The Secret Ingredient That Will Pack Your Dinner with Flavor

With a helping of this simple seasoning ingredient, you can transform any dish into something exquisite.

Miso paste on wood backgroundsuccesso images/Shutterstock

You might know miso from a quintessential Japanese appetizer—miso soup. But there’s so much more you can do with miso paste! It’s savory with a rich umami flavor and has many an application in the kitchen. Let’s take a closer look at all the things miso has to offer. Learn more about what umami is and why you should definitely include it on your plate.

What is miso paste?

It’s a paste made from fermented soybeans. The soybeans are mixed with salt and koji, a mold that’s also used to make sake. The blend might also include barley, rice, rye, or other grains. To get its unique flavor, the mixture ferments for anywhere from a couple months to years! The longer it ages, the darker and more complex in flavor the miso paste gets. Keep boosting your kitchen prowess with these 13 secret ingredients for irresistible cookies.

Just a tablespoon of miso paste can add some serious flavor to tofu or a bowl of ramen. Not only does miso add a savory element to your dish, it’s also good for you. Because it’s a fermented seasoning, miso paste contains probiotics, healthy bacteria which may boost your immunity, promote a healthier gut, and help alleviate some of the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Here’s more on why miso is healthy.

Ready to look for miso at the grocery store? Here are some of the different types you’ll come across:

  • White miso or shiromiso. This is the lightest miso and has the mildest flavor. Buy now.
  • Red miso or akamiso. Red miso sees a longer aging time and has a more pronounced taste and higher salt content than its white counterpart. Buy now.
  • Mixed miso or awasemiso. Red and white miso come together in this style, yielding a bold flavor. Buy now.

Here are 11 other ingredients that will make you a better cook.

How do you cook with miso paste?

Miso paste is wonderfully easy to cook with. As an ingredient with a high umami factor, a little miso goes a long way to add a satisfying, savory flavor to your dishes, much in the same way bacon or mushrooms do. There are obvious choices, such as slipping a couple of tablespoons of miso into a dressing. The salty paste also makes a killer contribution to meat marinades, especially when paired with other Asian condiments like rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame seed oil. You can also use miso as a solo flavoring.

What exactly makes miso an essential in your pantry? Because of its savory profile, you can get creative with flavor combinations. You can’t go wrong with miso and ginger with fish. If you have a sweet tooth, a tiny dollop of miso serves as the perfect salty foil to a decadent chocolate or caramel dessert.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro in the kitchen or want to learn a few new tricks, miso paste is an essential ingredient to stock in your kitchen cache! Next, check out these 10 secret ingredients you haven’t been putting on your sandwiches—but should.

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Camille Berry
Camille Berry is a food and drinks writer who divides her time between her native San Francisco and the UK. Her work has appeared on Wine Folly, Vinepair, The Back Label, in Spirited Virginia Magazine, and many other websites and publications.

Part of the third generation in a family of restaurateurs, Camille was practically born with a passion for cooking and food. She embarked on a career in hospitality where she excelled as a sommelier and wine director at several of San Francisco's most well-loved restaurants. This hospitality experience has endowed her with a wealth of first-hand knowledge of various cuisines, how to pair all manner of drinks with food, and entertaining – plus some serious kitchen skills. She is both a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers and a Certified Wine Specialist through the Society of Wine Educators.