Inventive Miso Recipes to Dip Deep into that Tub
It's not just for miso soup! This umami-rich ingredient elevates dressings and dips, ribs, chicken wings, even desserts.
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I’m not a vegetables person. I know they’re good for me, but I just don’t look forward to or enjoy them the way I do other foods. So when I found a hack that made me actually crave vegetables, I was sold.
For me, that hack is miso dressing (read on for a recipe), which is similar to the salad dressing you’ll often find in Japanese restaurants. Its earthy, nuanced flavor is addictive, and I’ll gladly eat my fill of nutritious greens and crunchy vegetables so long as they’re drizzled with the stuff.
But the tablespoon or so of miso paste that I use for dressing still leaves me with a ton of miso. (It always comes in such large tubs!) Good thing I’ve discovered that I can use miso instead of salt to pack umami richness into my sauces, summery chicken wings and salmon, and of course miso soup. And guess what? It turns out that miso is a secret weapon when creating desserts. Miso’s deep, savory flavor enhances bold ingredients like chocolate and caramel, and it makes cookies, brownies, and ice cream exciting and complex.
What is miso?
Miso is a fermented, umami-rich soybean paste that lends a salty, slightly funky taste to both sweet and savory dishes. There are endless uses for it, and it keeps for a year or more in your fridge.
Types of miso
White miso (shiro miso) is typically the mildest and sweetest miso, followed by richer-flavored yellow miso, to progressively funkier and saltier red miso (aka miso) and dark miso. You should generally use lighter misos in desserts and recipes where you’d like a gentler touch and save red and dark misos for hearty stews and braises. (Only want one tub in the fridge? Every recipe below can be made with white miso.)
You may notice a few complementary ingredients that continue to pop up in the savory recipes below, such as sake, mirin (sweet Japanese cooking wine), fresh ginger, and scallions. While you certainly don’t have to have these items to cook with miso, they can come in handy.
Read on for 15 ways to incorporate the wonders of miso into your cooking this summer.
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Miso dressings and dips
As I mentioned, a generous drizzle of miso dressing gets me to eat my veggies, but miso sauces will make your proteins, noodles, sweet potatoes, and you-name-it sing.
This ginger, soy sauce, and miso dressing (plus a couple of other ingredients) is pretty close to the type of miso dip I eat on the regular. It’s sweet, salty, and complex, making it pretty fantastic for simple salads, fresh veggies, and more. I love to make big batches of it and keep it in the fridge, ready for whenever I need a snack.
Here’s a fantastic miso sauce made with just four ingredients — white miso, kombu (dried kelp, available at most Asian grocers), mirin, and sake. Try spreading this generously on your protein of choice, dipping your vegetables into it, or mixing it with warm rice for a super-quick, tasty meal.
In just 15 minutes, you can throw together a rich miso tahini sauce that can transform your weeknight cooking. Because this sauce is filling, versatile, and delicious, you can toss it with cold noodles, arugula, avocado, and egg (as suggested here); sweet potatoes (so good); or veggies for an instantaneous meal. As is usually the case with miso, scallions and toasted sesame seeds will accentuate the sauce’s flavor and add texture.
You’re probably familiar with the idea of flavoring butter with herbs to cook with vegetables, seafood, and steak. Swap in miso for the herbs, and you get a sweet, savory, salty seasoning that’s just as handy.
Sweet, crunchy, smoky grilled summer corn pairs so well with lime and salty, savory miso butter. This laid-back yet sophisticated recipe takes all of 30 minutes. If you like, make extra miso butter and toss it on a grilled protein (even the shrimp below) for an incredible outdoor meal.
This recipe calls for combining sake, mirin, and ginger with butter and miso, then slathering them over shrimp for a 10-minute marinade before grilling. I love the bright Japanese flavors that give the shrimp a distinct and tasty finish. This dish makes a great appetizer, or if you layer it over rice (or serve it with grilled corn), a fancy and simple, gluten-free main dish.
Miso soups and noodles
As legions of diners at Japanese restaurants will tell you, miso is made for soup and noodles.
Whenever I’m feeling rough, miso soup makes me feel better. The warm, earthy broth is nourishing and appetizing as well as totally simple to make. In addition to the classic combination of miso, tofu, and scallions, this version swaps in vegetable broth or chicken broth for the traditional dashi, and mushrooms instead of the usual dried seaweed, making it more approachable if you don’t have all the traditional Japanese ingredients on hand.
I love it when I can have dinner ready in less than 15 minutes. Light, chewy udon noodles pair beautifully with flavorful miso broth, scallions, shiitake mushrooms, ginger, and garlic. Feel free to add any vegetables of your choosing, as well as your protein of choice. While the author suggests red miso, white miso would work well here, too.
Authentic Japanese ramen has got to be one of the most satisfying dishes on the planet. Anyone who is familiar with it (beyond the packaged, instant variety) knows that the secret to an incredible ramen is its broth. And with 3 tablespoons of earthy, funky miso, this broth promises to be excellent. By the way, if you can’t find nori (dried seaweed), fried fish cakes, or kamaboko (a white fish cake), don’t fret — those are just garnishes that give added flavor and texture. The soup will still be delicious without them.
You wouldn’t think that miso and pesto would be so darn delicious together, but that’s the thing about miso — it shines in surprising ways. Kale, cilantro, walnuts, and miso make for a vibrant, rich pesto that practically bursts with summer flavor. In less than 30 minutes, you can whip up this pesto, coat ramen noodles with it, and add shrimp and lemon, as the recipe suggests, for a healthy and tasty main course.
Miso chicken, ribs, and salmon
Classic summer proteins just got better with the addition of savory miso.
Buffalo wings make for a great summer meal, except for the frying part, which can be messy and difficult to do in advance. This slow-cooked, miso-glazed method is a fantastic alternative. The gentle braising renders the meat tender and juicy, and the savory, sweet, and spicy miso, brown sugar, and ginger sauce penetrates the wings, transferring deep flavor. You can serve them on the spot or make them hours ahead — they’ll still be tender at room temperature, making them great for picnics, as the author says.
My mouth is watering over the spicy, tangy miso-mayonnaise marinade and sauce designed for these decadent ribs. While the recipe instructs you to use yellow or red miso, white miso would be fine, too. Be sure to get thin-cut, flanken-style (Korean) short ribs so they’ll cook through when you sizzle them in a stovetop skillet. I love how the ribs are served with bright radishes, zesty greens, and rice — a complete, easy summer meal.
Miso, sake, and mirin make for an incredibly quick and easy marinade for rich, buttery salmon. All you have to do is combine these three complementary ingredients into a thick sauce, slather it on the salmon, and let sit for 30 minutes. Then pop the fish into the broiler for a crispy exterior and creamy center. This healthy, wildly flavorful dish would be incredible on rice, alongside vegetables, or on its own!
Miso dessert recipes
I know: miso for dessert. It still sounds a little crazy, right? But think of what salty does for sweet, imagine a deeper flavor note, and you’re there.
Miso caramel is like salted caramel, but more interesting. So it stands to reason that miso caramel would elevate this lovely apple frangipane (sweet almond paste) tart into something even more sophisticated and tempting. To save time, use store-bought puff pastry sheets, which help this beautiful dessert come together in just over an hour.
This dark chocolate brownie recipe calls for red miso, but I bet white miso would work very well here. As the author notes, the miso deepens the flavor and softens the brownies’ texture, resulting in the fudgy, salty sweet dessert of your dreams. Plus, they come together in just an hour!
I would happily stuff these miso chocolate almond butter cookies into my mouth any day. The savory miso enhances the flavor of the almond butter and brown butter, making the final product even more enjoyable and exciting. I love the idea of adding an exotic flavor such as miso to the humble cookie, making a rather unpretentious dessert very fancy and fun.
Creative uses for pantry ingredients
Get the most from your canned coconut milk, jar of tahini, and stash of ramen!