Add miso to your flavoring repertoire

Miso is a paste of fermented soybeans that’s been used in Japanese cuisine for hundreds of years. It’s used for flavoring a variety of foods, from soups to sauces to grains and meat or fish. Miso itself is vegan, so it’s a very useful seasoning for vegetarian or vegan diets.

What is miso?

To make miso, soybeans are cooked to a very soft consistency, mashed and mixed with a fungus (Aspergillus oryzae), which has been grown on rice or barley or other soybeans. Salt is added, and the mixture is fermented in an air-tight container. The fermentation typically lasts for 6 months, but some varieties ferment for years.

There are many different varieties of miso depending on whether other ingredients are added to the soybean mash, such as cooked grains like barley or brown rice. White, red and dark are generally available in grocery stores. You might think it’s expensive, but it has a long shelf life, and you only use small amounts at one time.

In general, miso adds a subtle salty umami flavor to foods, so it’s a great way to season vegetarian or vegan dishes. White miso (pictured) is the mildest flavor, and is commonly used for soups, salad dressings or a flavor boost for cooked grains or noodles. Darker miso packs more flavor punch and works well with foods that have naturally strong flavors.


Miso is a probiotic food. While we don’t tend to eat big portions, as with yogurt or kombucha, miso does contribute contribute healthful microbes, so why not make the most of it. To get the benefit, add miso at the end of cooking so that it’s not overheated. For example, if you’re making a miso soup, stir in the miso just before serving.

One tablespoon of miso has approximately the following nutrient values. As you can see, sodium is quite high because salt it added to the fermenting soybeans. Miso does add a salty flavor to foods, so you may cut back on additional salt.

342.2 grams1 gram1 gram0.43 mg36 mg640 mg


Vegetarian and vegan recipes can benefit from the umami flavor of miso. Use it to season grains, pasta and noodles, salads, soups and sauces. It can be used in salad dressings and marinades.

One the easiest ways to make use of miso is for a quick miso soup. Heat some broth of your choice, add simple vegetables like scallions, bok choy, cabbage, mushrooms or grated carrot, and some chunks or slices of tofu for protein. Add cooked grains or noodles if you like. Season with ginger and garlic. Seaweed is another common ingredient. Stir in miso before serving, 1-3 tsp per 1 cup of broth depending on your taste preferences.

Once you’ve opened your miso package, keep it in the refrigerator. Look for more recipes online. There are plenty of them.

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