Want to enjoy hearty Japanese stock, beloved sushi, or iconic ramen but not have bonito flakes, don’t worry it’s easy to get a substitute. Don’t confuse bonito flakes with Katsuobushi, both terms are more often used interchangeably.
Katsuobushi is simply a shaved, dried, simmered, smoked, and fermented condiment of fish fillets. Bonito or skipjack tuna is a fish used to make this signature recipe essential and named so.
Nearly all traditional Japanese and Asian cuisines have this hyped treasure as a staple ingredient thanks to its authentic savor. It’s a great Japanese recipe secret and equally honored overseas.
You can get it from Asian stores or Japanese grocery aisles to add on everything you love. However, bonito flake is a rare find in many regions around the globe. All you can do is go for the best bonito flakes alternative to make things as good as the original.
Pick Up The Best Bonito Flakes Substitute
Think for a second, a variety of vegan and non-vegan substitutes are available out there to replace bonito flakes. So, how can you pick up the one perfect candidate for your next recipe?
Is there any shortcut? Yes, sure. Consider the following elements before going for a final substitute and you will definitely worth it.
Flavor: Bonito flakes are rich in savory flavor and fishy mouthfeel to stimulate your palate gently. Thereby, go for a pick that offers a similar umami flavor and fishy odor to complement the dish calling for katsuobushi. If the fishy flavor is not welcomed, try vegan options and enjoy.
Availability: Check the availability of the product before making it your best bet. As bonito flakes are not readily available in various parts of the world, you need to pick up the one that is available in your region.
Diet-Friendly: If you are following a vegan diet, put your hands on a vegan option. In addition, consider your health conditions or allergies before choosing the best substitute for bonito flakes.
Texture: Bonito flakes provide a thin paper-like texture and grindable consistency to food dishes. So, an ingredient with a similar texture and consistency works well for you. For instance, fish sauce is not a better pick in terms of texture.
Bonito Flakes Substitute
The endless culinary applications of bonito flakes seem hard to recreate. Isn’t it? In fact, people are so addicted to bonito flakes that they even can’t imagine their food without this umami addition.
Yet, many people are following vegan diets and others don’t like the fishy flavor at all. So, whether you are getting short on this flavor warehouse or want to replace it intentionally, I’ve got you covered here.
What you can find here is a collection of substitutes for bonito flakes including vegan ideas. So, let’s get straight into it.
1. Iriko – Similarly Fermented
Go for another staple ingredient of dashi, iriko instead of bonito flakes. It can savor your ordinary soups, stocks, noodles, and broths in the same way as Katsuobushi.
Iriko are cured and fermented baby anchovies filled with a pungent umami goodness closer to bonito flakes.
Add iriko to your soups and cook thoroughly to allow uniform flavor distribution. Drain out iriko before serving so that you can end up a dish clear and rich more like a star chef.
However, when comes to adore eggs, rice, and sushi, iriko cannot beat the tiny paper-thin bonito flakes.
2. White Fish – Similar Flavor
Why does white fish stand out in the list of bonito flakes substitute? Well, there’s a reason.
White fish packs a similar subtle fishy flavor as bonito and therefore complements any savory recipe that calls for bonito flakes.
Avoid going for canned tuna or white fish cuts as these can easily overpower your dish. On the other side, white flakey fish allows other recipe ingredients to shine while infusing rich savor and tons of protein.
Either find fresh, dry, or shaved, white fish will never feel you let down. So, top up your rice, scrambled eggs, and noodles with white fish and overlook rarely available bonito flakes.
3. Shellfish – Easy To Get
Shellfish is your next possible bet if fishy richness or whole savor is a priority. If not available fresh, put your hands on shellfish stock or powder.
In the same way, oysters, shrimps, prawns, and scallops can easily provide you with similar fishy goodness as Katsuobushi.
When fresh, you can use shellfish over rice, wrap it in sushi, or top on the noodles as a great alternative to bonito flakes. However, if only have shellfish stock or powder, limit it to the soups, broths, and dashi to complement the recipe.
4. Mackerel powder – Big Jump In Savor
In terms of availability around the globe, mackerel always wins the spot as the best substitute for bonito flakes. It’s deep, intense, and similarly rich as Katsuobushi and doesn’t need any preparation to make a lavish replacement.
However, it’s not a 1:1 alternative for your iconic Japanese cuisines. Use it in a pinch and adjust the flavor otherwise it will mask the flavor of your recipe that is not welcomed at all.
Since it’s a powder, mackerel works well in coking dishes including soups and stocks rather than topping or filling.
5. Fish sauce – Handy & Versatile
Looking for an instant flavor enhancer, go for fish sauce. After all, it all offers what you need, savory fish flavor and fermented aroma. To make a replacement, fish sauce needs no preparation, cooking, or boiling and it sounds great. Agree?
However, it cannot provide you the flakey fishy texture to your umami dishes as bonito flakes. All you can do is spoon fish sauce over noodles, eggs, pasta, rice, and broths.
Vegan Bonito Flakes Substitute
Try the following vegan substitutes if the fishy flavor of katsuobushi is not welcomed to your food. All the given options are handy, easy to get, and are meant to complement your vegan diet deliciously.
6. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast can do more than bonito flakes for you. It’s an incredibly flavorful seasoning for stir-fried recipes, pasta dishes, and salads. As a flavor enhancer, nutritional yeast blends an umami oomph to soups, casseroles, vegan sauces, and stews.
It’s a satisfying topping for tofu and noodles. However, it cannot make dashi as flavorful as bonito flakes.
7. Roasted Soybeans
Roasted soybeans can substitute the smoky and fermented mouthfeel of bonito flakes when used in bland recipes. It’s a great option to turn your recipe flavor towards the mellower side rather than stronger fishy hints.
Roast soybeans with care and patience and the outcomes will revive you delicately without going off taste.
8. Shiitake Mushrooms
There’s no katsuobushi or bonito flakes, go for shiitake mushrooms for a similar delicate texture and richness. Although fresh shiitake mushrooms can do the game, dried ones are readily available and better to achieve umami flavor closer to katsuobushi.
They are easy to get, vegan-friendly, and flavorful alternatives to make your fried rice, noodles, soups, and salads as umami as you expected. In terms of texture and rich flavor, dried shiitake mushrooms always win.
9. Dulse Flakes
Dulse flakes are another umami pick for Japanese food lovers instead of bonito. Its comparable fishy flavor, smokey undernotes, and flakey mouthfeel make you never miss katsuobushi.
As a great seasoning, topping, and a flavor enhancer, dulse seaweed pairs your recipe ingredients more than anything else.
Nori seaweed is another worthy vegan substitute for bonito flakes. It can be your best topping for salads, soups, noodles, and sauces. To achieve a similar flakey texture, shred or crumble nori sheets over your meals.
To make dashi, the combination of dulse and nori works great for vegans. So, next time save nori for substituting katsuobushi rather than making sushi.
Kombu is another bonus seaweed for Japanese cooking while offering you a flavor closer to bonito flakes. The chewy and grindable texture makes this element a worthy replacement.
You can make vegan dashi as flavorful and savory rich as bonito flakes by steeping or infusing kombu into water. Both kombu seaweed and kombu stock can satisfy your craving delectably.
What Is The Best Substitute To Bonito Flakes For Dashi?
To make dashi, go for baby anchovies (Iriko), white fish, and dried shiitake mushrooms in place of bonito flakes. These alternatives are best in terms of steeping umami fishy flavor to dashi as well as chewy texture. However, shiitake mushroom is a vegan alternative and thus imparts earthy flavor to the recipe rather than a fishy mouthfeel.
Can You Use Canned Tuna Instead Of Bonito Flakes?
Yes, you can but not more than enough. Bonito flakes are made from skipjack tuna for its mellower flavor. However, canned tuna can easily overpower the dish flavor or at least mask other recipe ingredients unappealingly. So, it’s better to use shellfish, iriko, or white fish rather than canned tuna for bonito flakes.
Is Dashi The Same As Bonito Flakes?
Not really. Dashi is a fish stock base for almost every Japanese food recipe whereas bonito flakes are a staple ingredient of dashi. Bonito flakes give dashi its characteristic fishy oomph and umami goodness. So, bonito flakes are only an ingredient while dashi is a cooking dish with a variety of ingredients.