boost your healthspan with food and nutrition

Miso: traditional Asian seasoning for modern times

Miso: traditional Asian seasoning for modern times

What better antidote to the end-of-year holiday food excess than a simple cup of broth on a cold afternoon.  There are plenty of options: bouillon cubes, powders, pastes, canned, shelf-stable boxes.  If you’d rather treat yourself to something more natural, give miso a try.  It will add a new dimension to your simple cup of broth.

What is Miso

Miso is a paste of fermented soybeans that adds a subtle salty umami flavor to foods. It’s been used in Japanese cuisine for hundreds of years. There are 3 common varieties of miso paste: white, red and dark. White miso is the mildest flavor, and is commonly used for soups, salad dressings or a flavor boost for cooked grains or noodles. Darker miso packs more flavor punch and works well with foods that have naturally strong flavors.

To make miso, soybeans are first cooked to a very soft consistency, then mashed and mixed with a fungus (Aspergillus oryzae) to start fermentation. Salt is added, and the mixture is fermented in an air-tight container for about 6 months. Different varieties of miso are created by adding other ingredients to the soybean mash, such as cooked grains like barley or brown rice. Some varieties ferment for years.


Miso is a probiotic food, and does contribute contribute to healthful gut microbes. However we don’t eat big portions of it, as we do with yogurt. Heat will destroy microbial activity, so to get the probiotic benefit, add miso to a dish at the end of cooking so that it’s not overheated. For example, if you’re making a miso soup, stir in the miso just before serving.

The table below shows some nutrient values for 1 TB of miso paste. As you can see, sodium is quite
high because salt it added to the fermenting soybeans. Miso does add a salty flavor to foods, so you may cut back on additional salt in a recipe.

342.2 grams1 gram1 gram0.43 mg36 mg640 mg

Miso can add a richer flavor to meatless recipes. Use it to season grain dishes, pasta, noodles, salads, soups and sauces. It’s also used in salad dressings and marinades.

Enjoy a simple cup of miso broth for an afternoon pick-me-up.  Or make a more substantial soup.

Miso Soup

November 15, 2022
: 2
: 30 min
: 10 min
: 30 min
: easy

You can make miso soup with just broth and miso, or just with miso paste. Garlic and ginger go well with miso, but you can experiment with other seasonings. Use more or less vegetables, depending on your preferences. Seaweed is another vegetable option.


  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1-2 cups vegetables of choice: grated carrot, sliced mushrooms, finely chopped bok choy, shredded cabbage, chopped scallions.
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp ginger, or 1-2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2-4 tsp white miso paste
  • 4 oz cubed firm tofu
  • Optional: 1/2 to 1 cup cooked rice or rice noodles.
  • Soy sauce to taste
  • Step 1 Heat and broth in a saucepan.
  • Step 2 Add your choice of vegetables and simmer 2-3 minutes, do not over-cook.
  • Step 3 Turn heat to very low.
  • Step 4 Whisk in the miso paste, ginger and garlic.
  • Step 5 Add the tofu and heat through.
  • Step 6 Serve in a bowl with added grains or noodles if desired.
  • Step 7 Season with soy sauce if you like.

For a really simple warming beverage, whisk miso paste into hot water and drink as you would a cup of plain broth. The perfect antidote to holiday excess.

Here’s an easy and fast variation on miso soup: use a package of ramen noodles. Cook the ramen noodles in 2 cups of water or vegetable broth, according to the instructions (discard the enclosed flavor envelope). Optional: add a cup of frozen chopped spinach. When the noodles are done, whisk 3-4 tsp of miso paste into the hot water. Season with soy sauce, a teaspoon of sesame oil and Sriracha sauce (optional).

Miso has a long shelf life, but an opened package needs to be refrigerated.  Look for more recipe ideas online.