8 Great Kombu Substitute That You Can’t Ignored

When it comes to Japanese cuisine, kombu plays as one of the essential ingredients to create an amazing taste for the dishes (dashi broth in particular).

Despite that fact, it is not easy to find it at all. Hence, products called the kombu substitute have become much more popular in the market. They may be made from different ingredients. But most of them can bring nearly the same umami flavor.

So, what are the most suitable replacements for kombu in your kitchen? How to use them correctly for the perfect flavor? Let’s discuss to find out the answer.

All About Kombu

Kombu Substitute

Before discussing the kombu substitute, it would be better to get some knowledge of the kombu first.

So, what is kombu

It is a type of edible Japanese dried seaweed originally from the Laminariaceae family. In Asian countries, people often use this sea vegetable to enhance the flavor of the traditional dashi.

In the market, you can find it in dried, pickled, or fresh kombu leaves.  

When cooking beans, for example, adding a kombu strip can help the food become more digestible. In other words, the amino acids in this vegetable can break down unhealthy starches. Consequently, the beans can move through your digestive system much easier.

The umami flavor of this seaweed undoubtedly helps to improve the deliciousness of the food. Alternatively, you can still try some replacements. They include kombu tea, hondashi, mentsuyu, Ajinomoto, bonito soup stock, dried shiitake mushrooms soup stock, wakame, and whitefish.

Kombu Substitute: A List Of 7 Best Options 

With the list below, we bring here seven different “stars” which you can replace the kombu – a fantastic gift from the sea. For each of them, what to do?

1. Kombu Tea

Kombu Tea
Kombu Tea

This tea is made from chopped/powdered kelp. To enjoy it, you only need to add some hot water to the processed tea. Besides the beverage, this product is also commonly used as a secret seasoning for food, especially dashi soups.

How Can It Replace?

Like kombu, this kombu replacement contains the glutamic acid that can leave the umami taste. For cooking, we suggest you choose the tea powder sold widely in both online and offline grocery stores for convenience. However, you should not pick the one with several additional flavors.

How To Use It?

In addition to the dashi broth, Asazuke pickles can go well with the kombu tea powder, too.

After cutting several vegetables (cucumber, cabbage, carrot, and so forth), it is time to make the mixture at a ratio of 1 tbsp powder for 100g vegetables. Then, you put the vegetables and red chili pepper into a zip lock bag and mix them evenly. The pickle will be ready to serve after half an hour.

2. Hondashi


Hondashi comes as a big brand that offers a wide range of granules for dashi popularly used in Japan for numerous dishes such as miso soup and stews. Besides the ones made from the bonito shaving and sardines, the kombu granule is always the top Hondashi ingredient Japanese consumers choose. 

How Can It Replace?

As a substitute for kombu, Hondashi granules contain dashi only. Hence, it is quite versatile with the function of an excellent replacement.

How To Use It?

We would like to take the miso soup as a typical example. For this dish, you should use 1 tbsp of Hondashi powder combined with 4 cups of water.

When the water starts boiling, it is time to add the powder and stir slightly so that the liquid can mix well. Then, you soak miso paste in the soup with some tofu and green onions. Don’t let the soup get over-boiled.

3. Mentsuyu


Mentsuyu is another common type of Japanese seasoning mainly made from soy sauce, dashi, salt, and sugar. It has become an indispensable part of noodle soup. Also, in Japan, people use mentsuyu for other dishes like stews.

How Can It Replace?

The dashi ingredient in mentsuyu is the bonito dashi. That said, you can find some mentsuyu with kombu dashi which is the best choice with great umami flavor to upgrade your food.

There is an additional note for you to bear in mind. Since mentsuyu bears a salty flavor, we do not suggest adding it into the soup to which you have already added the seasoning. In case you still love mentsuyu, the miso paste should not be in the soup, then.

How To Use It?

The amount of water needed to dilute mentsuyu may be different based on the numerous brands. However, we would like to bring here some references for you.

  • Cold noodle dipping sauce: 1 mentsuyu with 3 water
  • Hot noodle soup: 1 mentsuyu with 6-8 water
  • Donburi or Tentsuyu: 1 mentsuyu with 3-4 water
  • Hot pot: 1 mentsuyu with 8-10 water
  • Simmered food: 1 mentsuyu with 4-6 water

4. Ajinomoto


Ajinomoto is not only commonly used in Japanese kitchens, but it also is in use by people around the world. You can view it as the powder in white containing the umami.

In other words, the main ingredient of this kombu alternative is monosodium glutaminate extracted from sugarcane. By fermentation, it turns into glutamic acid. In this process, manufacturers added fermented bacteria in sugarcane molasses to get ajinomoto.

How Can It Replace?

Besides umami, Ajinomoto contains no other seasoning components. Hence, you will not find it with a salty or sweet flavor.

How To Use It?

Due to the umami component, ajinomoto combines with a wide range of dishes without spoiling their flavor. You can add some ajinomoto for soup, pickles, or even meat to improve tastes.

5. Bonito Soup Stock

Bonito Soup Stock
Bonito Soup Stock

Japanese people make bonito soup stock with the bonito, a fast-swimming skipjack living in tropical waters. In essence, it is equivalent to Jewish chicken soup – a healthy dish for your health. 

Honestly, bonito soup stock does not bring the taste of a typical kombu food. It can amaze you a lot by the bonito shaving flavor. The umami component produced by inosinic acid can dramatically enhance the taste.

How To Use It?

You can make the soup stock yourself at home without dried kombu. We suggest using the dried and shaved bonito instead. But you need to ensure high-quality preparation.

Generally, the ingredients include dried shavings of bonito along with hot water. The first step is to soak the bonito shavings in hot water for around 3 minutes. Next, it is time to filter out the liquid. And it does not matter to keep the soup stock in fridge for after use.

6. Soup Stock With Dried Shiitake Mushrooms

Soup Stock With Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
Soup Stock With Dried Shiitake Mushrooms

Another recommendation to make dashi without kombu is to use dried shiitake mushrooms. This kombu shiitake dashi alternative has abundant nutrients, including lots of potassium and vitamin D.

How Can It Replace?

It provides an abundant acid that you can consider as the umami ingredient for great taste. The dried shiitake mushrooms are now available in the market at a fair price.

How To Use It?

You need to place the dried shiitake mushrooms in water from 6 to 12 hours at a ratio of 100ml for one mushroom. The longer you soak the mushroom, the better the soup taste will be. Due to the long time needed to soak the mushroom, you can do this rehydration in advance and store the liquid in the fridge for days to use.

7. Wakame


Wakame is a typical Japanese seaweed like the kombu sea weed. And many people choose it as a suitable replacement for the kombu extract.

How Can It Replace?

In a comparison of kombu vs wakame, both of them contain the umami ingredient. However, the latter seems not to enhance the taste of dishes. That said, wakame is not as expensive as kombu. Moreover, many people find it easier to cook.

How To Use It?

For a 4-serving soup, you ought to use around 3 tbsp of dried wakame. Moreover, we suggest using some additional seasonings such as soy sauce and sugar along with garlic gloves for better flavor.

In terms of dried wakame, you can choose to soak it in water first or add it directly into the cooking liquid. For salads and ramen topping, we suggest soaking it for rehydration. On the other hand, when cooking soups, it is a must to rehydrate the dried wakame.

8. White Fish


Like substitutes for Japanese kombu mentioned above, non-oily white fish is also a good idea. Options such as catfish and snapper are the ones you should not ignore to create the umami taste for the dish.

How Can It Replace?

By simmering the heads and bones of the white fish, you can get the desired umami flavor.

How To Use It?

The process to have umami flavor from white fish is quite simple.

  • Step 1: Stiring some onions, garlic with herbs such as celery and parsley.
  • Step 2:  Adding white fish and mix them evenly.
  • Step 3: Pouring around 1l of water into the pot and boil the mixture on high heat.
  • Step 4: Adding 0.5 cup of white wine for aromatics and keeping it boiled for another 3 minutes.
  • Step 5: Adding some soy sauce, sugar, and mirin.
  • Step 6: The simmering process can finish when you feel a rich aroma from the pot. 

Final Thoughts 

Each type of kombu substitute needs a different method of cooking. Some of them come with great convenience to use, while the others take more time to bring your desired flavor.Hopefully, you will have more interesting ideas to use the best kombu and its substitutes effectively.

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