If you’ve ever had a traditional bowl of miso soup, chances are it was made with a Japanese dashi broth. It’s an essential part of Japanese cuisine and gives that classic umami flavor to many Japanese dishes, especially, of course, soups!
Dashi is a light Japanese soup stock that’s used as a base in many types of Japanese dishes. It is the key ingredient in any miso soup recipe and various types of udon noodle soups and ramen, to name a few. It’s also used to flavor sauces and even rice.
It’s also often referred to as dashi stock but I think dashi broth is more appropriate since it’s not simmered for long periods like other types of meat stocks. That said, the terms dashi stock and dashi broth are used interchangeably.
It can be made with many things but the two most common ingredients are kombu and dried bonito flakes. Both of these ingredients contain high amounts of glutamic acid, the amino acid that creates the meaty flavor (known as umami) that humans crave in food.
For the most basic version of dashi broth, this is all you need…
That’s kombu, pictured on the left, a type of edible dried kelp (which is a large type of seaweed), and bonito flakes (also called katsuobushi), pictured on the right, which comes from a type of dried tuna. You can find both in packaged form in health food stores or Asian markets. Eden Foods is one of the more common brands you’ll find in the former. See their kombu here and bonito flakes here.
A slightly clearer picture when removed from the packaging:
Simmered together they infuse the broth with a delicate but clear umami and briny flavor that works so well in so many Japanese soups and stews. Check out this Japanese tomato noodle soup for an example that uses a Japanese dashi broth.
Per quart of water, you’ll need about 4 large strips of kombu and about 2 cups of bonito flakes for this dashi broth recipe.
First, add the kombu to cold filtered water in a saucepan and let it soak for 20 to 30 minutes. A longer soaking period is better if you have the time and/or foresight to prepare it ahead of time. 3 to 4 hours is better and you could even soak it overnight to extract the most flavor.
Heat the water over medium-high heat. Just before the water boils, remove the kombu using tongs, like so…
Make sure the water never boils! This is very important because bonito flakes are very delicate and can easily create a bitter flavor if overcooked via boiling. Once the water is barely simmering add the bonito flakes and keep the heat on for about 30 to 60 seconds.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it sit for ten minutes. The bonito flakes will fall to the bottom of the pan.
Strain the bonito flakes from the dashi broth using a colander lined with fine mesh cheesecloth or a paper towel.
Use the dashi broth right away or store it in the fridge for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
This is the most basic way of making dashi. If you’re new to it, start here and you can’t go wrong. But as with all things, there are many different interpretations and opinions on everything from the quality of ingredients to the soaking times to the exact temperature of the water. For something so simple, it can get quite involved! There are countless online articles for a much deeper dive into the traditional methods and variations.
Yes, mostly in Asian and Japanese grocery stores and markets. You also might find a specialty brand in some health food stores. There are also many dashi products on Amazon and other online outlets. The most common store-bought product is some form of dashi powder.
I have not personally tried any dried or powdered version but I’m sure the quality varies greatly. Just like with any type of store-bought stock or broth, be it chicken stock, clam juice, or other types of seafood broth, check the labels and avoid products with lots of chemical flavorings.
No, because it includes bonito flakes. Bonito is a species of fish. Therefore, dashi broth is pescatarian.
Yes, you can make a kombu dashi broth without bonito flakes. You can also substitute dried shiitake mushrooms for the dried bonito flakes for a shiitake dashi broth.
Yes. However, many common Japanese dishes that are made with dashi, such as Udon noodle soups or ramen noodle soups, also include gluten.
Yes, dashi broth is healthy. Like many types of seaweed, kombu is high in iodine and contains a wide variety of amino acids, vitamins, and other minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron. Scientific studies have also shown that dashi broth can reduce mental fatigue, lower blood pressure, and improve mood states. Like all homemade broths and stocks, dashi is easy to digest and can improve the digestibility of other foods.
Craig Fear is the creator of Fearless Eating and the author of three books, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, Fearless Broths and Soups and The Thai Soup Secret. After years helping clients with digestive issues, Craig decided to pursue writing full-time. He intends to write many more books on broths and soups from around the world! Click here to learn more about Craig.