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Is Dashi Salty? It has sodium from Katsuobushi but no, not really

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  October 9, 2022

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If you have dabbled with Japanese cooking you may have heard of an ingredient called dashi.

Dashi isn’t that salty even though it has katsuobushi, which is high in sodium inosinate. Because of the sodium, people assume it’s salty, but the flavor is otherwise tasteless umami to be used in soups and other dishes.

Is dashi salty

Dashi is a family of stocks used in Asian cuisine. It is used for the base of miso soups and noodle soups.

It can also enhance the taste of umami, a savory flavor characteristic of certain soup and meat dishes.

When thinking of dashi’s flavor, some describe it as having the essence of the sea. So does that mean it’s salty? Read on to find out all about it.

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What is Dashi?

Dashi is used as the base for many Japanese soups.

The most common form is a simple broth made by heating water containing kombu or edible kelp and kezurikatsuo (shavings of katsuobishi which is preserved or fermented bonito or skipjack tuna).

The water is heated until it is near boiling and it is then strained to produce the liquid dashi.

The katsuobushi and kombu are used to introduce the umami or savory element. Katsuobushi is high in sodium inosinate which is the sodium salt of inosinic acid.

It is often used in soups and snacks and it is known for enhancing the salty taste of foods.

Also read: is there such a thing as too much dashi? No?

Is Dashi Salty?

Because dashi is made with an ingredient that is high in sodium inosinate, some assume it’s very salty.

However, those that have eaten dashi say that it does not have an overly salty taste unless salt or salty spices are added.

This may be because not much katsuobushi is used when making dashi.

Is dashi spicy?

Dashi is not spicy at all. It is mostly used for its umami flavor and there are no ingredients in there that make it spicy, like peppers or pepper flakes. The flakes used in dashi are from dried bonito called katsuobushi.

Different Types of Dashi

It should also be noted that there are different types of dashi or you can make shiro dashi substitutes to get a similar taste, and some may have a saltier taste than others.

Here are some examples:

  • Kombu Dashi: This is made by soaking kelp in water.
  • Niboshi Dashi: This is made by pinching the heads and entrails off small dried sardines to prevent bitterness and soaking the rest in water.
  • Shiitake Dashi: Shiitake dashi is made by soaking dried shiitake mushrooms in water.

None of these contain katsuobushi and, therefore, the taste may not be as salty.

Here’s MrsLinskitchen with more about the different kinds of Dashi:

There is also instant dashi that is often used in Japanese cuisine. Many find this to be an easy alternative to making dashi.

Instant dashi is more flavorful than homemade dashi and may have a stronger salty taste.

Read all about the best instant dashi to try in my article here

If you love a salty taste, you may want to flavor up your dashi, but it has a hint of salt that is simply delightful.

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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.