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Is miso soup vegetarian?

a white plate topped with a green salad

Is miso soup vegetarian?

Miso soup is a traditional Japanese dish that has gained popularity worldwide for its unique flavor and health benefits. However, there is often confusion surrounding its vegetarian status. Miso soup is typically made from a combination of miso paste, dashi stock, and various ingredients such as tofu, seaweed, and vegetables. While miso paste itself is vegetarian-friendly, the inclusion of dashi stock can make the soup non-vegetarian. Let’s delve deeper into the ingredients of miso soup to understand its vegetarian status.

Miso paste: The vegetarian base

Miso paste is the key ingredient in miso soup, giving it its distinct umami flavor. It is made by fermenting soybeans with salt and a koji culture, which is a type of fungus. The fermentation process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several years, resulting in different types of miso paste with varying flavors and colors.

Miso paste is generally considered vegetarian as it is made solely from plant-based ingredients. However, it is essential to check the label or inquire about the specific brand of miso paste used, as some varieties may contain additives or flavorings that are derived from animal sources.

Dashi stock: The potential non-vegetarian element

Dashi stock is a fundamental component of Japanese cuisine and serves as the base for many dishes, including miso soup. It is typically made by simmering ingredients such as kombu (dried kelp) and katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) in water.

Kombu, a type of seaweed, is vegetarian-friendly and adds a rich umami flavor to the stock. However, katsuobushi, which is made from dried and fermented skipjack tuna, is not suitable for vegetarians.

While traditional dashi stock contains katsuobushi, there are vegetarian alternatives available. These include kombu dashi, which is made solely from kombu, and shiitake dashi, which uses dried shiitake mushrooms. These vegetarian dashi options can be used to make miso soup without compromising its flavor.

Vegetarian variations of miso soup

For those following a vegetarian diet, there are several ways to enjoy miso soup without the inclusion of animal products. Here are some vegetarian-friendly ingredients that can be added to miso soup:

  • Tofu: Silken tofu or firm tofu can be added to miso soup to provide a protein-rich element.
  • Seaweed: Wakame, a type of seaweed, is commonly used in miso soup and adds a pleasant texture.
  • Mushrooms: Various types of mushrooms, such as shiitake or enoki, can enhance the flavor and nutritional profile of miso soup.
  • Vegetables: Ingredients like green onions, carrots, daikon radish, and spinach can be added to miso soup for added color and nutrients.

By incorporating these vegetarian ingredients, miso soup can be customized to suit individual preferences and dietary restrictions.


Miso soup can be vegetarian or non-vegetarian depending on the ingredients used. While miso paste itself is typically vegetarian, the inclusion of dashi stock can make the soup non-vegetarian. However, vegetarian alternatives to dashi stock, such as kombu dashi and shiitake dashi, allow vegetarians to enjoy the flavors and benefits of miso soup. By adding vegetarian-friendly ingredients like tofu, seaweed, mushrooms, and vegetables, miso soup can be adapted to suit various dietary preferences while still providing a delicious and nutritious meal.