Find out how to make a simple, essential ingredient in many traditional Japanese dishes.

Dashi is a light, pale-gold soup and cooking broth that smells like the sea. It's an essential ingredient in many classic Japanese dishes — miso soup, noodle dishes, stews, and more. You can find dashi granules and dashi powder for instant dashi broth at well-stocked grocery stores. But it's actually quite simple to make homemade dashi. And the flavor of homemade dashi can be more subtle than store-bought instant dashi.

There are several types of dashi stock. The most popular dashi is made with dried fish flakes (katsuobushi or bonito flakes) and dried kelp (kombu). There are also vegetarian or vegan dashi, including versions that call for dried kelp without the fish flakes and shiitake dashi that uses dried shiitake mushrooms. The common feature of all, though, is the taste of umami, which is hard to describe but is essentially the essence of savory flavor.

No matter which version you're making, dashi stock is super simple to make.

Konbu Dashi Broth
Konbu Dashi Broth
| Credit: Buckwheat Queen

How to Make Dashi Stock

1. If you're using a recipe with kombu (dried kelp), wipe away any dirt with a paper towel or damp cloth. Then add it to a saucepan of water and soak for 30 minutes to soften it.

2. Slice a few slits in the softened kelp leaves and return them to the water. Bring the water to a boil.

3. Remove the kombu from the water once it boils to keep the broth from getting bitter.

4. If you're using bonito flakes, add them to the boiling water -- and take the pan off the heat. The bonito flakes will settle to the bottom of the pan as the broth cools a bit.

5. Strain the bonito flakes through a strainer lined with cheesecloth. A coffee filter will also work.

How to Make Dashi, Method #2

You can also make a cold-brew version of dashi simply by soaking kombu in water for 1-2 hours. Here are 3 simple variations on dashi stock.

"This is a good vegetarian broth and enhances the subtle flavor of Japanese cuisine," says Rachael. "It is also a bit friendlier to the western chef than katsubuoshi, which is made from dried fish flakes and can be very aromatic." It calls for kombu, a variety of dried edible kelp.

"This is one of the many ways to make Dashi soup," says Hinata. "This soup stock is good for recipes like Nikujaga, a Japanese meat and potatoes dish."  Use the mushrooms in other recipes after they make the stock!

This simple recipe combines dashi kombu (dried kelp) with bonito shavings (dried fish flakes).

Miso Soup | Photo by LilSnoo
Miso Soup | Photo by LilSnoo

Recipes That Call for Dashi Stock

Now that you have your dashi stock. You'll want to use it in these top-rated recipes.

This 5-star soup includes a recipe for dashi made with kombu and bonito flakes. The dashi soup is then flavored with miso paste, dried wakame,  chunks of tofu, and chopped green onions. Other popular additions for miso soup are enoki mushrooms, daikon radishes, and carrots.

"This is a wonderful Japanese soup, very popular throughout Japan," says jaime, "with chicken, eggs, and vegetables. A meal in and of itself!"

Vegetables, noodles, and beef are served in a steaming, flavorful broth made with dashi, mirin, and soy sauce in this Japanese dish, sukiyaki.

  • Authentic Japanese Scallop Soup with Ramen Noodles
  • "A great soup to jazz up a package of ramen noodles," says Aja. "The broth is very flavorful, especially with the addition of the minced ginger and earthy mushrooms." If you like, switch up this dashi ramen with some shrimp or sukiyaki-style sliced beef.
Authentic Japanese Scallop Soup with Ramen Noodles
Authentic Japanese Scallop Soup with Ramen Noodles | Photo by Aja

Check out our collection of Japanese Soups and Stews Recipes.

What is dashi powder? Dashi stock powder is the instant version of dashi stock. To make it, you simply combine the granules with hot water. The taste is typically stronger than homemade.

Is there a dashi stock substitute? If you don't have dashi stock on hand, try mushroom broth, which can mimic the perception of umami. Other stocks or broths -- beef, chicken, vegetarian -- are also good substitutes.

How should I store homemade dashi? Keep dashi covered and refrigerated when not in use. It will keep for up to two weeks. When it's gone bad, you may notice a sour smell.