Mysterious Miso

 In Living Plate

Mix beans, mold, and salt and let sit for 6 months to ferment.  “Yum!” is probably not your first reaction to this recipe for making miso paste, but used strategically in the kitchen, miso paste can transform dishes.  Let’s answer some common questions we get about this mysterious paste:

What is it?

Miso a traditional Japanese seasoning made by fermenting beans and/or grains.  The result is a salty paste with a creamy texture and strong “umami” presence.  Umami is a category of taste that reflects a savory or meaty gastronomic experience.

What types are there?

While miso is traditionally made from soybeans, you can find pastes made of grains, like rice and barley, and other beans, like chickpea and aduki.  The vast majority of our recipes that list miso as an ingredient call for chickpea miso.  It’s has a mild, sweet flavor and is appropriate for our soy-concerned patients.  You can purchase it here.

Each miso paste has a unique flavor, so experiment to see what your preferences are.   Here are some varieties to consider:

White and Red Miso:  The difference in color reflects the amount of time the paste was fermented. White is mild and red has a stronger flavor.

Chickpea Miso:  We have a bucket of this in our test kitchen.  Like all miso pastes, it has a long shelf life in the refrigerator – up to a year for most varieties.

Rice or Barley Miso:  Be sure to read labels as many rice miso pastes are actually a combination of grains and beans.  Some have soy and others may have barley – important to note if you avoid either ingredient.

What are the health benefits?

As a fermented food, miso paste is loaded with probiotics [those little bugs that help maintain a healthy gut flora].  Probiotics are sensitive to temperature, which is why refrigeration of fermented foods is necessary. If you are using miso in your soup or other recipes that calls for heat, you can say goodbye to most of these friendly bacteria. Using miso paste in dressings and cool sauces, like a yogurt sauce, is our favorite way of maintaining this health benefit.  We still use miso in our hot recipes because the flavor profile is just too good and it eliminates the need for added salt.  Salt is a key ingredient in all miso pastes so if you are following a low-sodium diet, you should use them in moderation.

How do I use it?

Dressings, sauces, glazes, and soups are our favorite ways to use miso paste.  Grab yourself a tub and try some of these signature recipes from our meal plans:

  • Beet and Lentil Citrus Salad:  Double the recipe for this dressing – you’ll want to drizzle it on everything!
  • Miso Glazed Salmon:  We haven’t met a kid [or adult] yet who didn’t love this.  Recipe is very flexible – you could use any protein here.  Some options include cod, tempeh, tofu, shrimp, or chicken.
  • Miso Power Bowl:  Best use for leftover vegetables EVER.
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