How To Make Kombu Dashi (Vegan Dashi)

Get all the details on how to make kombu dashi stock from scratch. It’s vegan, gluten-free and adds lots of umami flavor to Asian recipes.

Hand holding a jar filled with water and a kombu leaf

Kombu dashi is a simple, yet fundamental broth in Japanese cuisine. It’s made of dried kombu kelp which can be found at specialty grocery stores and Asian markets.

As the umami core of much Japanese food, it is likely you’ve had a version of the kelp-based broth quintessential to flavoring popular dishes.

I used this stock many times when I lived in Japan. Here I added some lightly steamed vegetables, cooked soba noodles and fried tofu or atsuage to the hot broth for a simple dinner.

Kombu dashi noodles vegetables and tofu in a white bowl on canvas cloth

Dashi was readily available in premade or concentrated forms in grocery stores. But it’s even better and cheaper to make at home.

You can use it as a base in this Vegan Hot and Sour Soup instead of water. I’ve also used it in Vegetable Gyoza Soup, Vegan Kitsune Soba and Vegan Hot Pot.

If you’re making a Japanese dish that requires a broth, then you’ll certainly want to learn how to make this easy vegan dashi.

Important tips

  • Choose a variety of kombu that best suits your needs and flavor preferences.
  • Kombu with white powdery crystals on the surface of the kelp will be stronger in flavor, while the varieties with no crystallization will be milder.
Dried kombu leaves on a wooden cutting board
  • Kombu in airtight packaging will have more flavor than those left in open-air markets or shelves.
  • Buy fresh rather than freeze-dried. Although freeze-dried is excellent for other purposes, it will not be suitable for creating a rich broth.

How to Make Kombu Dashi

(More details in the recipe card at the end)

Soaked Method

The primary method of making kombu dashi is through a long soaking process. To pull as much flavor out of the kelp as possible, place the kombu in a container with water and soak it overnight.

If you live in a relatively warm climate, complete the process in the refrigerator. This limits bacteria from forming.

If it’s a cold climate, complete this process at room temperature. You can also leave the container in the oven with the light turned on.

The broth is ready to use the next day. For a stronger flavor, try again using more kombu, less water or a longer soaking time.

Simmered Method

This method is popular among ramen chefs. It involves slowly simmering kombu in water to release the flavor.

Avoid boiling the water with this method. Although the boiling method is an alternative, the two methods result in differing flavor notes.

Simmering at low temperatures will produce full-bodied and rich dashi. The flavor will be subtle but will add umami to any dish without overpowering other flavors.

Boiled Kombu

This method is great for making a stronger and more pungent dashi. This is my preferred method. It’s suitable for flavoring miso soup, ramen or as a broth for rice dishes.

Boiled kombu tends to become slimy and bitter over a long period, so it’s important to taste-test your dashi periodically.

Mixed methods for dashi

If you prefer the full-bodied flavor of a simmered dashi and the pungent flavor of boiled kombu, then the mixed method might be more suitable.

This method requires first simmering kombu then increasing to a boil to release some of the sharper flavor notes.

As is true in other methods, it’s important to taste-test the dashi to make sure you’re getting the flavor you desire.

Other flavorings

It’s common for chefs and cooks to enhance the flavor of this kelp broth with additional ingredients.

Mushrooms are great for adding extra flavor to vegan dashi. It’s a popular alternative to bonito or fish flakes that are often used in Japanese cuisine.

Mushrooms offer an earthy, umami flavor similar to bonito but without the fishy taste.

As a bonus, the cooked mushrooms can be eaten as a side dish or added to the main dish.

For the most well-balanced flavor, shiitake mushrooms are my favorite. Both fresh or dried shiitakes would work fine. Check your local Asian grocery store.

How to use kombu dashi in recipes

Dashi is most often used as a broth base for soups like miso and ramen, but you can also use it in a variety of other ways. Here is a short list of potential uses: 

  • Soup base
  • Ramen base
  • Udon noodles (as a base or to boil noodles for flavor)
  • Soba (for dipping or as a base)
  • Somen (as a base, or to pan fry noodles)
  • Rice dishes (for flavoring)
  • Simmered with vegetables (for flavoring)
Hand holding a jar filled with water and a kombu leaf

How to make Kombu Dashi (Vegan)

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 55 minutes
Total: 1 hour
Servings: 4 cups
Calories: 20kcal
Print Pin Rate
Get all the details on how to make vegan dashi from scratch. It's gluten-free and adds lots of umami flavor to Asian recipes.

Equipment

  • Stock Pot

Baking Recipes: For more accuracy, use Metric measurements and measuring spoons.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups (1 l) filtered water
  • 4 pieces (8 g) kombu, 4 inches each
  • 1 cup (226 g) shiitake mushrooms, dried or fresh (optional)

Instructions

  • Choose your method: soaked, simmered, boiled, or mixed method. Then, follow the specific steps below.

Soaked

  • Add water, mushrooms and kombu leaves to a container. Cover with a lid and soak for at least 12 hours. Overnight is best.
  • Use the broth or store for later use.

Simmered

  • Fill an 8-quart pot with water and add kombu.
  • Bring to a gentle simmer on low heat. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Add the shiitake mushrooms and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  • Remove the pot from heat and let the mushrooms soak in the dashi for ten minutes.
  • Strain the mushrooms from the dashi and set aside to use for a separate dish.
  • Use the broth or store for later use.

Boiled

  • Fill an 8-quart pot with water, mushrooms and kombu. Bring to a boil for 15 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to a simmer and add shiitake mushrooms. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Remove the pot from heat and let the mushrooms soak for 10 minutes.
  • Strain the dashi and set aside the mushrooms to use for a separate dish.
  • Use the broth or store for later use.

Notes

  • If you live in a relatively warm climate, complete the soaking method in the refrigerator. This limits bacteria from forming.
  • If it’s a cold climate, complete this soaking method at room temperature. You can also leave the kombu to soak in the oven with the light turned on.
  • Leftover kombu may be enjoyed in soups or used to flavor rice while cooking.
  • Store dashi in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
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Nutrition

Serving: 1cup | Calories: 20kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 19mg | Potassium: 172mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Calcium: 7mg | Iron: 1mg
Nutrition Disclaimer
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Asian, Japanese
Diet: Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian

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