bonito bone broth

How to Make Bonito Bone Broth~ Introducing a New Pantry Staple

Megan Soups and Stews, Traditional Healing Foods, Whole Food Recipes 29 Comments

We pretty much always have the crock pot going, with bone broth. So we are never without. Almost. Every once in a while, life gets too busy and the pot gets too low.

Enter bonito, a pantry staple.

If there was ever an easy and nutrient dense broth, bonito broth is it.ย  Bonito flakes are taken from a bag, thrown in some hot water, strained and believe it or not, your super-food broth is ready. All the stocks I made contained bonito, measured by the bulging hand-full. Japanese cooking was still a mystery to me, being so different from how I grew up cooking, yet the elusiveness of it started to unfold. There is no gelatin in Bonito Broth. But it is still a nutrient-dense broth. Where does it fit into your diet? It's the fastest bone broth to make, literally taking a total of 30 minutes to produce. When you find yourself without bone broth, in a pinch, this stock is the perfect alternative.

MY DASHI BEGINNINGS

As an older teenager my favorite past time was reading cookbooks. I read them like novels, curled up in a chair. One culture’s food I could not grasp from cookbooks alone: Japan’s. Sushi was my favorite food at the time. So in my early 20’s I got a job in the kitchen of a high-end Seattle Japanese restaurant. The foreign vocabulary of mirin, chawan mushi, wakame, shiro miso, kombu, dashi and bonito became part of my repertoire as I made stocks and soups.

All the stocks I made contained bonito, measured by the bulging handful. Japanese cooking was still a mystery to me, being so different from how I grew up cooking, yet the elusiveness of it started to unfold.

There is no gelatin in bonito broth. But it is still a nutrient-dense broth. (And you can add sustainably-sourced gelatin, if desired.)

Where does it fit into your diet? It’s the fastest bone broth to make, literally taking a total of 30 minutes to produce. When you find yourself without bone broth, in a pinch, this stock is the perfect alternative.

WHAT IS BONITO & IS IT SAFE TO EAT FISH?

Bonito flakes are shavings of dried, fermented, smoked tuna.ย  Because the shavings come from the whole fish, bones are included. It is not fishy tasting, if you’re wondering. The flavor is smoky and mild. It traditionally makes a great base for miso soup; but I’ve even made beef stew with it and you don’t know it’s there.

Is it safe to consume fish, especially tuna, based on concerns with mercury and the 2011 radiation leak off the coast of Japan?

Bonito flakes come from skipjack tuna that do not swim or migrate anywhere near the coastal waters of Japan. Tuna in general has been vindicated in regard to its levels of mercury. Health advocates and functional practitioners tell us mercury is not problematic if it is in the right ratio to selenium in the fish itself. (I’ll be writing a longer post about this, out later this month.)

There are only two ingredients in traditional bonito broth, called dashi, other than water: kombu and bonito. For our purposes, as a substitution for bone broth, bonito broth can be made without the kombu, for a less oceanic flavor. (Traditionally, in Japan, it is just the opposite: dashi can be made with kombu alone; or the nourishing bonito can be added optionally.)

TRADITIONAL BONITO BROTH

There are only two ingredients in traditional bonito broth, called dashi, other than water: kombu and bonito. For our purposes, as a substitution for long-cooking bone broth, bonito broth can be made without the kombu, for a less oceanic flavor. (Traditionally, in Japan, it is just the opposite: dashi can be made with kombu alone; or the nourishing bonito can be added optionally to make a more complete broth.)

Each portion of bonito flakes used to make broth can be used twice, once for a mild broth, and a second time for a richer, darker broth. Very economical. The recipe I provide includes kombu as an optional ingredient, if you want the Asian flavor and added nutrition. In traditional Japanese cooking these almost sacred broths, that serve as the foundation for almost all their dishes, are called first dashi and second dashi.

Each portion of bonito flakes used to make broth can be used twice, once for a mild broth, and a second time for a richer, darker broth. Very economical. The recipe I provide includes kombu as an optional ingredient, if you want the Asian flavor and added nutrition. In traditional Japanese cooking these almost sacred broths, that serve as the foundation for almost all their dishes, are called first dashi and second dashi.

 

Bonito Broth
Yum
Print Recipe
Bonito can be purchased at Asian or natural grocery markets.
Servings Prep Time
8 cups 5 minutes
Passive Time
30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
8 cups 5 minutes
Passive Time
30 minutes
Bonito Broth
Yum
Print Recipe
Bonito can be purchased at Asian or natural grocery markets.
Servings Prep Time
8 cups 5 minutes
Passive Time
30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
8 cups 5 minutes
Passive Time
30 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: cups
Instructions
  1. Place optional kombu in saucepan with water.
  2. Heat but do not let water boil.
  3. As bubbles appear in hot water, but just before it simmers, remove optional kombu, setting it aside.
  4. Add bonito flakes. Keep heat on under pot and allow water to come to boil. Then turn off heat immediately.
  5. Bonito flakes will absorb water and slowly sink. Allow 3-5 minutes for this process.
  6. Strain broth, reserving bonito. This is First Dashi.
  7. For a second, stronger broth put 2 quarts more water back into pot with reserved kombu and bonito.
  8. Heat water to barely a simmer (do not boil) for 10 minutes. Strain. This is Second Dashi.
Recipe Notes

*If you happen to be on the GAPS Introduction Diet, kombu is not allowed.

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TRADITION MEETS CONTEMPORARY QUESTIONS

Most traditional foods are prepared in a way that is infused with nutritional wisdom, even by today’s standards. Followers of the Weston A. Price Foundation principles base their dietary recommendations on ancient practices coupled with our modern knowledge of the human body, science and health. Occasionally we do not understand why an ancient people group prepared a dish the way they did; but we usually come to find out there was a specific intention in mind, either from a health or preservation standpoint.

In the case of bonito flakes, it is possible that a longer simmering of the flakes, perhaps 2 hours, with the addition of sea salt and scant apple cider vinegar would yield an even richer broth in terms of the mineral content. Japanese cuisine values the mildness of dashi, which is one reason the flakes are not simmered.

I have not heard of a study done to examine and contrast both broths’ nutrition, but hope to in the future as bonito broth becomes more popular among traditional and Paleo bone broth enthusiasts. In the meantime, you canย  make the broth in the customary manner or take the longer route, hoping for increased nutritional benefits.

How to Make Bonito Bone Broth

  • Raine Irving Saunders

    Love this article Megan! I am going to try this!

    With regard to radiation, Dr. Thomas Cowan, M.D. recommends consuming fermented foods and beverages, along with specific herbs as an effective way to mitigate the effects of radiation, which we are all exposed to every day, no matter what we are doing or eating.

    http://www.westonaprice.org/holistic-healthcare/protection-from-radiation-sickness/

  • Megan Stevens

    I love your input! Thank you for adding that information, Raine!! ๐Ÿ™‚ Yet another reason to eat fermented foods! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • When we think of “bone broth’, we only think of land animal bones but fish bones are rich in calcium. And I love adding sea veggies to bonito. I use this base for many of my Asian soups and recipes! Kombu is a great! It should be a ‘must’ and not ‘optional’, IMHO. ๐Ÿ™‚ Great post Megan!

  • Dina-Marie @ Cultured Palate

    This is great! I have never heard of bonito before but am definitely interested in trying it! I know fish broth is suppose to be very good for you but I have never tried it!

  • Megan Stevens

    Thank you, Dr. Karen! I appreciate your input!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Megan Stevens

    Yes, and I like this fish broth because it doesn’t taste fishy, which I think for a lot of people is off-putting.

  • I love this post. I use kombu all the time but never heard of bonita. Pinning and sharing.

  • Megan Stevens

    Thanks, Anna, so glad! Enjoy. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Megan Stevens

    Great article link, btw!

  • Renee Kohley

    This is SO cool! I have never heard of this. I make a LOT of soup and sometimes have to water down my bone broth to make it stretch -this would be a great replacement!

  • Megan Stevens

    Yay, so happy it’s useful information, Renee!

  • linda spiker

    Giiirrrlll once again Iearned something new from you. You are a font of information!

  • Megan Stevens

    LOL, thanks, Linda, ;).

  • I am beyond excited to try this!! Thanks so much.

  • Megan Stevens

    You’re welcome! Enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Naomi

    As a child there was always a rock hard chunk of dried fish. Dad would make miso soup or a dipping broth for soba and us kids would take turns shaving the bonito on a wooden box with a blade embedded. I would open the little drawer every five seconds, hoping that a large amount of flakes would magically appear. Bonito is so delicious!

  • Megan Stevens

    OH! I LOVE your stories. Thank you for sharing. What a rich and wonderful memory. Was that broth fishy? I wouldn’t mind a bit. But it’s interesting that smoked bonito flakes are not fishy at all.

  • Naomi

    Oh, sorry, it was bonito ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Megan Stevens

    Really cool. I guess that kind of experience is very rare these days, as more and more families buy the bags of flakes produced in a factory setting. So glad your Dad still did that himself. It is so precious to be more closely connected to our food.

  • Zirah B L Hearn

    Thanks for the information. I have been getting into making bone broths lately, so this was very timely to read. Had heard of bonito before, but only knew it was some kind of tuna. Nice to learn more about it and know it is a quick way to make a nutritious broth, plus add some variety to my diet. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Megan Stevens

    Thanks, Zirah, so glad it was timely and helpful!

  • Angie

    how long does it keep? if you have extra/more than you can use in a reasonable time can you freeze or pressure can it?

  • Megan Stevens

    Hi Angie,

    Bonito broth keeps for 5-7 days in the fridge. Yes, it freezes well. I have never pressure canned it; so I can’t speak to that. Thank you for your question. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Leslie

    Where do you purchase bonito flakes?

  • Megan Stevens

    Hi Leslie, if you don’t have an Asian market in your area, you can purchase from Amazon: http://amzn.to/1IFbsKN ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Renee Kohley

    I totally forgot about this article! I’m so glad I came across it again! Thank you!

  • Megan Stevens

    Yay! You’re welcome!

  • sewpretty13

    HI Megan,

    I’m just now finding your web site and loving the info I am finding! From Dr. Terry Wahls I learned to put Kombu into bonebroth soup as I am cooking the bones. The Kombu gets heated for a long time. I was just wondering why the Kombu does not get boiled? Is there a reason besides milder flavor? Thanks for any info you might have on this topic. Dr. Wahls suggest using a piece so I usually put in a 2×2 inch square. Maybe that makes a huge difference instead of using an ounce?

  • Megan Stevens

    You can boil the kombu; it just isn’t traditional with this preparation. It can lend an oceanic flavor, which is fine. Boiling a smaller square sounds like a good way to get its nutrition, and more frugal.