How to Add Miso to Practically Anything

Miso is one of those ingredients — either you know it and you like it, or it only exists in the form of lukewarm soup, handed to you as an appetizer in Japanese restaurants. But miso is delicious and versatile, and although it has a distinct salty flavor, it’s less of an acquired taste than, say, anchovies (or fish sauce!). Growing up with a Japanese mother, I love miso and use it often, and I’m always surprised by how good it tastes in practically anything. I had a friend text me recently, “Just picked up miso at the store. How should I use it tonight?” I responded with a list, then thought I’d share it with you guys, too. But before we begin, here’s a crash course on the stuff:

Miso, simply put, is a mixture of cooked soybeans, a fermenting agent, some salt, and water. There are many variations of it out there, but think of it like beer — some of it is light and mild and nutty, some of it is dark and rich. I usually buy white or yellow miso, which is slightly milder and works well in many dishes. You can find it in all Asian markets and at grocery stores like Whole Foods, or online. I like this brand. Okay! Let’s get started.

Mayonnaise. Miso mayo is AMAZING in any asian-inspired sandwich (think: cooked pork, cucumbers, hoisin sauce and miso mayo on a roll) or slathered on grilled chicken. For every cup of mayo, add 2 tablespoons mild miso. A dash of sriracha never hurts (or wasabi!).

Butter. Miso butter is also gold. Just do two parts butter to one part miso, and make sure both are pretty much at room temperature. Combine thoroughly, then add to sautéed spinach (my favorite), asparagus or green beans, and even grilled corn. Bonus: lobster dipped in melted miso butter is the best thing you’ll ever eat.

Barbecue Sauce. Why wouldn’t you add miso to barbecue sauce? This dish sounds amazing.

Soup. Clam chowder, butternut squash soup, carrot soup — miso does swimmingly (heh) in many classic soup recipes, including, of course, miso soup and ramen. A tip: miso is never supposed to be boiled, and the Japanese are very adamant about this. When adding miso to a broth or soup, you first combine it with a little water in a small bowl (tempering!) until it forms a paste, and then you add it to your pot of soup, set to low heat.

Salad dressing. This and this are my go-to salad dressings for anytime I’m making Asian food or a rice bowl for dinner. This one and this one also look great. Word to the wise: A little goes a long way, so dress your salad sparingly. Once you try it, you’ll always want some stocked in your fridge. It’s finger-licking good.

Caramel sauce. Enter the wildcard. But would I direct you to a recipe that I full-heartedly didn’t back up? Never. I was skeptical of this miso caramel sauce until I tried it. It’s good and clever. Dinner guests would be impressed.

And, of course, miso tastes great on fish, on meat, in ramen, with noodles… the list goes on. Have you used miso? How do you use it? And feel free to ask any questions in the comments!


Top image by James Ransom for Food52, bottom by Deb Perelman

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