Food

A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them

A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them

Miso is that magical Japanese condiment typically made by fermenting soybeans, salt, and a grain of some sort (usually brown rice) with a starter culture called koji. The result is a salty, funky, sweet, yet intensely savory paste high in protein, vitamins, minerals, and probiotics; it adds incredible flavor to everything from soups to dressings to marinades.

All misos are not created equal, however. With more on the market than ever, we find ourselves asking (and fielding) questions on the subject all the time: White versus yellow? What exactly are adzuki beans? Are all misos gluten-free? Are any soy-free? So we put together this cheat sheet of the seven misos we use most often in the goop test kitchen—and broke it down by color, fermentation process, flavor, and suggested use for each.

MISO CHEAT SHEET

Type Color/Fermentation Process Flavor/Use Soy-Free Gluten Free
Brown
(Mame) A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them
Made with brown rice, soybeans, salt, water, and koji culture, brown miso is normally dark brown in color. It is aged naturally, without any temperature control, for a minimum of 2 years (one of the longest aging periods for miso), typically in wooden barrels. Brown miso is a very strong, dark, and rich miso, used in a variety of dishes. Works well in light soups, dressings, and marinades. A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them
Red
(Aka) A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them
Red miso is made from white rice, soybeans, salt, water, and koji culture, and ranges from a reddish brown to deep brown color. It is fermented for at least 12 months and up to 3 years. Red miso is typically saltier than white or yellow miso, but can also leave a sweet finishing flavor. Great in soups, dark sauces, and marinades for meat. Sometimes used as a tenderizer. A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them
Yellow
(Shinshu or Kome) A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them
Made from white rice, soybeans, salt, water, koji culture, and occasionally barley, yellow miso ranges from beige to yellow/orange. It ferments for at least 12 months. Semi-sweet and slightly earthy flavors make yellow miso for salad dressings, marinades for fish and vegetables, and even desserts like ice cream. A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them
WHITE
(Shiro) A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them
Made with soybeans and a high percentage of rice, plus salt, water, and koji culture. Typically golden yellow to light brown in color and smooth and supple in texture, white miso is fermented for only 3 months, making it one of the youngest misos on the market. The light, sweet flavor is versatile and easy to use. Brilliant in miso soup, marinades, and salad dressings. A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them
Chickpea A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them Made from brown rice, chickpeas, sea salt, sea vegetables and koji culture, chickpea miso is light brown to medium brown. The aging time is very short, typically only 30-60 days. Chickpea miso’s mild, salty-sweet flavor is amazing in dips, spreads, salad dressings, sauces, and summer soups. A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them
Barley
(Muji) A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them
Barley miso is made from barley, soybeans, koji culture, salt, and water. It is dark brown, with a slightly rougher texture than most. One of the longest-aged misos, its fermentation period ranges from 2-3 years. Really good in hearty soups and stews because of its malty flavor. It can also add nice, bold flavor to dipping sauces.
Adzuki Bean
(Red Mung Bean) A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them
Made from adzuki beans (a small red bean most commonly grown in east Asia and used as a substitute for soy), brown rice, and koji culture. It is typically burgundy-colored and ferments for about one year. This delicate miso is ideal for light soups, sauces, salad dressings, and bean dishes. A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them

MISO CHEAT SHEET



A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them

Brown
(Mame)

Color/Fermentation Process

Made with brown rice, soybeans, salt, water, and koji culture, brown miso is normally dark brown in color. It is aged naturally, without any temperature control, for a minimum of 2 years (one of the longest aging periods for miso), typically in wooden barrels.

Flavor/Use

Brown miso is a very strong, dark, and rich miso, used in a variety of dishes. Works well in light soups, dressings, and marinades.

Soy-Free

A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them

Gluten Free

A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them
A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them

Red
(Aka)

Color/Fermentation Process

Red miso is made from white rice, soybeans, salt, water, and koji culture, and ranges from a reddish brown to deep brown color. It is fermented for at least 12 months and up to 3 years.

Flavor/Use

Red miso is typically saltier than white or yellow miso, but can also leave a sweet finishing flavor. Great in soups, dark sauces, and marinades for meat. Sometimes used as a tenderizer.

Soy-Free

A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them

Gluten Free

A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them
A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them

Yellow
(Shinshu or Kome)

Color/Fermentation Process

Made from white rice, soybeans, salt, water, koji culture, and occasionally barley, yellow miso ranges from beige to yellow/orange. It ferments for at least 12 months.

Flavor/Use

Semi-sweet and slightly earthy flavors make yellow miso for salad dressings, marinades for fish and vegetables, and even desserts like ice cream.

Soy-Free

A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them

Gluten Free

A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them
A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them

WHITE
(Shiro)

Color/Fermentation Process

Made with soybeans and a high percentage of rice, plus salt, water, and koji culture. Typically golden yellow to light brown in color and smooth and supple in texture, white miso is fermented for only 3 months, making it one of the youngest misos on the market.

Flavor/Use

The light, sweet flavor is versatile and easy to use. Brilliant in miso soup, marinades, and salad dressings./p>

Soy-Free

A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them

Gluten Free

A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them
A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them

Chickpea

Color/Fermentation Process

Made from brown rice, chickpeas, sea salt, sea vegetables and koji culture, chickpea miso is light brown to medium brown. The aging time is very short, typically only 30-60 days.

Flavor/Use

Chickpea miso’s mild, salty-sweet flavor is amazing in dips, spreads, salad dressings, sauces, and summer soups.

Soy-Free

A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them

Gluten Free

A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them
A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them

Barley
(Muji)

Color/Fermentation Process

Barley miso is made from barley, soybeans, koji culture, salt, and water. It is dark brown, with a slightly rougher texture than most. One of the longest-aged misos, its fermentation period ranges from 2-3 years.

Flavor/Use

Really good in hearty soups and stews because of its malty flavor. It can also add nice, bold flavor to dipping sauces.

Soy-Free

A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them

Gluten Free

A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them
A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them

Adzuki Bean
(Red Mung Bean)

Color/Fermentation Process

Made from adzuki beans (a small red bean most commonly grown in east Asia and used as a substitute for soy), brown rice, and koji culture. It is typically burgundy-colored and ferments for about one year.

Flavor/Use

This delicate miso is ideal for light soups, sauces, salad dressings, and bean dishes.

Soy-Free

A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them

Gluten Free

A Guide to Misos—and How to Use Them


A FEW RECIPES TO GET YOU STARTED

  • Miso Clams

    Miso Clams

    This 7-ingredient dish is easy enough for a weeknight dinner at home but impressive enough for a special occasion. Since the miso is salty, be sure you use the smallest, sweetest clams you can find and clean them really well.

    GET RECIPE

  • Probiotic Miso Ginger Carrot Soup with Black Sesame Dust

    Probiotic Miso Ginger Carrot Soup with Black Sesame Dust

    According to Liz Moody of Sprouted Routes: “This soup gets its probiotics from miso, a Japanese paste made by fermenting soybeans that chefs love for the rich, savory flavor it adds to dishes.”

    GET RECIPE

  • Miso Sweet Potatoes

    Miso Sweet Potatoes

    These potatoes are a super tasty and easy addition to any meal. They’re also great to make ahead for our miso sweet potato collard wrap or to eat as a snack.

    GET RECIPE

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