Kombu is a type of seaweed that is a staple in many Asian cuisines and has become increasingly popular in Western cooking as well. It imparts a complex and savory flavor to dishes and is often used as a key ingredient for making broth, soup, and stir-fry dishes.
However, not everyone has access to kombu or may prefer to avoid it due to dietary restrictions. That’s why it’s important to know the best kombu substitutes that can still bring the same depth of flavor to your meals. So, whether you’re out of kombu or looking for alternatives, we’ve got you covered with these 8 best kombu substitutes.
Wakame is a type of edible seaweed that can work as a useful substitute for kombu owing to its comparable flavor and texture. It’s also a healthy alternative since it’s rich in vitamins and minerals, including iodine, calcium, and iron. Compared to kombu, wakame has a mild flavor that makes it a flexible ingredient that may be used in a number of cuisines.
Most Asian grocery stores have wakame, as it is frequently used in soups, salads, and stir-fries. When using it as a substitute for kombu, simply soak it in water for a few minutes until it softens before adding it to your recipes.
In terms of flavor and nutritional content, nori could serve as a viable substitute for kombu. It’s a dried seaweed typically used in sushi rolls and has a mild, slightly salty flavor compared to kombu’s strong umami notes. Nori is also high in iodine, iron, and calcium.
Nori may be used in a range of recipes, from soups and broths to stir-fries and salads. To use it as a kombu substitute, just crumble it into little pieces and add it to your recipe at the start of cooking. A decent rule of thumb is to use 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of crushed nori with 1 cup of broth or water. This will give your food a delicate, savory taste without dominating it.
Hijiki is another seaweed popular in Japanese and Korean cuisines. While both kombu and hijiki are dense in minerals like iron and calcium, hijiki is also high in fiber and antioxidants, making it a healthful choice. Hijiki has a somewhat earthy and nutty flavor compared to kombu, but it still imparts a mild umami flavor to recipes.
Hijiki can be used to replace kombu as a flavor enhancer in soups, stews, and broths. It may also be cooked with beans to make them more digestible. However, because hijiki has a stronger flavor, start with less and gradually add more as needed.
Dulse is a red alga that is rich in minerals like iron, fiber, and protein. Unlike the savory and umami flavors of kombu, dulse has a more delicate and somewhat sweet flavor, making it a preferable choice for those looking to add a milder taste to their recipes.
Dulse can be added to soups and stews either directly or after being rehydrated in water. Apart from cooking with it, many people also enjoy dulse as a snack in chip or dried form. If you’ve never used dulse before, it’s best to start with a small amount and gradually increase the amount to suit your taste.
5. Sea Lettuce
Sea lettuce, commonly referred to as green seaweed, is an excellent choice for people seeking a healthier option because it is packed with essential vitamins, including iron, calcium, and iodine. It has a somewhat saltier aftertaste than kombu, so it is best to use roughly half the amount specified in the recipe. This is because sea lettuce has a more potent flavor that may easily overpower other ingredients.
Before adding sea lettuce to your cooking, make sure you rinse it properly and chop it into little pieces. You may also soften it by rehydrating it in water for a few minutes first.
6. Dried Shitake Mushroom
These savory, earthy fungi are not only versatile but also highly nutritious. Unlike kombu, which is known for its distinct umami flavor and soft texture, shitake mushrooms have a rich, meaty flavor that can stand alone. This makes them a perfect choice for soups, sauces, and stir-fried meals that call for kombu.
To use dried shitake mushrooms in place of kombu, the general rule of thumb is to rehydrate them in warm water first. You can then use them in any recipe that asks for kombu. These mushrooms taste fantastic, whether cooked by themselves or with other ingredients in your favorite recipes.
7. Dried Anchovies with Soy Sauce
Dried anchovies with soy sauce may be the MVP of the substitution game in terms of flavor and umami. Both ingredients offer a savory flavor, and the combination of the two can complement the natural taste of any other ingredients you cook with. Furthermore, anchovies provide an excellent protein boost, making them a healthful option.
To use dried anchovy with soy sauce as a substitute for kombu, you can simply crumble the anchovies into small pieces and add them to the pot when cooking soups and stews. Add a splash of soy sauce to enhance the flavor even more. Just keep in mind that this combo is saltier than kombu, so be mindful of the amount you add.
8. Bonito Flakes
Bonito flakes, also known as katsuobushi, are a common ingredient in Japanese cooking and can be used as a substitute for kombu in some recipes. The flakes are made from dried, fermented, and smoked bonito fish, which provides a distinct umami flavor and aroma.
Compared to kombu, bonito flakes have a stronger and more complex flavor. They are often used in broths, soups, and stews, where they are sprinkled on top just before serving to add a depth of flavor to the dish. They can be easily found in most Asian grocery stores as well as online.