A Vegan Substitute for Anchovies

Here’s a plant-based way to boost the deep umami flavors in everything from braises to soups.

Anchovies have long been used in Italian and other Mediterranean cuisines to boost savory flavor. We routinely add a small amount to everything from braises and soups to dips and dressings, where they deepen flavor without contributing overt fishiness. We wanted to find a similar umami powerhouse for vegan cooks. After a little experimentation, we landed on a potent combination: miso blended with ground toasted nori (toasting brings out the seaweed’s nutty flavor). Salty, fermented miso is loaded with glutamates, while nori has both glutamates and ribonucleotides (including some of the same ones that are in anchovies). Together, these two types of molecules can dramatically boost savory flavor, enhancing a dish’s overall complexity. (Note: While our Miso-Nori Paste is an excellent sub for anchovies when they’re used to amplify umami, it won’t work in applications where the cured fish is one of the defining flavors.)  

Here's how to make it:

Using tongs, hold 8 by 7-inch sheet of nori 2 inches above low flame, flipping every 3 to 5 seconds, until nori is aromatic and shrinks slightly, about 20 seconds (or toast in 275-degree oven). Tear sheet into 1½-inch pieces and grind in spice grinder to fine powder, about 30 seconds. Measure out 1 teaspoon nori powder and stir into 1/4 cup white miso. (Extra powder can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 months.) Paste can be stored in airtight container in refrigerator for up 1 month. To use as flavoring agent: Substitute in 1:1 ratio for minced anchovies (1 minced anchovy = ½ teaspoon).

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