How To Swap Sardines For Miso Paste In Your Recipes

Sardines are a sustainable, flavorful, and widely available ingredient used all over the world, bestowing a wealth of nutrients, a flaky chewy texture, and a burst of fishy, salty umami goodness. That said, they may not fit into every dietary preference. Luckily, you can use miso paste, another widely available product, as a substitute for sardines in recipes that require its unique flavor enhancement.

Miso is a fermented soybean paste commonly used to flavor broths, sauces, and marinades in Japan. It comes in numerous varieties, the most common of which are yellow, white, and red. White and yellow miso have a sweeter, nuttier, more mellow umami flavor than the long-fermented red miso which is considerably more pungent, funky, and salty. The best way to assimilate the oceanic, salty flavors inherent in sardines is to mix white and red miso paste.

Sardines come in various forms, the most popular being tinned sardines, which themselves encompass numerous oil and brine-packed varieties. Oil-packed sardines have a richer, earthier flavor, while brine-packed sardines are saltier and tangier. Consequently, you can customize your miso blend depending on the type of sardines you want to swap. Whether you're using a blend or an individual variety, miso packs a serious punch of salt and savoriness, so a little bit goes a long way. The best way to make the swap is to add miso by the teaspoon and taste-test as you go to ensure that your dish has just the right amount of sardine-like flavor depth.

Best sardine recipes for a miso swap

Miso has a distinct umami zing making it a wonderful flavor swap for sardines, albeit not the best texture swap. Therefore, the best recipes for using miso as a sardine substitute are ones that utilize sardines more as a flavoring agent. Canned sardines, for example, are often mashed or blended into sauces, spreads, and even salad dressings to impart a burst of umami depth.

Miso paste will make a seamless swap for sardines in these same blended recipes. You can add a dash of paste to a marinara or tomato-based pasta sauce for a vegan take on sardine pasta topped with floral, briny capers and fresh parsley. You can add miso to a blend of cream cheese, creme fraiche, and chopped chives for a fishy spread to top bagels, crostini, or crackers.

You can also swap sardines for miso in flavored butter and oils to infuse marinades, spread over bread, drizzle over sandwiches, soups, and salads, or use as a foundational fat to saute, roast, or grill vegetables and starches. Lastly, if you're looking for a more well-rounded sardine substitute, you can use miso paste in conjunction with jackfruit to mimic both the flavor and texture of sardines.