Don’t have miso paste on hand and need it for a recipe? Here are the best ingredients to use as a miso paste substitute in a pinch!
I’ve recently become quite obsessed with using miso paste in cooking. From dressings to marinades, sauces to broths, it brings an unmatched savory umami flavor.
My recent favorite way to use it is in this maple miso chicken recipe.
That said, before this newfound obsession, miso paste wasn’t something I typically had on hand.
If that’s the situation you find yourself in and need some good miso paste substitution ideas, this is the post for you!
WHAT IS MISO PASTE?
Miso paste is made of fermented soybeans. Salt and a specific fungus (a koji starter) is added and sometimes even a grain such as barley or rye.
It’s worth noting, you may have heard of soybean paste before. Miso paste is not the same as soybean paste. Miso tastes a touch sweeter than soybean paste because of the added koji starter.
If you’re gluten-free make sure to read the ingredient label to ensure there are no added grains. The brand Miso Master shown here is both organic and gluten-free.
There are a variety of miso pastes including white miso paste (seen here), red, yellow and brown miso.
They all taste a little bit different (the darker the miso, the stronger the flavor) but my favorite to keep on hand for general purpose use is white miso paste (also known as ‘shiro miso’) for both its milder flavor and flexibility in a variety of recipes.
These miso substitutes will work for any type of miso paste.
Here’s a great article with tons of information about miso paste for more details.
WHERE TO FIND MISO PASTE
While we’re about to cover the best substitutes for miso paste, I do want to encourage you to seek out miso paste if you have the ability!
It’s quite a unique ingredient and while these are good substitutes in a pinch, its true umami flavor is really distinctive and worth the effort to find.
Miso paste can be located in most supermarkets these days in the refrigerated section usually near the tofu or tempeh.
Most conventional grocery stores now carry miso paste but you can be guaranteed to locate it in a store like Whole Foods or Sprouts.
THE BEST MISO PASTE SUBSTITUTES
1. SOY SAUCE
Soy sauce is probably the most common and ubiquitous miso substitute.
Most of us have this ingredient in our refrigerator already and if you’re gluten-free or paleo, both tamari (gluten-free) or coconut aminos (gluten-free and soy-free) can also stand in for miso paste.
Soy sauce does a great job of mimicking the salty flavor of miso paste but its most obvious downfall is the difference in consistency.
Soy sauce is a thin liquid while miso paste is more creamy and paste-like in texture.
If you choose to use soy sauce in place of miso paste, a good rule of thumb is to use half the amount of soy sauce for the amount of miso paste.
2. FISH SAUCE
Fish sauce is another good substitute for miso paste in that it has the same salty, umami flavor profile.
Like soy sauce however, fish sauce is also much thinner in texture than miso paste.
Fish sauce is made from fermented fish so it’s not substitutable for vegetarians or vegans but its salty, funky-ness is a very close match to miso paste. I love it in these orange turkey Asian lettuce wraps!
The one caveat with using fish sauce is the difference in strength. It cannot be swapped out in a 1:1 ratio. A little goes a long way with this ingredient.
Use about 1/4 the amount of fish sauce for the called for amount of miso paste in a recipe.
Tahini is a great miso substitute because it’s almost identical from a textural standpoint. Its creaminess is a great match for miso paste especially in recipes for sauces and dressings.
I often use tahini in dressings or as a dipping sauce for things like grilled artichokes and purple sweet potato fries. Miso paste could easily be swapped out for the tahini and vice versa in a 1:1 ratio in these recipes.
Tahini is made from ground sesame seeds. It’s essentially sesame seed butter. While the texture is spot on for a miso paste substitute, its flavor profile is a bit different.
Where miso paste is salty and umami, tahini is more nutty and a touch bitter.
Tahini is a good miso substitute if the recipe calls for a small amount of miso paste. A good rule of thumb for using tahini in place of miso is if it’s 2 tablespoons or less.
Anything more than that, my suggestion is to use both tahini and either soy sauce or fish sauce together to create a substitute that’s more accurate from both a texture and flavor standpoint.
Last but not least may be the easiest of all the miso paste substitute swaps – salt!
Salt is perfect if a recipe only calls for a very small amount of miso paste. If there are lots of other ingredients in a recipe and miso isn’t the main component when it comes to flavoring, salt is perfect.
Most recipes probably call for salt in their ingredient list already so just add a little bit more than called for.
Start with 1/4 teaspoon of additional salt and increase from there based on taste.
MISO PASTE SUBSTITUTE TIPS
Substituting other ingredients for miso paste is really best done on a recipe specific basis. What works best in one recipe may not work the best in another.
Things like the desired textural outcome of the recipe, taste and quantity need to be taken into consideration any time you make a swap for miso paste.
Sometimes the best solution is a single ingredient substitution while other times, a combination of the substitutes mentioned above will work best.