How to Use Miso

A quick and healthy Miso Alphabet Soup recipe
Miso is an ancient Japanese health food --- I'll show you how to use it, and why you need it in your life!

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!

A quick and healthy Miso Alphabet Soup recipe

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.

Mellow white miso paste for Miso Alphabet Soup

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.

Healthy and quick Miso Alphabet Soup

ALPHABET MISO SOUP

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 ~

simple and nourishing miso soup

CLASSIC MISO SOUP

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.

VEGETABLE SALAD WITH MISO DRESSING

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.

miso ramen with shitake mushrooms and chicken

MISO RAMEN WITH SHITAKE AND CHICKEN

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 Wonton Soup 1

MISO WONTON SOUP

 Miso is the original instant soup – this Miso Wonton Soup can be thrown together in minutes, using frozen wontons.

25 Comments

  • Reply
    Adina
    January 6, 2016 at 2:39 am

    Great post! I have an open miso bag in the fridge, good to know it keeps so long, I was already thinking about throwing it away. I haven’t made much with it, you gave me some good ideas!

  • Reply
    Angie@Angie's Recipes
    January 5, 2016 at 6:28 am

    mmm…how delicious! I miss wontons :-))

  • Reply
    Amy
    January 5, 2016 at 4:21 am

    All set, I have all of these bookmarked.

  • Reply
    Yelena
    January 4, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    Love miso soup! Must have mushrooms-)))
    Have a very creative new year, wishing you the best!!
    Hugs,

    Yelena

  • Reply
    sippitysup
    January 4, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    Best use of alphabet food ever! HNY16GREG

    • Reply
      Sue
      January 4, 2016 at 3:55 pm

      Are there other alphabet foods??

  • Reply
    Meghan | Fox and Briar
    January 4, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    Yum, these miso soups look so nourishing. My mom used to make miso when I was a little kid but I haven’t had it in years! Might be time to try it again :)

  • Reply
    Summer
    January 4, 2016 at 9:44 am

    Loving all these miso ideas! Happy New Year !

    summerdaisy.net

  • Reply
    Susan
    January 4, 2016 at 8:47 am

    I’m not sure I’ve ever had miso and, if I have, it was probably in a restaurant. What a wonderful, informative post and I am going to look for it the next time I shop! Thank you, Sue!

  • Reply
    Laura (Tutti Dolci)
    January 3, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    I love ordering miso soup but have never made it at home.. now you’ve inspired me, and just in time for the rainy week ahead!

    • Reply
      Sue
      January 3, 2016 at 4:40 pm

      Oh I know, we’re battening down the hatches :)

  • Reply
    Jennifer @ Seasons and Suppers
    January 3, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    Great information about miso! My daughter loves miso, so I try to cook with it as often as I can. I love the flavour, too!

  • Reply
    cheri
    January 3, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    Hi Sue, miso is still pretty new to me only used a few times, but I have a soup coming up this month that will be using miso, thanks for the informative post. Wishing you the best!!

    • Reply
      Sue
      January 3, 2016 at 2:46 pm

      It does have an unusual flavor, and I think I love it best in soups where it mellows out. Thanks for stopping by Cheri.

  • Reply
    Joy Massa
    January 3, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    I came upon miso in the 80’s as a “health food” and was lucky enough to be taught the range of flavors available from a Japanese cook in the 90’s!! You hit the nail on the head with the color comment!

    The only thing I would add is that experimenting with stocks that “match” the miso can be so fun and exciting! Thanks for a great Winter post!

    • Reply
      Sue
      January 3, 2016 at 2:48 pm

      Oooh, great comment Joy, you are so right about the possibilities of mixing and matching different stocks to different misos. I’ll have to play around with that in my next miso recipe.

  • Reply
    Tricia @ Saving room for dessert
    January 3, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    I am going to pin everyone of these recipes – they all look wonderful! I do love Miso but often forget about it. Thanks for the great over-view – and reminder of the health benefits. Going on my list and I have to try that dressing. Thanks so much – have a lovely week.

  • Reply
    Kathie
    January 3, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    Hello, Sue, from Washington State where it’s snowing and 16 degrees. Hope you’re warm and comfy where you are. Thanks so much for the lovely recipes. I read your blog regularly and enjoy it very much. A friend gave me a Japanese Hot Dish cooker which is, basically, a gas cooking plate with a lidded ceramic casserole dish that sits on top of it. The Japanese use this often in the winter because many have no form of central heating as we know it here. Their homes are heated with electricity, for the most part (electric carpets, blankets, wall heaters, etc.) So having a little fire burning in the middle of the table during dinner, plus the electric carpet underneath, is a great thing. They cut and prepare all the foods in advance and do the final cooking at the table.. Your recipe for Ramen Noodle Miso Soup is perfect for this set up. I love miso so much and am glad to hear your views on it. I recently bought a tofu maker and plan to use it soon. Tofu is a magical protein addition to the miso soup meal, either in the soup or as a side dish with dipping sauce. The Japanese have vegetables they use regularly that we have never even heard of. Fortunately, we can get the mushrooms, bok choy and Napa cabbage here easily so we can duplicate many of their simple, nutritious recipes. Happy New Year. Come over and see us at Prairie Cottage Corner when you have a minute.

    • Reply
      Sue
      January 3, 2016 at 12:22 pm

      Thanks so much for the nice comment Kathie, the info about the Japanese is fascinating, and even though I am in Southern California, it’s pretty cold, and that electric carpet sounds pretty good right now! — I also just got a tofu maker and can’t wait to try it out :)

  • Reply
    Cathleen @ A Taste Of Madness
    January 3, 2016 at 8:11 am

    I love that first picture so much!
    I always love miso soup at restaurants, but have yet to make it at home.. I don’t know why!!

    • Reply
      Sue
      January 3, 2016 at 8:24 am

      Thanks Cathleen – I was the same way, always loved it at restaurants…and the great thing is you can get so creative with it at home.

  • Reply
    Wendy
    January 3, 2016 at 8:05 am

    Your “yum” photo had me smiling my way through the entire post! :) I really appreciate the miso lesson and recipe ideas. I have bought miso many times in the past for a single recipes and then…..it sits there in the back of the fridge for ages until I eventually throw it out. Perhaps this time I will use it all!

    • Reply
      Sue
      January 3, 2016 at 8:08 am

      I hear you, the same thing happens to me…it’s good to know that it lasts a reaaaallly long time :)

  • Reply
    Monique
    January 3, 2016 at 7:20 am

    Sue..I was always intimidated to buy it as I literally knew nothing about it.
    I’ll take the light step now;) I bet it’s good in many things.
    Thanks.
    And all the best this year~

    • Reply
      Sue
      January 3, 2016 at 7:59 am

      Have fun with it Monique!

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