Some of the best soybean paste substitute are miso, soy sauce, gochujang, sweet bean sauce, and fermented black beans.
Recently, I was really excited to give a Korean recipe a try. It required soybean paste, but despite searching through several nearby stores, I couldn’t find it anywhere. I felt a bit frustrated, but I didn’t want to give up. So, I decided to explore other options and ended up choosing miso as a substitute. To my delight, it added a wonderful and flavorful touch to the dish, seamlessly blending in. This whole experience not only expanded my culinary knowledge but also showed me how convenient and versatile soybean paste substitutes can be. It just goes to show that you can still achieve delicious flavors even when you can’t find the exact ingredient you’re looking for.
In this article, I’ll be sharing the best soybean paste substitute you can use when you run out of soybean paste.
Table of Contents
What is Soybean Paste Used For?
Soybean paste, known as doenjang in Korean cuisine, is a fundamental ingredient in various Asian traditions. Its versatile and robust flavor makes it a staple in many dishes. One primary use of soybean paste is as a base for soups and stews. In Korean cuisine, iconic dishes like Doenjang Jjigae feature this paste, adding a rich, savory depth to the broth along with the umami derived from fermented soybeans.
Soybean paste is also a key component in marinades and sauces. Its complex taste enhances the flavor of meats, providing a savory and slightly salty profile. In dishes like bulgogi, a Korean barbecue staple, soybean paste contributes to the marinade, giving the meat a distinctive taste. Additionally, it is used in stir-fries and as a seasoning for vegetables, offering a savory complexity that elevates the overall dish.
Aside from its savory applications, soybean paste is used in various condiments and dipping sauces. Its umami-rich nature enhances the taste of these accompaniments, creating a balanced and flavorful experience. Whether used as a main ingredient or a supporting element, soybean paste’s versatility makes it a cornerstone in Asian cuisines, adding depth and complexity to a wide range of dishes.
What Can I Use Instead of Soybean Paste?
Miso serves as an excellent substitute for soybean paste, especially when replicating doenjang. Just like doenjang in Korean cuisine, miso is a staple in Japanese cooking, crafted from fermented soybeans. The diversity of miso extends to variations that might incorporate rice, barley, or seaweed, which influence its distinct flavor nuances.
Notably, when aiming to mimic the rich umami of doenjang, opting for red miso is key. Its subtly sweet profile adds a unique touch, requiring only minor adjustments to recipes. Miso’s versatility shines through in spreads, sauces, and as a flavorful enhancer for vegetables and meats, making it a go-to alternative for soybean paste in various culinary applications.
2. Soy sauce
Korean soy sauce, which is produced during the fermentation process to make doenjang, is an excellent soybean paste substitute because they are very similar. When making doenjang, the solids and liquids separate during fermentation, with the solids becoming the base of doenjang and the liquid becoming soy sauce.
The fact that Korean soy sauce and doenjang have similar flavors means they can be used interchangeably, often leading to confusion between the two. This is why Korean soy sauce is a convenient and seamless option when you want to recreate the rich umami and deep flavor associated with soybean paste in different dishes.
Gochujang, made from fermented soybeans with a notable addition of chili peppers, stands out as a versatile alternative to soybean paste, particularly when compared to doenjang. While doenjang may occasionally include chili, it typically plays a secondary role in terms of ingredients.
For those who enjoy spicy flavors, gochujang is an ideal option. With a similar texture to doenjang, it not only serves as a convenient replacement but is also readily available in grocery stores. The versatility of gochujang is evident in stir-fries, soups, and as an excellent marinade, showcasing its ability to adapt to various culinary uses.
4. Sweet Bean Sauce
Sweet bean sauce, also known as tian mian jiang, is a delicious soybean paste alternative. Its key ingredients include wheat flour, sugar, and salt, with soybeans playing a supporting role rather than taking center stage. Despite its name, the “sweet” in sweet bean sauce actually refers to its mildness rather than overwhelming sweetness.
This sauce is great in savory dishes, much like doenjang, and shares similarities such as a thick, brown consistency. When substituting soybean paste with sweet bean sauce, you can seamlessly transition by using equal amounts, ensuring that the flavors in your culinary creations remain balanced.
5. Fermented Black Beans
Fermented black beans, made from black soybeans, offer a unique alternative for soybean paste, with a slightly bitter and sweet flavor. While they have a hint of bitterness, their natural sweetness makes them a common ingredient in Chinese cuisine. Interestingly, these beans can also be used in Korean dishes when doenjang is not available.
Available in sauce and paste forms, fermented black beans provide a different texture option for your recipes. It’s important to be cautious, as using too many of these beans can make your dish taste bitter, so it’s best to use them sparingly. Known for their compatibility with seafood, vegetables, and various bean-based dishes, fermented black beans add a unique depth of flavor to your cooking.
6. Hoisin Sauce
Hoisin sauce, known for its sweet and salty taste, is an excellent substitute for soybean paste like doenjang. While both are made from fermented soybeans, hoisin sauce stands out with its additional ingredients such as sesame, chili, garlic, and various spices.
Originally popular as a sauce for seafood, it actually does not contain any seafood in its composition. Hoisin sauce has expanded its use as a marinade, especially for barbecues, and is often used as a seasoning for chicken and duck.
When substituting hoisin for doenjang, it’s important to use it in moderation because of the abundance of added spices. The saying “less is more” holds true, ensuring a balanced and nuanced flavor in your dishes while taking advantage of the versatility of hoisin sauce as an effective alternative to soybean paste.
Doubanjiang is a distinct replacement for soybean paste, similar to doenjang but with a unique twist. What sets it apart is the prolonged three-year fermentation of soybeans, which gives the sauce an exceptionally unique taste.
Notably saltier than doenjang, doubanjiang becomes an appealing choice for those looking for an alternative to the spiciness of gochujang. With a similar consistency to doenjang, the key difference lies in its pure saltiness, which adds a nuanced and savory profile to your dishes.
8. Chee Hou Sauce
Chee Hou Sauce is another notable alternative for soybean paste, sharing the foundation of fermented soybeans with doenjang. Its flavor, reminiscent of hoisin sauce, distinguishes itself through a unique blend of ingredients. In addition to fermented soybeans, chee hou sauce incorporates salted plums, lemon, and bean curds.
While it is a good replacement for doenjang, it’s important to be cautious due to its strong and potent taste. It is recommended to use it sparingly to avoid overpowering the dish. Commonly featured in stews and soups, chee hou sauce offers a versatile option for experimenting with various recipes, adding a distinct taste and contributing to the depth of flavor in your culinary creations.
9. Sweet Soybean Paste
Despite its name suggesting sweetness, sweet soybean paste is actually non-spicy. This characteristic makes it a desirable substitute for doenjang, especially for those who enjoy Korean ingredients. Serving as both a thickener and a flavoring agent, it’s important to use sweet soybean paste carefully as it tends to make foods thicker.
Similar in appearance to doenjang, sweet soybean paste has a dark brown color and a smooth texture. To keep it fresh, refrigeration is necessary to prevent spoilage. Whether you’re looking for a substitute or exploring new flavors, sweet soybean paste proves to be a versatile addition to your cooking repertoire, adding depth and texture to a variety of dishes.
Tahini is a versatile paste made from ground sesame seeds. It offers a unique and nutty flavor that can serve as an interesting soybean paste replacement. While not identical in taste, tahini can add richness and depth to dishes, creating a distinct profile in recipes where soybean paste is called for.
One key advantage of tahini as a substitute is its creaminess and smooth texture, which can mimic the consistency of soybean paste. Tahini is commonly associated with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, adding a delightful earthiness to salads, dips, and sauces. Its subtle nuttiness can complement a variety of dishes, from roasted vegetables to grilled meats.
It’s important to note that tahini has a distinct flavor, so it may not precisely replicate the umami notes of soybean paste. However, for those looking to experiment with new flavors or accommodate dietary preferences, tahini can be a creative and healthy alternative. Adjusting the quantity based on your taste preferences is recommended, as tahini may have a stronger flavor than soybean paste.
11. Coconut Aminos
Coconut aminos, derived from the sap of coconut blossoms, presents a unique and versatile substitute for soybean paste. As a soy-free alternative, it offers a suitable option for individuals with soy allergies or those looking to reduce their soy intake.
One of the key features of coconut aminos is its rich, savory flavor profile with a touch of sweetness, resembling the umami notes found in soybean paste. While it doesn’t precisely replicate the fermented depth of soybean paste, coconut aminos can contribute a complex and well-balanced taste to a variety of dishes.
Coconut aminos are typically gluten-free and lower in sodium compared to traditional soy sauce, making them a healthier alternative. The liquid consistency of coconut aminos allows for easy integration into marinades, dressings, stir-fries, and other recipes where soybean paste is used. It’s worth noting that coconut aminos may have a slightly sweeter undertone, so adjusting the quantity based on taste preferences is advisable.
12. Ground Bean Sauce
Ground bean sauce, crafted from fermented yellow soybeans, emerges as an indistinguishable soybean paste substitute, particularly doenjang. The similarity is so striking that it becomes challenging to discern any difference when used in recipes. Its base of yellow soybeans and the fermentation process contribute to a profile that seamlessly mirrors the essence of doenjang.
Ideal as a barbecue sauce, ground bean sauce is not only preferred by many over doenjang but also finds its way into soups and stews, offering a versatile option for culinary exploration. Its compatibility with various meats makes it a go-to ingredient for those seeking a flavorful and adaptable alternative to soybean paste in a range of dishes.
13. Worcestershire Sauce
Worcestershire sauce, with its complex and savory flavor profile, can serve as an intriguing substitute for soybean paste in certain recipes. Although not identical in taste and consistency, Worcestershire sauce offers a unique blend of flavors that can add depth to various dishes.
Made from ingredients like anchovies, vinegar, molasses, and spices, Worcestershire sauce introduces a rich umami quality along with a hint of sweetness and tanginess. Its liquid form makes it versatile for use in marinades, dressings, and various savory dishes.
When substituting Worcestershire sauce for soybean paste, it’s important to consider the differences in flavor. While soybean paste has a distinct umami from fermented soybeans, Worcestershire sauce provides a different umami character, often accompanied by a subtle tang and sweetness. It can work well in recipes where the soybean paste primarily contributes to the umami depth.
14. Liquid Aminos
Liquid aminos, an replacement for soy sauce, can serve as a versatile substitute for soybean paste in various recipes. Derived from soybeans, liquid aminos undergo a process that usually involves hydrolyzing soy protein, resulting in a liquid seasoning with a flavor profile similar to soy sauce but with some distinct characteristics.
Liquid aminos offer a savory and salty taste, similar to soybean paste, making them a suitable replacement in many dishes. They are often used as a gluten-free alternative to soy sauce, appealing to individuals with soy or gluten sensitivities.
One key advantage of liquid aminos is its consistency, which is liquid and easy to incorporate into various recipes. They work well in marinades, dressings, stir-fries, and as a general seasoning in place of soybean paste. Additionally, liquid aminos may have a slightly milder flavor compared to traditional soy sauce, so it’s recommended to adjust the quantity based on taste preferences.
15. Fish Sauce
Fish sauce, a staple in Southeast Asian cuisines, can be a distinctive alternative to soybean paste, offering a contrasting but flavorful profile. While it may not replicate the thickness and texture of soybean paste, fish sauce can bring a depth of umami and saltiness to dishes.
Made from fermented fish, typically anchovies or other small varieties, fish sauce undergoes a fermentation process that imparts a rich and savory flavor. It adds a complex and distinctive taste to recipes, making it suitable for a variety of dishes, especially in Southeast Asian cooking.
When using fish sauce as a substitute for soybean paste, it’s essential to consider the intensity of its flavor. Fish sauce is potent, so a little goes a long way. It can be used in marinades, stir-fries, and soups to enhance the overall umami and saltiness of the dish.
16. Tamari Paste
Tamari paste is a fantastic alternative to soybean paste, bringing a distinct and flavorful taste to a variety of dishes. It’s made from fermented soybeans and has a shared origin with soybean paste like doenjang. However, it stands out in the way it’s produced and its taste.
Traditionally, tamari is created as a byproduct of brewing soy sauce. It generally contains a higher amount of soybeans and often omits wheat. Its flavor is rich and savory, boasting the renowned umami taste. This makes it a wonderful substitute for soybean paste in recipes, enhancing the complexity and depth of the dish. Additionally, tamari paste is gluten-free, making it an ideal choice for those with gluten sensitivities. In terms of texture, tamari paste closely resembles soybean paste, allowing for an easy one-to-one substitution in many recipes.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Does Soybean Paste Taste Like?
Soybean paste, commonly known as doenjang in Korean cuisine, has a rich and savory flavor profile with a pronounced umami taste. The fermentation process contributes to its complex taste, characterized by deep earthy notes and a slightly salty undertone.
Is Soybean Paste Same as Soy Paste?
Yes, soybean paste and soy paste generally refer to the same thing. Both terms are often used interchangeably to describe a paste made from fermented soybeans, such as the Korean condiment Doenjang. The choice of phrasing may vary based on cultural or regional preferences, but they essentially denote the same type of paste derived from soybeans through a fermentation process.
What is a Substitute for Bean Paste?
Some bean paste substitutes for a similar umami depth are miso, hoisin sauce, or fermented black beans. You can also use Gochujang, tahini, or even Worcestershire sauce as unique and flavorful bean paste alternatives.
What Can I Replace Doenjang With?
You can replace doenjang with red miso, sweet bean sauce, hoisin sauce, Korean soy sauce, fermented black beans or chee hou sauce. Using any of them could give you an umami depth or add unique flavors to your dish.
Can You Eat Soybean Paste Raw?
Yes, soybean paste can be eaten raw. It is commonly consumed in its raw form, especially when used as a dip. Many people enjoy it straight out of the package, making it a versatile condiment that can be used both raw and cooked, depending on personal preferences and the dish you’re making with it.
Does Soybean Paste Have Probiotics?
Yes, soybean paste, particularly when fermented, contains probiotics. The fermentation process involved in making soybean paste encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria, contributing to the development of probiotics. These live microorganisms can have positive effects on gut health, aiding digestion and promoting a balanced microbiome.
Is Soybean Paste Healthy?
Yes, soybean paste is healthy. But, only when eaten in moderation and as part of a balanced diet. It contains valuable nutrients like protein, fiber, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. However, it is also high in sodium, which can be a concern for people watching their salt intake. Consuming too much sodium can have potential health risks, including high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems.
Is Soybean Paste Soup Good For You?
Yes, soybean paste soup, often known as Doenjang Jjigae in Korean cuisine, is good for you. It’s a healthy and nutritious choice that typically includes a variety of vegetables, tofu, and sometimes meat, providing a mix of vitamins, minerals, and protein. The fermented soybeans used in the paste contribute to the dish’s potential health benefits, such as supporting gut health due to probiotics generated during fermentation.
While Doenjang, the famous fermented soybean paste, holds a special place in Korean cuisine, it can be challenging to find it outside of Korea. However, fear not! This article showcases a diverse array of substitutes that can easily take the place of Doenjang. Whether you crave the rich umami flavor of miso, the savory depth of fish sauce, or the unique taste of hoisin or tahini, these substitutes offer a wide range of options to suit various tastes and preferences.