Learn how to easily make miso! With only four ingredients, a few minutes of preparation, and lots of patience, you can make this tasty miso paste.
This guide will give you step-by-step instructions on how to easily make your miso! You’ll also find information and answers to produce delicious miso from scratch, every time.
Our homemade miso requires only four basic ingredients: koji, soybeans, salt, and some pre-made miso. However, it is the magic of fermentation that transforms these plain tasting foods into a richly flavoured paste with concentrated umami (well actually, it’s not magic, but enzymes and millions of microorganisms).
Although its preparation is straightforward, miso can seem daunting. Don’t panic, it’s very easy and quick if you start with pre-made koji rice. With the right preparation technique and patience, you will get delicious miso!
Once the miso is ready, you can enjoy it in miso soup and many traditional Japanese dishes.
Go Straight to the Section That Interests You:
- What is miso?
- Which ingredients are needed to make miso?
- What equipment to use to make miso?
- Soy miso recipe
- Using miso in cooking
- Frequently asked questions
What Is Miso?
Miso is a traditional ingredient in Japanese cuisine. It is a brown or beige salty paste which is used somewhat like a solid version of the famous soy sauce. Miso has been used in Japan for over 1300 years. Its taste is salty and very “umami“.
Traditional miso is made from cooked and pureed soybeans. Salt is added and a magic ingredient, koji.
Koji is fermented rice that contains many enzymes. Koji is what turns soybeans into miso. This transformation is slow and can take months or even years.
There are varieties of miso with different fermentation times. For example, red miso is often fermented for 11 months, while white miso is ready in only two weeks!
Various ingredients can also be added to change the flavour profile: chickpeas, buckwheat, mushrooms, seaweed, etc.
Why Eat Miso?
Miso is a traditional Asian ingredient. Nowadays, it is appreciated for its taste as well as its health benefits. It is known from the famous miso soup, but it can be used anywhere you use soy sauce or salt!
The Taste of Miso
Miso has two main flavours: salty and umami.
Umami is the fifth flavour and is a delicious sensation that makes you want to keep eating. In fact, the word “umami” means “tasty” in Japanese.
Miso, therefore, has a complex taste and is used in cooking to add depth to a dish and ‘flavour’ to recipes. For example, in miso soup, it adds character to the broth.
In marinades, it acts as a flavour enhancer. It helps to bring out meat and vegetable flavours in a dish.
The Benefits of Miso
Although it is made from soybeans, miso is very digestible. Fermentation transforms the soybeans and destroys the antinutrients they contain. (ref) Miso is high in whole proteins that are easily digestible.
Miso also contains many vitamins and minerals, including zinc, manganese, potassium, and vitamins B2 and B12. (ref)
Like most fermented foods, miso contains probiotic microorganisms that may have health and immune system benefits. The nutrients in miso and its enzymes also help to stimulate the microbiota and digestion. (ref)
Studies are also exploring the benefits of miso on blood pressure, radiation resistance, and cancer prevention. (ref)
To learn more, read The Benefits of Miso According to Science
Ingredients to Make Miso Paste
Our traditional miso recipe contains only four basic ingredients.
Koji is rice or grain colonized by Aspergillus oryzae mould. It is an essential ingredient for making miso.
The most common koji used to make miso are rice and barley koji.
There are two options for obtaining koji:
Soybeans are the most used legume, but chickpeas, yellow peas, or any other protein source can also be used.
To prepare the soybeans, soak them overnight and cook them until they crumble easily between your fingers.
Salt is essential to guide the fermentation process. The amount of salt can vary depending on the type of miso desired and the fermentation time.
Salt should have only one ingredient: “salt”. Table salts are often enriched with iodine or anticaking agents, which may affect the taste of the miso.
Prepared miso contains a colony of microorganisms not found in the other ingredients. We could do without it, but adding a little prepared miso speeds up the fermentation process and maximizes the chances of success.
Equipment for Making Miso
The fermenting jar and weight play significant roles in the long fermentation of miso.
Glass, food-grade plastic, wood, and stoneware are ideal materials for miso fermentation.
The fermentation jar should be twice as large as the miso paste it contains. A wide opening also makes it easier to put the miso in the jar.
Weight and Weighing
To keep the miso in an oxygen-free environment, it should be compressed under a heavy weight. This weight will allow the liquid from the paste and the fermentation gases to rise to the surface. For each kilogram of miso, it is recommended to use a weight between 1 and 1.5kg.
Several options are available:
- Freezer bag filled with salt, decorative rocks, or beads
- Ceramic weights
- Glass weights
- Small plate and bottles filled with water
- Weight inside the Crazy Korean Cooking container and rocks (clean in a freezer bag)
Psst! Look at our Miso Making Kit!
Miso Paste Recipe
- 1 large saucepan
- 1 Food processor
- 1 Large mixing bowl
- 1 large freezer bag Ziploc style
- 1 parchment paper sheet
Cooking the Soybeans
- Rinse the soybeans in plenty of water.
- Transfer the beans to the jar, then cover with lots of water.
- Soak the soybeans overnight (8 to 12 hours). Rinse and strain.
- Place the beans in a large pot and cover them with water. Bring to a boil and cook the beans until they crumble easily between your fingers (3 to 4 hours).
- Reserve about 1L of the cooking water. Strain the beans and allow them to cool.
Preparing the Miso Paste
- In a food processor, puree the soybeans.
- In the large bowl, combine the ground soybeans, koji, salt, and miso.
- Mix well by hand.
- If necessary, add cooking water to obtain a dough-like texture. The miso paste should remain firm when pressed in the palm of the hand. Normally, there should be no water oozing out of the dough when it is pressed.
- Pour boiling water into the jar to sterilize it. Let it stand for 10 minutes, then empty it.
- Sprinkle 1 tbsp. of salt on the sides of the jar.
- Transfer the miso paste to the jar a handful at a time.
- Compress the paste well as you go along to avoid air bubbles. Use a pestle if needed.
- Cover the miso paste with a disk of parchment paper or plastic wrap.
- Sprinkle salt where the edge of the jar meets the parchment paper.
- Fill the freezer bag with salt. Place it in the jar, pressing well so that the bag covers all the miso.
- Close the lid of the jar.
Fermenting the Miso
- Write on the jar the contents and the date of preparation.
- Place the jar in a corner that is neither too hot nor too cool and away from direct light.
- Let it ferment for at least 6 months. The longer the fermentation, the more complex and stronger the flavours. The miso will become darker and darker over time.
- After a few months, a dark liquid will accumulate on the surface of the miso. This liquid is tamari. You can collect it and use it to replace soy sauce.
Collecting the Miso
- To collect your miso, remove the weight and the parchment paper. Remove any grey oxidized parts. As you scoop, you will reach a beige or brown layer.
- Transfer to smaller jars and store in the fridge.
How to Use Miso in the Kitchen?
You now have a nice batch of homemade miso ready to use!
Use miso to replace salt or soy sauce in your recipes. Dilute it in a small amount of water to make it easier to use. You can also use it to replace concentrated stock cubes.
Add miso to a marinade or vinaigrette to deepen the flavours and boost the “umami” taste of your dish.
Miso can be used in a variety of recipes! Here are a few of them:
- Miso soup
- Split pea and miso soup
- Miso and maple glazed salmon
- Garlic, honey, and miso spareribs
- Miso and peanut marinated tempeh
- Grilled vegetables with miso vinaigrette
- Miso noodles with tahini
- Miso butter on corn
Want to explore? Learn how to make vegan cheese from miso and tofu!
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Difference between Miso and Soy Sauce?
Soy sauce and miso are two traditional Japanese fermentations. In both cases, koji and legumes are used. However, a different technique is used to make soy sauce.
Miso is a solid version of soy sauce used in recipes.
Can I Make Miso without Koji?
No. It is impossible to make miso without koji.
There are other fermented soybean pastes without koji, but the process is more complex and includes wild microorganisms.
If you don’t want to attempt making koji at home, get some dehydrated koji. This is the easiest way to start.
How to Make White Miso?
White miso, also known as sweet miso or shiro miso, is mild-tasting miso that is slightly less salty than most miso. Although it is salty, it also has sweet and floral notes.
To make white miso at home, increase the amount of koji and slightly decrease the amount of salt. White miso is ready in less than a month.
Mini Recipe for White Miso
To make white miso, follow the basic miso recipe, but use the following proportions of ingredients:
- 1.5 cups dried soybeans (350g)
- 4 cups koji rice (1000g)
- 1/4 cup salt (80g)
Let it ferment for 3 to 4 weeks.
How Long Miso Ferment?
As long as you can wait!
Miso gains flavour and depth over time. It changes colour, becoming darker and darker as it slowly caramelizes.
- 2 weeks (white miso): Soy flavour is very present. You can also taste the floral flavour of the koji.
- 3 months: Flavours start to develop, salty is still the main taste.
- 5 months: Flavour is close to mature miso but lacks complexity.
- 9 months: Miso starts to caramelize and becomes darker and darker.
- 12 months: Miso has the desired flavour, with nice complexity.
- 2 years and more: The longer you let your miso age, the stronger and more concentrated in umami it will be. (ref.)
How Do I Know If My Miso Is Ready?
To know if your miso is ready, taste it!
If you find that it could use a few more months of refining, put the weight back on and forget about the jar in the cupboard again.
What Should I Do If There Is Mould in My Miso?
Over time, mould or yeast may settle on the surface of the miso. However, oxidation, mould, and yeast are harmless.
Scrape off and discard the grey layer and anything suspicious on the surface of the miso. Wipe off the edges of the jar as you go. Below the surface, you will find a layer of miso that has not been in contact with oxygen and should smell and taste good. Trust your instincts!
If there are patches of mould through the miso, it is probably because it has been poorly jarred and large air bubbles have remained. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do, and you will have to throw it away.
What If My Miso Is Dry?
If your miso has been fermented in an environment that is a little too warm, it may lose its water over time. Before eating it, you can add a little water and stir it well until you get the desired texture.
What If My Miso Smells Like Alcohol or Lactic Acid?
Miso can have a strange smell, especially at the beginning of fermentation. These smells are often due to too much water in the mixture, or too little salt.
Sometimes simply letting the miso ferment longer will solve the problem. Make sure the weight on the miso is sufficient.