Miso is a Japanese seasoning made from fermented soybeans. It’s a living, cultured, food, full of beneficial bacteria and countless health benefits — and it’s been used in Japan for literally thousands of years. I’ll show you how to use miso, and more importantly, why you should use it!
I love using miso, especially during the cold winter months. But because it’s a living food, you don’t actually cook it, otherwise you might lose some of those amazing health benefits, so that means it’s always fast and fresh. It has a unique umami flavor — savory umami is called the ‘fifth taste’, coming after salt, sweet, sour and bitter. It’s associated with meaty, savory flavors, and things that are fermented and aged — a couple of foods that have a natural umami flavor are Parmesan cheese and Shitake mushrooms. Miso adds that unusual dimension to lots of different dishes, but soup is one of the most popular.
You’ll find miso paste in the refrigerated section of your grocery store, usually with other Asian ingredients like tofu and wonton wrappers. It comes in a range of colors from pale yellow (above) to deep reds and brown. It can be a little confusing because sometimes it’s made with rice, barley, or other grains. and they can be labeled with various names. And of course sometimes you’ll find imported products with Japanese packaging. A simple way to navigate buying miso is to go by the color. The paler colors (‘white’ or ‘Shiro’) are lighter and more subtly flavored, so if you are new to miso, start there. All miso will give you great health benefits, so you can experiment with any one you like. Once opened, a package of miso will last at least a year in the refrigerator.
Miso is not only delicious, it has huge health benefits. It’s a complete protein, boosts the immune system, lowers cancer risk and blood pressure, and aids digestion, just to name a few. I made this Alphabet Miso Soup with Shiro, or white, miso paste. It’s a perfect choice for newbies because of its sweet mellow flavor, and I love it in this energizing, ‘feel better’ soup. You can get the recipe over at Super Healthy Kids, where I’m posting today.
The Japanese use miso as commonly as we use salt or ketchup, but honestly I think the way you’ll get the most use out of it is in simple soups and salad dressings. Here are some of the ways I’ve used it ~
This is the classic, the one you get as a starter in every Japanese restaurant. You can go minimalist, like I did, or load it up with more veggies and tofu. Either way it’s soothing and nourishing.
Miso is a natural addition to dressings, since it will be used raw it maintains all its healthy qualities. Whisk it into marinades and glazes, too.
This is a high protein meal with so much going on, it’s a feast of flavors, textures, and colors. I use red miso paste in this dish for added depth.
Miso is the original instant soup – this Miso Wonton Soup can be thrown together in minutes, using frozen wontons.