In short, miso is a salty bean paste. It’s made from fermented soybeans, salt and koji (cooked white rice with a fungus added to it). Some types of miso have barley and even fish added to them for additional flavor. Miso is incredibly salty, making it a rich substitution for sodium in your dishes. Miso also comes in a lot of varieties, from white to red, and the color often reflects the flavor. Think of miso like a fine wine. A glass of white wine is light and fresh. The same goes for white miso paste. A red wine is more robust and darker—same for a red miso paste.
If you’re new to the world of miso paste, start with white miso. Red and yellow miso pastes have additional ingredients and longer periods of fermentation and are great for many uses, but if you’re new to miso, white is the way to go. It’s not as rich and funky as red or yellow miso pastes, so it’s approachable for newbies to the miso scene. Salty, fermented and sweet, white miso paste (also known as shiro miso) has layers of flavor while still being mild enough to meld with many other flavors.
Why We Love Miso Paste
- Complex yet versatile: If you’re looking for a secret umami agent, look no further. Miso paste is umami in a tub. The flavor is complex but it’s also versatile enough to use in a variety of dishes.
- Thickness: Unlike soy sauce, miso is a thick paste, which adds texture and body to vinaigrettes, sauces and soups.