Discover the Top 7 Bonito Flakes Substitutes for Flavorful Delights

Best Bonito Flakes Substitutes: Exploring Alternatives for Umami Flavor

Bonito flakes, also known as katsuobushi, are a staple ingredient in Japanese cuisine, known for their unique umami flavor. These fish flakes add depth and complexity to various dishes, making them a sought-after ingredient. However, there may be times when bonito flakes are not available or when dietary restrictions call for alternatives. In such cases, it is helpful to know about suitable substitutes that can provide a similar umami flavor profile. This article examines seven top alternatives to bonito flakes, highlighting their attributes and suggesting ways to use them effectively.

1. Mackerel Powder

Mackerel powder is a suitable replacement for bonito flakes due to its similar fishy umami flavor. While mackerel powder has a finer texture than bonito flakes, its flavor profile is very similar to bonito. When using mackerel powder as a substitute, it is advisable to start with a smaller amount and adjust to personal preference. Mackerel powder can be incorporated into various recipes and dishes to enhance their umami profile.

2. Dried Shiitake Mushrooms

Dried shiitake mushrooms are a convenient and readily available alternative to bonito flakes. These mushrooms impart a robust umami flavor and are often used in vegetarian dashi preparations. Dried shiitake mushrooms can be added to soups, noodle dishes, fried rice, and seafood dishes for a rich and savory flavor. It is recommended to start with a smaller amount of dried shiitake mushrooms and gradually increase the amount to achieve the desired flavor intensity.

3. Kombu

Kombu, a type of edible brown algae, is often used in combination with bonito flakes to make dashi, a traditional Japanese soup stock. However, kombu can also be used as a stand-alone substitute to add a distinct umami flavor to dishes. While kombu has a slightly chewy texture, it can be soaked to soften it. This substitute is particularly suitable for those looking for a vegetarian alternative to bonito flakes, as kombu can be used to enhance a wide range of dishes.

4. Dulse Flakes/Nori

Dulse flakes and nori, both derived from seaweed, can be considered a substitute for bonito flakes. Although their individual umami flavors may not be as pronounced as bonito flakes, the combination of dulse flakes and nori enhances the overall umami profile. These plant-based substitutes are especially popular with vegans and vegetarians for their versatility in a variety of dishes. Whether used alone or in combination, dulse flakes and nori contribute to a nuanced umami flavor.

5. Baby Anchovies

Dried baby anchovies are an excellent alternative to bonito flakes, especially when preparing broths and soups. These anchovies have a strong, salty and fishy flavor similar to the flavor profile of bonito flakes. Dried baby anchovies, which undergo a boiling process during production, have enhanced umami characteristics. To use baby anchovies as a substitute, chop a small amount of dried anchovies to match the amount of bonito flakes required, taking into account their saltiness when adjusting the overall seasoning of the dish.

6. Toasted Soybeans

Toasted soybeans can be used as an alternative to bonito flakes when making dashi or other dishes that call for a milder and more subtle umami flavor. This substitute allows other ingredients to shine without overpowering the overall flavor. Toasted soybeans have a deeper flavor compared to regular soybeans, adding a subtle richness to the dish. It is advisable to use a slightly larger amount of toasted soybeans than bonito flakes, keeping in mind the milder flavor profile and adjusting the seasoning gradually.

7. Nutritional Yeast

While nutritional yeast is not a traditional Japanese ingredient, it can serve as an effective substitute for bonito flakes. Nutritional yeast has a naturally strong umami flavor, making it a suitable substitute for achieving the desired flavor profile. Although it lacks the fishy taste associated with bonito flakes, the absence of this flavor may be beneficial for some individuals. In addition, the powdered form of nutritional yeast allows for easy incorporation into various dishes without significantly altering their texture.


Bonito flakes are prized for their distinct umami flavor and are widely used in Japanese cuisine, especially in the preparation of dashi. However, circumstances may require the use of bonito flake substitutes. This article examines seven alternatives, including mackerel powder, dried shiitake mushrooms, kombu, dulse flakes/nori, baby anchovies, toasted soybeans, and nutritional yeast. Each substitute offers a unique umami profile, allowing for versatility in culinary creations while providing a similar depth of flavor. Whether you are seeking a vegetarian or vegan option, looking to enhance certain dishes, or simply exploring new flavors, these substitutes offer a range of possibilities. By experimenting with these alternatives, you can continue to enjoy the umami-rich experience that bonito flakes bring to your cooking, even when they are not readily available.


What are Bonito Flakes?

Bonito flakes, also known as katsuobushi, are flakes made from smoked, fermented and dried bonito fish. These flakes are a popular ingredient in Japanese cuisine, known for their intense umami flavor.

Why would I need a bonito flake substitute?

There are several reasons why you may need a Bonito Flakes substitute. You may have dietary restrictions that prevent you from consuming fish-based products, or Bonito Flakes may simply not be available in your area. With alternative options, you can still achieve a similar umami flavor in your dishes.

Are these alternatives suitable for vegetarian or vegan diets?

Yes, several of the suggested substitutes, such as dried shiitake mushrooms, kombu seaweed, dulse flakes/nori, and roasted soybeans, are suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets. These alternatives provide a plant-based source of umami flavor.

Can I use these alternatives in any recipe that calls for bonito flakes?

While these alternatives can provide a similar umami flavor, it’s important to note that they may not replicate the exact taste and texture of bonito flakes. However, they can be used in a variety of recipes, including soups, stews, sauces, and even sushi rolls, to enhance the overall flavor profile.

How do I determine the correct amount of substitute to use?

The amount of substitute to use depends on personal preference and the specific recipe. It is recommended to start with a smaller amount and gradually adjust to taste. You can always add more if you wish, but it may be difficult to balance the flavors if you add too much initially.

Where can I find these bonito flake substitutes?

Most of these substitutes, such as mackerel powder, dried shiitake mushrooms, kombu, dulse flakes/nori, and nutritional yeast, can be found in well-stocked grocery stores, Asian specialty markets, or online retailers. It’s always a good idea to check availability in your area or explore online options for convenience.