The 7 Best Miso Substitute Alternatives For Flavorful Fare 

 Last Update March 6, 2024

By Jenny Zhang

Miso, the beloved Japanese fermented soybean paste, is renowned for its unique umami flavor and ability to elevate dishes with its rich, complex taste. Made from fermented soybeans, this salty umami flavor seasoning is often used in Japanese cuisine (miso soup, for example). Because of its unique umami flavor, miso paste is an excellent addition to any soup, stews, stir-fried dishes, and even using it as a glaze.

However, there may come a time when you find yourself without miso paste in your pantry or can't find miso paste at your local store. Fear not, as several fantastic miso substitutes are available that can impart a similar depth and savory profile to your culinary creations. Finding the perfect miso paste substitute is not easy, and it needs to have the right creaminess, saltiness, savory, and umami flavor. While there is no "perfect" flavor match for miso paste, there are excellent miso paste substitutes.

In this article, we will explore various ingredients that can step up to the plate and provide a worthy miso substitute. Whether you're following a specific dietary preference, searching for specific flavors, or looking to experiment with different cultural influences, we've got you covered.

What Is Miso Paste?

Miso is a Japanese fermented soybean paste that is used in Asian cuisine. Native to Japan, miso is famous for its umami flavor. It has a salty, savory, and mild sweet taste, with a creamy texture like peanut butter. Because it is full of unique flavor and texture, a small amount of miso will go a long way.

Miso is often used in vegetable stock, vegetable broth, miso soup, marinades, and salad dressing. The possibilities are endless.

Types Of Miso

The fermentation length of soybeans will determine the strength of flavor and color of the miso paste. Below are several frequently encountered varieties of miso:

Shiro miso- White color, made from rice and lighter in strength and fermented for more than one year and up to three years.

Aka-miso- Red color, made with barley and medium strength and fermented for more than one year and up to three years.

Kuro-miso- Black color, bold flavor, made with soybeans, and fermented for more than one year and up to three years.

Hatcho miso- Also known as brown miso or dark miso. This type of miso paste falls on the darker and more intense end of the miso spectrum. Its strong and rich taste makes it a staple in traditional Japanese cuisine.

The darker the miso color is, the stronger the taste, pungency, and flavor the miso will be. White miso usually has a shorter three-month fermentation period but still has the signature miso taste and flavor profile. Because white miso has a shorter fermentation length, it is usually the most budget-friendly type of miso for purchase.

What Does Miso Taste Like

Miso paste has a distinct and complex flavor profile, often described as savory and umami. Miso's umami taste is rich, earthy, and slightly salty, adding umami flavor to whatever dish you add it to.

The exact taste of miso can vary depending on factors such as the type of miso, fermentation time, and ingredients used. In general, white miso tends to possess a gentler and slightly sweeter flavor, while red miso boasts a more robust and saltier taste. Yellow miso falls in between, offering a balanced flavor profile.

In addition to umami, miso may have subtle hints of sweetness, nuttiness, and sometimes a tanginess. The flavor can be complex and deep, with a lingering aftertaste.

Best Miso Paste Substitutes

Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is a popular condiment that can substitute miso paste, especially when adding a salty and umami flavor to your dish. It has a flavor similar to miso paste because it is also made from fermented food like soybean. It is salty, savory, and has a little umami flavor.

However, soy sauce is usually saltier and less creamy than miso paste. When using soy sauce as a substitute for miso paste, a small amount will go a long way, and work your way up as needed. The disadvantage of using soy sauce is it will darken your dish.

To help build a creamy texture to meet miso paste-like consistency, add a little tomato paste, anchovy paste, tahini, and soybean flour, or blend it with some cooked beans. If you are looking to avoid soy and want a gluten-free option, check out coconut aminos or fish sauce.


Tahini paste can make a good substitute because the color and texture are similar to white miso paste. Tahini, derived from ground sesame seeds, offers a distinct taste that differs from miso paste. However, it does lend a creamy texture and nutty flavor to dishes. To get a similar taste as miso paste, combine it with anchovy paste, a little fish sauce, or soy sauce to get that umami flavor.

Regardless if you will use tahini as is for a miso substitute or make a miso paste, start using a smaller quantity and adjust to taste. Due to its stronger flavor profile, it is advisable to use a smaller quantity of tahini compared to the recommended amount of miso paste in the recipe.


Tamari is a Japanese soy sauce that is made with little or no wheat, making it a suitable option for those following a gluten-free diet. Tamari is very much like miso paste in terms of umami taste and salty flavor. It has a rich, savory flavor that can provide a hint of umami to your dishes. This miso substitute ingredient is thicker and richer in flavor than soy sauce. But it is much thinner in consistency compared to miso paste. 

Like soy sauce, when substituting miso paste with tamari, start by using a smaller quantity of tamari and adjust to taste. Tamari is quite concentrated, so you'll need less of it compared to miso paste. Generally, you can use about 1 tablespoon of tamari as a substitute for 1 tablespoon of miso paste. However, the exact amount depends on your preference and the specific recipe.

Fish Sauce

Fish sauce can be a suitable miso paste substitute if you're not following a vegetarian or vegan diet. Fish sauce is a popular Asian condiment made from fermented fish. It has a very similar taste profile to soy sauce and tamari, and it adds a strong umami flavor and saltiness to dishes.

However, it's important to note that fish sauce has a very strong flavor and aroma and imparts a distinctly fishy taste to dishes. While miso paste also has a salty flavor, the fishy taste of fish sauce can be overpowering if not used judiciously.

Fish sauce can be a perfect option for people who are avoiding soy and want a gluten-free option while providing a similar flavor profile as miso paste. Like soy sauce, fish sauce is lighter, but it is very salt so that little amount will go a long way. As a general guideline, you can start with about half the amount of fish sauce compared to the miso paste called for in the recipe and then adjust based on your taste preferences.

Chinese Ground Bean Sauce

Chinese Ground Bean Sauce, also known as Doubanjiang or Toban Djan, is a condiment commonly used in Chinese cuisine. While it shares some similarities with miso paste, it is not an exact miso substitute, and however, it can add a savory and slightly spicy flavor to your dishes.

Chinese Ground Bean Sauce is made from fermented broad beans, chili peppers, soybeans, and various seasonings. Its robust, salty, slightly spicy taste has a complex flavor profile. While it shares umami qualities with miso paste, its unique characteristics set it apart. Depending on the brand and variety, the level of spiciness can vary. Modify the quantity according to your personal preference for spiciness and the desired flavor profile of your dish.

Chinese Ground Bean Sauce typically has a thick and paste-like consistency, similar to miso paste, making it easier to incorporate into recipes requiring a thicker texture. When substituting miso paste with Chinese Ground Bean Sauce, use a smaller quantity and adjust to taste. 


Doenjang, a traditional Korean fermented soybean paste, can be used as a miso paste substitute in certain recipes. Although there are similarities between the two, there are notable distinctions in terms of flavor and application.

Doenjang has a rich, savory, earthy flavor with a strong umami taste, similar to miso paste. However, Doenjang has its own unique characteristics. It can have a slightly stronger and saltier taste than miso paste and may also have a deeper and more robust flavor profile.

Doenjang and miso paste are made through fermentation, and Doenjang is typically fermented for a longer period than miso paste, which can contribute to its distinct flavor. When using doenjang as a miso paste substitute in various Korean and other Asian recipes.

However, it's important to note that Doenjang has a stronger flavor, so you may need to use a smaller amount compared to miso paste. Start with about half the amount of Doenjang and adjust based on your taste preferences and the specific recipe you're preparing.


Mentsuyu is a versatile Japanese sauce commonly used in various dishes, particularly in soups, noodle dishes, and dipping sauces. While it cannot be directly substituted for miso paste, it does offer certain resemblances in terms of flavor components.

Mentsuyu is a soy-based sauce that typically combines soy sauce, dashi (a Japanese fish and seaweed broth), mirin (sweet rice wine), and sometimes other ingredients like sugar or vinegar. It has a salty, savory, and slightly sweet taste with a depth of umami flavor. While it does not have the exact flavor of miso paste, it shares some similar characteristics.

Mentsuyu is widely used as a base for soups, noodle broths, and dipping sauces in Japanese cuisine. It offers a rich and savory taste that can enhance the overall flavor of dishes.

When using Mentsuyu as a substitute for miso paste, you'll need to adjust the quantities and consider other ingredients in the recipe. Mentsuyu is a liquid sauce, so it can be used to add flavor to broths or sauces. Start by using a smaller quantity of Mentsuyu and adjust to taste. Remember that Mentsuyu is quite salty, so you may need to reduce the amount of salt in the recipe accordingly. 

Jenny passionately advocates a holistic and natural approach to health and well-being. She has a Bachelor of Science degree and years of working in food sciences, specializing in organic & natural products. She is committed to helping others embrace a balanced, natural lifestyle that fosters well-being. Jenny believes that a harmonious balance between nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness is the key to unlocking the full potential of one’s well-being.