Miso Soup is the original health food, it’s an easy, umami rich soup recipe made with fermented bean paste that has been nourishing the Japanese for centuries ~ and you can make this delicious vegan soup for yourself in just minutes!
What is miso soup?
Miso is an ancient Japanese seasoning paste made from fermented soybeans (and sometimes rice or barley.) It’s got that salty, umami flavor that distinguishes so many Japanese dishes like this classic miso soup.
3 major types of miso
Miso comes in many varieties, each having a unique flavor, aroma, color, and texture; here are the main categories you’re likely to see in your grocery store ~
- white or shiro miso is the mildest. It’s made with fermented soy beans and rice and the color is pale yellow.
- yellow or shinshu miso has a mild flavor that is stronger than white but mellower than red miso, and is mostly made with fermented soy beans and barley. The color is light brown.
- red or aka miso is the strongest flavored of all, also mostly made from fermented rice and barley, and is darker in color.
Japanese soup is one of the healthiest foods you can eat
It’s also one of the easiest meals to prepare. Miso soup was one of the first things I cooked for myself when I was in college. It’s a staple in Japan, and you’ve probably had it in Japanese restaurants. The soup is basically a thin miso infused broth, and when you get it in restaurants it usually has very little in it, maybe a slice or two of scallion floating around. But it can also made heartier with tofu, mushrooms, seaweed, green onions, and potatoes, among other things.
Where to find Miso paste
Miso is sold fresh, and most large grocery store chains carry it nowadays. Look for it in the refrigerated section, usually near the wonton wrappers, tofu, etc.
Miso is a biologically active, living food, like yogurt.
Cooking destroys some of its beneficial bacteria and can change the flavor.
When you cook with miso you’ll usually add it at the very end, once the pot is taken off the heat, so you don’t destroy the nutrients.
Use a variety of mushrooms in this soup
Making miso soup gives you the perfect excuse to experiment with some of the exotic, loose mushroom varieties you always pass by when you’re doing your grocery shopping. Their delicate flavor will take center stage in such a simple dish, and you don’t need to buy many, so the cost won’t be prohibitive. I bought baby button Shitake and a variety called Beech mushrooms: tiny little brown or white mushrooms come clustered on one large stem or stalk. You’ll find them in plastic packaging in the mushroom section.
What to eat with miso soup
- Miso soup is a complete meal in itself, especially when you add protein rich tofu. But we love to pair our soup with a big bowl of steaming hot edamame (soy) beans showered in sea salt.
Miso is a healthy instant soup!
- Miso soup can be made as quickly as any instant soup, but is so much healthier for you.
- It’s a perfect soothing hydrator when you have a cold or flu, and so much quicker and easier to make than chicken soup.
- In Japan it’s believed to have powerful health giving properties (including fighting the Big C.)
I’ve been cooking with miso since I was in college and I love it. You can find lots more miso inspiration on the blog, just search Miso. And if you’re intrigued and want to learn more, see my How To Use Miso post, it has lots of useful info and serving suggestions.
Other recipes using miso paste ~
- Miso Alphabet Soup
- Miso Broth with Shrimp Dumplings
- Miso Ramen with Shitake and Chicken
- Spring Vegetable Salad with Miso Dressing
Reader Rave ~
“Very easy and the best miso soup I’ve ever had. I added a little bit of crispy onions when I served it (similar to what happens at Japanese Hibachi restaurants). I can’t wait to make it again.” ~Mary
- 6 cups water (you can also use part vegetable or chicken stock if you like)
- 4 Tbsp Miso paste
- 1 cup firm tofu, cut in small cubes (use more if you like)
- 2 cups assorted mushrooms, sliced
- 4 or 5 scallions, sliced thin (use all of the white and a little of the green)
- Heat the stock and water to a simmer and add the mushrooms and tofu. Simmer for a couple of minutes to cook the mushrooms.
- When you're ready to serve, add the scallions and take the pan off the heat.
- In a small bowl, whisk the miso with 1/4 cup of the hot broth to form a paste. Stir it back into the broth, and serve.
notes and variations
- Use yellow or white miso for a milder flavor...this is perfect if you are new to miso, or cooking for kids.
- Use any type of stock you like in place of the water.
- Add any thinly sliced veggies you like, including bok choy, carrots, or broccoli. Just be sure to simmer the vegetables until tender before you add the miso.