Miso is one of my favorite everyday superfoods for so many reasons: it tastes amazing, has so many benefits for your body, and it is very versatile in the kitchen. What more could you want? In this post we’ll discuss what miso is, why it’s so good for your body and how to use it in a variety of recipes.
What is Miso?
Miso is a fermented paste of cultured rice (called koji), beans and salt. The ingredients are simple, but the biochemical processes that turn beans and rice into miso is pretty amazing. Koji is a mold that grows on rice, which is then mixed with cooked beans, most often soybeans. The mixture is salted and then left to ferment- sometimes for a few months, sometimes for a few years! Lighter, sweeter misos (white, chickpea and yellow miso) are often less than a year, while darker miso (red and Hacho) are often fermented much longer and have a richer flavor and thicker consistency. Generally, miso varieties are interchangeable, but as you begin to experiment with the varieties you will learn which you like for certain recipes. Also, in the tradition of Macrobiotics, lighter miso is better for warmer months, while darker, richer miso is best for cooler months. If you’d like to learn more details about the process, check out this post on The World’s Healthiest Foods.
Health Benefits of Miso:
As the miso ferments, the healthy micro-organisms in the koji produce enzymes that help break down the proteins, carbohydrates and oils in the grain and soybeans. This process makes the nutrients they contain easier for our bodies to digest and absorb (the benefit of all fermented foods.) After the fermenting process is complete the miso is ground into a smooth tangy paste that is filled with vitamins, protein and beneficial bacteria (the good guys found in our guts.)
How to Buy Miso:
There are many brands that I’ve tried and loved, but my favorite is Miso Masters for their price, flavor and variety. There are probably some local versions in your natural food stores or Asian markets; choose whichever fits your budget and tastebuds, although we definitely recommend organic and non-GMO miso (all the brands listed below are organic and non-GMO!):
Cooking Tips & 9 Miso Recipes!
Miso is very easy to use and very versatile. Found in the refrigerated section, it usually comes in tubs and is the texture of peanut butter. Always use clean utensils to scoop out your miso to keep the good bacterias good! Also, it is best NOT to cook it above just warm to maintain the health benefits of miso. Cooking or boiling the miso will decrease or eliminate all the magic that is contained within, like enzymes and probiotics. When adding to a soup, stir in just before serving on low or no heat. For blended sauces, just blend before serving. For marinades, if it does need to be cooked, reserve a little marinade to add after cooking.
The easiest ‘recipe’ for miso is to just mix a teaspoon of miso into a mug of very hot water, stir to dissolve, and drink it like a tea. I always do this when I’m feeling under the weather, whether a cold or a stomach bug thing. For other recipes, you can try blending into soups, dressings, sauces and marinades!
1. My Favorite Miso-Tahini Dressing: use for salads, noodles, steamed veggies, grain bowls, anything!
3. Basic Healing Miso Soup: sip all year long for boosted immunity and digestion.
6. Pumpkin Soup: Easy, delicious and so nourishing
8. Chocolate Cookie Dough Truffles: (yes, really!)