How to Use Miso to Up Your Umami Game
By Molly Patrick
Oct 11, 2023,
Let’s talk about one of my favorite ingredients—miso. Before we talk about how to use miso, here’s a quick personal story about a time in my life when I really felt the benefits. As a side note, I’ve been eating and sipping on miso my whole life. Back in the ‘80s in the US, miso was one of those hippie ingredients my mom always had in our fridge. Whenever me or my siblings were sick, she would bust out the miso and make a simple broth for us to sip.
To me, miso is a comfort food that reminds me of my mom. It’s a familiar taste that brings back fond memories, and it’s always been my go-to comfort food. I started to incorporate it into my diet more and more over the years, and now, just like my mom, my fridge is never without.
Let’s rewind to 2019. I was traveling abroad and got really sick with an unknown illness. I was hospitalized and had a bunch of tests that all came back negative for various things the doctor thought I might have. I was super weak and nauseous, I had a fever, and my digestive system was a disaster.
I was released from the hospital and was told to rest. I rested for another week and started to feel better, but the digestive pain was still horrendous. I’m talking stabbing pain every time I pooped. Too much? I kind of agree, but stay with me. This is leading somewhere.
Because my momma raised me right, I knew miso was really good for the digestive system, so I sent my travel companion to get the darkest miso she could find. She came back, miso in hand, and I quickly made myself a cup of broth and started sipping. The next time I went to the bathroom, those horrible stabbing pains were gone. I drank a cup of miso broth every morning for the remainder of my trip, and the pain wasn’t totally gone, but it was remarkably better. The one morning I skipped the miso, those stabbing pains came back!
When I got home from my trip, I went to my primary care doctor, and she ran some tests and didn’t find a thing wrong with me. I kept drinking miso broth in the morning for another month, and I haven’t had that digestive pain since. I can’t give you any double-blind studies to prove miso’s power for the digestive system. But for me, that experience was a powerful reminder of miso’s healing benefits and one of the reasons I will always have miso in my fridge.
Today, I’ll tell you how to use miso, which isn’t just delicious, it’s also packed with health benefits. So, if you’ve had miso sitting in your fridge waiting to be used, this post is for you.
Types of miso
Miso is a fermented food typically made from soybeans, although it can also be made from chickpeas and barley. Variations in the fermentation process result in different types of miso.
In the US, you’ll typically find white or yellow miso, which is fermented for a shorter time, and red miso, which is fermented longer, giving it a more robust flavor. Which miso you choose depends on what you’re making, with white or yellow miso being ideal for dressings and sauces and red miso for soups.
Where to buy miso
Miso paste is widely available in many American grocery stores and is often found in the refrigerated section near the tofu. Or, look in the international section near the condiments. You’ll typically find it in a tub, but some brands come in a squeeze bottle. We have a handy list of specialty ingredients to help you find miso.
Check the ingredient list to ensure your miso has no additives or preservatives. The typical ingredients listed should be water, soybeans, cultured rice (koji), and salt.
Forms of miso
Miso can come in different forms, such as paste or dried granules. The paste is the most common, and it’s what we use in our recipes. Dried miso granules are often used to make miso soup broth quickly and can be handy when traveling.
- Miso is a good source of nutrients, including protein, vitamins, and minerals. It contains vitamins like B6, B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), and folate, as well as essential minerals like manganese, copper, and zinc.
- Miso contains antioxidants, such as phenolic compounds, which can help protect the body’s cells from damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants play a role in reducing the risk of chronic diseases and aging.
- While miso contains salt, it is generally lower in sodium than other soy-based products like soy sauce. Listen to this video where Dr. Greger of NutritionFacts.org talks more about whether miso is healthy and matters on sodium.
- Miso contains the probiotic A. oryzae, which can reduce the risk of inflammatory bowel disease and other digestive issues.
Fermented foods like miso act as natural probiotics, promoting a healthy gut. To retain the probiotics, do not add miso to boiling water. Allow the water to cool slightly. Less than 100° Fahrenheit is ideal. Foods rich in prebiotics, like onions, asparagus, and artichokes, create an optimal environment for probiotics to thrive.
While it’s gained popularity in the West for its health benefits, it’s important to remember that no single “superfood” is a miracle cure. A whole food plant based diet thrives on the synergy of various nutrient-dense foods working together.
Ways to use miso
The possibilities are truly endless. Here are some of our favorite recipes using miso.
We have dozens of oil-free salad dressings featuring miso for umami flavor as versatile as it is delicious.
“All right, this is OMG, slap my knee & call me Sally good. Wonderful flavor.”Laura, Plant Fueled Life member
“This is by far my favorite dressing. I make it every week. I’ve tried a few other dressing recipes but I keep coming back to this one. It makes me want to eat a salad every evening.”Holly, Plant Fueled Life member
“Yummy sauce! Used it for rice bowls. My 13-year-old omni wanted to drink it and has requested again.”Jacqui, Plant Fueled Life member
Soups & broth
Miso is a fermented flavor bomb. It’s typically stirred in at the final cooking stage with the heat turned off and the soup slightly cooled.
Enjoy a basic miso broth in minutes.
First, boil a cup of water (I like to use the tea kettle). Let cool slightly. Stir in 1/2 tablespoon of red miso paste (more if you prefer a stronger flavor). Sip and enjoy.
Have more time? Get creative by adding some of the following to your broth:
- Chopped green onions
- Steamed veggies like carrots, broccoli, cabbage, etc
- Thinly-sliced radishes
- Chopped nori sheets
- Minced black garlic
- Small cubed tofu
- Cooked brown rice noodles
- Peas or edamame
- Thinly sliced spinach, kale, or other dark leafy greens
“This soup is freaking AMAZING!! It will definitely be on regular rotation.”Brook, Plant Fueled Life member
“Delicious, and easy to put together.”Brenda, Plant Fueled Life member
“Amazing! It’s filling, delicious, quick, and easy to make. This soup is going on the regular rotation for me.”Danielle, Plant Fueled Life member
Sides & more
Miso is a fantastic marinade or glaze when thinned out a bit. Add small amounts to stir fry or dark leafy greens to up your savory game. Hell, add it to mayo, mustard, or smear a bit directly on a sandwich and get ready to shout for joy.
“Make extra, your future self will thank you.”Maria, Plant Fueled Life member
“Omg. So delicious!!”Courtney, Plant Fueled Life member
“This was a huge hit with my omni family! I will double the recipe next time.”Angela, Plant Fueled Life member
“So tasty. Packed with flavor. I can see these being used in all kinds of ways.”Mellie Bri, Plant Fueled Life member
Sauces with miso
We typically use yellow or white miso in our plant based cheesy sauces to provide ultimate umami flavor.
“So much flavor. I love the ginger/miso combo!”Sue, Plant Fueled Life member
“Very delicious!! It definitely has that sharp, tangy flavor. This is a great go-to sauce for pasta, potatoes, anything really!”Dakota, Plant Fueled Life member
“This is one of the recipes I’ve made again and again, and given frozen portions to friends…and even a freshly-made portion to a stranger that made a delivery and said, ‘Wow, your house smells really really good.'”Lynette, Plant Fueled Life member
How to store miso
Store miso paste in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Depending on the type of miso, it can typically last from several months to a few years in the fridge. Check the date on the packaging and follow these tips to keep this tasty paste at its best.
- Use a clean utensil or measuring spoon when scooping out the desired amount to avoid cross-contaminating the entire batch.
- To help prevent it from drying out, smooth the top of the miso paste and cover it with a thin layer of parchment paper before putting on the lid.
- Periodically check your miso paste for signs of spoilage like mold, unusual odor, or discoloration. If you notice any of these signs, discard. When in doubt, throw it out!
Embrace the magic of miso
Miso is a versatile and flavorful ingredient that can elevate your plant based dishes while offering potential health benefits. Embrace the magic of miso and enjoy its delicious and healing properties.
What’s your favorite recipe featuring miso? Tell me in the comments below!
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