Making Dashi From Scratch

Dashi Stock Recipe

Dashi, is the Japanese word for broth and can refer to anything from chicken broth to vegetable consumé. Unless it’s preceded by a descriptor such as “tori” (chicken) or “shiitake” (shiitake mushroom), it almost always refers to a basic Japanese broth taken from kombu (kelp) and katsuobushi (dried shaved skipjack tuna).

Because Japanese dishes tend to use so few ingredients, it’s very important that each ingredient be of the best quality available. It may seem basic, but since dashi is the basis of most dishes in the Japanese culinary repertoire, it’s perhaps the most important component to get right. While there are many different ways of making dashi that vary by region, and even by cook, I think most will agree that making it from scratch will get you the best results.

To make a basic dashi, you need two ingredients dashi kombu(出し昆布) and katsuobushi(鰹節). They can be found in any Japanese grocery store, including online shops such as Mitsuwa and eMarukai if you’re based in the US.

Dashi Kombu

In Japan there are many different kinds of kombu, but they typically fall under two categories. Kombu for eating and kombu for dashi. The former is typically harvested after growing for only one year, whereas the latter is harvested after two or more years. The older dashi kombu is tougher, but also contains more umami producing glutamates. In case you were wondering, monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a compound synthesized to try and mimic the naturally occurring glutamates in kombu.

In Japan, the kombu from the northern region of Hokkaido, is considered the best for making dashi. More specifically, the island of Rishiri, located at the junction of a warm current and cold current, produces the very best kombu with an unusually high concentration of glutamic acids. Put a small crumb on your tongue and it will instantly bloom into pool of umami with a meaty flavor that tastes more like mushrooms than seaweed.

To get the flavor out of the kombu, its best to soak it in water overnight. This releases the most glutamates in the kombu without releasing the mucilaginous compounds that could make your dashi viscous. Brought to a bare simmer, the faintly green transparent liquid is known as kombu dashi (昆布出し) and can be used in vegan cuisine as-is.

Katsuoubushi for making dashi

The second ingredient in basic dashi is katsuobushi, which is made by drying, fermenting and smoking skipjack tuna. Often mislabelled “bonito” or “bonito flakes”, katsuo is actually a species of tuna found in warm waters. While skipjack tuna contains a high level of umami producing inosine monophosphate, it increases by as much as thirty times when dried and smoked.

Traditionally the whole dried and smoked fillets would be shaved prior to being used with a wooden plane. The task is dangerous and physically arduous, which is why most people just buy the katsuobushi shaved. They come in small finely shaved packs for eating, or big bags with bigger flakes for making dashi. While either would work, the ones in the small packs will end up being very expensive since you’ll need to use a lot of packs to make one batch of dashi.

The flavor is extracted much like you’d make tea, by simply adding the katsuobushi into hot water and steeping for 2 minutes. This results in a clear dashi that has all the umami tastebud stimulating inosinic acids, without the stronger and sometimes bitter tastes that can come out of the katsuobushi at higher temperatures.

The concentration of the dashi can be influenced by the amount of katsuobushi and kombu added to the water. The basic formula I use relative to the amount of water is 1% kombu and 1.5% katsuobushi, which is perfect for miso soup. For applications such as sauces, I like to increase the amount of katsuobushi to as much as 3%. Keep in mind that 1 liter of water going into making the dashi will not yield 1 liter of dashi due to absorption and evaporation.

Equipment you'll need:

Making Dashi Stock
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A clear stock made from kombu and katsuobushi used in many Japanese dishes.
Making Dashi Stock
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
A clear stock made from kombu and katsuobushi used in many Japanese dishes.
Servings
cups
Cook Time Passive Time
5minutes 1440minutes
Servings
cups
Cook Time Passive Time
5minutes 1440minutes
Ingredients
  • 11 grams dashi kombu
  • 5 cups water
  • 17-34 grams katsuobushi
Units:
Instructions
  1. Add the water and kombu into a pot and soak overnight.
  2. The next day heat the pot over medium heat until the water is steaming but not yet simmering. Remove the kombu and discard or set aside for another use.
  3. Turn up the heat and allow the stock to come to a full boil.
  4. Add just enough water to stop the boiling.
  5. Turn off the heat and add the katsuobushi (15 grams for a weaker dashi, 30 grams for a stronger dashi).
  6. Steep for two minutes and then pass the dashi through a cheesecloth lined strainer. Gently squeeze the cheesecloth with tongs and discard the katsuobushi.
  7. You can store the dashi for up to a week in clean water bottles.

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  • Meera @ olivenginger.com

    Thanks for sharing the Dashi recipe. I am always concern about the high sodium/ salt content in commercial dashi, this recipe is very useful. Thanks again!

  • Sandra

    “Dashi” in step 2 should probably read “kombu”?

  • Chester

    What do you generally do with the kombu after you are done making dashi?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      It’s usually cooked with soy sauce, mirin and sugar until tender and most of the liquid has evaporated to make tsukudani. It’s a very salty condiment eaten on top of white rice.

  • Eagle Yu

    have you ever heard of “nihondashi”? i learned that it’s a second soak of the ingredients to make a lighter dashi… so you would do the kombu in a second liter of water, bring to boil and then reintroduce the used katsuobushi, steep and strain again. the result is much lighter but still has flavor. could be good for light miso’s and clam soups.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Eagle, I think you might be referring to “nibandashi” which literally means “number two dashi”. It’s a great way to get the most of your ingredients, the problem is the ratio of of kombu and katsuo to water changes quite a bit (i.e. you need a lot more relative to the water), so it’s not especially practical unless you’re making a very large quantity of ichibandashi.

      • Eagle Yu

        Yeah, maybe that’s it. Sorry, my Japanese is limited to food and still it’s not so good ha. Just wanted to throw it out there as a way to get the most out if everything. How large of batches do they usually do to do both processes?

        • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

          Hi Eagle, It’s not really something you measure out, but I’d say for the amount of kombu and katsuobushi in this recipe that’s leftover you add it back into to about 1 liter of water. Then simmer it over medium heat until it reduces to about 1/3 its original volume. Then you’ll need to add a bit of water to stop the boiling, add more fresh katsuobushi (about 15 grams) and turn off the heat and steep for 2 minutes. It’s really not practical for home cooking and is something that’s usually done in restaurants where they use a ton of dashi. If you want to get the most out of the kombu and kastsuobushi you may be better off turning it into tsukudani.

  • Ernest

    So this Dashi can be used in place of say chicken stock? In any dish?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Ernst, it’s obviously going to taste different, but yes, that’s the idea.

      • Ernest

        Different is good! If different is full of umami I’m all in.

        • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

          Different as in it won’t taste like chicken, and it won’t be as rich given that there is no collagen or fat in the stock. That said, if umami is what you’re looking for it has boatloads of that. I often use dashi in risotto.

          • Ernest

            I’ve actually made dashi (your “no” recipe) only used it for soup and braised fish. I’ll make some and use it for braised beef. No rules in the kitchen.

  • Natika

    Long time no comment. Sorry about that. This looks delicious, yet super easy. I didn’t realise you shouldn’t boil the ingredients. I will try it this way next time. Thanks!

  • KD

    As usual Sensei, outstanding explanation & thank you so much for posting this. My mom never went into detail when cooking, so if I asked about dashi I’d get something like, “Boil kombu, add bonito flakes, use a pinch or so, whatevah. Now go stuff cone sushi.” Maybe it’s ’cause she was nesai from Hawaii.

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  • Sammael

    Help?
    As someone who lives in croatia and has no way of getting katsoubushi short of taking a trip to London, do you have any idea if any more western ingredients could be substituted? Or maybe if another stock tastes similar enough to be able to be replaced in recipes?
    Thank you, this site is one of my favorite sites overall, though inability to get ingredients is driving me nuts.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Sammael, I try and keep the ingredients as simple as possible, but unfortunately there are just some things that have no suitable replacement. Katsuobushi is made by drying then smoking skipjack tuna (it’s not salted or seasoned), It has a flavor that’s not like any other food I’ve ever had (and I’ve travelled a fair amount). That said, if you can find some kind of unseasoned dried and smoked fish product near you it might be a close alternative. American bacon shares the smoke flavor and intense umami, but that’s about where the similarity ends (fish and pork have very different flavors). Have you checked online to see if one of the online japanese grocers in the UK will ship to Croatia?

      • Crazy Chef

        There is an analogous ingredient used in Sri Lankan cooking called “dried Maldive fish”.
        It’s also skipjack tuna except it’s just dried in the sun and it resembles little wood chips. It’s different from katsuobushi because the latter also has the smoking and fermentation with a mold.
        While not the same, it’ll do in a pinch particularly if the dashi is only being used as broth.
        Of course, it’s not clear to me that you’ll get a Sri Lankan ingredient in Croatia either.

  • Moonweaver

    I have no idea where I can obtain these ingredients in my area yet I really would love to make my own from scratch!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      If you’re in the US, Marukai, and Mitsuwa are the two big Japanese grocery store chains and they both have an online store. There are also tons of regional chains, try searching for a Japanese market. Also, some larger asian markets will carry the ingredients as well, but your selection will be limited.

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I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!