Soybean Paste Substitute

A variety of ingredients used to make a soybean paste substitute

Soybean paste, also known as doenjang or miso, is a fermented soybean product commonly used in Korean and Japanese cuisine. Its tangy and savory flavor and nutrient-dense composition make it a sought-after ingredient in many dishes such as soups, stews, marinades, and dips. However, not everyone has access to soybean paste or may have dietary restrictions that make it unsuitable for consumption. In this article, we will explore the different options for soybean paste substitutes and how to use them in your cooking.

What is soybean paste and why do people use it?

Soybean paste is made by fermenting cooked soybeans with salt and a specific type of mold called koji. The fermentation process can take up to several months to complete and results in a thick, dark brown paste with a pungent aroma and umami taste.

People use soybean paste as a seasoning to enhance the flavor of various dishes. It acts as a natural flavor enhancer, adding depth and complexity to the food. Additionally, soybean paste contains probiotics and enzymes that provide various health benefits, including improving digestion and boosting the immune system.

Soybean paste is a staple ingredient in many Asian cuisines, including Korean, Japanese, and Chinese. In Korean cuisine, soybean paste is commonly used to make doenjang jjigae, a hearty and savory stew made with vegetables, tofu, and meat. In Japanese cuisine, soybean paste is used to make miso soup, a traditional soup made with dashi broth, tofu, and seaweed. In Chinese cuisine, soybean paste is used as a marinade for meat dishes and as a dipping sauce for dumplings.

The health benefits of soybean paste

Soybean paste is a rich source of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It also contains beneficial compounds such as phytoestrogens and isoflavones, which have been associated with promoting heart health and reducing the risk of certain cancers. The probiotics found in soybean paste can also help promote healthy gut bacteria and aid in digestion.

Additionally, soybean paste is a great source of antioxidants, which can help protect the body against damage from free radicals. These antioxidants can also help reduce inflammation in the body, which is linked to a variety of chronic diseases such as arthritis and diabetes.

Furthermore, soybean paste is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes, from soups and stews to marinades and dips. It is a staple in many Asian cuisines and is becoming increasingly popular in Western cooking as well. Incorporating soybean paste into your diet can not only provide numerous health benefits but also add delicious flavor to your meals.

Common recipes that call for soybean paste

Soybean paste is a staple ingredient in many Korean and Japanese dishes, including:

  • Korean doenjang jjigae (soybean paste stew)
  • Japanese miso soup
  • Korean ssamjang (dipping sauce for lettuce wraps)
  • Korean bibimbap (mixed rice bowl)
  • Korean japchae (stir-fried glass noodles)
  • Japanese teriyaki marinades
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In addition to these dishes, soybean paste is also commonly used in Korean and Japanese marinades for meats and vegetables. The paste adds a savory, umami flavor to the marinade and helps to tenderize the meat. Some popular dishes that use soybean paste marinades include Korean bulgogi (grilled marinated beef) and Japanese yakitori (grilled chicken skewers).

Why might you need a soybean paste substitute?

While soybean paste is widely available in specialty Asian stores and online, it may not be accessible for everyone due to location or dietary restrictions. For example, people with soy allergies or gluten intolerance may not be able to consume soybean paste or some of its substitutes.

Another reason why you might need a soybean paste substitute is if you are looking for a different flavor profile. Soybean paste has a distinct umami flavor that may not be to everyone’s liking. In this case, you can experiment with other fermented bean pastes such as miso or doenjang, which have a similar texture but a different taste.

Finally, you may need a soybean paste substitute if you are looking for a more sustainable option. Soybean production has been linked to deforestation and other environmental issues. In this case, you can try making your own bean paste using locally sourced and organic beans, or look for alternatives such as chickpea or lentil paste.

Different types of soybean paste substitutes to consider

Several soybean paste substitutes can be used in place of soybean paste, depending on the recipe and preferences. Here are some of the most common substitutes:

  • Miso paste: Miso paste is a Japanese condiment made from fermented soybean paste mixed with rice or barley. It has a milder flavor than soybean paste but is still rich in umami and salty flavors. White miso can be used as a substitute for mild soybean paste, while red miso can replace the stronger-tasting soybean paste.
  • Hoisin sauce: Hoisin sauce is a thick, sweet, and savory sauce used in Chinese cuisine. It is made of fermented soybeans, garlic, sugar, vinegar, and chili peppers and has a flavor reminiscent of soybean paste.
  • Tahini paste: Tahini paste is a Middle Eastern condiment made of roasted sesame seeds. It has a creamy texture and nutty flavor and can be used as a replacement for soybean paste in certain dishes.
  • Soy sauce: Soy sauce is a salty, soy-based liquid seasoning used in many Asian dishes. It can be used to replace soybean paste in marinades and some dipping sauces.

While these substitutes can work well in many recipes, it’s important to note that they may not provide the exact same flavor and texture as soybean paste. For example, miso paste may not have the same level of saltiness or depth of flavor as soybean paste, while hoisin sauce may be too sweet for some dishes.

Another option to consider is making your own soybean paste substitute. This can be done by mixing together equal parts of miso paste and tahini paste, along with a small amount of soy sauce and sugar to taste. This homemade substitute can provide a similar flavor and texture to soybean paste, while also allowing you to customize the ingredients to your liking.

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How to make your own homemade soybean paste substitute

If you have time and are feeling adventurous, you can also try making your own soybean paste substitute at home. Here is a recipe for a simple and delicious miso-based soybean paste substitute:


  • 1/4 cup white miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon mirin (Japanese rice wine)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil


  1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until well combined.
  2. Adjust the amount of each ingredient according to your taste preferences.
  3. Use as a substitute for soybean paste in recipes.

The best store-bought soybean paste substitutes

If you don’t want to make your own soybean paste substitute or don’t have the time, there are several store-bought options available. Here are some of the best soybean paste substitutes to look for:

  • Chickpea miso: Chickpea miso is a soy-free and gluten-free miso paste made from chickpeas and rice. It has a mild and sweet flavor and can be used as a substitute for soybean paste in various dishes.
  • Coconut aminos: Coconut aminos is a soy-free and gluten-free alternative to soy sauce made from coconut sap and salt. It has a sweet and salty flavor and can be used as a replacement for soybean paste in marinades and dressings.
  • Tamari sauce: Tamari sauce is a gluten-free and wheat-free soy sauce made with soybeans, water, and salt. It has a rich and salty flavor and can be used as a substitute for soybean paste in certain recipes.
  • Red bean paste: Red bean paste is a sweet and thick paste made from adzuki beans and sugar. It can be used as a substitute for soybean paste in certain desserts and sweets.

It’s important to note that while these substitutes can work well in many recipes, they may not provide the exact same flavor or texture as soybean paste. It’s always a good idea to experiment with different substitutes and adjust the recipe as needed to achieve the desired result. Additionally, be sure to check the ingredient list carefully to ensure that the substitute is suitable for any dietary restrictions or allergies.

Comparing the taste and texture of various soybean paste substitutes

The taste and texture of soybean paste substitutes can vary widely, so it’s essential to choose the right one for your recipe. Here is a brief comparison of the taste and texture of various soybean paste substitutes:

  • Miso paste: Miso has a smoother and more delicate texture than soybean paste and a milder, sweeter taste. It’s a great choice for people who prefer a less intense flavor.
  • Hoisin sauce: Hoisin sauce has a thicker texture and a sweeter taste than soybean paste. It works well in dishes that require a hint of sweetness and a slightly thicker consistency.
  • Tahini paste: Tahini has a nutty and creamy texture and flavor. It’s an excellent substitute for people who can’t eat soybean paste due to allergies or intolerance.
  • Soy sauce: Soy sauce has a liquid consistency and a salty and savory taste. It’s best used in recipes that require a marinade or dipping sauce.
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Another soybean paste substitute that is gaining popularity is chickpea miso. Chickpea miso has a similar texture and taste to traditional miso paste, but it’s made from chickpeas instead of soybeans. It’s a great option for people who are looking for a soy-free alternative or want to add more variety to their cooking. Chickpea miso can be found in health food stores or online, and it can be used in the same way as traditional miso paste in recipes.

Potential allergens in soybean paste substitutes to watch out for

While soybean paste substitutes can be a great alternative for people with dietary restrictions, it’s essential to check for potential allergens before using them. Many soybean paste substitutes contain soy, wheat, or gluten, which can trigger allergic reactions in some people. Always check the label to make sure that the product is safe for consumption.

In addition to soy, wheat, and gluten, some soybean paste substitutes may also contain other potential allergens such as nuts, dairy, or eggs. It’s important to be aware of these ingredients and to read the label carefully before using the product. If you have a severe allergy, it’s recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before trying any new food products.

Tips for using your chosen soybean paste substitute in recipes

Here are some tips for using soybean paste substitutes in your cooking:

  • Start with a small amount and adjust to taste. Soybean paste substitutes can have different levels of saltiness and umami flavors, so it’s crucial to taste as you go.
  • Keep in mind that the texture and consistency of the substitute may be different, which may affect the overall dish’s texture and appearance.
  • Some soybean paste substitutes may be sweeter or saltier than soybean paste, so it’s essential to balance the seasoning accordingly.
  • If using a soy-free substitute, adjust the recipe’s other ingredients to make up for the lack of soybean paste’s rich and savory flavor.

Another tip for using soybean paste substitutes is to consider the cooking time. Some substitutes may require less cooking time than soybean paste, while others may require more. It’s important to follow the substitute’s instructions or adjust the cooking time accordingly to ensure the dish is cooked properly.

Additionally, if you’re using a substitute that is not as thick as soybean paste, you may need to adjust the recipe’s liquid ingredients. For example, if you’re making a soup that calls for soybean paste, you may need to add more broth or water to achieve the desired consistency.

Conclusion: choosing the right soybean paste substitute for you

Soybean paste substitutes can open up a world of possibilities for people who can’t consume soybean paste due to various reasons. Whether you choose to make your own or buy a store-bought alternative, the key is to experiment and find the right substitute for your recipe and taste preferences. With this guide, hopefully, you can now confidently choose the perfect soybean paste substitute for your next culinary adventure.

It’s important to note that not all soybean paste substitutes are created equal. Some may have a stronger flavor or a different texture than traditional soybean paste, which can affect the overall taste and texture of your dish. Additionally, some substitutes may not be suitable for certain recipes, such as those that require a specific type of fermentation or aging process.

When choosing a soybean paste substitute, it’s also important to consider any dietary restrictions or allergies you may have. Some substitutes may contain ingredients that you are allergic to or that do not align with your dietary needs, such as gluten or dairy. Always read the ingredient label carefully and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.

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