Most folks have probably heard of soybeans but might be less familiar with miso. Miso is a popular condiment in Japan and other Asian countries. It is a paste made from fermented soybeans with miso meaning ‘fermented bean’ in Japanese. Miso has a solid salty and umami flavor and is quite versatile. Just remember that a little goes a long way!

As well as its rich and powerful flavor, miso is a powerhouse of nutrients and is incredibly healthy.

How Are the Soybeans Fermented?

The soybeans are fermented with a starter, just as with sourdough bread, kombucha, and ginger beer. Instead of a sourdough starter, a SCOBY, or a ginger bug, the soybeans are fermented with salt and a starter called koji. Koji is a fermentation made from grain, such as rice, or legumes, and a type of fungus called Aspergillus oryzae. 

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Koji has been used over the centuries to create many traditional Asian foods, not least, Miso! In other news, koji can be used to make an umami-filled vegan cheese!

Miso Can Be Catatagorized By Color!

There are different grades of miso that are categorized by color. The different color of the miso paste is determined by the length of the fermentation process. Making miso can take a few weeks to a few years, with the time it takes having a huge influence on the intensity of flavor of the end product. The longer the fermentation process, the stronger and deeper the flavor. A shorter fermentation process will create a much lighter and sweeter miso paste.

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You may not find miso paste in all supermarkets, and if you do, you might only find one type. However, if you are lucky, you might find at least three different types of miso to choose from—red, white, and yellow. Heading to an Asian supermarket might yield a higher chance of finding a variety of different types of miso.

  • Red Miso PasteRed miso paste, also referred to as miso, is one of the strongest flavors and has been fermented longer than white or yellow miso. Red miso has an intensely deep and umami flavor.
  • White Miso PasteWhite, or shiro, miso paste has a mild and sweet flavor. It is made with rice, barley, and soybeans.
  • Yellow Miso PasteYellow miso paste is also called shinshu. It is a lot less salty than red miso paste and has a much milder flavor.

What are the Health Benefits of Eating Miso?

First of all, miso paste is rich in vitamins and minerals. That said, an ounce of miso paste also contains 12 percent of the RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) of manganese, 10 percent of the RDI of vitamin K, and 6 percent of the RDI of copper, and 5 percent of the RDI of zinc. It should be noted, however, that in general, miso paste is also high in salt. Just one ounce of miso paste contains 43% of the RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) of sodium.

It is a significant source of some B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, and phosphorus. Miso paste also contains all of the essential amino acids. Because of the fermentation process that the soybeans go through, all of these nutrients become more easily absorbed by the body.

Aspergillus oryzae, the bacteria used in the processing of miso paste, acts as a probiotic. This particular strain is thought to help reduce symptoms of digestive distress, including irritable bowel syndrome. The fermentation process that the soybeans go through reduces the number of antinutrients that the beans contain before this process. This makes them much easier to digest.

These probiotics feed and strengthen your gut bacteria (the good kind), and in turn, this may help to strengthen your immune system and fend off infections.

How to Use Miso

Miso paste is most commonly used as broth-like soup. To make this soup, miso paste is simply dissolved in hot water and perhaps has tofu or vegetables added to give it more bulk. It can also be used as a spread to put on toast or as a dip for crackers, chips, or crudités. It also gives a great slaty/umami flavor to vegan cheeses.

Have a look at these OGP recipes for Sunflower ‘Cheddar’ Spread, Garden Picnic Pasta Salad with Veggies, Herbs, and Orange-Miso Tahini Dressing, Miso Cilantro Edamame Dip, or this wholesome take on a classic recipe for Miso Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms and Ramen Noodles.

Check out these recipes you can make with miso!

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