The Best Simple Miso Paste Substitutes


While I love cooking Japanese-style dishes, I don’t always keep all the Japanese ingredients in the house. When I’ve run out, there are plenty of good miso paste substitutes so I don’t feel like I need to rush to the store.

What is Miso?

It’s a fermented paste made from soybeans. I read somewhere that miso and soy sauce were invented by Japanese monks to add savoury (also called ‘umami’) flavours to vegetarian food. So it’s a super useful ingredient for adding loads of flavour.

The Best Miso Paste Substitutes

(in order of preference)

1. Soy Sauce

If I run out of miso paste, my next go-to is soy sauce because it adds a similar salty / umami / savoury hit. Soy tends to be saltier and less creamy than miso so I start with less and work my way up as needed.

2. Salt

If a recipe just calls for a small amount of miso and has plenty of other ingredients, adding a little salt may be all you need.

3. Tahini

Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds. It looks a little like miso paste and has a similar consistency so it can be substituted in recipes where you want to get some body from the miso paste.

If a recipe is using large quantites of miso, tahini probably isn’t going to work because the flavour profile is more nutty and creamy compared with the salty / savoury flavour of miso.

4. Vegetable Stock

In soups, a full flavoured vegetable stock can work instead of miso. Although if you’re making a pure miso soup, it will need something else.

5. Fish Sauce

Similar to soy sauce, fish sauce adds saltiness and umami. A little goes a long way though so start small.

Which Miso is Best?

There are many different types of miso. The most common is ‘Shiro’ miso also called ‘white miso’. It has the palest colour and the mildest flavour. This is the miso I buy.

The darker the colour of your miso the stonger the flavour. You can substitute different types of miso paste for each other, just prepare to use less if using a darker or red paste. You can always add more as needed.

My Favourite Recipes Using Miso Paste