Get to know your miso.

Try it yourself

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Organic White Miso Paste, Miso Tasty
Organic White Miso Paste, Miso Tasty £5.50

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What is it

Essentially, miso is an umami-rich soybean paste, made from three ingredients: koji (a fungus used to ferment foods), salt, and soybeans.


When you're on the hunt for miso, keep an eye out for quality. Some brands cut corners by speeding up fermentation or adding extras like sweeteners. Check texture too—natural miso should have a bit of graininess. You can find miso in most supermarkets, but speciality Asian or Japanese shops usually offer a good variety.


Follow the information on the jar, we joke in the Test Kitchen that Miso lasts forever but it doesn't have to. Read below for our favourite Miso Recipes.


There’s more to it than just soup—surprise, surprise. Yet most of us met it this way at YO! Sushi, when they were handing it out free with each order. It felt like a budding romance—it draws you back, sparking intrigue and uncertainty—could it be true love? Spoiler: it was.

Essentially, miso is an umami-rich soybean paste, made from three ingredients: koji (a fungus used to ferment foods), salt, and soybeans. Over weeks (or sometimes years), the enzymes in koji team up with the microorganisms in the environment to break down the bean structure into amino acids, fatty acids, and simple sugars (a bit like Kimchi). *And breathe*.

What's Umami?

Humans can taste five fundamental flavours: sour, salty, sweet, bitter and umami. It's that rich taste that you might notice in foods like mushrooms or Parmesan. That satisfyingly savoury flavour that makes your cheeks dimple a bit. That’s umami.

how to use miso

We use it for three (ish) reasons. 

1) To make flavours richer. A teaspoon of miso in creamed spinach, like V did last week, can work wonders, much like adding an anchovy to bring out the meaty flavour in roasted lamb.

2) Miso's sweet side adds depth to desserts, following V's golden rule—where there's sweet, there must be a hint of savoury. Start small and build up.

3) Katja uses miso to get things thicker. Forget cornflour; miso, with its protein base, is a natural emulsifier. It effortlessly suspends in fats, whether mixed with butter or added to a salad dressing for an instant umami boost.

How to cook with miso

In the 1990s, celebrated chefs emerged as celebrities. They commanded a massive following and took control of food trends. Leading the pack was Nobu and his miso cod. It was the celeb dish; a symbol of something exclusive, something new. Chefs around the city caught on and now miso is ubiquitous on every supermarket condiment shelf. While it’s been a Japanese staple for centuries, it’s now as British as Bao and Poke. But you must get to know its quirks.

The first: never boil miso. When adding miso to a dish, it’s best to dissolve it in a small amount of warm water or stock. If you add it directly to your boiling stock, all of its benefits and aromatic qualities are damaged. 

When it comes to storing miso paste, it should be kept in a tightly sealed container in the fridge. Lighter varieties (white and yellow) can keep for up to nine months and darker (red) for up to a year. Just make sure you check the sell-by date and try to stay away from any varieties with loads of added additives. 

Don’t mix up your miso. The most obvious difference between one miso and another is their appearance: they can be pale or near-black, smooth or chunky. Rule of thumb: the lighter the miso, the lighter it’ll taste. Use Red or Yellow in heartier dishes, like soups and braises, and white for salad dressings and bakes.

And why is miso so incredibly healthy? Well, mainly because it’s a ferment: it boosts digestion, aids your immune system and helps fight disease. It’s also a nutrients-packed condiment full of protein, vitamins, and minerals. But be careful: it’s also very salty. If you’re watching your salt intake, start small.

Feel free to take our recommendations with a pinch of salt (or a teaspoon of miso). But next time you need a dish to be a little richer, sweeter or thicker, think of the best-kept secret on the condiment shelf. Grab yourself a jar—and get to know your miso. We’ll promise to keep our miso recipes coming.

Three ways to finish a jar

1. Miso Soup. Heat your water with a sprinkle of dashi, add miso through a sieve (remember, never boil it), finish with silken tofu and a little spring onion. We add wakami and watercress, not that you have to. For a quick snack or light lunch.
2. Miso butter. Mix white miso and butter—three tablespoons of butter to one of miso. Spread on your toast, use it to baste your steak, or try Ixta’s miso butter onions from Flavour.
3. Miso caramel. Combine sugar, butter, cream and white miso. Use black barley miso if you want to recreate ROVI’s miso fudge.