Miso – Proud and Versatile Seasoning of Japan

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From left: Red, Light-colored, Brown and White Miso
From left: Red, Light-colored, Brown and White Miso

Often referred to as “fermented soybean paste,” miso is a paste-textured seasoning of Japan, made from soybeans as a main ingredient, rice (or other grains), salt and water. The ingredients are mixed and fermented with koji, which is cultivation and propagation of Aspergillus Oryzae.

There are many kinds of miso which are classified by ingredient, color, region and/or production. While you can learn the detail of miso varieties here, the most common kind that you would find at grocery stores is kome miso or rice-malt miso. Kome miso accounts for 80% of the entire miso production in Japan and comes in three primary types classified by color: 1) red – full-bodied flavor and more matured, 2) white – smooth and sweet, 3) light-colored yellow – somewhere between red and white.

Generally the darker the color is, the richer and saltier the taste gets.

Miso Products

Here are a few samples of miso products that you might find at stores. Originally in paste texture, miso is now available in liquid and dry forms as well.

Paste Miso
Paste Miso in Bag
Liquid Miso
Instant Miso soup
with Paste Miso

Instant Miso Soup
with Freeze Dry Miso

Single Serving Soup
with Freeze Dry Miso

Miso Recipes

Commonly used for soup seasoning, miso has many cooking applications and even more variety in the global cuisine today. Here are a few examples.

1) Traditional Miso Soup

Miso soup is a most common and popular dish using miso. Authentic Japanese miso soup uses dashi stock, which can be substituted by other types of stock based on preference and availability.

Step-by-step instruction video (Japanese Cooking 101)

2) Miso Dish Recipes

Japan’s major miso producer Hikari Miso boasts great collection of miso recipes including miso dip and miso dressing on their website. The company also hired world’s celebrated chef Nobu Matsuhisa for creating original miso recipes. They all look mouth-watering delicious!

3) Unconventional Approach

So many people around the world cook with miso and invent creative recipes these days. Here is San Francisco based Heidi Swanson’s miso recipe collection from her popular blog 101 Cookbooks. Heidi’s focus is on whole, natural foods.

Very edgy: Miso Tahini Soup and Miso Oat Porridge