Miso (pronounced mee-so) is also called bean paste, and is a mainstay of Japanese cuisine. It is a fermented soybean paste, with a rich, salty taste and typically the consistency of peanut butter. Its flavour and colour vary depending on the grain with which it is made. Soya beans are combined with rice, barley or rye and fermented with koji (mold/culture) to create a variety of unique colours and flavours of miso.


Nutrition Notes

As a soy product, Miso is high in protein, with two tablespoons containing 4 grams of protein. And as a fermented product, miso may also offer some health benefits if the beneneficial bacteria it contains are ingested into the intestinal tract. It is easily digested and rich in B vitamins. A little miso goes a long way to add flavour to a dish, which is a good thing when you consider that 2 tablespoons provides 1,230 mg of sodium - more than half the daily upper limit for adults of 2,300 mg. Two tablespoons of miso (33 g) provide:

Calories 66
Protein 4 g
Fat 2 g
9 g
Fibre 2 g
Calcium 19 mg
Iron 1 mg
Sodium 1230 mg 








Source: USDA National Nutrient Database http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp


There are hundreds of varieties of miso, and the pairing of a miso with a dish in Japan is akin to the North American pairing of wine and foods.

The colour of miso can range from light tan to almost black. As a general rule, the longer that miso is aged, the darker its colour and stronger its flavour. Mild miso has a delicate and slightly sweet flavour, while darker miso tends to be savoury and salty. The texture may also range from smooth to slightly chunky.

There are 3 basic categories of miso:

Komemiso is the most common kind of miso, made from rice and soybeans.

Mugimiso is made from barley or rye and soybeans.

Mamemiso is made from soybeans alone.

Each type of miso is developed by injecting cooked soybeans with koji (mold/culture). The colour, flavour and texture of the miso are influenced by the amounts of soybeans, koji and salt used, as well as by the length of time the miso is aged - from 6 months to 3 years. Miso containing a high proportion of koji is lightly coloured, mellow and sweet-tasting and takes only a few weeks to ferment. Miso which is higher in salt ferments slowly and develops a dark colour, salty taste and complex flavours.

Reduced-salt versions of miso may also be available.

Miso is often sold according to colour and grain ingredients, but you may also find it varieties that are specialties of some regions of Japan.

Hatcho or Dark miso is a dark brown variety, made entirely of soybeans, and is richly flavoured and long aged. It is lower in salt and much higher in protein since it does not contain grains such as barley, rice or rye.

Shinshu or Yellow miso is golden yellow, with a mellow flavour that makes it suitable for most purposes. It has a rather high salt content.

Sendai or Red miso is a regional (northern Japan) variety of miso that is fragrant and reddish-brown.


Miso can be found in the specialty sections of some grocery stores, in Japanese markets and in health-food stores. Packages should be airtight and refrigerated. You may also find powdered miso and powdered soup mixes made with miso.


Keep miso refrigerated, in an airtight container. Prepared miso can be kept up to a year when refrigerated.


Only a small amount of miso is necessary to add a delicious and distinct flavour to soups, sauces, marinades, dips, main dishes, dressings, stir fries, spreads and as a table condiment. In general, lightly coloured miso is used more frequently in milder dishes and in the warmer months, with darker varieties being suitable for strongly flavoured dishes and in the colder months.

Add miso to soups and stews at the end of cooking, since boiling miso destroys beneficial bacteria and causes it to curdle.

If you're substituting miso for soy sauce in a recipe, use one tablespoon of miso in place of one teaspoon of soy sauce.


As a versatile seasoning, miso can be added to most dishes.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy Miso: 


  • Miso soup can be enjoyed at any time of day, including breakfast. Heat miso paste and water over low to medium heat and eat as is or add mushrooms, tofu, scallions, thinly sliced or shredded carrots or daikon radish.
  • Spread miso thinly on your favourite whole grain bread, bun, crackers or flat bread, and top with tahini. Enjoy as is or with sliced avocado and sprouts.
  • Keep packets of dried miso soup handy and enjoy any time of day in place of coffee.
  • Make an easy miso salad or grain dressing by combining with olive oil, ginger and garlic.
  • Try any one of the accompanying miso recipes to enjoy miso at lunch or dinner. Many savoury dishes can easily incorporate miso.
  • South River Miso has a recipe booklet that can be purchased on-line or downloaded for free: http://www.southrivermiso.com/recipes/index.html
  • For sweet miso ideas, try a dish such as the Baked Apple Delight.
  • For miso at breakfast, try one of the following:
  • Skip the coffee and start your way in a traditional Japanese manner, with a bowl of miso soup.
  • Stir a small amount (1-2 tsp) of light miso into cooked oats. The miso will cause the oatmeal to become more liquid and milky, developing a sweetness as the starches are transformed into simple sugars. You'll also benefit from the additional nutrient value of the miso without a noticeable change in flavour.
  • Blend the porridge (above) into a smooth milk by adding more water as needed. Strain this oat milk, if desired, heat and serve with a touch of ginger (optional).

More Information

Did You Know?

  • First made in China, miso and soy sauce developed from a common predecessor, thought to have been a condiment prepared from meat, salt and wine and fermented with koji (mold/culture). Confucious made reference to such a substance.
  • By 200 BCE, a fermented condiment made with soybeans was known in China, according to archaeological evidence.
  • Soybeans maintain their shape througout the fermentation process and must be ground to form the familiar miso paste. Miso used to be ground daily in the home using a mortar and pestle. Home-made miso may still be ground by hand.




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