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Preparation, uses, and tips

While the flavors of different varieties of miso vary, all provide a salty, savory quality to foods. Some also add a subtle sweetness. Miso is almost always dissolved in water before it is added to dishes.

Miso has many uses, but the quintessential miso dish is traditional Japanese miso soup. This is a breakfast staple in Japan although it can be enjoyed at any time of day. Traditional miso soup starts with a fish-based broth called dashi, or a simple homemade miso soup can be made by simmering chunks of tofu and vegetables in broth or water. Just before serving, add 2 tablespoons of miso for each cup of water used. Dissolve the miso in a little bit of water before adding.

Miso can also be used instead of salt in many stews or soups, especially those based on vegetables or beans. Although it is high in sodium, miso can actually help to decrease sodium intake—miso is somewhat more flavorful than salt, so it takes less to make dishes flavorful. Miso can also be used to make a spread for corn-on-the-cob or to melt over vegetables. Blend together equal parts miso and butter or margarine.

Buying and storing tips

Miso is most often sold in natural foods stores and in Asian markets, but it is increasingly available in large supermarkets. Although food co-ops often sell miso in bulk, it is usually available in plastic tubs in the refrigerated section of stores. Miso should be kept in the refrigerator where it lasts for six months. The film of white mold that sometimes forms along the top is harmless and can be either scraped off or stirred right into the miso.


There are many varieties of miso. They are classified by color (white, red, brown, and yellow), flavor (sweet or salty), and ingredients (usually depending on the type of grain used). Many Western miso manufacturers offer new types of miso with ingredients not found in traditional products; dandelion-leek miso is one example.

Darker miso, which is usually red or brown, tends to be more salty. White miso tends to have a somewhat sweeter flavor—although a salty flavor predominates in all types of miso. Yellow miso is light yellowish in color, has a salty flavor, and is usually made from rice and soybeans.

Miso can be smooth or chunky. Some Western companies produce a pasteurized miso that contains preservatives. Traditionally produced miso is unpasteurized and is aged over many months; it also has a better flavor and is widely available.

Nutrition Highlights

Miso, 1/2 cup (138g)
Calories: 283
Protein: 16g
Carbohydrate: 38.5g
Total Fat: 8.3g
Fiber: 7.4g
*Excellent source of: Iron (3.75mg), Zinc (4.5mg), and Riboflavin (0.34mg)
*Good source of: Magnesium (58mg)

*Foods that are an “excellent source” of a particular nutrient provide 20% or more of the Recommended Daily Value. Foods that are a “good source” of a particular nutrient provide between 10 and 20% of the Recommended Daily Value.

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