How to Use Bonito Flakes to Make Broth (Quick Fish Stock)| Updated: May 15, 2019
It is wonderful to sip alone or as a base for soup as used traditionally in Japanese cuisine. Here’s what ancient South American proverbs have to say on the matter:
“Fish stock will cure anything”
“Good broth will resurrect the dead”
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?
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. They cost less than a dollar each! One packet 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 to use in a pinch!
How to Make Broth from Bonito Flakes
The easy recipe below makes one quart of bonito broth. It is a great stand-in for bone broth if the freezer is temporarily empty.
Bonito Broth Recipe
Easy recipe for bonito flakes made into broth (quick fish stock) that is delicious and highly economical as a base for soups and sauces when bone broth is unavailable.
Bring 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 or sprinkle them on your dog or cat's food.
Add miso paste and mix in if desired.
The broth has a smoky, hearty flavor similar to that of beef stock.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Since 2002, Sarah has been a Health and Nutrition Educator dedicated to helping families effectively incorporate the principles of ancestral diets within the modern household.
Sarah was awarded Activist of the Year at the International Wise Traditions Conference in 2010.
Sarah received a Bachelor of Arts (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in Economics from Furman University and a Master’s degree in Government (Financial Management) from the University of Pennsylvania.
Mother to three healthy children, blogger, and best-selling author, her work has been covered by USA Today, The New York Times, National Review, ABC, NBC, and many others.