Need a miso paste substitute? Whether you don’t have it on hand, can’t find it at the store, or don’t like the taste, try one of these substitutions instead.
What is Miso Paste?
Miso paste is a traditional Japanese seasoning that’s made by fermenting soybeans with sea salt and cultured grains (koji). This unique condiment has a thick, creamy texture with a salty, rich, and complex, umami flavor.
There are many types of miso ranging from white to yellow to red with varying levels of flavor, saltiness, and intensity. White miso, also called 'Shiro' is the most common miso due to its sweeter, more mellow flavor. Because miso is fermented, it can be found in the refrigerated section of many conventional grocery stores or Asian markets.
Side note: some brands use glutinous grains such as wheat and barley during the fermentation process, so make sure to check the label first if you eat gluten-free.
The Best Miso Substitute
1. Soy Sauce or Tamari
If a recipe calls for a small amount of miso paste, soy sauce or tamari (gluten-free soy sauce) will provide a similarly salty/umami/savory flavor. Use low-sodium soy sauce/tamari when substituting for yellow or white miso as soy sauce tends to be saltier.
Because soy sauce is thin and miso paste is thick paste, this substitution works best in small quantities. So start with less and add more as needed.
When it comes to texture, tahini and miso paste are very similar. The difference lies in the taste. Tahini is made from ground sesame seeds which yields a nuttier and more bitter flavor than miso.
If using tahini as a sub for miso paste in a recipe that calls for ¼ cup or more, you'll want to use it in combination with soy sauce + a tiny pinch of sugar for a similar flavor profile.
3. Fish Sauce
Fish sauce is another fermented ingredient that has a similarly salty, umami, funky flavor. But, the texture is much thinner than miso paste, so again start with a small amount and add more if needed.
4. Anchovy Paste
Anchovy paste is a flavorful paste made from anchovies, olive oil, and salt. When used in cooking, it adds a similar salty, complex flavor to foods without tasting fishy. This makes it a great substitute for miso when used in small quantities.
The easiest miso substitute is salt. When a recipe calls for a very small amount of miso, salt can be used in its place, especially if there are several other flavors and miso isn't the main flavor focus of the dish. I always recommend using kosher salt when cooking. See my quick guide to cooking with salt to learn more.
Recipes With Miso
- Asian Brussels Sprouts With Lemon Miso Sauce
- Maple and Miso Roasted Carrots
- Miso Butter
- Lemon Zucchini Risotto