Miso Paste Substitute

What’s the best Miso Paste Substitute?

Miso paste is a must-have in my kitchen. This Japanese condiment is worth its weight in gold. It offers such a unique flavor combination: salty, savory, spicy, and umami-rich. But what happens when you run out and need to find a quick miso paste substitute?

I was very eager to find a miso paste substitute that would give me that same great flavor. I decided to go online to search for worthy alternatives. Here is everything I gathered. If you are in the same situation, read on for great insights on everything miso pastes substitute and more!

Easy To Find Miso Paste Substitute

Soy sauce, vegetable stock, fish sauce, and salt are some great substitutes that you are likely to have on hand right now.

We cannot determine the best miso paste substitutes if we have no idea of how this paste tastes. So, let’s tackle a few questions.

What is miso paste?

Miso means fermented beans in Japanese as the delicacy is native to Japan and China. Miso paste is made from fermenting soybeans and other ingredients such as wheat, barley, and similar grains to create the umami flavors it is famous for.

Rice is also added in the fermentation process for an exquisite, intense flavor. Salt and koji, which is a fungus, are also included in the making of the paste. Yeasts or kobo facilitate the fermentation process, depending on the time it takes.

Miso paste can transform any dish to a whole new level thanks to its flavor profile.

How does miso paste get such an amazing flavor?

History has it that miso was invented by Japanese monks who were bound on adding flavor and particularly savory or umami flavors to vegetarian food.

Salt is used in the fermentation process, giving miso a distinct salty and savory taste.

The time taken to ferment miso will determine the strength of the flavor, with the flavors ranging from very savory to a mild sweet. Red miso is fermented for over a year, up to three years. White and yellow miso is fermented for less than one year.

The color of the miso is also determined by the fermentation process, with the colors ranging from dark red to light yellow.

The texture of miso paste is also very much like peanut butter. Its smooth and soft texture. Although miso is not appropriate as a stand-alone dish, you can taste it a little to determine its flavor before using it in a recipe.

Please note that different kinds of miso have their distinct flavor, and learning the difference will ensure you are doing your recipe justice.

Health Benefits of Miso Paste

Miso paste is a source of antioxidants, dietary fibers, enzymes, and probiotic microflora that are beneficial to the digestive tract.

Keep in mind, only an unpasteurized version of miso paste will have these health properties. If you buy a pasteurized brand, it will be void of any enzymes or beneficial microorganisms.

With that knowledge in mind, here are some of the closest substitutes of miso paste.

The Best List Of Substitutes For Miso Paste

Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is your best bet when you have run out of miso paste. The two are almost “twins”, soy sauce is also made from fermented products as with miso.

Soy sauce is made from fermented soybeans like most miso varieties. As for the flavor, soy sauce is a close match. The sauce has a salty flavor that provides a similar umami flavor typical of miso.

What we love about soy sauce is that it offers similar nutrients for that of miso sauce and it is great for vegetarian dishes since it contains zero animal products.

So, if you are vegan who cannot say no to miso, soy sauce makes an excellent substitute.

Soy sauce, however, has a fragile consistency compare to miso paste. It may, therefore, it might be unsuitable for some recipes, but it works for soups and recipes that do not emphasize consistency.

Soy sauce may also present a problem where color plays a role in a recipe. Soy sauce may make the dish darker than necessary, especially if it calls for yellow or white miso.

In such a case, you can opt for light soy sauce or use the very minimal amount in the recipe. Soy sauce is also saltier than miso, so you want to bear that in mind while using it.

If you want a thicker paste, try mixing a little tomato paste in with the soy sauce.
Or add a little anchovy paste to the soy sauce to achieve more of an umami flavor.

Vegetable Stock

Vegetable stock is a healthy alternative to miso paste.

The point we are aiming for when substituting is to obtain the same taste and ingredients as well as the health benefits.

The vegetable stock paste is made from vegetables, herbs, and umami seasonings, which are varied depending on the flavor you are going for.

What we love about vegetable stock is that you can change umami seasoning to match that of miso paste.

You can also create the thickness of the paste, depending on the recipe or dish you are preparing. The vegetable stock paste is excellent because of the flavors it incorporates. There is no part of the veggies that are wasted while making the broth. All the nutrients and flavors from the herbs fit right into any soup.

Vegetable stock is also vegan-friendly. Vegetable stock is an excellent substitute for miso paste in soups. The tastes of the two are, however, a little different.


Tahini is a suitable substitute when you are going for the look and feel other than the flavor of miso. Tahini is made from sesame seeds, which are perfectly ground to create the paste, while miso is fermented using soybeans and other grains.

Tahini is therefore suitable as a substitute since it feels and looks just like miso paste. It can be a great substitute where a thick paste is required.

Tahini, however, falls short in terms of flavor. Combining it with anchovy paste or a little fish sauce will help it achieve more of the much sought after Unami flavor.


Tamari- what can be closer to miso that a substitute from its production process? Tamari is similar to miso paste in flavor as it comes with the same umami taste and saltiness.

Tamari substitute beats soy sauce in thickness and richness in flavor. If you are looking for a miso paste substitute for a dish that requires consistency, I would recommend tamari instead of soy sauce.

Soy sauce, however, wins when we are considering nutrients it brings to the table compared to tamari.

Tamari is a liquid and not a paste. Therefore, it may not be the perfect substitute for some dishes.

Fish Sauce

Fish sauce- if you are on a gluten-free diet, but you are still after the goodness of miso paste, fish sauce is an excellent substitute. This sauce not only eliminates soy and gluten from your diet, but it also provides the same flavor as miso. Fish sauce is available in a savory flavor. The sauce differs with miso in that the flavor in miso is more profound.

Fish sauce is also lighter consistency, and the taste and consistency make it a not-so-perfect substitute for some recipes.

Fish sauce is readily available too in almost any grocery store near you. Since this sauce is very salty, start by using very small amounts until you achieve the taste you are going for in your recipe.

Good Ol’ Salt

Salt- this has got to be the cheapest and most available substitute for miso paste. The savory flavor makes it suitable to add to all recipes. Salt is only suitable where the recipe requires a minimal amount of miso and contains a handful of other ingredients for flavor.

Low Sodium Miso Paste Substitute

The healthiest low-sodium substitute for miso paste is vegetable stock and tahini. Pick a low sodium vegetable stock from the supermarket or make your own so you have total control of the amount of salt.

When you compare tahini paste to soy sauce, fish sauce, tamari, and salt, it is, without a doubt, a much healthier choice. Tahini has a lot fewer calories, fat, and salt, so it efficiently works as a healthy substitute for miso.

Tahini is also an excellent option as it has many nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.

Soy-Free Miso Substitute

Non-soy miso- no one is being left behind. If you are intolerant to soybeans, there is miso made from chickpeas for you. It can, however, be harder to find or even come at a higher price tag. The chickpeas miso does not fall short in flavor. The only difference is that this substitute uses chickpeas or garbanzo beans as the base ingredient instead of soybeans. The taste and health benefits are all the same.

How To Use Miso Paste In Your Cooking

Miso Mayo Sauce

I’m sure you’ve heard of the super popular garlic mayo spread called Aioli. Now try that with miso paste. You can mix a tiny bit of miso with mayo to make a mouth-watering spread great for sandwiches or using as a dip for vegetables, or a sauce for grilled seafood and meats.

Miso Butter Spread

Mix two tablespoons of Shiro miso, also called white miso with a stick of unsalted butter to create a spread. Brush it in on chicken, pork chops, or fish. Miso butter is also great for flavoring your favorite grilled or broiled vegetables.


Marinades- add all those savory flavors into your meat, chicken, and fish by marinating them in miso sauce. You don’t have to leave them overnight if you are short on time. You can simply toss your meats in the miso sauce for a few minutes and I guarantee you they will be the best you have had.

Salad Dressing

Miso paste makes a normal salad dressing explode with flavor. Simply combine the miso paste with vinegar and extra virgin olive oil for a stunning savory taste.


Sauces- if you like to have a sauce to dip your meat or veggies in, miso makes a great sauce thanks to its salty and savory nature. You can whip up your sauce depending on the recipe and drizzle all over your meat before serving or leave it in a bowl for dipping.


Soups- you can’t deny miso soup is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of miso paste. Miso paste is the main ingredient in making a main course soup that can be made using seaweed and tofu cubes. You can toss in a veggie and some noodles or proteins to add body to it.

Stir Fry

Stir fry- of course, miso makes a great companion for stir-fries. The miso does not need to be cooked due to its fermenting process it has undergone. You can simply set your dish down from the heat and pour miso sauce all over to simmer.

What’s the Difference Between White, Yellow, and Red Miso?

The first time I was buying miso sauce, the grocery store attendant slapped me with the “which one” question. I was informed that miso paste comes in a few different varieties, but I didn’t know the difference. So, what sets each kind of miso paste apart?

Red Miso

Red miso paste is fermented for the longest period of time, between 1 -2 -years. The longer the fermentation process, the stronger the taste and the darker red it will be, hence the name Red Miso. It is also made from soybeans and barley or other grains.

Red miso has a mature, pungent, and very salty umami flavor. You can use red miso for marinating your beef cuts and chicken and other hearty dishes. The red or dark brown color is an excellent addition to your recipes. Due to the strong flavor of red miso, a little goes a long way.

White Miso

White miso, also called Shiro miso is made from soybeans and rice, which are then fermented for three months. Although the signature taste for miso is salty, white miso comes in a slightly sweet flavor since the fermentation process is much shorter than its counterparts.

The shorter fermentation time also makes it the lowest priced miso compared to red which takes up to two years to ferment.

So, if you are on a budget, white miso is definitely the recommendation I would give. It’s also a great option if you are not very keen on intense flavors. White miso is the most popular miso variety since it can be used for almost all dishes.

Whether you are preparing a tart, acidic flavored, or slightly bitter dish, white miso will blend right in. This miso does excellent with soups, light marinades, and dressing salads. I’ve even spread it on toast and topped mashed potatoes with it.

Yellow Miso

Yellow miso also called Shinshu miso. Yellow miso is made from fermented soybeans and barley like red miso. Its flavor profile falls in between both the red and white miso. It is slightly more potent than white miso, but milder compared to red miso. Yellow miso is great for dressing salads, soups, and marinades.

Mixed Miso

Mixed miso is made by combining red and white miso. Its popularly known as Awase miso. Since Awase miso is made from two very different flavors of miso, it’s versatile. It can be used for creating different dishes, especially those times you are unsure of what flavor to go for. Mixed miso is fermented for 1-1.5 years and comes in a dark brown color.

While searching online, I read that there are over 1000 varieties of miso with different textures, flavors, and colors. The ingredients used and length in the fermentation process set the distinction between the kinds of miso. However, the darker the color of the miso, the longer it took to be fermented. Also, darker miso is more pungent and stronger in taste. The darker the berry, as they say.

You can also use the varieties of miso interchangeably, depending on the recipe. You should, however, be keen on what you are going for in the recipe in terms of flavor. Red miso is not very complimentary for use instead of yellow or white miso. However, if you have no option, just use as little as possible to avoid excessive salt since the red miso is very strong.

If you run out of that precious miso paste, now you know you don’t have to give up the whole recipe. Although there is no perfect miso paste substitute, the ones I have mentioned above are as close as it gets. So, what are you waiting for? Get on with your cooking with these excellent miso paste substitutes.

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Do you ever find yourself wandering through a grocery store wondering, “where do I find miso paste in the grocery store?” Check out my post and find the answer to one of the great mysteries of the grocery store. Where to Buy Miso Paste & Where do I find Miso Paste in the grocery store?


Hello! I’m Katie, mom, hobby fermenter, gardener, canner, and boundless experimenter. Here at Fermenters Kitchen, our team of enthusiast aims to encourage readers to embark on a fermentation journey with us, one bubbly jar at a time.