Miso soup is a delightful Japanese dish that's commonly served as an appetizer. When dining out at a Japanese establishment, I love getting a miso soup and a house salad before my veggie rolls. It's warming and full of different textures and flavors. For vegans such as myself, there's a lot of confusion around miso soup. In this post we'll cover whether or not it's traditionally vegan, give you an easy recipe, and point you to some of the best instant miso mixes.
The short answer: it depends.
Miso soup is traditionally made with dashi* (soup stock) which contains bonito flakes. Because bonito is a fish (similar to tuna), this means that traditional miso is not safe for vegans or vegetarians. However, many restaurants are not making miso with the traditional stock and are either using instant stocks or omitting the fish portion, likely as a means of cost saving.
If you're out at a restaurant that serves miso soup, the best option is asking if the stock they use is vegetarian or if the stock contains fish. Even though we follow a vegan diet, vegan and vegetarian are often used interchangeably in Asian cultures, so we find that it's the easiest way to ask.
*Dashi can be made with or without fish flakes, but the traditional recipe contains fish.
The best way to know for sure that your miso soup is vegan is to make your own at home. This recipe only has 5 ingredients and can be made in as little as 5 minutes. Who would have thought that homemade miso could be so simple?
The serving size is good for one person but is slightly larger than what you would get in a restaurant. Enjoy by yourself or split with one other person. The recipe can also be doubled or tripled if you're catering for a crowd.
Add the miso paste to the water in a pot and put it on medium heat.
As the water is heating, slice up 1/3 of a block of tofu into cubes and put to the side. Repeat this step for the green onion, cutting them into thin slices.
Use a spoon or a whisk to dissolve the miso paste into the water once it has heated up a bit.
Add the remainder of your ingredients and wait until the seaweed flakes have hydrated and expanded in the soup.
By this time, the soup should be at a low boil and you can remove it from the heat and enjoy.
If you want to make this miso soup more of a complete meal, adding some rice and sesame seeds can be a great way to make it more filling. Obviously, this strays from the more "traditional" recipe, but it's something that I do all the time! You can also add other starches like unseasoned ramen or rice noodles.
Finally, if you want to really up the flavor of this miso, try adding a dash of nutritional yeast or shitake powder for an extra burst of umami.
If you're in a hurry and want to enjoy your miso like an instant ramen, there are a plethora of vegan options to choose from. We've taken some of the top brands for vegan miso soup mixes and pre-made cups and listed them below:
Tsubi Soup's white miso is a packet that you add to any mug or small bowl. From there, all you need to do is add 6 oz of water to the freeze dried cube of miso and it will turn into an authentic soup right before your eyes. With two kinds of sea plants (kelp and aosa) along with powerful umami-packed ingredients such as shitaki, Tsubi has gone above and beyond to create an extremely flavor-rich soup.
Best known for The Starch Solution, Dr. McDougall also has a line of vegan soups (including miso, which are widely available online and in grocery stores. You would prepare this soup much like you would a cup of noodles. It comes with a flavor packet that you pour into a cup along with boiling water. After five minutes you’ve got a delicious cup of ramen miso!
Edward and Son’s makes a traditional miso soup packet that’s super easy to make. It doesn’t come with any noodles, but all you have to do is add the packet to a cup along with hot water. It’s easy to take to work and you can always add some ramen noodles or rice on your own if you want a more filling meal.
Miyasaka Instant Miso soup is another version of a freeze-dried miso cube that has the tofu, seaweed, and green onion built right into it. Having brought this miso soup to lunch for a while, my only criticism is that there should be a bit more tofu. If you’re looking for something simple, light, and traditional then Miyasaka’s is a great pick.
The Miso Cup by Edward and Son's has one of the most simple ingredient statement’s on this list. With only miso, seaweed, and green onions, it’s definitely got the most simplistic flavor profiles on the list. This does not necessarily mean that it’s bad, heck our own recipe only had 5 ingredients. However, if you want something with a deeper level of savoriness, you may want to go with #3 on the list (which is their traditional recipe).
Now that you've got the miso soup down, how about the Caliornia rolls?
Check out: Vegan Substitutes for Imitation Crab
Cooking healthy, delicious, plant-based meals has been Joey’s true passion since he went vegan in 2015. He has a masters in Nutrition and Food Science and is committed to making the internet a place of education and knowledge rather than misinformation and clickbait. He currently lives in Delaware with his wife.