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7 Substitutes for Bonito Flakes: Infuse the Recipes

Craving that umami boost but fresh out of bonito flakes? We feel you. It’s like reaching for a cookie only to find an empty jar. We’ve got your back, though. Whether you’re whipping up some dashi or adding flair to your ramen, there’s hope.

We’ve tested, tasted, and compiled seven hacks to replace bonito flakes without compromising flavour. Some of these might be right in your kitchen, ready to be your secret weapon. And guess what? They work like a charm.

7 Easy Substitutes for Bonito Flakes

When it comes to Japanese cooking, bonito flakes are a staple ingredient. These thin, dried fish flakes add a distinct umami flavor to dishes like soups, rice bowls, and even salads. But what happens when you can’t find bonito flakes at your local grocery store? Fear not! Here are seven easy substitutes that will still give your dishes that delicious umami taste.

1 – Dulse Flakes

Dulse flakes are a great alternative to bonito flakes. They bring a salty, sea-like taste that boosts any dish. Think of them as a sprinkle of ocean essence. We love adding them to miso soup and ramen.

For a stronger punch, adjust the amount. One teaspoon of dulse flakes replaces a tablespoon of bonito flakes. They dissolve quickly and add depth to broth, noodles, and even salads. Plus, they’re easy to find online or in health stores. If you’re looking for that umami kick, dulse flakes won’t let you down.

2 – Nori Sheets

When you’re craving that umami bomb, nori sheets are a lifesaver. They bring a distinct briny flavor that’s subtle yet complex. We love their versatility—crush them into a fine sprinkle or use large sheets for wrapping.

Nori offers a hint of the ocean without overpowering your dish. It blends effortlessly into ramen or miso soup. Plus, it’s an easy swap: use one nori sheet to replace a tablespoon of bonito flakes.

Looking for more options? Check out this article on nori substitutes for some great ideas. Simple ingredients, big flavor impact.

3 – Kombu

While kombu sounds fancy, it’s a total overachiever in the flavor department. This seaweed brings a rich, umami punch that leaves bonito flakes feeling a bit jealous. Kombu has a more profound, earthy taste compared to the lighter, fishy notes of bonito.

In our experience, using kombu in soups and broths adds depth that you won’t get from fish flakes. Swap one piece of kombu for every tablespoon of bonito flakes for the perfect taste.

Want to learn more about kombu alternatives? Check out our kombu substitutes guide for more options.

4 – Dried Shiitake Mushrooms

If you’re out of bonito flakes, dried shiitake mushrooms are your best friend. They’re rich, they’re savory, and they’re packed with umami.

We use them as our go-to substitute when we need that robust kick. They offer an earthy, deep taste that can make any broth or soup shine.

For every tablespoon of bonito flakes, use two dried shiitake mushrooms. Simply soak them in hot water until they’re soft, then chop and add to your dish. Ready to learn more about other options? Check out these shiitake mushroom substitutes.

5 – Canned Sardines

The next up on our list: canned sardines. These little guys pack some serious umami flavors. They’re salty, oily, and bring a seafood punch that kicks bonito flakes to the curb.

We love them in soups and stews. Sardines add depth without overpowering the dish.

One tin of sardines replaces one tablespoon of bonito flakes. Mash them up for a smoother texture.

Fun fact: sardines are easy to find and store. Interested in more fishy alternatives? Check out our guide on sardine substitutes.

6 – Miso Paste

Next up, miso paste. This salty, fermented soybean paste is a flavor bomb. It adds depth and a rich umami taste that’s hard to beat.

We love it in broths, soups, and even marinades. For every tablespoon of bonito flakes, use two teaspoons of miso paste. It’s versatile and easily found in the grocery store.

Miso brings a different kind of umami, with earthy and tangy notes. It’s perfect for those looking for a more complex taste. Curious about other alternatives? Check out our miso substitutes guide.

7 – Soy Sauce or Tamari

Last on our list is the wonder duo: soy sauce or tamari. These liquid gems add salty, umami goodness that bonito just can’t match. Soy sauce has a more pronounced flavor, perfect for savory broths. Tamari, a wheat-free variant, is slightly milder but still packs a punch.

Use two teaspoons of soy sauce to replace one tablespoon of bonito flakes. Tamari works the same way.

This substitute blends seamlessly into soups, stews, and even stir-fries. We love how it enriches any dish. Want more ideas? Check out our soy sauce substitutes and tamari substitutes for more options.