Make 2015 more flavorful by adding a dash of miso to your dishes. Miso is a Japanese ingredient made through an ancient technique using rice, a spore called Aspergillus Oryzae, soybeans, and time. To watch a miso producer in action, see the “Soy” episode of the PBS show The Mind of a Chef, available on Netflix. Miso ranges from white to yellow to red to brown to almost black. The colors are achieved by different methods — time fermenting or ratios of ingredients — and they’re a great indicator of how strong the miso flavor will be: the darker the miso, the stronger the flavor.
Although very high in sodium, miso packs quite a few nutritional benefits. Miso is high in fiber and protein, and very high in vitamin A, potassium, copper, calcium, and manganese, according to its SELF Nutrition Data profile. Because of the way it is made, Med-Health says its also a good source of vitamin B12, which is especially important for brain function.
Miso heightens the flavors in a dish, making your meal more complex. Use it to enhance your everyday meals and up your wow factor by making one of the following 8 recipes.
1. 10-Minute Miso Soup
We’ll get the obvious recipe out of the way immediately: miso soup. This recipe from Steamy Kitchen uses instant dashi, which is like bouillon for the classic Japanese stock, to help you get it on the table in no time. For miso soup lovers, having instant dashi and miso paste at home will make soup cravings a much easier experience. Jaden warns that you should never boil miso, as it will become bitter, so add the miso to the broth after you’ve turned off the heat. Use a lighter miso paste for soup.
- 8 cups water
- 1½ teaspoons instant dashi granules
- ¼ cup miso paste
- 1 tablespoon dried seaweed (for miso soup), soaked in water
- ½ cup cubed tofu
- 2 tablespoons chopped green onion
Directions: Pour the water into a pot and bring to a boil. Add the instant dashi and whisk to dissolve. Turn the heat to medium-low and add the tofu. Drain the seaweed and add the seaweed to the pot. Simmer for 2 minutes.
Spoon the miso paste into a bowl. Ladle about ½ cup of the hot dashi broth into a bowl and whisk with chopsticks or a whisk to mix and melt the miso paste so that it becomes a smooth mixture.
Turn the heat off, add the miso slurry to the pot, and stir well. Taste the soup — if it needs more flavor, whisk in another tablespoon or two of miso paste. Top with green onions and serve immediately.
2. Corn With Bacon and Miso Butter
This recipe comes from Gourmet, having been adapted from a dish Chef David Chang makes for Momofuku in New York City. The use of miso in this dish turns corn into a can’t-eat-enough side dish, making it an umami sidekick to the smoky bacon.
- ¼ pound thick-sliced bacon
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon white miso
- 1 small onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
- 10 ears corn, kernels cut from cobs (6 to 7 cups)
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup thinly sliced scallions
Directions: Cut bacon crosswise into ⅛-inch strips. Cook bacon in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer bacon with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain, leaving fat in skillet.
While bacon cooks, stir together butter and miso in a small bowl.
Cook onion in bacon fat over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, 5 to 8 minutes. Add corn and pepper and increase heat to moderately high, then cook, stirring constantly, until some of kernels are pale golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Add water and butter mixture and cook, stirring, until corn is tender and coated with miso butter, about 4 minutes. Stir in bacon, ¼ cup scallions, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve sprinkled with remaining ¼ cup scallions.
3. Spicy Roasted Chicken Thighs With Miso and Ginger
By using chicken thighs in this dish from The Kitchn, you’re combining the tender texture of the thighs with a tangy-spicy-salty-spicy flavor combo that fires on all cylinders. It’s quick, easy, and something a little different to add into your rotation. Use a yellow or even a red miso for this recipe.
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 3 tablespoons miso paste
- One 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
- 4 to 6 garlic cloves
- 1 lemon, zested
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce OR red chili paste
Directions: Take the chicken thighs out of their packaging and pat dry.
In a food processor or small chopper, process the rest of the ingredients until they form a sauce-like red paste. Dump this over the chicken in a large bowl or pan and mix well. Refrigerate the chicken overnight, or bake immediately.
To bake, heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread the chicken in a single layer on a large baking sheet or roasting pan. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping the chicken thighs over once halfway through the baking time. When the internal temperature of the chicken is between 160 and 165 degrees Fahrenheit, take out the pan and let the chicken rest for 5 minutes.
Serve while still piping hot.
4, Stir-Fried Japanese Eggplant With Ginger and Miso
Rather than picking up a big black Italian eggplant, try using a long, thin, Asian-style eggplant for this dish from Simply Recipes. With less tendency to be tough and spongy and with a more tender skin, this style of eggplant quickly cooks down into a silkier end product than a globe or bell eggplant. Ginger and miso are a pretty standard combo, kind of like a good ol’ PB&J. This particular recipe also calls for shiso, a mint-like herb that can be hard to find. If you cannot find it, substitute with Thai (not Genovese) basil or normal fresh mint.
- 2 tablespoons good-quality white miso
- 1½ teaspoons sake
- 1 pound Japanese eggplants (4 to 5 long, skinny eggplants)
- 6 tablespoons canola oil or other high smoke-point oil (not olive)
- 2 whole, dried red chili peppers, torn in half
- 1 tablespoon peeled, slivered fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon finely sliced shiso leaves
Directions: Stir the miso and the sake together in a small bowl; set aside.
Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise. Then slice them on a diagonal, crosswise, in smallish half-inch thick slices.
Heat the chilies in the oil in a wok or large skillet on medium heat. Once the chilies start to sizzle and you can smell the aroma of them, add the ginger and eggplant slices, and toss to coat with the oil. Stir gently for several minutes until the eggplant pieces are soft.
Add the miso-sake mixture to the eggplant pieces and gently stir to coat. Remove from heat. Stir in the chopped shiso and serve immediately.
5. Miso-Glazed Salmon With Wilted Spinach
In this quick fish recipe from Cooking Light, via My Recipes, miso really complements the flavor of the salmon and is deepened further by soy sauce, rice vinegar, and mirin. Mirin is a sweet rice wine often used in Asian cooking, but if you can’t find it, you can substitute in a bit of honey for sweetness, as Alton Brown does.
- 1 tablespoon white miso paste
- 2 teaspoons mirin
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
- Two 6-ounce skinless salmon fillets
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- One 10-ounce package fresh spinach
- 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
Directions: Preheat broiler.
To prepare fish, combine the first six ingredients in a small bowl and brush evenly over fish. Arrange fish on a foil-lined baking sheet; broil for 8 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
To prepare spinach, while fish broils, heat sesame oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and spinach to skillet; cook 30 seconds or until spinach just begins to wilt, tossing mixture constantly. Stir in 2 teaspoons soy sauce.
6. Miso Sesame Winter Squash
Though this recipe from 101 Cookbooks seems a little like everything from your cabinet, the flavors work really well together against the subtle sweetness of the winter squash. Rather than reaching for a butternut, try this with almost any other type of squash: delicata (bonus here is not having to peel it), kabocha (a Japanese squash), and acorn are all good squashes for this dish.
Though you can substitute soy sauce for the tamari if you already have it, they’re not quite the same. For one, tamari is usually gluten-free. It’s actually a byproduct of miso production, making this dish particularly synergistic. Tamari has less of a bite than soy sauce does, and it tends to be great as a dipping sauce base, if you’re looking for a reason to buy it.
- 2 pounds delicata squash, halved, seeded, and cut into ½-inch thick pieces
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 1 teaspoon tamari or shoyu
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1 heaping tablespoon white or yellow miso
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 5 tablespoons water
- 8 ounces organic extra-firm tofu, pressed, cut into ½-inch cubes
Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, with a rack in the middle.
In a large bowl, toss the squash with 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil. Spread the squash on a parchment-lined or well-greased baking sheet in a single layer and roast for 40 minutes, turning over with a fork halfway through.
In the meantime, in a medium-size bowl, whisk together the molasses, tamari, maple syrup, miso, orange juice, lemon juice, lemon zest, water, and the remaining tablespoon of sesame oil. Add the tofu, toss to coat, and set aside.
Transfer the squash to a 2-quart baking dish. Pour the tofu mixture over the squash and gently toss. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes, or until a good amount of the marinade boils off. Toss a couple of times along the way. Finish under the boiler if you extra color on top. Remove from the oven and season with salt, if needed. Finish with some toasted sesame seeds, chopped arugula, and/or herbs, and serve immediately with lemon wedges on the side.
7. Sesame Miso Vinaigrette
For a vinaigrette to use on a green salad, dress a cold noodle salad, or as a grill marinade for chicken or pork chops, look no further than this recipe from Bon Appétit. The vinaigrette will last for one week, sealed in a jar and kept in your fridge.
- 1 red Fresno chile, with seeds, finely chopped
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons white miso
- 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- ½ teaspoon grated peeled ginger
Directions: Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl.
8. Miso-Marinated Flank Steak
The same way that the flavors of tomato and mushroom and Worcestershire sauce deepen the flavors of red meat, miso really enriches the umami in this steak from Eating Well. The miso and sake help tenderize the flank steak. If you’re really into miso by now, you can up the ante by using a darker red or brown miso paste. If you’re still not so sure, go ahead and use a paler version.
- ⅓ cup sake
- ¼ cup mirin
- 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons miso
- 1 flank steak (about 1½ pounds), trimmed
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil
Directions: Combine sake, mirin, soy sauce, ginger, and sugar in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and whisk in miso until fully dissolved. Let cool.
Place steak in a gallon-size sealable plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Turn the bag several times to coat the steak. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to 1 day, turning the bag a few times, if possible, to redistribute the marinade.
Remove the steak from the marinade, discarding the bag and marinade, and let it stand on a plate at room temperature for 40 minutes.
Position oven rack about 3 inches from the heat source; preheat broiler to high. Alternatively, preheat a grill to medium-high.
Pat the steak dry and brush with oil. Place on a broiler pan or directly on the grill rack and cook, flipping once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 125 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit for medium-rare, 3 to 6 minutes per side, depending on thickness. Transfer the steak to a clean cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. To serve, cut diagonally across the grain into ¼-inch-thick slices.