10 of the Best Soybean Paste Substitutes 

Doenjang soybean paste is a staple Korean ingredient that adds a sweet yet salty flavor to any recipe that it’s added to. Even though it is an essential in Korea, it can be difficult to track down in the United States. Fortunately, there are plenty of other pastes that replicate doenjang.

The 10 Best Soybean Paste Substitute That You Can Use

If you don’t have any doenjang and can’t find any, do not fret. There are many sufficient substitutes that can do the same job as the classic soybean paste. These include miso, sweet bean sauce, gochujang, doubanjiang, Korean soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chee hou sauce, fermented black beans, and sweet soybean paste. 

What is Soybean Paste Used For?

Doenjang, the traditional Korean soybean paste, is good for many purposes. It is used as the main ingredient in all sorts of soups, dipping sauces, and stews. Although it originated in Korea, many regions are adopting the use of doenjang because of its savoriness. 

Because doenjang is based on soybeans, it is rich in protein, as well as having anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties. So not only is it an easy and tasty ingredient to include in recipes, it is also considerably healthy.

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What’s the Difference Between Doenjang and Miso?

Miso and doenjang are two ingredients that serve a similar purpose; adding a salty, distinct, taste to foods from the East Asian region. They are both made from fermented soybeans and are gluten-free, which can cause even more confusion between the two. But they are not the same thing.

First and foremost, they come from different countries. Doenjang hails from Korea and miso originated in Japan. They also differ in texture; the consistency of miso is pretty smooth, while that of doenjang is more chunky. 

Although they are both made of fermented soybeans, the fermenting process of each is different. Doenjang must be fermented for at least six weeks and is exposed to air during this time. But, most types of miso are ready to eat after just one week of fermentation.

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Taste

While doenjang and miso differ in how they are made, they are also different in terms of how they taste. The taste of doenjang is typically much stronger and more salty than miso’s taste, so when using it in place of miso, you should use smaller quantities. 

In comparison, miso has a much more subtle taste which makes it perfect for dishes like miso soup. Doenjang and miso can be used interchangeably if one so chooses, but they are different from each other in many ways.

What Can I Use Instead of Soybean Paste?

1. Miso

When looking for a paste similar to doenjang, miso is definitely one of your best bets. While doenjang is popularly used in Korean cuisine, miso is used the same way in Japanese cuisine. Miso is also made with a base of fermented soybeans.

Different types of miso may also include rice, barley, and seaweed, so its specific flavor can vary slightly. Miso can be used in spreads and sauces, and makes a great finisher for vegetables and meats. When the goal is to replicate doenjang, opt for red miso. It is a bit sweeter, so recipes may have to be altered slightly.

2. Sweet Bean Sauce

The main ingredients in this substitute for soybean paste are wheat flour, sugar, and salt. It is also called tian mian jiang. Sometimes sweet bean sauce does contain soybeans, but it is not its most typical ingredient. 

Although “sweet” is in its name, what is really meant by this is that it’s not spicy. Sweet bean sauce works best in savory dishes, making it a sufficient doenjang replacement. Like doenjang, it is thick and brown. When using it as a soybean paste substitute, using equal parts that you normally would will work fine.

3. Gochujang

Gochujang is also made from fermented soybeans, but what sets it apart is that gochujang also has chili peppers as one of its main ingredients. Doenjang may sometimes have chili included in it as well, but it is rarely at the top of its ingredients list.

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If you are a fan of spiciness, gochujang is the doenjang substitute for you. It has almost the exact same texture, and is often easier to find in grocery stores. Gochujang is also pretty versatile, and works in stir-fries and soups, but also makes for a great marinade.

4. Doubanjiang

Doubanjiang is another paste similar to doenjang that is made of fermented soybeans, but this one is particularly unique. This is because the soybeans to make doubanjiang are fermented for a very long time; around three years.

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This process gives the sauce a super unique taste, and is saltier than doenjang. If you don’t like the spiciness that is offered from gochujang, doubanjiang is a great option for you. It has a similar consistency and its taste is only distinguishably different because of its pure saltiness.

5. Korean Soy Sauce

Korean soy sauce makes for a great alternative to doenjang because they are almost identical products. When doenjang is fermented, the liquid and solid parts are separated. The solids make for the base of doenjang, while the liquid is sold as Korean soy sauce.

Korean soy sauce can be used interchangeably with doenjang because their flavor profiles could easily be mistaken for one another.

6. Hoisin Sauce

Like doenjang, hoisin sauce also has a sweet and salty taste, making it a good substitute. It is also made using fermented soybeans, but has many other added ingredients such as sesame, chili, garlic, and other spices.

Originally, hoisin sauce became popular to eat as a sauce with seafood dishes, but it doesn’t contain any seafood. It is also used as a marinade, particularly for barbecue, and many like to use it as a seasoning for chicken and duck.

If you use hoisin sauce as a doenjang substitute, you might want to tweak the amount you use. Less is more with hoisin because of all the added spices it has.

7. Chee Hou Sauce

Chee hou sauce is also made with fermented soybeans, so it is similar to doenjang in that way. Its taste is similar to that of hoisin sauce, but it has different added ingredients. Aside from fermented soybeans, chee hou sauce is made with salted plums, lemon, and bean curds.

It can easily replace doenjang, but you might want to use less of it because its taste is much stronger. Chee hou sauce is most commonly used in stews and soups, but you can feel free to experiment with it in whatever recipe you please.

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8. Sweet Soybean Paste

Even though its name suggests that sweet soybean paste is sweet, what’s meant by this is actually just that it’s not spicy. If you like Korean ingredients especially, sweet soybean paste is a doenjang alternative worth checking out.

It is used as a thickener as well as a flavoring agent, so it’s a good idea to start out with less than you think you need, as it will make foods thicker. Like doenjang, it is dark brown in color and smooth in texture. Sweet soybean paste does need to be refrigerated so it doesn’t spoil.

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9. Fermented Black Beans

Fermented black beans are made using black soybeans, and their taste is slightly more bitter than the taste of doenjang. They are also sweet, making them a common ingredient in Chinese food. But, they will work in Korean food if you don’t have any doenjang.

Fermented black beans can be sold as either a sauce or a paste, so keep that in mind in terms of the texture of your recipe. Too much of it will make your dish bitter, so use it sparingly. They are known to go best with seafood, vegetables, and other bean dishes.

10. Ground Bean Sauce

When using ground bean sauce as a doenjang alternative, it will be hard to tell the difference at all. Ground bean sauce is made out of yellow soybeans that have been fermented, and it makes for a perfect barbecue sauce. 

Many people prefer it to doenjang, and will put ground bean sauce in their soups and stews instead when presented with the option. Ground bean sauce is versatile and works with all sorts of meats.

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FAQs

What does soybean paste taste like?

Doenjang, or soybean paste, has a distinct flavor. It is salty and its texture can be somewhat chunky. Its flavor profile is complex and deep, and it is used in many recipes to make the food more savory.

Can you eat soybean paste raw?

Soybean paste can be eaten raw, and it often is. When using it as a dip, many people consume it in its raw form right out of the package.

Does soybean paste have probiotics?

Doenjang has a surprising amount of health benefits. One of the benefits that doenjang has to offer is a type of unique carbohydrates. When soybeans are fermented, these special carbohydrates are formed. And when consumed, they send necessary and healthy bacteria to your gut.

Doenjang is also high in protein and fiber, so it can easily support digestion. It has also been shown to help prevent high blood pressure.

Conclusion

Doenjang is a popular paste made from fermented soybeans to use in Korean cooking. It can be hard to find in the United States, which might get frustrating. But, if you don’t have any doenjang or can’t find any, there are plenty of doenjang substitutes that can work the same.