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The Absolutely Divine Sweet or Savory Miso Paste Recipe

Written by Luisa Davis on . Posted in food

Who could ask for more of a unique condiment than the miso paste? Miso paste is truly a versatile condiment with a ton of uses.

The use of this condiment is so unlimited that not even your imagination can’t limit it. Think about anything you can use a condiment for, and miso paste has got you covered. From adding rich, deep, or mild flavor to your soups or sauces, all the way to being used in salad dressings.

Really, this sauce is awesome. All you need to have a homemade miso paste is the right miso paste recipe which will be coming up right after you get to know a little more about this condiment. So pop open a can of coke and read on. Or, you could get yourself a glass of dark rum (or maybe just red wine)!

What is Miso Paste?

Simple. It’s a condiment. It’s a staple seasoning. And it’s Japanese. The Japanese miso paste is seasoning made primarily from fermented soybeans with Koji rice and salt. It is referred to as a paste because it is thick and paste-like. While it is not intended to be eaten on its own, no one is going to sue you if you take a few bites (not a healthy thing to do so try to refrain). It may be hard to resist its sweet, salty, tangy taste.

The miso paste adds a distinct burst of flavor to a variety of dishes. The tastes range from a sweeter, milder flavor, to a salty (savory) and rich, intense flavor. The sweetness or saltiness of this paste depends not just on the amount of koji being used, but also on how long the paste was left for fermentation.

Miso actually means fermented beans so the term miso paste could thus be translated to mean fermented beans paste. Fermented beans paste not only has an ultra-savory taste, but it also has the beloved umami flavor all thanks to the fermentation process.

Fermentation is definitely a good way to unleash the umami goodness.

It is rich in antioxidants, dietary fiber, protein, the B vitamins, vitamin E, vitamin K, copper, manganese, zinc, and of course sodium and chloride—the salt has to be represented too. That’s not all: it also has a lot of necessary enzymes and is extremely rich in probiotics. Probiotics are good bacteria that help keep the gut healthy and add to our health in general.

The uses of miso paste are so varied that the condiment can be used in the preparation of over 30 dishes with the most common being the miso soup. This condiment is used in sauces, soups, stew, marinades, broth, dip, glazes for grilled meat, and even salad dressings, particularly for Asian-inspired salads. It is also used in stir-frying, where it adds a delightful flavor to whatsoever you intend to stir-fry.

Its frankly delicious with most vegetables, including but not limited to mushrooms, baked tofu, and eggplant. Usually, only a spoon of this stuff is needed because too much of it can make the meal saltier. Due to the intense flavor of this seasoning, it could readily overpower the flavor of other ingredients being used.

Traditionally, the Japanese miso paste is made from soybeans, but it could also be made from other ingredients. Thus, as a means of classification, the different types of miso paste can be based on the ingredients used in its preparation. Other ingredients that can be used to prepare this seasoning include brown rice, barley, buckwheat, beans, cultured wheat, and other grains.

Miso made from whole grains is typically saltier than that made from hulled grains, so be sure to read the label before purchasing any brand of miso paste. These other ingredients could be used in combination with the soybeans and at other times, they are used in addition to soybeans.

As the most common type of miso paste available, the soy miso paste is gluten-free. This does not, however, mean that all types are gluten-free. The gluten-free property depends on the type of ingredient being used, so once more, if it’s not homemade, check the label before buying. Terms change when other ingredients are used to make this paste. Below are a few Japanese terms:

  1. Mugi miso: The mugi miso refers to the barley miso. Mugi is the Japanese word for barley. This type has a strong barley flavor. It is milder and slightly sweeter than the one made from soybeans.
  2. Mame miso: This variant is made from rice malt and had a dark brown color with a thicker taste than mugi miso.
  3. Kome miso: When soybeans are used to make this seasoning, it is referred to as kome miso.

The terms just include the main ingredient as the prefix.

Another Type Of Miso Paste Classification

While this condiment, seasoning, or whatever you’d like to call it can be classified based on its main ingredient, that isn’t the only form of classification. It is most times only noticed when a recipe calls specifically for it, or when one is searching for a hypoallergenic or gluten-free miso paste.

So what, then, is the popular classification?

This condiment is popularly known by its colors. Most recipes would call for light, red, or mixed miso and not mugi miso and the like.

Based on the color of the paste, we have 3 primary colors (and 1 secondary color).

  1. White miso
  2. Red miso
  3. Yellow miso
  4. Mixed miso – the “secondary color” miso, get it?

Despite what you may have guessed, these colors aren’t a product of some tweaks in the making process or the addition of any ingredients. The different colors are actually a result of the fermentation process. The fermentation period could be as short as three months or as long as a year or more. It depends on how patient you are and on how you want your condiment to come out.

The fermentation process not only affects the color, but also the flavor and taste of this seasoning. How? You will just have to hold on for a little while. We’ll come back to this, but only after you learn how to make your own homemade fermented miso paste with just three miso paste ingredients.

How to Make Miso Paste – The Most Efficient way!

The most difficult part of making this condiment is that you’ll have to learn the art of patience. It will take at least 3 months before you’ll be able to use it. At 3 months old, the flavor is mild and the condiment is sweet rather than salty. If you can wait for 6 months, that will be even better for you and for your future usage of the Japanese seasoning.

To make miso paste, you need only 3 ingredients, excluding the water. A large container of about 2 kg or more will be needed for the miso paste recipe that I’m about to share with you. You will also need a plastic bag, a weight scale, and a lid.

Ingredients:

  • 500 g of dry soybeans
  • 500 g of rice Koji (Koji rice or just Koji)
  • 250 g of salt
  • Water

These ingredients will make approximately 1.8 kg of fermented miso paste.

Tip: The amount of salt to use is not predetermined, which is why you have the scale to help you with it. To calculate the quantity of salt, do this:

Salt = (the weight of the mashed cooked soybeans + the weight of rice koji) x 0.12 / 0.88

Or you could just use an online calculator, especially if you don’t have a scale lying around.

The Best Miso Paste Recipe You Can Find

  1. The first thing to do is to wash your dry soybeans properly. Wash them under running water, after which you will soak them in water measured about four times the amount of soybeans. Soak for at least 16 hours and at most 24 hours.
  2. After the soak time has elapsed, drain the water from the beans and boil for about 4 hours. If you are using a pressure cooker, the time will be significantly shorter than that. With a pressure cooker, the boiling process should take about 30 minutes or so.
  3. While your soybeans are being cooked, mix together your salt (keep about 10 percent of the salt for later) and rice Koji in a large mixing bowl. Mix well and set aside.
  4. Once your beans are done, remove from heat and prepare to mash them up. Your beans are done if only you can easily squish a bean using just your fingertip. If it isn’t soft enough to be squished, leave for a little while.
  5. After removing the beans from heat, drain the water and mash the beans immediately. You can mash with a standing mixer that has an attached mincer, a potato masher, or basically anything that can get the job done.
  6. After mashing, turn the mashed soybeans into a bowl large enough to hold the Koji and salt mixture which will be added. Then, properly combine all three ingredients. You can add a little water if you deem it necessary.
  7. Line the container with a plastic bag. Start to roll baseball-sized miso balls from your miso mixture and place the balls compactly (to eliminate air bubbles) in the lined container. Your miso balls should be firm enough not to break.
  8. Smooth out the top surface once you are done arranging the balls and clean up any smears on the plastic bag.
  9. Sprinkle the remaining salt over the top of the miso mixture. This mixture weighs about 1.8 kg so you will need to place a weight that’s 20 % of 1.8 kg on the mixture. Salt in a ziplock bag works well, or a wrapped lid.
  10. Cover the container with its lid. Keep the container in a cool, dark place, and don’t forget to write the date on the lid.
  11. Three months later, check up on your mixture. Turn it with a ladle, smooth out the top surface, and cover it up as you did before. Store it for another 3 months before checking up on it again.
  12. If, after this next 3 months have elapsed, you are satisfied with the taste and color of your miso paste, transfer the paste into a container that will fit in your fridge.
  13. Use it whenever you want to. Your fermented miso paste is ready.

Notes:

  • You can use your miso paste after the first 3 months, but it will have a sweet and mild taste—white miso.
  • After 6 months, you will have a paste that is somewhat yellow with a richer, more intense flavor.
  • Don’t be surprised to see mold growing on your miso when you check on it. The salt is sprinkled to prevent bacteria growth, but it can’t fight off the fungi and mold. Not to worry, your batch isn’t bad yet. Just clean out the funny things growing on it.
  • The rice Koji is already somewhat cooked so it doesn’t need extra cooking. It’s a type of cooked rice that has already been fermented too.

White Miso Paste (Shiro Paste)

White in Japanese means shiro, thus this paste is also known as Shiro paste. This paste type is preferred in the Kyoto region of western Japan. It has a sweeter taste, milder flavor, and the lighter color is because it was not fermented for too long. Usually, it is fermented for a period of about 3 months or so, but it can be fermented for as little as 2 months.

This short fermentation process reduces its umami quality and instead of being salty, it is rather sweet. Due to its sweetness, it is mainly used in salad dressings or sautéed vegetables, as well as in glaze recipes or as a glaze itself. It can also be used for baking and for making candy like the miso caramel sweets.

Basically, you can use it on anything that you desire to have a sweet taste.

The white miso is also a good substitute for vegan margarine or nutritional yeast; that’s if you are tired of having these on your toast. A good secret to making this type sweeter is to use more Koji. The more the quantity of Koji used, the sweeter it will be.

Red Miso Paste (Aka Paste)

Also referred to as dark or aka miso. Aka is the Japanese word for red. The color here is actually russet, a reddish-brown color, and the fermentation period could last up to 3 years with the shortest period being a year. This type of miso is preferred in central Japan and just a little of it in your dish would create a distinct burst of flavor.

It has the rich umami flavor too, and this rich, intense flavor and salty taste is one reason it is used only in small quantities. Using too much of it has the ability to choke up the other flavors in your dish, so really, a little goes a long way.

It is the preferred choice in making soups, especially the very famous miso soup and even miso ramen (a noodle soup), but it is also used in making stews, sauces, and many fish dishes too. Its usage in fish dishes is done not just for the burst of flavor it adds to the dish but also to eliminate the fishy smell.

Instead of refrigerating the miso after 6 months as seen in the recipe above, leave this type for 6 more months, continually checking on it after every 3 months.

Yellow and Mixed Miso Paste

What about the yellow and the mixed miso?  The yellow miso is darker than the white miso and less sweet than the white miso, but has a stronger flavor. The recipe above is for a yellow miso.

The mixed miso, or awase miso, is actually just a combination of the white and red variant. So, it has a balanced taste and flavor.

Picking your favorite type shouldn’t be difficult. Their use is varied and unlimited, so do a taste test and know your favorite type to know what you should make.

On the topic of miso soup, in case you decide to make it, don’t bring the soup to a boil as this will kill the probiotics (the good bacteria, remember?). These probiotics are believed to be the ones that stimulate digestion and help to energize the body.

How long can this condiment last?

As long as you want it to, really. It can last for up to a year, especially the red one.

So before your homemade miso is ready, you will have no other option than to buy and try some first. There are instant miso soup packs that require you to just add water. Most times, miso paste comes in a tub, plastic bag, or even a jar. Purchase miso that was produced from organically grown soybeans.

There’s also miso that you can eat straight out of the can. The kinzanji Miso is made just for eating straight and it has added ingredients like ginger, eggplant and shiso leaves. You should definitely try this!

The Miso paste recipe above is sure to give your tastebuds their desired satisfaction, if followed accordingly.

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Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis is a frelance writer and foodie based in Portland, California. Though raised on her mother's homestyle Italian cooking, she has spent most of the last five years traveling and immersing herself in other countries' cuisines. Her work have been published in various publications, both online and offline.

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