Homemade Shiro Dashi is a light-colored soup base used in many Japanese recipes like udon noodle soup, chawanmushi, tamagoyaki, oyakodon, and oden. This versatile alternative to mentsuyu lets you season food without adding the dark color of regular soy sauce. As a result, you retain and enhance the subtle, beautiful colors of the ingredients.
Dashi (出汁), or Japanese soup stock, is an indispensable component in making Japanese food. We use dashi—along with basic pantry items like soy sauce and mirin—to season a great variety of dishes. For convenience, many chefs and home cooks utilize a versatile dashi base condiment called shiro dashi (白だし).
Today, I will discuss this all-mighty condiment, and we’ll learn how to make Homemade Shiro Dashi.
Table of Contents
What is Shiro Dashi
Shiro dashi (白だし), translated to “white soup stock,” is made with dashi, white or light-colored soy sauce, mirin, salt, and sometimes with sake or sugar. It is used as a seasoning or soup base to lend that subtle yet profoundly umami flavor to Japanese dishes.
You can find shiro dashi (sometimes written as shirodashi) being sold as a concentrated soup base in prepackaged bottles. Amazon currently sells two brands but you will find more in Japanese grocery stores:
The Difference between Shiro Dashi and Mentsuyu
Both shiro dashi and mentsuyu are very much identical, except for one primary difference. Shiro dashi uses light-colored soy sauce (usukuchi shoyu) or white soy sauce (shiro shoyu), and mentsuyu uses regular soy sauce.
The benefit of using shiro dashi? It allows you to season the food or broth without altering the color of the dish. Imagine a light color dish such as Chawanmushi (Japanese Savory Steamed Custard). A tinted brown custard darkened by regular soy sauce wouldn’t look as appealing. You want the contrasting colors of the savory custard and the ingredients to shine through.
If you’re making udon and soba noodle soup, I recommend using mentsuyu (noodle soup base) instead of shiro dashi. Here’s my Homemade Mentsuyu recipe.
How to Make Shiro Dashi at Home
Because shiro dashi does not keep well for more than 3-4 days, my homemade recipe is NOT as concentrated as the store-bought one. Most store-bought bottles are super concentrated so please multiply my recipe when you make soup or noodle soup recipes.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Kombu (edible dried kelp)
- Light-colored soy sauce (usukuchi shoyu) – You can substitute it with shiro shoyu (white soy sauce), but it’s probably harder to find. The key for shiro dashi is the light-colored soy sauce so the broth doesn’t become dark. I’ll discuss more below.
- Mirin (sweet rice wine) – Mirin is different from rice wine or sake. If you can’t find mirin, you can use sake and sugar (the ratio should be 3 to 1).
- Salt – I use the Diamond Crystal brand’s kosher salt. Please use a kitchen scale to measure the amount of salt if you are using a different kind of salt. The granule size for each salt type is different and volume can’t be used.
- Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) – Best to use thick shavings (atsukezuri) for this recipe as we can simmer them for 10 minutes to achieve a deep flavor. I’ll discuss more below.
Overview: Cooking Steps
- Prepare kombu dashi (or make cold brew dashi overnight).
- Add light-colored soy sauce, mirin, and salt. Mix them all together and bring them to a boil.
- Add thick shavings of katsuobushi and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. If you use thin shavings, add them and simmer for 30 seconds. Then, turn off the heat and steep for 10 minutes.
- Strain the katsuobushi into a fine mesh sieve over a mason jar.
- Let the shiro dashi cool completely before storing.
Thick vs. Thin Katsuobushi Shavings
For this recipe, I recommend using thick shavings of katsuobushi called atsukezuri (厚削り), as it is one of the prominent flavors of shiro dashi. I tried making shiro dashi with both thick and thin shavings (using equal weight) and the result came out quite differently.
Use thick shaving katsuobushi because…
- Dashi will yield a stronger, katsuo taste.
- You can simmer thick shavings on low heat for as long as 8-10 minutes (compared to 0-1 minute for thin shavings).
- Thick shavings will not cloud up the liquid (as thin shavings would).
- Con: It can be slightly more expensive than thin shavings.
You can buy thick shavings from this online store or Japanese/Asian grocery stores.
If you are substituting with thin shavings (hanakatsuo), add them to the simmering stock and simmer on low heat for just 30 seconds, turn off the heat, and let the katsuobushi steep for an additional 10 minutes. You can’t cook thin shavings for a long time because they will quickly give an off-taste and cloud up the liquid.
What is Light-Colored Soy Sauce?
I use light-colored soy sauce in some of my recipes, so you may already have one in your refrigerator.
Usukuchi, or light-colored soy sauce, has a higher percentage in sodium than the regular one and less umami. The reason is that the additional salt suppresses the fermentation process.
Primarily used in southern Kansai cuisine, light-colored soy sauce is used for cooking dishes such as Udon Noodle Soup, Chawanmushi, Takikomi Gohan, hot pot (nabemono), and all kinds of simmered dishes (nimono). The light color won’t darken the final dish like regular soy sauce.
If you can’t find the light-colored soy sauce, you can use regular soy sauce but the final result will be dark in color.
This is a very simple recipe, but it is so essential to get the right ingredients.
- Use thick shaving Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes). I discussed this topic earlier, so please read the section.
- Remove the kombu right before simmering. Kombu gets slimy and bitter after boiling, so stay around the stove to make sure to remove the kombu before the liquid starts simmering.
- Adjust the saltiness based on the salt you use. Everyone probably has their own favorite or go-to salt. I use Diamond Crystal kosher salt for all my recipes. If you are not using the same type, please use a kitchen scale to measure the weight of your salt.
Recipes That You Can Use Shiro Dashi
- Udon Noodle Soup
- Tamagoyaki (Japanese Rolled Omelette)
- Takikomi Gohan
- Oden (Fish Cake Stew)
- Eggplant Agebitashi
- Zosui (Japanese Rice Soup)
- Kanto-Style Ozoni
- All kinds of simmered dishes (nimono)
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Homemade Shiro Dashi
- 1 piece kombu (dried kelp) (2 inches x 2 inches, 5 x 5 cm for 1 serving)
- 2 cups water
- 2 Tbsp usukuchi (light-colored) soy sauce (if you can't find it, you can substitute it with regular soy sauce, but your shiro dashi will be dark in color)
- ⅓ cup mirin
- 1 Tbsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
- ⅔ oz katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) (I used thick shavings; for thin shavings, use the same amount in weight or 2 packed cups for 1 serving)
- Gather all the ingredients. Please note that this homemade shiro dashi is NOT as concentrated as a store-bought shiro dashi; therefore, you may need to make more.
- In a saucepan, combine the water and kombu. I tore the kombu in half to fit in the saucepan. If you have time, you can do this step in advance (up to overnight) and make cold brew Kombu Dashi.
- Bring the liquid (or cold brew kombu dashi) to a gentle simmer on medium-low heat. Right before simmering, remove the kombu from the saucepan. If you leave the kombu in the saucepan, the dashi will become slimy and bitter.
- Add the light-colored soy sauce, mirin, and salt. Mix it all together and bring it back to a simmer.
- Once simmering, add the katsuobushi. For thick shaving katsuobushi (atsukezuri), let it simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. For thin shaving katsuobushi (hanakatsuo), simmer on low heat for 30 seconds, turn off the heat, and let steep for 10 minutes.
- Finally, strain the shiro dashi into a fine-mesh sieve over a mason jar. You can use the spent thick shaving katsuobushi to make Katsuo Dashi (it will be "niban dashi" or the second, less flavorful dashi). Use the spent thin shaving katsuobushi to make Furikake (Japanese rice seasonings). Use the spent kombu to make Simmered Kombu.
- Let the Homemade Shiro Dashi cool completely. Close the lid and store in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
To Use Shiro Dashi
- You can use Shiro Dashi to make Udon Noodle Soup, Chawanmushi, Tamagoyaki (Japanese Rolled Omelette), Takikomi Gohan, Oden (Fish Cake Stew), Eggplant Agebitashi, Zosui (Japanese Rice Soup), Kanto-Style Ozoni, and all kinds of simmered dishes (nimono).