How To Cook With Miso At Home
How To Cook With Miso At Home

How To Cook With Miso At Home

Made from fermented soybeans, miso imparts a rich umami flavour to many dishes – and these days, it’s a staple in everything from sticky grilled aubergine to puddings. It is also nutritious and full of healthy gut bacteria, making it an increasingly popular choice with home cooks. Read on to find out how to use it in your kitchen.
By Heather Steele

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What Is Miso?

Miso translates as ‘fermented beans’ in Japanese. A traditional ingredient in Japanese and Chinese diets, miso paste is made from fermented soybeans and grains. There are hundreds of different types of miso and individual varieties are linked with regional cuisines.

In Japan, people traditionally start their day with a portion of rice, pickles and a bowl of miso soup – mainly to stimulate digestion. This pairing of plain rice and miso soup is considered a fundamental part of Japanese cuisine and it’s unusual not to be served this punchy broth with a meal. The protein-rich paste is a popular condiment, providing instant flavour by adding ‘umami’ – a recently recognised fifth taste akin to ‘savoury’ – to soups and dressings, vegetables, stews, glazes, marinades and even desserts.

How Is It Made?

Like all fermented foods, miso's flavour profile is created by the compounds produced through the fermentation process. Miso consists of a starter culture called koji – a combination of grains or soya beans multiplied with aspergillus oryzae mould spores. The miso goes through a two-step process; once the koji has been cultivated, it is then combined with soybeans and a grain (usually rice, barley or rye), before being left to enzymatically digest, ferment and age. The fermentation period can last from anywhere between two months and over three years.

What Are The Health Benefits Of Miso?

This low-calorie paste is a great source of copper, manganese, zinc, various B vitamins, vitamins E and K, and folic acid. It’s also an excellent source of protein, making it popular among vegans and vegetarians. Due to its fermentation process, miso contains millions of beneficial bacteria and is rich is enzymes. These enzymes create probiotics, thought to aid digestion, absorption and assimilation of nutrients. A word of warning: the more aged the miso, the higher the salt content.

Choosing Your Miso

These days you’ll find miso in one form or another in almost every supermarket. If not, the Japan Centre in London offers myriad miso options – and all are available to buy online. Here are six types to get you started:

Shiro Miso: White Miso

Shiro miso, also known as white miso, is made from soybeans and rice which are fermented for two months. Light in colour, with a sweet and mildly salty flavour, shiro is a great starter miso, as it’s versatile and provides a kick to dressings and vegetables. Its creamy texture and taste make it a popular dairy substitute in dishes like mashed potato.

Aka Miso: Red Miso

If a recipe calls for dark miso, you’ll want to opt for red. Dark red in colour, aka miso is made from a higher proportion of soybeans and fermented for up to three years: expect a saltier, deeper flavour which lends itself best to hearty dishes like stews, soups and tomato sauces. It also makes a great addition to gravy.

Shinsu Miso: Yellow Miso

Another mild form of the paste, yellow miso is fermented for slightly longer than white miso. Yellow miso’s mildness makes it another versatile ingredient, but we think it works best on fish or as a soup base.

Mugi Miso: Barley Miso

Made from barley and soybeans, mugi miso usually has a longer fermentation process than most. Expect a strong barley aroma, but a mild and slightly sweet flavour. An addition that works best in soups, stews and sauces.

White Miso Glaze

This is the jar to buy if you want a speedy supper. It’s a ready-to-go glaze made by combining white miso paste, soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar. Simply spread onto fish and vegetables – such as an aubergine – and grill.

Miso Instant Soup

For a quick fix, you can’t go wrong with a packet of instant miso soup. At around 18 calories per cup, it’s an ideal snack for satisfying hunger pangs (especially if you add nori sheets and a handful of cooked noodles). An ideal introduction to miso for those wanting to try it.


How To Cook With Miso

We asked Tim Anderson – self-confessed Japanophile, former MasterChef winner and bestselling cookbook author – to tell us why miso is a must-use ingredient…

What Does Miso Taste Like?

It is always salty and always umami, but depending on the age of the ingredients and its production method, it can be all kinds of things: light, fresh, and fruity at one end of the spectrum; nutty, malty and meaty in the middle. The really old stuff has notes of prune, chocolate and balsamic vinegar.

Can You Share Your Quick Dinner Miso Tips? 

Mix miso with something to slacken it and take the edge off its salinity: mirin, sake, dashi, wine or plain water work well. Season to taste with a bit of sugar and/or vinegar. It can be used on all kinds of things – as a dressing for green veg or as a marinade. As a rule of thumb, use lighter miso for fish and darker miso for strongly flavoured meat like lamb or pork. Miso benefits immensely from a bit of caramelisation so it’s especially nice basted onto roasted or grilled dishes.

If You’ve Never Used Miso Before, What’s The Best Way To Try It?

Taste the miso first and think about its flavour profile. Lighter miso that’s fresh, tangy and salty is good in dishes where you might use a sharp cheese such as parmesan or pecorino. Adding miso to cheese sauce is a fantastic flavour enhancer. Richer miso is more like Marmite or tomato puree, so it’s best used as the basis for hearty dishes like meat stews, pasta sauces and even curries.

Visit & follow Tim on Instagram at @ChefTimAnderson.


Try Out 3 Of Our Favourite Miso Recipes

Miso & Tamari No-Chicken Salad

Total Time
20 Minutes
1 tbsp of vegetable oil
½ 280g bag Dopsu No-Chicken pieces, thawed
1 tbsp of sesame seeds
1 tsp of black sesame seeds
3cm piece of fresh root ginger, finely grated
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp of miso paste
2 tbsp of tamari or dark soy sauce
1 tsp of sesame oil
75g of frozen edamame beans
2 spring onions, trimmed
6 radishes, trimmed
75g of sugar snap peas or mange tout
1 small red pepper, cored
1 carrot
70g of mixed salad leaves
1 tsp of sesame oil
2 wedges of fresh lime sprinkle of black sesame seeds, to serve
Step 1

Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan, add the sesame seeds and No-Chicken pieces and stir fry until golden. Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook for a further 30 seconds.

Step 2

In a small jug whisk together the miso paste, tamari sauce and sesame oil with 2 tablespoons of water. Add half the mixture to the No-Chicken and stir to coat. Set aside to cool.

Step 3

Cook the edamame beans in boiling water for 2 minutes, drain and rinse in cold water. Thinly slice the spring onions, radish, mange tout and peppers and cut the carrot into matchstick strips.

Step 4

Heap the salad leaves into 2 bowls, top with the edamame beans and sliced vegetables – arrange them in sections if you like – then finally add the No-Chicken. Drizzle over the remaining tamari dressing and serve with the wedge of lime.


Miso-Glazed Aubergine Rice Bowl With Garlicky Greens & Cashews

Total Time
35 Minutes
For The Aubergine:
2 small-medium aubergines
2 tbsp of brown rice miso paste (I like Miso Tasty and Clearspring)
2 tbsp of runny honey
3 tbsp of toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp of mirin (or ½ tbsp of more honey if you can’t get hold of it)
For The Greens:
1 tbsp of vegetable or neutral oil
1 tbsp of toasted sesame oil
60g of shitake mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
Thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely grated
4 heads of pak choi
1 tsp of tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp of rice wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
To Serve
Toasted sesame seeds
Toasted cashews, roughly chopped
Spring onions, roughly chopped
Jasmine rice, 80g per person is best
Step 1

Preheat your oven to 200°C. Line a baking tray with parchment or foil.

Step 2

Slice the aubergines in half lengthways and score them criss-cross with a sharp knife (go about a third deep).

Step 3

Place the aubergines onto the tray and bake for about 30 minutes until they are browned in areas and cooked through. They should be squidgy to touch when you squeeze them.

Step 4

In a small bowl whisk together the miso paste, honey, toasted sesame oil and mirin with a fork to a smooth paste.

Step 5

When the aubergines have cooked remove them from the oven and spoon over the miso glaze.

Step 6

While the aubergine cooks, cook your rice (according to packet instructions) and cook your greens.

Step 7

Chop the base of the pak choi. Separate the leaves and stalk. Chop stalk into roughly inch sized pieces and halve the leaves widthways.

Step 8

Heat the oils in a pan. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Cook until the mushrooms are soft and browned.

Step 9

Add the grated ginger and garlic and cook for one minute. Then add the pak choi and cook until the leaves have wilted.

Step 10

Add the tamari/soy sauce and the rice wine vinegar and stir to combine.

Step 11

To serve, tip the rice into bowls. Top with pak choi, the miso aubergine, toasted sesame seeds, chopped spring onions, sliced red chilli and chopped roasted cashews.

Baked Miso Cod

Total Time
35 Minutes
250g of baby mushrooms (button or chestnut), roughly chopped
200g of brussel sprouts
3 tbsp of miso paste
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp of softened butter
4 x 180g pieces of cod loin
2-4 pak choi, cut into wedges length ways
Step 1

Preheat oven to 220°C/200°C Fan.

Step 2

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the sprouts. Cook for 5 minutes until tender. Drain.

Step 3

In a bowl, mix the miso paste with the garlic and softened butter until combined. Take a tbsp of this mixture and put it aside to top the fish with.

Step 4

To the rest, add the mushrooms and sprouts and coat thoroughly (it might be easier to use your hands). Transfer everything to a large baking paper lined tray and place in the oven for 15 minutes.

Step 5

Add the pak choi to the tray and mix thoroughly to coat with the miso. Top the skin side of the cod fillets with the remaining miso paste and place on top of everything for a final 10-12 minutes, until the fish is cooked.

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