Miso paste has an active koji culture

Miso paste - the complete guide

Miso paste (or just miso) is a fermented soybean paste and one of the world's most famous ingredients in Japanese cuisine. The paste is very flexible and diverse Usable: There will be savory as well as sweet dishes prepared with it and it serves as a Seasoning, marinade or dip.

Doused with hot water, miso is even a dish in its own right in a few moments! Everything about miso, which in Japan is already eaten for breakfast as a delicious miso soup or as a side dish with aubergine, can be found in this article.

In this complete guide to miso paste, I'll show you the important tips and tricks to help you choose the right miso paste in the future, use it perfectly and store it afterwards.

With the delicious recipe for eggplant with miso glaze At the end of the article you cook miso paste in a delicious side dish in just 15 minutes according to a traditional Japanese recipe!

What is miso paste?

- Background knowledge-

Japanese miso paste is made from soybeans, grain (i.e. steamed rice or barley), salt, and koji culture (a fermentation starter) through fermentation.

It is available in different variants, which differ in color and taste due to the fermentation time and the ingredients used. The most common variety is white shiro miso, which is very popular in miso soups.

Miso soup - the all-rounder in Japanese cuisine! Would you like to prepare a traditional misoshiru just like in Japan at home? - with the right ingredients and without much effort:

As with many other Japanese foods, the origins of miso cannot be clearly defined. It seems certain that the paste came to Japan either from Korea or China. Some historians date this to the time shortly before the introduction of Buddhism in Japan, i.e. in the years between 540 and 552 (you can find out more about the historical background in the article below!).

Presumably, the miso, later produced in Japan, was created on the basis of the miso-dama technique common in Korea. The cooked soybeans are mashed, formed into balls and coated with "wild" Koji mushroom spores. Together with salt and water, the balls fermented in clay jugs to make various types of miso.

Today the north-west of Japan is considered a miso stronghold. The per capita consumption is comparatively highest there and the tradition of home-made miso is still celebrated. Archaeological finds also confirm that this region of Japan was the first (even before Korea and China) to use fermentation techniques. Some assume that the origins of miso are not to be found in Korea or China, but in Japan.

Miso is by far not only used and offered in Japan - no, today, miso paste is a must in many kitchens around the world. And it shouldn't be missing on your pantry shelf either!

What types of miso are there?


The taste, aroma, consistency and appearance of the many different miso pastes in Japan vary depending on regional preferences and the season. Other factors that have a strong influence on the finished paste include the temperature, the duration of the fermentation, the salt content, the Koji variety and the container used for storage.

To get an overview of the miso varieties, let's take a look at the different variants in the following categorization:

Miso paste according to ingredients:

Come miso - made from soybeans, salt and Rice koji; it is the best-selling type of miso paste and is used in traditional miso soups.

Genmai miso - made from soybeans, salt and Brown rice koji; relatively recent invention from Japan, where a higher proportion of rice is used with soybeans compared to kome miso; therefore a little sweeter in taste.

Mugi miso - made from soybeans, salt and Barley Koji; it is very dark in color and has a salty taste as it is fermented for three years; particularly suitable for hearty soups, stews and marinades.

Mame miso - made from soybeans, salt and Soybean Koji; it is slightly reddish and somewhat sweet in taste; delicious in soups and as a sauce with cooked rice.

In addition, meanwhile from all possible processable ingredients Miso pastes made, for example, to address the increasingly common food intolerances: from peas, adzuki beans, corn, amaranth and quinoa.

Important: Beware of intolerance, because miso paste is made from soybeans and other allergy-causing foods!

Miso paste to taste:

The taste of miso is usually found in sweet (Ama Miso), mild (Amakuchi Miso) and salty (Karakuchi Miso) based on the ratio of salt and koji used to make the miso.

Miso paste by color:

Shiro Miso - white miso

Shiro Miso is one of the most famous varieties in Japan and is made from soybeans, barley and a large proportion of rice. This strain has one slightly sweet tastecaused by a shorter fermentation period than the other pastes. Light miso is often used, for example, for the preparation of light soups - for example for the typical Japanese miso soup!

This variant in the picture is one of my favorite miso pastes! You will find out where you can buy them in the next chapter.

Aka Miso - red miso

Another variety is red miso, which has a particularly strong aroma and is very salty. Aka miso is usually fermented the longest and this is exactly how it gets its distinctive dark red color. This variety is often found in the eastern Kanto region, including Tokyo, as a base for soups and broths.

Awase Miso - mixed miso

A mixture of different types of miso is called Awase Miso (or Shougou Miso) and is yellow in color. There are no limits to the composition. Some specialized shops in Japan also put together individual miso pastes based on the personality of the customers, which can be particularly mild or salty, for example. Awase Miso Paste is the culinary all-rounder among the miso varieties!

Which miso paste to buy?

- Recommendation -

With these diverse variants and varieties, it is difficult to decide on a miso paste. In Japan, every occasion and every recipe calls for its own type of miso, so that the pantry would burst at the seams. That's why I met a long time ago I opted for "just" one miso paste that is perfect for my recipes and in every Japanese dish - in my opinion - leaves a delicious aroma.

This Shiro Miso Paste is used in my kitchen because it is less salty and great for both savory and sweet dishes:

If you prefer to buy miso paste in the supermarket, in Germany, it's best to look for it in specialized supermarkets, for example the paste is often offered in organic shops these days. Most Asian supermarkets also carry miso, even in different versions.

When buying, make sure to pay attention to the variety which you can most easily (if you have no knowledge of Japanese) recognize by their color. Dark means that this variant is particularly intense; if the paste is lighter, it is milder and also suitable for light soups.

Cook properly with miso paste!

- Tips & Recipes -

Now that you know about the different types of miso, we want to take a closer look at the correct use of the paste in this section.

Right at the beginning the most important note on use: Since the paste (due to the microorganisms used) is a "living" food, you can kill miso paste - YES! You kill everything good in it by cooking too long. It is best to never cook miso long, but only added when, for example, the soup is about to be taken off the stove.

Whether savory or sweet dishes make no difference when it comes to using them. Everything is possible. To give you a few ideas, the following is a small list of possibilities:

  • As aromatic Basis of soups and stews.
  • As marinade for meat, fish and poultry dishes.
  • As dressing (together with oil, garlic and ginger) for salads.
  • As Dipping sauce for vegetables (such as carrots or celery as finger food).

Probably the best known use is the miso soup, which is also called misoshiru. Since there are many different instant soups available in supermarkets, you could assume that it will take a long time to prepare. On the contrary, it is very easy and quick to prepare. With all the preparations, it will take a maximum of 15 minutes! Here you can read the delicious recipe for miso soup and start cooking right away:

You can also have all the ingredients for the miso soup delivered directly to your home with our popular cooking set for misoshiru ✚ in the shopping cart.
Nothing goes wrong and the Japanese soup is ready in no time!

Dosage: 1 level tablespoon corresponds to about 15g miso paste and is enough for one serving of miso soup (calculated on 200ml dashi).

However, there are countless other recipe ideas for miso paste in Japan that are so much more exciting than plain miso soup. One of my newest favorite side dishes (for example with freshly cooked rice) is Eggplant glazed with miso paste - doesn't that sound heavenly?