As we move into autumn (for those of us regularly cycling through the seasons) and the weather turns cool and crisp, one of the most satisfying, timely dishes is none other than the bowl of hot soup.
And while vegetable and tomato are familiar favorites (and often vegan!), perhaps you aren’t as well-versed with miso, a celebrated Japanese soup.
It may be a great way to add variety to your soup selection, but we must ask: Is miso soup vegan? What restaurants might offer vegan miso soup, or how might we make our own vegan version?
To find the answers we seek, let’s first take a look at the ingredients of this steamy substance!
- Miso soup ingredients
- What is dashi?
- Types of Japanese dashi
- Vegan miso soup brands
- When dining out: determining the dashi
Miso soup ingredients
As always, the best way to determine if a food item is vegan or not is to be vigilant about checking its ingredients. According to an article by The Daily Meal, traditional miso soup consists of two main elements: miso (a fermented paste that’s often made from soybeans or rice) and dashi (the broth in miso soup). (1)
Here’s a video by The Guardian that follows Yoshinori Ishii, executive chef of Umu in London, as he concocts traditional Japanese miso soup:
What is dashi?
Dashi is a Japanese soup stock, and it’s not just used as miso broth. According to an article by Gurunavi, it’s a key component of the world of Japanese culinary arts. And, since the miso portion of miso soup is made from vegan ingredients, dashi is the element of miso soup we must consider and further investigate. (2)
Types of Japanese dashi
Since there are several different forms of dashi, let’s take a look at each to figure out which might be vegan-friendly. Working this out is the secret to knowing the answer to the big “Is Miso Soup Vegan?” question!
Kombu dashi has two ingredients: water and kombu kelp… meaning it is vegan-friendly!
This type is made from baby dried sardines or anchovies. That being said, you can count this broth out of consideration for the vegan-friendly label.
Since the shiitake mushroom is the sole ingredient, this broth makes for another great vegan-friendly option.
Bonito/Katsuo (Awase) dashi
This is the most widely utilized form of dashi, and while it contains kelp, unfortunately, it is also includes katsuoboshi, which are bonito fish flakes, and so, it is not vegan.
Vegan miso soup brands
The good news? If your miso soup is made with either kombu or shiitake dashi, it’s a vegan miso soup! Be sure to check the label on any package of miso soup that you might find at your local grocery store, which will clearly state this information. And, of course, be sure to check that not only the base but the rest of the ingredients are vegan, too!
Here’s a few vegan miso soup options with fish-free stock to consider stocking up on!
Tsubi Soup Spicy Red Miso Soup with Mushrooms
Not only is this soup vegan, it has a low sodium content, no MSG or preservatives, and it’s freeze-dried. Just add water and enjoy! It also comes in two other styles: with eggplant, ginger and onion, and with crunchy vegetables.
Dr. McDougall’s Right Foods Vegan Miso Ramen
Dr. John McDougall, a proponent of plant-based eating and leading expert in the field of research and practice, offers a vegan miso soup that incorporates ramen noodles!
It’s organic, non-GMO certified, and also easy to prepare: Buy it here and just add water!
Annie Chun’s Miso Soup Noodle Bowl
Paired with udon noodles, tofu and scallions, this dish is also non-GMO and ready to make in 2 minutes. It does, however, contain nearly half of the daily recommendation for sodium, so keep that in mind in the greater scheme of your overall intake!
When dining out: determining the dashi
If you’re out to eat, especially at a traditional Japanese restaurant, there’s a good chance the dashi in their miso soup will be based in anchovies or fish. So, before ordering, make sure to check with your server, who might need to go check with the kitchen to find out if their miso soup is vegan or not.
We know that some might not want to “impose” or appear to be the “needy” member of your party. But the truth is, guests who have allergies to nuts, shellfish, and gluten (just to name a few!) inquire with the wait staff about ingredients all the time, as it’s of utmost importance to ensure the dish is safe for their consumption… and remember that your purpose is important, too!
You can also check almost any menu online and call ahead of your meal to ask all of your questions in private.
There’s also always the option of making your very own miso soup! Here’s a helpful video with an easy recipe, brought to you by The Happy Pear, to get you started!
We hope this has been an illuminating dive into miso soup. Just remember that it’s really all about the dashi, and while vegan versions do exist, the most commonly found are pretty fishy. And, though vegan miso soup is delightful, it does usually contain a high dose of sodium, and so, we suggest you consume it in moderation. (3)
As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts or answer any additional questions in the comments section below!
About The Author:
Carly Keyes is writer and personal trainer who decided to go plant-based after a visit to the True North Health Center in Santa Rosa, CA. The change has completely revolutionized the way she feels, looks, thinks and behaves, making her a very vocal advocate of the vegan lifestyle.
She’s also a keen singer/songwriter and has studied screenwriting at the University of Michigan. Carly lives in Bloomfield Hills, MI.
- Will Budiaman | What Is Miso Soup? | https://www.thedailymeal.com/what-is-miso-soup
- Gurunavi | What is Dashi? A Guide to Japan’s Integral Ingredient | https://gurunavi.com/en/japanfoodie/2016/07/dashi.html
- Jo Lewin | The health benefits of miso | https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/health-benefits-miso