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More Mighty Miso!

By Alana Sugar, February 1, 2010  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Alana Sugar

Tahini Miso Sauce

Miso Tahini Sauce

Miso Quinoa Dressing

The first time I tasted miso soup I was 9 years old and having dinner with my family at a Japanese restaurant in San Francisco; I thought I'd a tasted a little bit of heaven and was determined to repeat the experience. Later, when we moved to Hawaii, that's exactly what I did, over and over again! I find it interesting that miso originated in China about 2, 500 years ago, yet is associated with Japan and traditional Japanese cuisine. It's made by fermenting cooked soybeans with rice or barley, sea salt and a starter called koji. Depending on the type of miso being made, it's aged in wooden vats from two months to three years.

There are several varieties of miso but really just two categories: light and dark. Light misos are aged for less time and are typically labeled as "mellow" or "sweet." They're lighter in color, sweeter in flavor and less salty. The dark misos are aged for a longer time; they're rich and hearty, dark in color and saltier in flavor. Miso is available both pasteurized and unpasteurized, and it's the fresh, unpasteurized varieties that add a delicious boost to your probiotics! Its got those good "bugs" that help promote intestinal health, a strong immune system and support your body's own friendly bacteria. The good lactobacillus bacteria grow rapidly in miso once the fermentation process begins. Remember though: once miso is pasteurized, those good bugs are dead bugs! Pasteurization kills microbes, good and bad, so to get the probiotic benefit choose the refrigerated, unpasteurized version. While you may think of miso as belonging in soup, there are plenty of other uses for it. Try replacing salt with miso in some of your favorite recipes. Begin with just a teaspoon or so, depending on the yield of your recipe and whether you have added any salt, then work your way up to just the right amount, Use it in recipes that don't require much cooking; this helps preserve the health benefits. Try miso in the following dishes:

  • Vinaigrettes - with red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar, darker red or brown misos work well. Try this Miso Salad Dressing.
  • Creamy dressings - white or mellow miso is great in creamy dressings. Here's a coleslaw with a miso dressing.
  • Cream cheese dips - the lighter the miso, the better .
  • Bean dips - pinto and black bean dips taste great with small amounts of any variety of miso.
  • Hummus -I f you make your own, try it with a little barley miso.
  • Baba Ganouj - I love this made with just a little mellow white miso.
  • Sauces - generally the lighter misos work well but if the sauce is heavy with red wine or a stock reduction, go for the darker miso. This Miso Tahini Sauce is perfect for steamed or raw veggies.
  • Add miso to casseroles. Here's a recipe for Mushroom and Peas with a Quinoa Miso Dressing.
  • Spreads - try mixing a little mellow or white miso with almond or peanut butter. This can be delicious with a banana on whole grain bread.
  • Pesto - also great as a substitute for parmesan cheese.
  • Mashed with potatoes - like this.
  • Mashed into sweet potatoes with a little butter.
  • Use as part of a marinade for tofu, tempeh, chicken, or fish. Here's a great Miso Marinated Tofu.
  • Make a glaze out of miso for fish or chicken. Here's a great idea for catfish.

Miso Soup

If you're a soup lover, miso is perfect! Add just a little or no salt at all to your soup while cooking. Once done, remove from heat and stir a little broth from the soup into the miso to make a paste; add back to soup, stir for 3 or 4 minutes before serving. To activate miso's enzymes and beneficial bacteria, be sure to keep it hot, but don't boil it. Here are a few great soups to get you started:

A warming, delicious miso soup. Here's a nice soup with shrimp. Cold this winter? Here's hot Winter Miso Soup. This miso soup has garlic and ginger. Be sure to store your miso in a tightly sealed glass jar or a plastic tub with a tight fitting lid. This way, miso will last for many years. Are you a miso fan? Got a favorite variety and way to use it? I'd love to hear.




Susan says ...
LOVE all these ideas for miso! I like to add a little dab to canned chicken soup. Adds a nice punch of flavor.
02/01/2010 4:10:54 PM CST
joshua says ...
The best traditional miso available in the US, south river miso. The one you dont seem to carry anymore at any stores but found this on their site??? South River Miso selected as “Authentic Food Artisan” Whole Foods Market has recently recognized South River Miso as an “Authentic Food Artisan” (AFA). “Our buyers search the world over, selecting the choice few producers who exemplify commitment to excellence and all-encompassing attention to detail….” “Many of the world’s best producers of organic food and wine are small family-run enterprises. These individuals are more artists then business people, motivated by a deep passion for their craft to make food in small quantities, according to traditional methods….” —From the Whole Foods Market AFA poster
02/01/2010 8:44:42 PM CST
Harley says ...
I LOVE Miso!!! :D
02/01/2010 9:39:41 PM CST
screwdestiny says ...
I've actually never tried miso soup, but now I really want to.
02/01/2010 11:10:53 PM CST
beckerb says ...
A big steaming bowl of miso soup is one of my favorite quick and lazy meals. I make mine with white miso paste, cubed tofu or steamed shrimp and whatever fresh or frozen veggies I have on hand. I occasionally jazz it up with garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, rice or tofu noodles and a pinch of dried seaweed. It tastes different every time and is perfect any time of the day.
02/03/2010 4:30:50 PM CST
hsiaw says ...
Hey Sara, High fructose corn syrup (and any kind of sweetener/sugar for that matter) is not a common ingredient in miso. The varieties of miso you will find in our stores will most likely not contain HFCS.
02/03/2010 4:43:08 PM CST
Barb says ...
Is it gluten free?
02/03/2010 6:26:18 PM CST
sara kenney says ...
Which miso has high fructose corn syrup and why? Which brands don't?
02/03/2010 6:29:03 PM CST
hsiaw says ...
As Alana mentions in her post, miso is often made with either rice or barley. Varieties made with rice will generally be gluten-free, while varieties with barley do contain gluten. Your best bet is to check the ingredient list of the miso you are planning on purchasing to make sure it fits your dietary needs.
02/03/2010 6:44:12 PM CST
adrian says ...
Last year I was being treated for breast cancer & had to undergo radiation treatment. A nurse who had gone through the same thing told me about miso soup and how it lessens the radiation burns. Every day for 6 weeks I had a cup of miso soup during my treatment, & each & every doctor/technician who examined me could not believe that I haf no irritaion & barely any redness during my 6 weeks of radiation. I swear it was the miso soup.
02/03/2010 8:01:51 PM CST
Anne says ...
Where can I find miso? In what department do you keep it? I have found miso soup but not miso light or dark
02/03/2010 8:44:14 PM CST
hsiaw says ...
Hi Anne, You can generally find miso in our stores in the refrigerated case along with tempeh and tofu. If you are having trouble finding it in your store, just ask at Customer Service and a Team Member should be able to direct you to the right place.
02/03/2010 9:45:12 PM CST
Holly M. says ...
Hahaha! I'm laughing because I recently introduced my "meat-n-potatoes" boyfriend to miso soup. He very politely and slowly worked his way through the nearly clear broth with tofu, kale, portabellos, ginger, garlic and mellow white miso paste. He kept asking questions like, "Is kale related to lettuce?" as he chewed with conviction, and "What's that?" when he hit the ginger. Bless his heart for finishing the bowl! In hindsight, I thought of some tips for introducing miso soup to American diet meat eaters: When preparing veggies, be sure to remove stalks and possibly grate ginger instead of dicing; include a veggie that adds to the broth's density, such as potato; saute the ingredients in a flavorful oil like olive or toasted sesame (I used plain sesame); boil the ingredients a little longer than usual to disperse flavors like a regular soup; use red or brown miso to enhance the savory (almost beef broth-like) flavor. Like a good partner, he said he'd try miso soup again; so I plan to tweak my recipe accordingly!
02/03/2010 11:50:29 PM CST
G. Lemaire says ...
When you provide recipes with unusual ingredients, i.e, Miso in White, Yellow, Red, etc., could you show us the product as it is in the store? This way I can relate to what I have to buy.
02/04/2010 3:18:51 AM CST
hsiaw says ...
Here are a variety of miso recipes to help you get started. Light, dark, and red varieties of miso can generally be used interchangeably in recipes depending on your tastes. http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/search/search-results.php?cx=008551912465193573474%3Avy5hstpbjie&cof=FORID%3A11&ie=UTF-8&q=miso&sa.x=0&sa.y=0&sa=Search#901
02/04/2010 4:47:01 AM CST
donna says ...
A friend got me a tub of Miso. I did not know it would keep for "many years" and threw it out. Now I wish I had it :(
02/04/2010 7:36:45 AM CST
jim reilly says ...
it is always a pleasure to brouse thru thru your website. i am always s earching for goodies for my inards. i have alot of food allergies and I need to find new and safe foods to nurish me.
02/04/2010 8:13:10 AM CST
D Jones says ...
This article would be even more valuable if Whole Foods would have let us know what brands of miso they keep in stock and where to find it in the store.
02/04/2010 9:11:37 AM CST
hsiaw says ...
Hi D Jones, We carry a variety of different brands of miso in our stores, including http://blog.wholefoodsmarket.com/2008/02/american-miso-company/ and http://www.southrivermiso.com. Selection and location in store varies between our different stores based on local demand and store layout. Miso can generally be found in the refrigerated section along with the tempeh and tofu, but if you're having trouble locating it, just ask one of our helpful Team Members!
02/04/2010 9:20:12 AM CST
Diana says ...
The best miso soup I've ever had was miso soup with smoked salmon and avocado...yum
02/04/2010 9:29:33 AM CST
Gloria Gonzalez says ...
I came to learn about Miso when I experienced an acid outburst in my system. It was very bad. I started to ingest every alkaline food that I could, and miso worked wonders for me. This information makes it better, I did not know about the pasteurization. It is a great thing to know. I need good bugs in my digestive tract. Thank you! I appreciate all about optimal health. Please keep informing us.
02/04/2010 2:17:44 PM CST
Michele says ...
I loved reading all of the miso soup thoughts and ideas...just makes me that much more excited about the opening of the new Maui Whole Foods store on 2/24!....CAN'T WAIT!!!
02/04/2010 9:14:23 PM CST
Michelle says ...
I drink a cup of miso every morning on my way to work. I just pour some boiling water in my thermos, mix in the miso paste, and I'm on my way (I think miso soup by itself tastes excellent! Especially when you may not have time to fancy it up). It's my version of a morning cup of coffee ;)
02/05/2010 9:09:03 AM CST
bonita says ...
i use dark miso to season my stir-fry dishes, with mung bean sprouts and bok choy. it gives it a meaty flavor without the meat. after it is all cookes, i add my miso.
02/05/2010 9:54:00 AM CST
*// irma says ...
what does Miso even taste like ?
02/08/2010 1:11:01 PM CST