The Magic of Miso: Recipes to Add Umami to Your Dishes

Madison, Wisconsin, November3, 2015— If there’s one “secret” ingredient that can enhance your favorite recipes, miso just might be it. It’s a soybean paste fermented with rice, barley or other grains and it adds umami or savory notes to food, This savory paste is a staple ingredient in Japan and has long been prized for its salty, complex flavor, as well as its nutrition benefits. Miso includes probiotics (naturally occurring live bacteria in cultured and fermented foods) that are good for the digestive system, and is a high-protein food (approximately 2 grams of protein per 1 Tbsp.). It is also versatile, not only because of the way it enhances other ingredients, but also because it comes in a variety of colors, flavors and textures, each with its own uses in cooking.

White (shiro) has the sweetest flavor of the miso types and is made with soybeans and rice. Of the three types, it is fermented for the shortest length of time. Despite its name, the color is actually pale yellow. The mild flavor makes it a natural choice for salad dressings, and it adds salty and savory notes to soup.

Yellow (shinshu) is darker than the white variation, and is fermented longer. It is made by fermenting soybeans with barley. Yellow miso adds a nutty flavor to foods. It’s often used in soups, and works well for light marinades. Use it instead of butter when mashing potatoes to achieve a richer flavor and to reduce the need for added salt. Whisk or blend yellow miso with sesame oil and mirin (rice wine) for an Asian-inspired tofu marinade.

Red (aka) is the saltiest version, and has the most depth and boldness of flavor because it has been fermented the longest time. Its flavor complements meats and other robust foods.

Miso is made by combining cooked soybeans, sea salt, grains and a starter culture. It is fermented for a few months, or up to a few years. Depending on how long the soybeans are fermented and which grains are used, the flavor and color vary. In general, the darker the miso paste, the more intense the flavor.

Mix miso with condiments such as butter or mayonnaise to add depth and dimension to the flavor of sandwiches and snacks. Enhance the flavor of soups (prepared or homemade) by adding a little white or yellow miso. Add a small dab of red miso to meat glazes. Experiment with desserts by stirring a teaspoon or two of miso into chocolate cake batter.

The Soyfoods Council offers recipes for salads, soups, and entrees that demonstrate the flavor range and versatility of miso. Entrée ideas include Miso-Marinated Salmon with Edamame Soy Stir Fry and Sirloin Steak with Black Soybean Salsa and Miso Orange Sauce. The orange sauce recipe combines raw sugar, rice vinegar, orange juice, white miso, mirin (rice wine), butter and achiote powder. The marinade for salmon features white miso, mirin, tamari (similar to soy sauce) and cayenne pepper. Other recipe suggestions include soups such as Creamy Kale Miso Soup, featuring yellow miso, tofu and low sodium vegetable broth, and Miso Chicken Soup with Snow Peas and Tofu with ginger and miso paste flavoring the stock.

For a healthier twist to a favorite game day snack, try this soy-inspired recipe from cookbook author JL Fields.

Beer Baked Sweet Potato Fries
2 large white sweet potatoes, cut into wedges
1 bottle of beer (I used an IPA)
1 teaspoon red miso
2 tablespoon avocado oil
1/2 teaspoon hot curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Sea salt, to taste
Wash and cut sweet potatoes. Place in a shallow baking dish.
Mix beer and miso and pour over the sweet potato wedges. Soak for at least one hour.
Pre-heat oven at 450 for 15 minutes.
Transfer sweet potato wedges into a large mixing bowl (do not keep the beer-miso mixture). Coat the sweet potato wedges with the avocado oil, curry, cumin and cinnamon.
Place sweet potato wedges in one layer on a baking sheet, lined with foil.
Bake for 45 minutes
Yield: Serves 4

For complete recipes, visit The Soyfoods Council website at