is used more as a base and is not the “primary” tastemaker.

It only complements the main flavors and serves as a medium for them to fully diffuse in the dish.

Some of the most common dishes that use dashi as a base include the legendary miso soup, different types of noodle dishes like udon, ramen, and soba, and Japanese hotpots.

The real fun of dashi derives from the huge variety of seasonings and sauces you put in it, and it is usually mixed with soy sauce, miso, or tonkatsu for the ultra-tasty and umami-rich flavors we all love about Japanese foods.

Dashi vs shiro miso: can they replace each other?

In the plainest words, it’s a big no, you cannot use dashi instead of miso or the other way around.

Shiro miso and dashi have very different flavors, which means you cannot use miso in recipes that call for dashi alone.

But hey, there’s a trick! When combined, we know that dashi and miso make a beautiful mix of flavors, as evident in miso soup, right?

While you cannot use basic and authentic miso paste in place of dashi, you can definitely use miso dashi to obtain a near-similar flavor.

Just remember that it’s only for dishes where the main flavoring ingredient is miso alone, and dashi is just there as a base!

So, for example, if you are making miso soup but cannot find authentic dashi ingredients (bonito flakes or dried anchovies), you can use miso dashi instead and be sure to obtain almost the same flavor.

The same stands for miso noodles and miso hot pots as well.


Miso paste is a versatile ingredient that can be used in many Japanese dishes.

While it is most commonly used in miso soup, ramen, and stir-fries, it can also be used as a dressing for salads or a base for other soups.

Dashi is also a popular Japanese stock that is used as a base for various dishes.

While dashi has a stronger umami flavor than miso paste, the two foods have very complementary flavors and can be combined to create unique set of flavors.

I hope this article cleared any doubts you had about miso and dashi.

If you are looking for some delicious recipes to make with miso or dashi, don’t forget to explore our blog. We have a lot of interesting stuff on Asian cuisine you would like to know.

Oh! And don’t forget to check out these substitutes if you don’t have miso by the way.

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:

Read for free

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.