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!

The best miso paste substitutes.
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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 that also happens to be a great natural source or probiotics.

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!

White miso paste substitute.

WHAT IS MISO PASTE?

Miso paste is a traditional Japanese paste made of fermented soybeans. Salt and a specific fungus, a koji starter, is added and sometimes even a grain such as barley or rye.

You may have heard of soybean paste before. It’s worth noting that 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 following a gluten-free diet make sure to read the ingredient label to ensure there are no added grains. The brand Miso Master is widely available in the U.S. and is both organic and gluten free.

There are several types of miso pastes, which include: 

  • white miso paste (shown in these pictures)
  • red miso paste
  • yellow miso paste
  • brown miso paste

They all taste a little bit different, the darker the miso the stronger the flavor, but a common favorite to keep on hand for general-purpose use is white miso paste. Also known as shiro miso, it’s both mild in flavor and flexible for use in a variety of recipes.

The miso substitutes discussed here are suitable swaps 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

Before discussing the best substitutes for miso paste, it’s worth noting where you may be able to locate miso paste for future use. As such a unique and impactful ingredient with an extended shelf-life, it’s worth the effort to seek out.

Miso paste can be located in most supermarkets these days in the refrigerated section usually near the tofu or tempeh in the same spot you’d find Korean gochujang paste.

In fact, using it with both those ingredients, is very commonplace. Whether it’s in a tempeh marinade or even air fried tofu.

Most conventional grocery stores now carry miso paste but you can be guaranteed to locate it in a store like Whole Foods or Sprouts. You can also buy it online but it’s much more expensive than in-store prices.

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The best alternatives to miso paste if you don't have it on hand.

THE BEST MISO PASTE SUBSTITUTES

These common household ingredients can make good substitutes for miso paste in different situations. They perform best when miso paste is part of a larger list of ingredients, not center stage in the recipe. In those cases, it’s best to source the real thing and save the recipe for another time.

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 (usually gluten-free) or coconut aminos (gluten-free and soy-free) also make good stand-ins 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.

A couple of my favorite recipes that use this ingredient are this bok choy salad and sticky honey soy pork chops.

Need some easy miso substitutes? These ingredients can be swapped out for miso paste in a pinch.

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 flavor 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.

3. TAHINI

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 essentially a sesame seed butter made by grinding the seeds until creamy and smooth. 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.

For any larger amounts, use a combination of tahini and either soy sauce or fish sauce to create a substitute that’s more accurate from both a texture and flavor standpoint.

White miso substitute to use instead of miso paste in a recipe.

4. SALT

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.

Founder and Writer at Running to the Kitchen | About

Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.

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14 Comments

  1. Oh wow, thanks for info. I hate when I ran out of miso. But now I know I can easily substitute it with fish or soy sauce. Thanks.

  2. I’m glad this is so pure and not full of a bunch of extra stuff. That makes it so much easier for everyone to enjoy it.

  3. There’s so much great information here! I’m planing to make a miso salmon recipe and I’m curious to see which one I like the best! Thanks a bunch! I can’t wait to try!