Can You Use Red Miso Instead of White Miso?

The Difference Between White Miso and Red Miso

Before getting down to the main point, let me talk about the difference between white miso and red miso briefly.
Without regard for the materials or taste, if miso has brown color (including deep brown and light brown), it’s categorized as red miso. And if it has pale-yellow color, it’s categorized as white miso.
The color of miso is determined by various factors such as manufacturing process and blending ratio of raw materials.
Also, white miso and red miso have each characteristic in taste. To put it simply, most of red miso has salty taste and white miso has usually sweet taste.

[Amount of Sodium in 1 Tbsp (18g) of Miso as a guide]
Red miso: 709mg  *calculated as 10% salinity
White miso: 354mg  *calculated as 5% salinity

However, some of white miso are as salty as red miso, so it’s better to check the package of miso carefully to know salinity and make sure to taste it before cooking.

To summarize, the color and taste are different, so please be careful about that when you use red miso instead of white miso.

Interested in learning more about the difference?
What’s the Difference Between White Miso and Red Miso?

So… Can You Use Red Miso Instead of White Miso?

Let’s get back to the main topic. The answer of this question is this: Yes, you can!

Red miso and white miso are both fermented foods: MISO, so basically there is no problem to use red miso instead of white miso.

But please note the following points.


Red miso is more likely to have salty taste than white miso, so usually adding sugar or mirin is recommended to make the dish sweet enough.


As you noticed, the appearance of dish becomes brown if you use red miso. But you don’t have to be worried so much as long as the taste is fine.

How to Substitute for White Miso in Each Dish

Saikyo Yaki

Saikyo yaki is Japanese traditional grilled fish marinated with Saikyo miso sauce. It’s supposed to use Saikyo miso, but other brand of sweet white miso is totally fine to use.
How about someone who don’t have white one? Don’t worry, you can use red miso instead of that.
Original recipe requires mirin and a little bit of sugar for the marinate sauce, and I recommend to increase the quantity of those two seasonings if you use red miso.

Best Easy MISO SALMON Recipe (Salmon Saikyo Yaki)

Please check the ingredient “For sauce [Using salty miso]” in the link.

The amount of mirin and sugar are both increased in the link, however you can do only for mirin if you like refined sweetness (not so sweet taste).

Strictly speaking, it’s not going to be “Saikyo yaki” if you don’t use the brand “Saikyo” miso. But marinated meat or fish in sweet miso sauce is so delicious anyway, so please try it!

Miso Soup

Miso soup is generally salty, and it’s made from miso which salinity is about 10%. However, white sweet miso soup is also eaten as everyday miso soup in Kansai region where large amount of white sweet miso are produced.
If you want to try this type of miso soup using red miso, you should add a little bit of mirin or sugar. As a guide, miso soup is using about 1 tablespoon of miso (or a little less), so I recommend to add 1 teaspoon of mirin or sugar to make a little sweet miso soup. Please adjust the amount of those according to your preference.

By the way, the appearance of miso soup will be brown, so you can add milk to change the color into white. A little bit of milk in miso soup doesn’t ruin the taste, and it gives mildness.

It has nothing to do with above, but actually there are miso soup recipes using milk:
SOY MILK & SALMON miso soup recipe

ASUKA JIRU: milk miso soup recipe


Zoni (also called Ozoni) is Japanese New Year’s soup containing rice cakes, vegetables, and meat. Rice cake is essential, but other ingredients and taste differ depending on each family or area.
A lot of place in Japan make soy sauce based soup, on the other hand, Kansai region (Kyoto, Nara, and Wakayama) has soup made from sweet white miso.
You can also use red miso for this type of zoni. If you make zoni with red miso, add 1 teaspoon of mirin or sugar for a cup of zoni.
The taste could differ depending on what type of red miso you use, so please adjust the sweetness and saltiness according to your liking.

The following recipe is not using mirin neither sugar, but please add either one of them if you like a little sweet soup:
MISO OZONI: rice cake miso soup recipe

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