This article was originally published in March 2011
Salty-sweet and deliciously savory, miso is a flavorful paste made of fermented soybeans and grain, such as rice or barley. It traditionally is used in Japanese cooking but also can add a twist to many non-Asian soups, dips, marinades and more.
Miso is made by adding a yeast mold called koji to soybeans (or chickpeas) and other ingredients and allowing them to ferment. The mixture is then ground into a paste similar in texture to nut butter.
It’s a living food with beneficial bacteria and enzymes that aid digestion and has isoflavones, believed to help protect against cancer.
Miso at PCC
At PCC we carry several varieties of miso to meet your cooking and dietary needs. Lighter varieties (white and chickpea) are less salty and milder, good in soups, sauces and salad dressings.
Darker varieties (red and barley), which are saltier and more intense in flavor, are good in stews and heavier dishes. Brown miso is in the middle of the salty-sweet scale.
Westbrae misos —
Westbrae makes three varieties of miso that are lower in sodium than other, traditional misos.
White miso is made of white rice, organic soybeans and sea salt and is quite mild and sweeter than most other misos.
Red miso is rich, robust and salty because it has been fermented for much longer than white miso, although it’s made of the same ingredients.
Brown miso is made with brown rice and soy. It’s not as salty as red miso, yet not as sweet as white miso.
Miso Master misos —
Chickpea miso is a good option for people who don’t eat soy. It’s sweet and mild.
Traditional barley miso is still largely fermented soybeans with barley and must age longer than other miso varieties because of its high soy content. It’s much stronger because it’s aged longer.
- Some packages say to add about 1 tablespoon miso per 8 ounces liquid but that may be too strong (with more sodium than you’d like). Start with 1 teaspoon miso per 8 ounces liquid, then add more for stronger flavor if you wish.
- Boiling or prolonged heat will destroy the live microorganisms of miso, so when broiling or making hot dishes such as soups, always add miso at the end of cooking.
- Blending miso with a bit of liquid before adding it to a dish assures it will dissolve completely with a smooth consistency.
- Store miso in the refrigerator, where it will keep up to a year. Don’t freeze.
Ways to use miso:
Remember: A little goes a long way!
- Make salad dressings that double as marinades for meat, poultry, tofu or fish:
Honey-Miso dressing: Combine 2 teaspoons white or chickpea miso, 2 teaspoons honey and 1/4 cup olive oil.
Mustard-Miso dressing: Combine 2 tablespoons red miso, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon water, 1/4 cup olive oil, and 1 teaspoon minced ginger. (Variation: substitute toasted sesame oil for some of the olive oil, and garlic for the ginger.)
- Blend a little miso into bean or vegetable soup at the end of cooking.
- Mix miso into marinara for a zesty pasta sauce.
- Combine 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons white miso, and 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar. Serve atop poached eggs or roasted vegetables.
- Add a little miso to mayonnaise before spreading on a sandwich.
- Add miso, diluted with a dash of water, to bean or chickpeas dips, such as hummus, to spread on a tortilla with veggies and avocado.