Kombu Substitutes

Have you ever eaten seaweed salad? If you have, you have tasted the goodness of kombu, seeing it is the main ingredient in making seaweed salad. If you haven’t eaten the salad, this is your cue to try it out. It is delicious. 

You can also use kombu to season various dishes. Kombu is relatively popular in the US as many chefs use it. It has umami and a taste like that of mushrooms. 

Various recipes may require you to use kombu. Seeing it is not always available, what can you use in its place?

You can substitute kombu with chicken stock, dried shiitake stock, kombu tea, Ajinomoto, bonito soup stock, soy sauce, and dried tomatoes. 

What is Kombu?


Kombu is a seaweed that is very common in Japan. Japanese chefs use it to make dashi broth mostly. In the united states, people use kombu to season different dishes.

The dashi broth that people make from kombu adds flavor to various recipes. 

While kombu is famous for making dashi broth, some people also use it to spice drinks like tea, some baking recipes, and make salads. 

Kombu is mainly harvested in japan. Some people here eat it as a snack when it is fresh. In other parts of the world, it is hard to come across fresh kombu. As a result, it is harvested, dried, and shipped to different parts of the world. 

Due to this, people in the US and other parts of the world only use it as a spice to add flavor. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me you have never used kombu. Most people who have come across it did so by pure coincidence or because their recipe demanded they use it. You can get kombu in some grocery stores and supermarkets. 

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Kombu Substitutes

It is not a wonder that you want to use kombu to make your favorite Japanese dish, but you have non.

That is why I will recommend some of the best alternatives to use if you can not get kombu. Read on. 

1. Chicken Stock


As I have already pointed out, one of the primary purposes of kombu is making dashi broth. Now, if your recipe requires you to make some dashi broth and you don’t have any kombu, you can use chicken stock in its place. 

The good thing about chicken stock is that you can make your own if you don’t have the time to go to the store. Or, if you use it regularly in your recipes, you might have it in your kitchen. It is also cheap and readily available in almost all stores. 

You can use chicken stock to make dashi broth. To give your food that umami taste, you can add some mushrooms. This way, the food will taste like it has kombu in it. 

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2. Dried Shiitake Stock


Shiitake stock is an excellent substitute for kombu. You can make it by soaking some mushrooms in water. Even if it is an excellent alternative for kombu, only use it when you have time. I only say this because you will need at least a day to make shiitake stock. 

How do you make shiitake stock? Please take a couple of mushrooms and soak them in water. Please put them in the refrigerator for about twelve hours. Do not use too much water, or your stock will be overly diluted. One cup for each mushroom will suffice. 

After refrigeration, the result will be dried shiitake. To make the dried shiitake stock, you need to boil it and let it rest for a few hours. You can add some spices like oregano or basil to add taste to your dried shiitake stock. 

Now that you have prepared dried shiitake stock, you can go ahead and use it to replace kombu in any recipe that requires it. Dried shiitake stock and kombu stock have a similar taste; hence, they are perfect substitutes. 

3. Kombu Tea


Kombu tea is another excellent replacement for kombu. But what exactly is kombu tea? It is a drink made of kombu, water, sugar, ginger, and any other spice.

If you use kombu tea as a replacement for kombu, you can only use it if you have made or bought the tea and have some leftovers. 

Supposing you already have kombu, you will not need to use kombu tea. Kombu tea has a long shelf life, so you might buy some and store it. 

I want you to be careful when using kombu tea as an alternative for kombu. As mentioned above, it has some spices, and the taste might be slightly altered.

In case you don’t mind the taste, you could go ahead and use spiced kombu tea. However, if you want a flavor that is close to kombu, ensure you use pure kombu tea. 

4. Ajinomoto


Ajinomoto is a popular flavor in Japan. It is a combination of glutamic acid( a well-known amino acid) and sodium. This amino acid is derived chiefly from cassava, sugar cane, and corn plants. 

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding Ajinomoto. Is it healthy or not? Well, is anything entirely beneficial? That is a rhetorical question.

My views are simple, Ajinomoto is a sweet flavor and an excellent substitute for kombu. However, it would be best to be careful not to overuse it as this extended overuse might not suit your health. 

This kombu alternative is quite salted. It would be best to be careful about using your other spices when you use Ajinomoto. 

Ajinomoto is famous in Asian cuisines. You can use it to add flavor to soups, fried rice, and noodles. 

5. Bonito Soup Stock


Bonito soup stock is another sweet and flavorful kombu substitute. This stock is a product of dried fish and water. To make it, boil fish flakes, let it cool, and you have bonito soup stock. 

This soup stock is not very popular in the united states. It is, however, used to make several Japanese dishes. If you are a fan of fish, it is pretty simple to come up with bonito soup stock at home. 

Kombu adds flavor to your dish, and so does bonito soup stock. So, if you realize that you don’t have any kombu for your recipe, you can use bonito soup stock.

Getting dry fish is simple. If you do not have it in your kitchen, you can quickly get some from the grocery store. 

This flavor lacks salt. Ensure you season it with salt for the best taste if you use it. 

6. Soy Sauce


Soy sauce is a popular spice. If the recipe requires you to use kombu as a spice, soy sauce is an excellent alternative. Soy sauce and kombu have a strong umami taste, so you can substitute one for the other. 

Originally, soy sauce was from china. However, it has become so popular that people use it worldwide. I know you already have soy sauce if you are an adamant cook. Cooks use it to add flavor to a lot of dishes. 

Besides the similar taste to kombu, soy sauce is a perfect substitute because it is very cheap and readily available. Every grocery store has soy sauce, and if you do not have any, you can quickly get some. 

A point to note is soy sauce is highly salted and has color. It alters the color of your food, and you should avoid it when making clear soups. 

7. Beef Broth


If you have to use kombu and somehow do not have it, you can use beef broth. You can either make beef broth from scratch or buy some. It is cheap, and you can buy it from any grocery store. 

To make beef broth from scratch, you need soup bones, vegetables, water, and desired spices.

Bake the bones for a while, then add the vegetables. Transfer them to a new pan and add boiling water. Remove the bones and meat, and you have the broth. 

Add some ground mushrooms to give your broth for that umami taste. You can then use the broth in place of kombu. 

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Final Thoughts


Kombu is mainly used to add flavor to food and even drinks. Most people know it from savoring the seaweed salad as it is a primary ingredient. 

If you in into Japanese cuisines, you then know what kombu is because most cooks use it when making these cuisines. I got you if you want to try out a recipe that requires you to use kombu but does not have it. 

I have discussed the seven substitutes that I believe will best serve as kombu alternatives. I have discussed them in detail for you to know how to use each of them. 

After reading and understanding the substitutes, go ahead and try them out. This way you will know which one you will love. 

Some of these alternatives are simple to make at home or even buy at the grocery store. Others may require using extra ingredients like mushrooms to acquire that kombu taste. Whatever you decide to settle on, you can never be wrong. 

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