What is Miso?

What is Miso

Miso is a paste made from soybean that has been boiled, crushed, and blended with a bunch of crops such as, wheat, rice, barley, or beans. The mixture then ferments for up to 3 years. Miso may vary in colors from pale tan to very dark brown to reddish. There are many variations of miso, somewhere around 200 varieties. However, the red, yellow and white varieties are the most common. There is also another common variety, which is a combination of red and white paste called awase miso.

Origin of Miso

Origin of Miso

From China or the Korean peninsula, Miso first came to Japan. The root of miso is from Ancient Chinese jan. Jan is a fermented ancient seasoning.

In the Edo period, jan was called hishio or kuki, according to classical scholars. In China, they wrote about Jan in the Shurai.

In the Jomon period in Japan, miso occurred. Jan is the original Japanese seasoning method. Jan was discovered in Nishi city, Heiankyo, in the Nara period.

For seasoning porridge made of rice and vegetables, miso was used. In the Sengoku period, preserved food was essential to Miso.

There are several different miso flavors. It relies on regions. In the western Kansai region, Shiromiso is famous, particularly in Kyoto.

In the eastern Kantō region, or northern region, Akamiso is famous. After the second world war, Shinshumiso is typically popular because it is mass produced in factories and sold in supermarkets in over Japan.

History of Miso

History of Miso

Miso was first introduced to Japan 1,300 years ago by Bhuddhist priests originating from China. The use of fermented salt, grain and soybean mixtures at the time was a crucial method of preserving food during the warmer months, and this method formed the backbone of miso-making. In Japanese cuisine, the original Chinese soybean paste was turned into miso and shoyu, two hallmarks of the food of the region.

Initially, it was a coveted delicacy, loved only by royalty because it included rice, a luxury in its day. Nevertheless, as news of its energy-giving properties spread, Samurai accepted miso as a fundamental part of their diet.

Interestingly, traditionally, there was a factor of class concerning who ate which kind of miso. Only rice miso that had been made using costly polished white rice would be consumed by rich landowners, royalty or samurai. Sometimes it was so costly that it was used as gifts, or even as a currency. It was prohibited for peasants and farm hands to use the rice they harvested to make their own miso, so any broken rice or other grains such as millet & barley were used. This explains why darker miso made from these grains has a reputation, even today, as “poor man’s miso.” The popularity of miso had spread and was enjoyed by everyone from royalty to farmhands by the mid-14th century; who would use it during poverty as an alternative to currency.

In Japan, there are over 1,000 producers of miso and there are wide regional variations. Rice misos tend to be chosen in the northern regions, where much of the country’s rice is farmed; the ancient capital of Kyoto chooses the more refined sweet white miso, the area around the Aichi prefecture likes pure soybean miso; while the southern regions choose barley miso or miso made from other grains.

It’s a grocery cupboard staple in Japan today and you won’t be able to do without it when you’ve tried it.

What does Miso Taste Like

Miso Taste Like

The flavor and aroma of miso depends on different factors such as the ingredients, as well as the aging and fermentation processes. It may be described as salty, soft, earthy, fruity, savory, or sweet.

On their own, miso tastes salty, pungent, and savory. They seem sweeter in lighter varieties. It is usually smooth, like a less oily nut butter, although some can be chunky. MISO is typically not eaten on its own.The saltiness brings a rich, complex taste to the dishes.

How to Store Miso

How to Store Miso

As far as storage is concerned, miso is actually very close to Tabasco. You may store a box of miso in a cool dark place, away from light and sources of heat. The safest location is the pantry, but a cabinet in the kitchen will also get the job done. Just make sure it’s not near the stove, as the variations in temperature can alter the paste’s taste. Unopened miso does not have to be refrigerated.

Make sure when you open the box, when not in use, it is still securely sealed.

There are two choices when it comes to where open miso should be kept. The fridge is the best location because, at low temperatures, miso maintains the best quality. However, for extended storage, the pantry or even room temperature are also a-okay in certain instances. If, after opening, the label does not urge you to refrigerate the paste, feel free to leave it in the pantry.

What Is the Shelf Life of Miso

When unopened, miso paste is stored indefinitely. After opening, light-colored miso pastes remain fresh for about nine months, while dark miso pastes remain fresh for about a year and a half. After opening, move packages or miso containers to airtight storage containers and hold them for the longest ‘best-by’ time in the refrigerator or freezer.

Nutritional Info: What Goes into a Serving of Miso?

Miso Nutritional Info

A good amount of vitamins , minerals and beneficial plant compounds are found in miso. In general, one ounce (28 grams) supplies you with:

  • Calories: 56
  • Carbs: 7 grams
  • Fat: 2 grams
  • Protein: 3 grams
  • Sodium: 43% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 12% of the RDI
  • Vitamin K: 10% of the RDI
  • Copper: 6% of the RDI
  • Zinc: 5% of the RDI

List of Substitutes for Miso

Substitutes For Miso

Soy Sauce

Both soy sauce and miso are fermented products and, because of this, have shared elements in their flavor profile. Although certain components of the miso flavor profile can still be achieved without using a soy product, soy is the best way to do it. Soy sauce, in addition to being fermented, is similar to miso in that it is made from soybeans.

It not only shares certain elements of the taste profile, but has some of the same nutrients as well. Soy sauce is salty and can offer the same kick of umami you’d get from miso. It has the advantage of not having any animal products , which means that in vegan dishes you can use it as a miso replacement.

The downside to using soy sauce as a replacement is that, although miso is a paste, it is watery. In all recipes, it will not be a complete substitute, but it should work in soups, dressings and similar recipes where consistency will not be a problem.

You should keep the variation of color in mind as well. The soy sauce will make the dish darker than it should be if your recipe calls for one of the paler miso varieties such as yellow or white. You may want to use a lighter colored alternative or use a small amount of light soy sauce if the appearance is a concern for you.


In terms of the taste profile, Tamari is a byproduct of producing miso, so it has a lot in common with it. Similar saltiness and the same umami profile are given. Tamari is a lot like soy sauce as well, except that, it is thicker and richer. The fact that tamari is relatively thick means that some of the body that you get from miso will do a great job of supplying it. It will not be fine, of course, because it is still a liquid. In marinades or as a salt substitute, use tamari.


Another ubiquitous Japanese ingredient that is used to give several foods an umami taste is Dashi. Unlike miso, despite playing a major role in many Japanese dishes, it typically goes unrecognized. Dashi is a pale kombu-made broth which is a sort of seaweed.

Dashi can be used in Japanese cuisine to prepare anything from ramen to sushi rice. While it does not look like miso paste, in that it is used to improve savory flavor profiles, it is like miso. You may add it to any savory dish that can manage the extra liquid.

Tahini Paste

Tahini is a paste which is made using ground sesame seeds and can replace miso. In many places , particularly the Middle East and the Mediterranean, it’s a staple product.

This miso replacement is gluten-free, vegan, and can be made on your own easily. It has a nutty taste that is distinct from miso, but this distinction is enjoyed by many people. Store purchased variants of hulled sesame seeds are also available and usually made.

You get a product that both looks and functions in almost the same way as miso by using tahini paste. There are not many other choices that provide the authenticity it does when it comes to the visual aspect of tahini paste and the way it blends in recipes. This product is likely to be enjoyed by those who prefer a creamy and nutty taste rather than the other substitutions that are mostly savory and saltier than tahini paste.

Tahini paste may look like miso as far as flaws go, but it doesn’t taste the same. You might be disappointed when the paste tastes more like a mild peanut butter if you’re expecting the same flavor profile. This means that this might not be the substitute that you want to give a try if your recipe needs significant quantities of miso.


If the salty element that miso brings to the table is what you are looking for, you can keep it easy by using salt as a substitute. As with other sauces containing soy, to brighten a bowl, miso provides a significant amount of salt.

Although there are numerous flavors used in miso, salt can be chosen instead by those who are interested in a simple substitute. It’s an inexpensive option, and you probably already have in your kitchen a salt shaker or two that you can use for a fast meal.

Instead of miso, those who want a fast replacement would want to go with salt. It takes seconds at most to add salt to a dish and can add plenty of spice to whatever you are producing. When having guests over to your home for dinner, sea salt flakes will work well in many dishes and add a little more pizazz to your cooking.

Many individuals would find that their dish’s use of salt instead of miso results in less flavor. This can end up being a frustrating choice unless you want a single sodium taste in the curry, stocks, and other dishes you make. For someone who is regulating their sodium intake, it is also not the right option.

Vegetable Stock

Vegetable stock is another alternative to miso that can be used in particular recipes. A thin liquid containing vegetables such as mushrooms, carrots, herbs, onions, celery, and parsley is vegetable stock.

By chopping up vegetables, covering them with water, and letting it simmer, homemade vegetable stock can be made. At grocery stores, there is also vegetable stock, which is more convenient and can save time.

Vegetable stock has a great texture to fit right in for those who are trying to make a soup that requires a small amount of miso. While miso is a paste, like a stew, the liquid of the vegetable stock would not be a problem in a soup or other recipe. It also has an excellent vegetable taste and would have less salt than miso will have.

Although vegetable stock can work as a substitute for miso, in most other dishes you make, it doesn’t work. The flavor is not the same as miso, and if you need anything to use as a thickener, its liquid consistency may be troublesome.

Fish Sauce

A fish sauce that is made of salt and fermented anchovies is an easy miso substitute. In Asia, it is sometimes used and can make a savory dish taste better, while increasing the level of fragrance as well. It has the umami as a miso replacement that fits well with Asian dishes and other savory recipes that you want to produce.

In contrast to miso, fish sauce is a convenient choice as it is sold at most health food shops and supermarkets. In addition, it is also less costly than miso, so you can get it on a budget. Fish sauce does not have wheat, but it works for those who are not vegetarian or vegan and do not eat gluten. Although with fish sauce, the taste is not entirely the same, it is close enough that in certain cases it works well.

The fish sauce contains a considerable amount of salt, as you can see from the nutritional breakdown. Anyone looking at their consumption of sodium is likely to want to select a particular alternative. It is also not vegan, so people who do not eat fish would want to find a different substitute for miso.

Interesting Facts about Miso

Facts About Miso

Miso is a fermented soy paste that is used as a traditional Japanese seasoning.

Miso is identical to doenjang in Korea. It is made with sea salt or salt and kōji through the fermentation of soy beans. Kōji is the product of fermentation with a mold culture, Kōji-kin (Aspergillus oryzae), of rice, barley, or soybeans. Grains are also added, such as barley or rice, and sometimes other ingredients. Miso is high in proteins and is rich in minerals and vitamins. Miso tastes salty and may also be sweet, depending on the grains used and fermentation period. Miso is used to make soup made of miso.

A very important part of Japanese food is miso. Different kinds of miso exist. Kome miso is made from beans and rice. Mame miso is produced from beans. Mugi miso is made from beans and barley. The miso of Awase is a variation of these misos.

Health Benefits of Miso

Miso Health benefits

Since miso is fermented and made with koji which is a type of fungus also known as aspergillus oryzae it is a beneficial source of healthy probiotics that are good for your gut health & is good for your digestion.

This is why conventional miso soup recipes specify not to let the soup come to a boil. Be aware that miso is high in sodium; the amounts differ according to the form and the brand.

Most of your immunity is related to your gut health, because of that the healthy probiotic helps strengthen your immune system. Miso contains choline and B-vitamins such as niacin and folate that aids in cognitive function and development.

Choline also aids in your nervous system such as your motor skills, learning, thinking, and speaking. Miso is high in vitamin K, which helps to coagulate blood.

If you are on any medication for thinning blood, consult with your doctor before adding miso into your diet, as these medications can mess with your blood-clotting ability.

Here are some other benefits:

  • Decreased risk of certain cancers
  • Beneficial to women in early stages of pregnancy
  • Higher bone density, prevent osteoporosis
  • Help skin stay youthful looking
  • Helps menopausal women

Why is Miso so Salty?

For one thing, miso, which is made from fermented soybeans plus salt and probably rice or other grains, adds a thick, savory, almost meaty taste which the Japanese call umami, not just a salty flavor. In full-fat dairy products, cooked meats, mushrooms, salmon, and other foods, the flavor is popular. So using miso will allow you to cut back on the salt and fat you add while enhancing flavor to your cooking.

Does Miso Affect Blood Pressure?

Recent research has shown that miso does NOT damage our cardiovascular system in the way that conventional sodium-filled foods can, despite its high-sodium content. It has been found in recent animal studies that equal amounts of salt ( sodium chloride) from both miso and table salt each have different blood pressure effects. It was discovered that while high-salt table salt diets raised blood pressure , high-salt miso diets had no effect on blood pressure.

In another study, despite the sodium content, it is confirmed that Japanese adults adopting a miso diet have a lower risk of cardiovascular problems. Although the relationship between miso and our cardiovascular system is still uncertain, some researchers have hypothesized that one of the key reasons miso is shown to help the cardiovascular system is the special soy protein structure of miso. Other cardio-supportive foods in miso soups and other miso-flavored dishes, such as miso dressing salad, may also play an important role in these research findings, because miso is typically eaten alone.

Where to Buy Miso Paste?

When looking to buy miso you may find it as soybean paste or miso paste. Look for it Asian grocery stores or in your local health food store’s refrigerator section in plastic tubs or jars. It may be sold in your nearest major grocery store near the refrigerated tofu.

Bottom Line

Soy sauce and miso are fermented products and share elements in their flavor profile. Tamari is a byproduct of producing miso, so it has a lot in common with it. Dashi is a pale kombu-made broth which is a sort of seaweed. Tahini is a paste which is made using ground sesame seeds and can replace miso. The miso replacement is gluten-free, vegan, and can be made on your own easily. Salt can be chosen instead of miso for those who are interested in a simple substitute. Salt flakes will work well in many dishes and add a little more pizazz to your cooking. A fish sauce that is made of salt and fermented anchovies is an easy miso substitute. In Asia, it is sometimes used and can make a savory dish taste better, while increasing the level of fragrance as well. It has the umami as a miso replacement that fits well with Asian dishes and other savory recipes.