Have you ever cooked with miso paste? If not, you have been missing out. This salty Asian seasoning is good for you, and it boosts the flavor of just about any boring dish. It has been a staple in Japanese cooking for centuries, and there is way more to miso than soup.

If you are not familiar with miso paste, now is the time to take a look at this wonderful ingredient and upgrade your home-cooked dinners.

What Is Miso Paste?

miso paste

Miso paste is a mixture of soybeans and a grain like rice or barley that is fermented with salt and water and cultured with koji, a mold that grows on rice. Don't let the koji thing scare you -- it is totally safe and has a ton of health benefits, thanks to the protein, vitamins, and minerals it contains. The whole mixture ferments for months and turns into a thick paste.

You can use the umami-rich condiment to season soup, sauce, marinades, and a variety of other dishes from stir-fry to baked goods.

Different Colors Bring Different Flavors

different types of miso paste

The different colors of miso paste are the result of fermentation time. Each color tastes different. White miso (shiromiso) has a sweet flavor and is the mildest miso paste because of its relatively short fermentation time. It is perfect for salad dressings and light sauces, and it often takes on a golden color. If you have never tried miso paste, the white miso is the best to try first.

Red miso (akamiso) has a saltier taste and is fermented longer than the white miso. It has a bold and pungent flavor, making it perfect for hearty sauces and soups.

The most popular miso paste is mixed miso (awase miso), a combination of red and white miso. The mix of the two pastes gives it a dark color and strong taste. Most Japanese restaurants in the United States make their miso soup with mixed miso.

The color, aroma, and taste of miso can vary based on where it is made, the proportion of soybeans to koji in the mixture, and the fermentation time.

Delicious Ways To Use Miso Paste

1. Salad Dressing

miso ginger salad dressing

You don't have to cook miso paste -- it is ready to go as soon as you open the tub. Miso is delicious in homemade salad dressings. This miso and ginger dressing would be perfect on a cooked veggie salad, a spinach salad, or a simple bowl of rice.

You can also dress a simple salad or veggies with this miso dressing. It is so good you will want to put it on everything!

2. Soup

miso soup

There is more to miso than soup, but that doesn't mean we are going to skip over the fact that miso soup is awesome. This incredible miso soup can be made five different ways. You can also add a spoonful of miso to things like chili, beef stew, minestrone, or chicken noodle soup. Miso will add a salty flavor with some depth to any soup dish. It's best to add it at the end of a recipe while seasoning to taste .

3. Glazes And Marinades

miso glazed eggplant

One of the best things about miso is that it gives umami flavor to vegetarian dishes, making them even tastier. A miso glaze or marinade adds an extra layer of savoriness to meat dishes, too, like chicken wings or pork chops. However, instead of spreading miso straight from the jar onto a roasted chicken, you'll want to dilute your miso with something like water, butter, vinegar, or sauce.

Try this recipe for marinated short ribs that doesn't take long to make and is filled with big flavor.

4. Schmear

miso mayo

Mix some miso with mayonnaise, ranch, cream cheese, or tahini and you have created one of the best sandwich schmears on Earth. If you want to turn that turkey sandwich into the lunch of your dreams, just add a little miso mayo.

5. Butter

miso butter on salmon

You only need two ingredients to make miso butter, and once you try it, you will want to put it on everything. Try adding miso butter to rice, melting it on steak, or tossing and melting it with veggies. It will give your dish a unique and delicious flavor that is part salty, part sweet, part savory, and part umami.

The general recipe is to use two parts butter to one part white miso, but you can change the ratio to suit your tastes.

6. Stir-Fry Sauce

miso soba noodles

One of the most popular Asian dishes in America is stir-fry, and using miso paste to make a sauce for the dish is a no-brainer. Whether you use chicken, beef, or go vegetarian, miso paste will give your stir-fry an extra kick.

7. Miso Mashed Potatoes

A bowl of mashed potatoes

Yes, miso butter mashed potatoes are a thing; you just didn't know about it yet. If you're looking for a way to add some life to the longtime favorite mashed potatoes, then adding a tablespoon of miso to your favorite recipe is the way to go.

You might be intimidated by tinkering with a classic like mashed potatoes, but it's never a bad idea to try something new from time to time. Who knows, you might even love the kick of flavor the miso adds.

8. Miso Broth

A cup of noodles in a miso broth

There's nothing quite like a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup when you're feeling under the weather, well, unless you have some miso paste that you're not using. In case you didn't know, adding some miso paste to your soup or cup of broth can do wonders when you're sick.

For starters, miso contains several vitamins including vitamins B and E, which can help keep a strong immune system that will be working overtime to fight of whatever virus or bacteria that's waging war on your body. Miso also contains probiotics that can help with the digestion process as well as help restore healthy bacteria in your digestive system if you are coming of a dose of antibiotics. Plus, it tastes great!

Tips For Storing And Buying Miso Paste

miso paste to purchase in bulk

Keep miso paste in the fridge and make sure that the tub is covered to keep the paste from oxidizing. You can place a piece of parchment paper under the lid for extra protection. Storing miso paste in the freezer is also an option, since it won't change the texture or flavor.

If you store miso properly, it will keep indefinitely. However, it does get darker and denser over time.

You will most likely find miso paste in the Asian food section at your local grocery store. If for some reason your store doesn't carry it, you can always find it online. The ingredient list for miso paste should be minimal -- there shouldn't be any stabilizers, alcohol, or additives. When you buy miso paste, check to make sure that the package is sealed tight and that there is no discoloration.

Are There Any Substitutes For Miso Paste?

Grinding miso into a paste

There will come a time in your culinary expeditions where you will want to make a recipe you've been dying to try but find out a little too late that you will need some miso paste. The veggies are already sliced and diced, the noodles are already cooking, and you can't stop the process. What do you do? Well, you have quite a few options.

Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is most likely going to be your best bet in this type of situation since it has a similar salty and savory kick as miso. Be careful though, soy sauce is a little saltier and should slowly be worked into your dish.

Vegetable Stock

If a soup calls for miso, it wouldn't be the worst idea to use some vegetable stock if you find yourself in a bind. You won't have the same exact taste as miso, but you can always adjust with more salt.

Fish Sauce

Fish Sauce will have a similar effect as soy sauce. Just be careful not to add too much or you'll ruin the dish.

Tahini

Tahini is created by grinding sesame seeds and oil to create a paste that's a lot like miso paste as far as consistency is concerned. You won't get the flavor of miso with tahini, but the consistency will be on point.

The options for miso paste are endless. It is the perfect secret ingredient for just about any dish you can think of!

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