What Is Miso and Is It Healthy?

What Is Miso?

Miso is one of the Japanese traditional seasonings.
It’s produced by fermentation of the following ingredients: soybean, malted cereals (koji), and salt.


Malted cereals are called koji in Japanese, and it made by fermenting steamed rice, barley, or soybean with koji mold (Aspergillus oryzae) attached.
Depends on what kind of cereals you use for making koji, its name differs:
・Steamed rice + koji mold (Aspergillus oryzae) = Koji rice (kome-koji)
・Steamed barley + koji mold (Aspergillus oryzae) = Barley koji (mugi-koji)
・Boiled soybean + koji mold (Aspergillus oryzae) = Soybean koji (mame-koji).

The taste and color of miso differ depending on what kind of koji you use, and we often categorize miso based on that.
・Miso made from koji rice (kome-koji) = Rice miso (kome-miso)
・Miso made from barley koji (mugi-koji) = Barley miso (mugi-miso)
・Miso made from soybean koji (mame-koji) = Soybean miso (mame-miso)

What Is Koji and How Is It Used?

Miso has salty taste basically, however some of them are sweet (or mildly salty) because of plenty of koji. Soy sauce is also made from soybean, and salty. Miso is not just salty like soy sauce, but it has more rich taste and a little bit of sourness.

Interested in learning more about miso?

[Ultimate Guide] Different Types of Miso

What’s the Difference Between White Miso and Red Miso?

What Is BARLEY MISO? – Miso Taste Test


Miso Nutrition

Below you will find the nutrition information for a 3.5 oz (100g) of rice miso (sweet miso):
・Calories: 217kcal
・Water: 42.6g
・Total Carbohydrates: 37.9g
 └Dietary Fiber: 5.6g
・Total Fat: 3g
 └Saturated Fat: 0.49g
 └Mono Fat: 0.52g
 └Poly Fat: 1.84g
・Protein: 9.7g
・Minerals
 └Sodium: 2400mg
 └Potassium: 340mg
 └Calcium: 80mg
 └Other Minerals: 167mg (iron, zinc, etc)
・Vitamins: 2mg (B6, B12, E, K, folic acid, etc)

Those nutritional information will differ slightly depends on the types of miso. Usually miso made from a large amount of koji (such as sweet white miso) are likely to be higher in calories than salty miso, but there is not a big difference.
By the way, soybean miso has the least carbohydrate (sugar) because it doesn’t contain koji rice or barley koji.


The intake of miso per a day won’t be 3.5 oz (100g) normally, and the amount of miso per cup of miso soup, for example, is about 1 tablespoon (18g). So please imagine about 20% of above nutritional information for one cup of miso soup.


Is Miso Healthy?

Soybean which is the main material used for making miso contains high-quality protein plentifully.
And it produces large quantities of amino acid and vitamins in the process of fermentation, and makes nutrient-rich miso.


Soybean is hard on your stomach by only heat-treating. But soybean protein contained in miso is easily digested and absorbed.

Also, miso is packed with nutrients such as dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and so on.
There are so many study results about the health benefits of miso in Japan, for example, miso has anti-aging effect, reduces high blood pressure, reduces cholesterol rise, and lower the risk of cancer.


Is Miso High in Sodium?

Miso dishes ordinarily do not need large amount of miso, so you don’t have to worry about sodium in miso.
About 1 tablespoon of miso (18g) is used in 2-3 servings of miso dishes or a cup of miso soup.
Sodium in 1 tablespoon of miso will be 709mg if its salinity is 10% which is average salinity for normal miso.
How about sodium in other food?: for example, a cup of corn chowder contains 718mg of sodium.

SENDAI miso soup


How to Cook with Miso

You can eat miso both with and without cooking.
One of the most popular and traditional miso dish in Japan is miso soup.

Just like the picture above, a basic style of Japanese cooking serves a cup of miso soup together especially when we eat rice.
As long as miso is melted in hot water, you can call it miso soup. But usually we put some ingredients such as tofu, seaweed, and seasonal vegetables in it. Egg is also great ingredient for miso soup.
Only one cup of miso soup is power food that gives you all kinds of nutrients indeed.
And it’s very easy to make, so I would say making miso soup is great spot to start miso cooking for beginners.

Besides miso soup, you can also put miso on raw vegetables and rice balls (onigiri). Putting miso on cucumber stick (don’t need to mix with any seasonings) is great finger food for summer time in Japan. There are also various kind of stir-fry dishes and stewed cookings using miso because miso matches every kind of ingredients: any kind of meat, tofu, vegetables, and egg. Also mixing miso with other seasonings produces wonderful flavor such as soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and chili.


10 Best Miso Recipes

Corn Miso Soup
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CORN miso soup

You can add any kind of ingredient you love in miso soup. If you can’t decide yet, why don’t you try this sweet corn and sausage miso soup? It’s amazingly delicious and easy to make for miso beginners.


Best Miso Fried Rice
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BEST FRIED RICE

Do you think miso is never used for fried rice? Miso is actually the best seasoning to improve fried rice taste. The great combination of miso and garlic gives you excellent flavor, you will love it!


Miso Ramen
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Miso Ramen

Ramen is not only soy sauce flavor. Miso ramen is also the best choice to eat if you love ramen. This is very easy instant ramen hack to make delicious miso ramen using your normal instant ramen at home.


Miso Katsu – Cutlet with Sweet Miso Sauce
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MISO KATSU (CUTLET WITH ORIGINAL SWEET MISO SAUCE)

Tonkatsu is always gives happiness to us. But sometimes we need new partner for it. Miso sauce with deep-fried pork is the best combination in the world! It’s actually very easy to make at home.


Yodare Dori – Cold Chicken with Addictive Spicy Sauce
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COLD CHICKEN WITH ADDICTIVE SPICY SAUCE (YODARE DORI)

If you are tired of ordinary chicken dish, this recipe is your goal for tonight. Absolutely great spicy sauce on moist boiled chicken will be the best appetizer for you!


Japanese Style Dry Curry
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JAPANESE STYLE DRY CURRY

Dry curry is much easier to make than normal Japanese curry. Super easy yet incredibly delicious! The most important secret thing is miso, and it makes the taste more complex and rich.


Shiso Miso – Japanese Basil Miso
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SHISO (JAPANESE BASIL) MISO

Shiso miso is all purpose miso sauce that you can put on various kind of food such as rice balls, tofu, vegetable sticks, etc. Japanese basil (shiso) has wonderful flavor, refreshing scent and matches so well with miso.


Best Chopped Salad with Miso Dressing
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BEST CHOPPED SALAD WITH MISO DRESSING

Are you looking for new dressing to surprise your friend or family? Miso dressing is the best choice for you! And you can use this for any type of fresh vegetables.


Crispy Beef Spring Rolls
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CRISPY BEEF SPRING ROLLS

Miso flavor stir-fried dish is one of the best main dish, but what if it’s put in spring rolls? Crispy spring roll skin with miso beef gives you savory smell and become the perfect scrumptious appetizer.


Grilled Corn with Miso Butter
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GRILLED CORN WITH MISO BUTTER

How do you season grilled corn? Miso butter sauce is the best answer for it. The rich flavor of butter and salty miso are the best combination for grilled vegetables. So please try this for your BBQ!