If you’re an Asian-food lover, you’ve probably sipped miso soup as a warm-up to artfully assembled sushi rolls. But the white or yellow miso typically swirled into that bowl of hot broth and seaweed isn’t the only miso worth your hungry attention. A staple in Japanese kitchens, miso types range from deep red-brown—with strong nutty, fermented notes—to the sweeter yellow and white versions. Made by fermenting soy beans (sometimes mung beans, sometimes with rice or barley) with salt and koji (a fungus culture, primarily Aspergillus oryzae), miso creates a healthy base for soups and stews, but also for sauces, salad dressings, marinades, and dips.
Miso’s health perks include
- Probiotics. All miso types contain a variety of live probiotics, which may help promote gut health and immunity. (Note: Cooking at high temperatures can destroy these healthy microorganisms; so add miso at the end of cooking, or add to uncooked dishes to enjoy this benefit.)
- B vitamins, especially B-12. Fermentation increases these vitamins, important for brain health, mood, and energy levels.
- Minerals. Miso also contains significant amounts of trace minerals such as manganese, copper, zinc, and magnesium.
At home, especially on cool fall days, a steaming mug of miso soup hits the spot. Find miso in round tubs in the refrigerated section of stores, often near tofu and tempeh. Get creative!
- Make authentic miso soup at home! Get the recipe here.
- Blend into mild bean dips, with chopped green onion and dry-toasted nori (seaweed).
- Dilute 1:1 with warm water, add savory herbs (such as thyme), and pour over cooked whole-grains and/or steamed vegetables.
- Swirl into fall soups or stews. Miso creates a salty, nutty flavor balance to soups and stews featuring sweet potatoes or butternut squash.
- Marinate tofu, tempeh, or other proteins in a blend of miso, sesame oil, mirin (Japanese cooking wine), ume plum or rice-wine vinegar, and garlic.
- Mix with lemon juice or rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil, and toasted sesame seeds for a tasty salad or slaw dressing.