Miso Paste: A Look into the Fermented Paste Pantry Staple

Miso Paste: A Look into the Fermented Paste Pantry Staple

Whether you realize it or not, miso is found in many Japanese recipes, from the beloved miso soup to sauces, marinades, stir-fries, and more. It features a unique flavor you can't find in many other types of cuisine, making it a delicious inclusion.

Below, we dive into all things miso, from the available types to how you can incorporate this funky, umami-rice paste into your home cooking.

What Is Miso and How Is It Used?

Miso is a fermented paste that mixes soybeans with koji, a mold that originates from rice, barley, or soybeans. This combination ferments and becomes the delicious paste found on Japanese market shelves and in the kitchens of many Japanese households.

The type of koji you use determines the type of miso you produce. For example, barley miso (aka mugi miso) is made from barley koji. Other varieties of miso include kome miso (rice miso made with rice koji) and mame miso (soybean miso that uses no grains).

What Does Miso Taste Like?

Miso has a unique savory flavor that is salty, earthy, funky, and full of umami. Its complex taste has helped establish it as a staple in the kitchen. This fermented food does vary in flavor depending on the type of miso you’re consuming.

How Many Types of Miso Is There?

While there are thousands of available miso types, the US typically divides them into white miso (or light miso) and red miso (or dark miso). The ingredients and fermentation time alter the flavor of each type of miso.

White miso is much milder and uses a shorter fermentation time. It’s made with a larger quantity of grains than soybeans. In comparison, red miso is fermented for a much longer time and uses more salt and soybeans. This provides a stronger, funkier flavor.

There's also mixed miso, which combines the bold flavor of red miso with the light taste of white miso. This variety of miso is known as awase miso and is used as a multipurpose seasoning in Japanese cuisine.

What Is In Miso?

Miso typically contains soybeans, grains, and a type of koji. However, it does vary from recipe to recipe. Some miso varieties use other grains as the base ingredient instead of soybeans, like chickpea miso. However, it's more common to see soybeans as a base for miso paste.

What Goes With Miso?

Many foods pair well with miso, ranging from salmon to various soups and vegetarian dishes. Its bold flavor pairs well with proteins that have a stronger flavor, so it's not overpowering. You can also add it to any vegetable dishes, cooked or raw. A favorite for many people includes using miso as the main ingredient in salad dressings.

How Can I Use Miso at Home?

The easiest way to use miso at home is to make miso soup. Luckily, we've included the ingredients for miso soup in our September 2022 box so that you can skip the grocery store and head to the kitchen.

Miso soup typically includes wakame and kombu (varieties of seaweed), tofu, scallions, soy sauce (for a boost of umami flavor), miso paste, and dashi (broth). It’s an easy recipe to whip up when you need a snack or a warm appetizer.

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