FROM WHITE TO RED: GET TO KNOW THE MYSTERIOUS MISO

Have you tried using miso in the kitchen? Learn why this savory paste is good for your gut, and get cookin’!


BY: JEANNE PETRUCCI, MS, RDN

Mix beans, mold, and salt and let sit for 6 months to ferment.  “Yum!” is probably not your first reaction to this recipe for making miso paste. However, when it’s used strategically in the kitchen, miso paste can transform dishes.  

From dressings to glazes to soups, miso paste is a versatile ingredient that can be used in so many ways in the kitchen. Let’s answer some common questions about this mysterious paste:

So what is miso?

Miso a traditional Japanese seasoning made by fermenting beans or grains.  The result is a salty paste with a creamy texture and strong “umami” presence, which is a category of taste that reflects a savory and meaty gastronomic experience.

While miso is traditionally made from soybeans, you can find pastes made of grains, like rice and barley, and other beans, like chickpea and aduki.  As a more mild, sweet flavored miso, chickpea is the most appropriate for any soy-concerned folks.

What are the different varieties?

Each miso paste has a unique flavor, so experiment to see what your preferences are. Here are some varieties to consider:

White, Yellow, Red Miso:  The difference in color reflects the amount of time the paste was fermented. White is the mildest, and red has a stronger flavor.

Chickpea Miso:  Like all miso pastes, it has a long-shelf life in the refrigerator – up to a year for most varieties.

Rice or Barley Miso:  Be sure to read labels as many rice miso pastes are actually a combination of grains and beans.  Some have soy and others may have barley – which is important to note if you need to avoid either ingredient.

What are the health benefits?

As a fermented food, miso paste is loaded with probiotics, the little bugs that help maintain a healthy gut flora.  Specifically, it’s loaded with the fungal microorganism Aspergillus oryzae, which is added at the beginning phases of the fermentation process. These probiotics are sensitive to temperature, which is why refrigeration of miso paste is necessary.

If you are using miso in your soup or other recipes that calls for heat, you can say goodbye to most of these friendly bacteria. However, using miso paste in dressings and cool sauces, like a yogurt sauce, is one of the best ways to maintain its gut health benefit.  For example, try dressing up any leftover roasted veggies to make a miso-flavored power bowl.  

Of course, you can always still use miso in hot recipes because the flavor profile is just too good and it eliminates the need for added salt.  Salt is a key ingredient in all miso pastes so if you are following a low-sodium diet, be sure to use them in moderation.

Get cooking, and see what amazing flavors you can get out of your dishes!

Adapted from the original article.
HEADER IMAGE: DA LIMA

Jeanne Petrucci, MS, RDN is the founder of Living Plate, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to inspiring wellness through nutrition education that incorporates food experience.  Jeanne develops evidence-based nutrition programming and meal planning tools to help organizations and other dietitians encourage behavior change in their communities.  Learn more at Living Plate.

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