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How Is Miso Made?
Miso paste is made through a two-step fermentation process. First, a grain—typically rice or barley, but sometimes soybeans—is combined with a mold called Aspergillus oryzae to create koji. The koji, acting here like enzyme jumper cables, is combined with cooked soybeans, water, and additional salt and allowed to further ferment for up to 18 months, unleashing the effects of yeast and lactic acid. The resulting paste is then ready to use.
6 Common Types of Miso
The different types of miso are defined by tiny but impactful iterations: not only do flavors, aromas, texture, and color vary seasonally and by region, the choices made during fermentation (duration, temperature, vessel) and seasoning (added salt and koji type) have slightly different outcomes.
- Shiro miso. Also known as white miso, shiro miso is the most commonly produced type of miso. Made with rice, barley, and soybeans, shiro miso is a softer expression of the form, with a mild, sweet taste.
- Kome miso. “Rice miso” is one of the most widely available, and can be found in different colors (white, yellow, and red) that vary in strength and sweetness, with nuances down to whether the soybeans in the paste have been boiled or steamed.
- Aka miso. “Red miso” is aged for longer than shiro miso, which gives it a deeper hue. As the color shifts to a rusty red (sometimes even black), the saltiness deepens and the flavors increases in intensity.
- Awase miso. Meaning “mixed miso,” awase is exactly what it sounds like: a mix of many different misos, allowing for different permutations of flavor between the types.
- Mugi miso.”Barley miso” is made from barley malt. This light yellow miso tends to carry a deeper sweetness than something like red miso, with a more pronounced malty funk.
- Mame miso and Hatcho miso are reddish-brown dark misos made entirely of soybeans, with no grains used even in the koji.
How Do You Cook With Miso?
Miso is either dissolved directly into a broth (as seen in miso soup recipes and some kinds of ramen), or used as a spread, dip, or glaze. Use this Japanese ingredient as a marinade with sake and mirin on fish, then finish in the broiler—the nutty flavors in the miso and sugars in the marinade caramelize nicely. Or, add 1 teaspoon miso to your next salad dressing, with a little freshly ground ginger paste, 2 tablespoons sesame oil, and 1 tablespoon rice vinegar.
What Are the Health Benefits of Miso?
Because it’s fermented, miso is a good source of probiotics, but the overall health benefits are debatable mostly due to its high salt content, which places some individuals at risk for increased blood pressure. Miso made with barley koji is not gluten free, but miso made with a rice koji or soybean koji are.
Chef Gordon Ramsay’s Warm Miso Broth Recipe (for Poaching)
Prep Time5 min
Total Time25 min
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 4 tablespoons white miso
- In a large stainless steel saute pan, bring the vegetable stock to a boil over medium heat. Whisk in a spoonful of miso paste and bring back to a boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- When the miso broth has reduced enough to thinly coat the back of a spoon, it is ready to use for poaching.
Watch Chef Gordon Ramsay make this miso broth in his MasterClass.