What Is Miso? History, Recipes, and More

what is miso

The miso market will grow by $64.59 million during 2021-2025. But what is miso exactly?

Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning made by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji, a fungus used in the production of sake and soy sauce. Miso is rich in umami flavor, AKA the fifth taste, after sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Umami is a savory flavor that is often described as meaty or broth-like.

Miso is a staple in Japanese cuisine and is in a variety of dishes, including soups, stews, sauces, and marinades.

In this article, we'll explore the history of miso, its health benefits, and some delicious recipes that use miso as a key ingredient. Keep reading to learn more.

History of Miso

Now that we've answered "what is miso?", let's go over its history.

The production of miso dates back more than 1,000 years and originated in China. According to legend, the Japanese monk Kobo Daishi introduced miso to Japan in the 8th century when he returned from studying in China. The use of miso quickly spread throughout Japan and became an essential part of Japanese cuisine.

How Miso is Made

What is the miso recipe?

Miso is made by combining cooked soybeans, koji, and salt and allowing the mixture to ferment for some time. The length of the fermentation process can vary from a few weeks to several years, depending on the desired flavor and texture. During the fermentation process, the koji breaks down the complex carbohydrates in the soybeans into simpler sugars, which are then consumed by the bacteria that cause fermentation.

The fermentation process also creates enzymes and amino acids, which contribute to the unique flavor and nutritional profile of miso.

Many factors can affect the miso flavor and texture, including the type of koji used, the amount of salt added, and the length of the fermentation process. Different varieties of miso are made by varying these factors.

Varieties of Miso

There are many different varieties of miso, each with its unique flavor, color, and texture. The most common types of miso are the following.

White Miso

White miso is made with a higher proportion of rice koji and fermented for a shorter period. It has a mild, sweet flavor and a light beige color. It is often used in miso soup and dressings.

Red Miso

Red miso is made with a higher proportion of soybeans and fermented for a longer period. It has a stronger, more salty flavor and a dark brown color. It is often used in stews and marinades.

Mixed Miso

Mixed miso is made by combining different types of miso. It has a more complex flavor profile.

Other types of miso include barley miso, hatcho miso, and mugi miso.

Barley miso is made with barley koji instead of rice koji and has a nutty flavor. Hatcho miso is a type of red miso that is made with only soybeans and no other grains. It has a thick, paste-like texture and a strong, salty flavor. Mugi miso is made with barley and soybeans and has a milder flavor than other types of miso.

What Is Miso Used For?

Are you still wondering, "what is miso?" and what can you do with it exactly? You can use miso ingredients in many dishes. Below are some common uses for miso.

Miso Soup

Miso soup is a staple in Japanese cuisine and is made by combining miso paste with dashi, a broth made from dried fish and kelp. Other miso ingredients, such as tofu, seaweed, and green onions, are often added to the soup for flavor and nutrition. Miso soup is a simple and comforting dish that is often served as a starter in Japanese restaurants.

Miso Marinade

Use marinade for meats, seafood, and vegetables. The salty and umami-rich flavor of miso helps to tenderize the protein and add flavor. To make a miso marinade, mix the miso paste, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and other flavorings, such as garlic, ginger, or honey.

Miso Glaze

Use miso as a glaze for grilled or roasted meats, such as salmon or chicken. To make a miso glaze, mix miso paste, soy sauce, honey, and rice vinegar. Brush the glaze onto the meat and cook until caramelized.

Miso Sauce

Why not use miso as a base for sauces and dressings? To make a miso sauce, whisk together miso paste, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and other flavorings, such as ginger, garlic, or sesame oil.

Miso Pickles

You can also use miso to pickle vegetables, such as cucumbers, radishes, or carrots. To make miso pickles mix the miso paste, rice vinegar, and sugar. Add sliced vegetables and let them sit in the mixture for a few hours or overnight.

These are just a few of the many ways you can take advantage of miso in your cooking. With its complex and delicious flavor profile, it's no wonder that miso has become a beloved ingredient around the world. 

Make Your Tummy Happy With Miso

Now that we've answered "what is miso?", you can use it to add depth to your soups, marinades, or sauces. You may simply want to experiment with new flavors, and miso is definitely worth exploring.

There's a reason it's been a staple in Japanese cuisine for thousands of years.

So next time you are grocery shopping, pick up a bowl of miso and try out some of the delicious recipes mentioned above! Your tummy will be happy you did.