This easy and delicious miso soup is made with umami-rich kombu and shiitake dashi and then flavored with awase miso paste and fragrant ginger. It's warming, comforting and vegan friendly!
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Is Miso Soup Vegan Friendly or not?
Miso soup is a traditional Japanese soup dish made by dissolving miso paste in a flavorful broth called dashi, which often includes ingredients like bonito flakes, dried sardines, and kelp.
Although it might seem vegan or vegetarian at first glance, most miso soups aren't because the dashi base usually contains seafood such as bonito flakes. Even some miso pastes have seafood in them so you need to be careful to check the ingredients when selecting a miso paste to suit your dietary requirements. You can say the same with miso ramen as well.
To make a vegan-friendly miso soup, you'll need to carefully choose your miso paste and ingredients. If you want to learn more about authentic Japanese miso soup itself in details, check out my miso soup 101 post.
In the next section, I'll show you how to transform a classic miso soup recipe into a delicious vegan version.
How to make authentic Japanese miso soup vegan friendly
As discussed earlier, there are three things to consider when converting authentic Japanese miso soup to suit vegan specifications: the dashi stock, miso paste, and ingredients (toppings).
From here, I will explain how to convert each category separately.
Vegan friendly dashi stock
In Japan, what we call basic dashi is a broth made from a mix of dried bonito flakes and kelp, and sometimes dried sardines are added too. However, to make a vegan version, you can't use bonito or sardines.
For reference, the following table shows the types of dashi ingredients commonly used in Japan.
|Dashi ingredient||What it is||Vegan friendly?|
|Kombu (昆布)||Dried kelp||Yes|
|Katsuobushi (鰹節)||Bonito flakes||No|
|Niboshi (煮干し)||Dried sardidines||No|
|Shiitake (椎茸)||Dried shiitake mushroom||Yes|
|Ago (あご)||Flying fish||No|
|Daizu (大豆)||Soy beans||Yes|
So, I'll use a vegan-friendly dashi in this recipe, made from a combination of kombu (kelp) and dried shiitake mushrooms. This tasty vegan dashi is perfect for our plant-based miso soup.
How to choose miso paste for vegetarians/vegans
Miso paste can be a key condiment in creating flavorful plant-based dishes in general. Its main ingredients include koji (malted rice), soybeans, and salt, and its main ingredient as rice, beans, or barley depending on the type of miso paste.
However, it's crucial to avoid miso with added dashi or other non-vegan ingredients. Some miso products now have dashi mixed in, which makes preparing miso soup easier, but they aren't vegan-friendly. So, be careful when choosing your miso to ensure it's plant-based.
I used a Japanese brand Marukome's miso paste. They have many types of miso to choose from, but I chose an organic awase miso paste without dashi and no added ingredients, it's also gluten free. You can find it on Amazon here.
How to choose ingredients and toppings for vegan miso soup
Unlike dashi or miso paste, choosing the right ingredients for vegan miso soup is not as complicated. This is because while most miso soups in Japan are not plant-based (because of the dashi), the basic ingredients and toppings are all vegetables or tofu with the exception of specific miso soup variations such as tonjiru (pork miso soup).
Below is a list of common ingredients used in Japanese miso soup:
- Tofu (silken or firm)
- Wakame (seaweed)
- Mushrooms (such as enoki, shiitake, shimeji...etc)
- Daikon radish
- Green onion
The ingredients I used in this recipe are listed in the next section.
Ingredients to use to make this vegan miso soup
- Dried kombu kelp - Hidaka kelp, a versatile kelp that is good for soup stock and good for eating, is one of my recommendations.
- Dried shiitake mushroom - Dried shiitake mushrooms contain concentrated flavour, and when soaked in water, create a tasty broth packed with umami. Fresh shiitake mushrooms don't work well for making dashi.
- Firm tofu - Silken tofu is also fine, but I used firm tofu because it is less likely to break into the soup.
- Shimeji mushroom - Other mushrooms from your area are also fine.
- Green onion - The white part is used as an ingredient, while the green part is chopped into thin strips and used as a topping.
- Fresh ginger - To enjoy the texture of ginger, use fresh ginger instead of paste.
- Vegan awase miso - Again, use vegan-friendly miso paste, not miso paste that already contains dashi.
- White sesame seeds - Use as a final topping.
Instructions on how to make this vegan miso soup recipe
To ensure this recipe is completely vegan friendly, I make everything from scratch including the dashi. Here are my step by step instructions on how to make delicious plant based miso soup at home!
How to make plant-based dashi
Place the kombu and dried shiitake mushrooms in cold water. Cover and allow to soak for at least 30 minutes. Some people leave it to soak overnight for a more intense flavour.
Place the pot on the stove and heat over a medium setting. Keep an eye on it and remove the kombu and shiitake right before it starts to boil.
How to make plant-based ginger miso soup
Peel and julienne the ginger, then cut the spring onion and tofu into bitesize pieces. Cut the mushrooms according to preference, since I used shimeji mushrooms I left them whole.
Add the tofu and vegetables to the dashi broth and cook until warmed through.
Tip: If using hard vegetables like carrot, burdock root (gobo) or potatoes, cook them in the dashi until softened and then add softer vegetables last. I recommend using extra water/dashi if cooking root vegetables since it will evaporate as you cook.
Once the vegetables are cooked to your liking, turn off the heat. Add the miso paste to a mesh spoon and dip it into the hot broth. Whisk until evenly distributed throughout the soup.
Pour the completed miso soup into serving bowls and sprinkle with your choice of toppings. In this case I added toasted sesame seeds.
Miso paste, being fermented, has a long shelf life, but when made into soup and mixed with other ingredients, it spoils easily. Don't leave leftover miso soup out for long; if you must store it, cool it slightly and refrigerate immediately.
It's best to eat it as soon as you can, preferably within 24 hours. While it's possible to freeze it, I do not recommend doing so as the flavor deteriorates significantly.
Typically, Japanese families prepare miso soup in the morning and consume it by the end of the day. For instance, enjoy it at breakfast or lunch and again with dinner.
Conversely, dashi lasts 5-7 days in the fridge or up to a month in the freezer. With dashi on hand, you can quickly make miso soup in under 10 minutes. If you want to make a big batch, make big batch of dashi rather than make big portion of miso soup. That way, you can make miso soup on demand easily and enjoy the freshness of the miso's flavour.
I hope you enjoy this delicious and fragrant plant based miso soup!
Tried the recipe? I would really appreciate if you could take a moment to let us know what you thought by giving us a review and star-rating in the comments below. It's also helpful to other readers if you mention any variations or substitutions you tried. Thank you!
Ginger Miso Soup (Plant-based)
- 30 g green onion(s)
- 125 g firm tofu
- 20 g fresh ginger
- 30 g shimeji mushroom(s) - (or mushrooms of your choice)
- 2 tbsp vegan miso paste - I used awase/mixed miso
- ½ tbsp white sesame seeds - optional
Plant Based Awase Dashi
- Place 6 g dried kelp(s) and 4 g dried shiitake mushroom(s) in a pot with 500 ml cold water. Place a lid on top and leave to soak for at least 30 minutes.
- Once rehydrated, place the pot on the stove and heat over a medium setting until almost boiling. Remove the kombu and shiitake right before the dashi starts to boil and discard.
- Cut 30 g green onion(s) into diagonal pieces and 125 g firm tofu into cubes. Peel 20 g fresh ginger using a spoon and then cut into thin sticks (julienne). 30 g shimeji mushroom(s) can be left whole or sliced depending on preference.
- Add the ginger, tofu, spring onion and mushroom to the dashi and cook until warmed through.
- Turn off the heat and add 2 tbsp vegan miso paste to a mesh spoon. Dip the spoon in the dashi and whisk the miso paste to incorporate it into the broth.
- Pour the miso soup into serving bowls and top with a sprinkle of ½ tbsp white sesame seeds.
Is there a vegan miso soup?
Absolutely! You can enjoy a vegan version of miso soup by swapping out the traditional fish-based dashi broth with a plant-based one.
What is vegan miso broth made from?
Vegan miso broth uses miso paste, made from fermented soybeans, salt, and sometimes grains like rice or barley. The broth's base is usually a mix of seaweed or mushrooms, creating a delicious, plant-based flavor. In this recipe, I mixed dried kelp and dried shiitake mushrooms to make the base.
Is miso soup vegan in Japan?
Traditional miso soup in Japan often isn't vegan since it contains fish-based dashi broth. When in doubt, ask the staff or search for vegan-friendly eateries. On a side note, plant-based dishes in Japan are traditionally called shojin ryori (精進料理).