How to Make Broth from Bonito Flakes (Quick Fish Stock)

by Sarah Recipes, Stocks and SoupsComments: 33

Bonito Flakes“Fish stock will cure anything

Good broth will resurrect the dead”  

 ~ South American proverbs

Fish broth made from bonito flakes is an easy, fast and highly economical stock.

It is delicious to sip alone or as a base for soup as used traditionally in Japanese cuisine.

I personally feel that fish stock is a must to teach your children before they leave home. It is so easy to make, and absolutely the fastest of all traditional broths.

I recently taught my teenage son how to make fish stock with fish heads and bonito flakes.  He couldn’t believe how easy it was. Show them once and they will never forget!  It’s that easy.

What is Bonito Broth?

Bonito broth, also called dashi, is a fish stock traditional to Japan.  It is traditionally mixed with fermented miso paste to make miso soup.

The Japanese have historically valued bonito broth as a remedy for colds and fatigue and to improve blood circulation. The Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition reported in 2008 a randomized human trial of 27 elderly Japanese subjects who ingested broth made from bonito flakes or water for one month.

At the conclusion of the trial, the people who ingested bonito broth during the study had far improved systolic blood pressure readings than those ingesting plain water.  In addition, the bonito broth drinking subjects had a much improved emotional state.

What are Bonito Flakes?

Bonito flakes are made from dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna. Traditionally, Japanese women kept blocks of the dried bonito and used a kitchen tool to flake off as much as they needed each day. Nowadays the flakes are sold in bags.

Unfortunately, homemade dashi made from dried kelp and katsuobushi (bonito flakes) is rare today, even in Japan. Most people use granulated or liquid instant stock, which is typically full of MSG for flavor instead of the natural and delicious flavor from the bonito flakes.

Beware of bonito broth substitutes!

Bonito Flakes Make a Delicate, Non-Fishy and Very Delicious Broth!

Broth made from bonito flakes is especially helpful for a young adult or family on a limited budget with limited space. Because you can make a pot in just a few minutes, it can be made as needed rather than making huge batches and freezing large quantities like with chicken or beef stock.

It is the most economical stock too:  less than a dollar’s worth of bonito flakes makes a quart of stock in a hurry.

The picture above is of a package of bonito flakes from a local Asian supermarket near me that cost 67 cents! This one package of bonito flakes will make a quart of bonito broth.

This compares with a pot of chicken stock which takes 24 hours to make with quality pastured chicken that is very expensive and sometimes hard to find.

Is bonito broth a substitute for slow cooked chicken or beef stock? No.  The reason is that bonito broth does not contain gelatin like the slow cooked versions made from bones.  However, bonito broth is incredibly nutritious nonetheless and is a great adjunct to slow cooked bone broths to keep the budget in check and for quick meals in a hurry.

Hard to Find Fresh Fish?  Use Bonito Flakes Instead

If you need fish broth asap, don’t have any fish heads on hand or don’t have a place to buy fish heads in your town because you aren’t near the coast, you can make bonito fish broth instead.

Best to keep a number of these handy little packets in your pantry for a pinch!

How to Make Broth from Bonito Flakes

Bring 1 quart of filtered water to a boil.

Remove pan from heat and add a half cup of the bonito flakes (sources)

Cover and allow the bonito flakes to sink to the bottom of the pot.  This will take a few minutes.

Strain out the bonito flakes and discard.

Add 2 TBL of miso paste and mix in if desired (sources)

The broth has a smoky, hearty flavor similar to that of beef stock.

Drink bonito broth by itself, mix with miso or use as a base for seafood gumbo, clam chowder or other similar soups. Click here for another soup recipe using bonito broth: a fast, healthy ramen soup!

You can find the dried flakes at health food stores, Asian groceries, and online.


Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

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