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What Type of Miso Paste to Use in Miso Soup?

I bought some brown miso paste to use when I make miso soup. However, when I made it, it didn't taste or look like the miso soup that I've had previously in restaurants. I've seen yellow, brown, and red miso. Which one do I use? Is there much of a difference between them?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. I use the shiro (white) miso, which is sort of cream color. It's the lighest and probably what you are familiar with. But you can use any color.

    There is a pretty big differences in flavor/saltiness between the different types. At least to my palate.

    3 Replies
    1. re: C. Hamster

      Can anyone tell me how long I can keep the miso.? Where do I keep it? Refrigerate or pantry?

      1. re: Snocookie

        Most sources including the inside container of Miso Master state that it should be good refrigerated for about a year. Just be sure the lid is on tight. All the miso pastes I've encountered must be refrigerated.

        1. re: gyp7318

          It's probably true that you should keep it refrigerated, but like most cheeses, miso is a fermented product. So you can leave it out. If it happens to grow any new friends, just scrape them off and you can use what's left. If you have a tiny fridge, as I do, don't waste that precious space on miso.

    2. Thanks--I'll have to look for shiro the next time I'm at the grocery store.

      1. To paraphrase Will Rogers: I never met a miso I didn't like.

        It's a matter of personal preference. All of them make great soup... it's just a matter of how better than great.

        If you google for ("types of miso") you'll find many descriptions, but then they need to be tried. The nice thing is that you can keep it in your fridge for years, so the initial expense of sampling the types is easily amortized over time.

        I'd recommend the unpasteurized misos, not just for the probiotic benefits, but also because it indicates more care in the manufacturing process. Brands: Miso master, Mitoku, and South River are great.

        Keep in mind that "miso soup" is best made with one or more of the 3 legs of the umami triad: broth from dried shiitake; kelp (kombu); and dried fish (katsuo, or niboshi). That said, a quick zap of hot water in a mug with simply the addition of a teaspoon of miso is good by itself.

        8 Replies
        1. re: FoodFuser

          Thanks for the helpful info, FoodFuser. With that being said, what kind of broth should I use to make my soup? Is there one made w/shiitake or will simply reconstituting dried shiitakes in hot water do the trick?

          1. re: gyp7318

            Soak dried shiitake in warm/hot broth for 10-30 minutes, remove and squeeze the remaining juice into the bowl. Reserve shrooms for other uses. The broth will be a rich brown.

            Many contemporary Japanese opt for the factory extracted "dashi no moto" ("source of the dashi"), a pelletized concentrate derived from katsuo and msg (kombu is a natural supplier of msg). Others use nitrogen packed shavings of katsuobushi, while some still shave their dried/smoked/fermented katsuo.

            If one considers "dashi" to be the Japanese analog to the Western "chicken stock", then it's easier to see why there is such wide amplitude in it's ingredients and preparation. Likewise, the number of flames and arguments as to which is the "best way". There are lot of good ways to make a stock from the umami triad.

            1. re: FoodFuser

              Gyp, I just noticed you are based in Durham. Miso Master is made in Rutherfordton, in a marvelous traditional factory. The full line should be available in the Triangle.


              1. re: FoodFuser

                Get out! :) After looking at the website, I remember seeing it at EarthFare (may the Chapel Hill store RIP). I'll look for it when I'm back in the Triangle. I work up here but live in Birmingham, AL hence my dual locations.

                Thanks so much!

          2. re: FoodFuser

            As an aside, I live in a town next to the one where South River Miso is made, and one of my neighbors works there. The care and attention to old world Japanese details amazes me. I do not remember the process so well, but they actually do have people treading the beans, much like grapes were stomped to make wine.

            I just looked at their website. it's pretty interesting if you are interested in miso or traditional methods in general:


            1. re: hilltowner

              i have to second this south river recommendation. i have been ordering their miso direct to my house since i moved back from Japan. unbelievably delicious. never pasteurized, made according to season, etc. wonderful. actually, given the rise of too-much-technology, etc. in Japan itself, i would say that south river's product is actually much better than a lot of what Japanese find themselves buying at their supermarkets. wonderful stuff. go for it.

              1. re: ben61820

                Yes, South River is possibly the most traditionally produced miso in the U.S. If anyone knows if there are even more traditional, let us know.

            2. re: FoodFuser

              Will also gave me one of the three or four quotations I have tried to live my life by, "Ya caint shine a turd".

              Oh, sorry, ...any miso will do.

            3. I generally use aka (red) miso. I find the white sort of bland.

              1. As a generalization, the lighter is 'traditionally' used for everyday soup making as the darker ones are saltier and while are used for soups as well, find their way into other sauces also.

                If you only buy one batch - get the white -

                You can blend them as well to find a flovor that works for you....don't forget a splash of Mirin (cooking sake) in the soup!

                1. interesting, a splash of mirin -- i have not heard that! is that commonly in miso soup recipes? will definitely try it out...

                  1. My first and best cooking gig was at a great Japanese joint may years ago and they taught me how to make a great soup!

                    My veg version is as follows:

                    sautee fine diced onion and carrot and kombu and shittake (dried is ok)in a bit of sesame oil.

                    when the onions become translucent, add water and make a stock (dashi) by letting the above boil a while **note** once you add the paste you want to avoid boiling as it can bitter the soup and miso has live, beneficial cultures as well.

                    After a bit, lower the heat and add the miso paste a few tablespoons at a time and use a whisk to mix. Finish with a dash of mirin and add cubed tofu and green onions.


                    p.s. eat with rice for a great Japanese breakfast! mmmmmm

                    1. Great idea about mixing w/a whisk. Thanks everyone for the suggestions/recommendations. I'll report back the next time I make miso soup!

                      1. There is also a marked difference in taste between Korean-style miso and Japanese-style miso. I had the same problem you did when I first made miso soup. I love this site, so much good information!

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: ballulah

                          I'm Korean and I didn't realize there was a korean type of miso. You're not talking about dang-jang are you? BTW, which miso did you end up using?

                          1. re: gyp7318

                            I shop at a big Korean supermarket both in NY and NJ, Han Au Reum, and the cooking demo ladies said that Korean miso was different from the Japanese. I'm not sure what exactly the difference is, though. I'm also not too sure what kind I bought as the package was all in Korean. I did notice that the miso soup I made, while it was good, didn't taste like miso soup I've had in Japanese restaurants. I believe the miso I ended up getting was a little sweeter and nuttier than other misos, more like the paste served with bulgogi in a Korean restaurant.

                            1. re: gyp7318

                              Different places in Japan (and probably Korea) are known for different types/colors/textures of miso. You can generally find them all in each place, but one will be more prevalent and used in more of the local cuisine. So that said, I believe a red miso is most common in Korea. The best ramen I've ever had was made with black miso. Yummmm!

                              1. re: gyp7318

                                Many non-Korean shoppers have no idea what doen jang is. Korean grocers will explain that it is Korean miso.

                                1. re: hannaone

                                  That makes sense since doen jang is essentially fermented soy paste, right? I was not a fan of it growing up---I thought it smelled bad. Howevever, since my taste buds and sense of smell have matured, I may have to revisit it.

                                  1. re: gyp7318

                                    You should smell it when it's being made!!

                                    Doenjang jjigae (Soy bean paste soup) is really good though. Another of those "smell bad - taste good" things

                                    1. re: hannaone

                                      how about cheongukjang? My mother made me some of that stuff the last time I visited her and I thought it was absolutely heavenly. She used some natto (it was cheaper than the korean kind), smashed it up, added garlic, gochugaru, dwaengjang, and some pork and made a great stew out of it

                            2. I made the soup this morning as a mid-morning snack. I made a dashi similar to what jbyoga outlined in his recipe above. The soup turned out FANTASTIC. I like my soup chunky w/lots of cubed tofu, seaweed, and shitake mushrooms. I didn't add any mirin to the soup b/c the addition of the wakame seaweed added a bit of sourness to the soup that brightened the flavor.

                              BTW, I ended up using shiro miso that I bought at a farmer's market in Atlanta yesterday.

                              Thanks everyone and happy chowing!

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: gyp7318

                                Hello - I live in Atl & hvng trouble figuring out which paste is yellow / white ? The pkg does not have any indication of strength. Where did you buy yr shiro - which farmer's market or do you hv any suggestions on how to read the pkg ?

                                1. re: capplewh

                                  I bought it at the Korean Farmer's Market on Buford. It now has a big latino foods section but is still korean-owned, I think. The brand I bought, Hikari, was in the refrigerated japanese food section w/the other miso pastes. It is a smallish square b ox that is organic and is from Japan. How did I choose it? Honestly, I kind of guessed b/c I didn't know which one to buy. I bought it b/c it was organic, it had the color that I'm used to---kind of a peanut butter brownness--and it said "premium choice" and "dark reserve". The last two could be laughable, I know, but I've been pleased w/it.

                              2. I eat Red Korean Miso for breakfast alot I just put a handful of mung bean noodles or rice noodles and some green onion in a bowl then nuke it for 7-8 minutes.Then when its finished and still hot ill add a tablespoon of miso and stir it in till its good and dissolved.Now you know how to make Lazy el Cheapo Miso.
                                Another good way is to cut beef,chicken,pork or fish into small 1 inch cubes,coat with egg,put in a plastic bag with flour in it,shake till coated,then fry it then when its golden crispy brown add it too the hot miso noodles and green onion.

                                1. Miso note: I just got back from Tomo Acu, Para, Brasil, where the Japanese arrived in 1929 and in the late 50s-erly 60s. The family we stayed with made miso as it has been made for ages (and without US-style regulation). Oishi!!

                                  1. As you have read, there are *many* types of miso. A very brief primer: (Experts please correct me if I am wrong...)

                                    Miso is made from soybeans, and usually a grain that has koji innoculated on it, and is then aged. Types go from hacho miso, which is (to my knowledge) the heaviest and darkest, from soybeans and koji only and is aged up to three years. These go all the way in lightness up to shiro miso, a mild sweet white one made with white rice (or is it sweet rice?) aged only about 40 days. Red miso is, I believe, also made with white rice but has a lower amount of koji than the white and is aged more. It is a popular type and one of my favorites.

                                    Grains used also include barley (mugi miso, probably the most widely used), buckwheat (soba miso), brown rice (genmai miso), etc., etc. Length of aging time varies.

                                    Some people mix different types. It all can be very simple or very complicated. There is, I believe, even a type made with no soy beans and with barley only.

                                    One common approach is to use the lighter misos in the summer and medium ones in the, well, winter. Miso soup made from heavy ones is really strong.

                                    Also as you have read the "stock" used is called dashi, and again there plenty of variations. The usual basis is bonito flakes and kombu. I use a lot of bonito in my dashi. I also add dried shitakis. Another trick for adding the miso to the liquid in order to make the soup is to force it through a sieve, which will also remove any flakiness. I forget if this has ben mentioned, but wait for the dashi to cool a little bit, because boiling liquid will kill the enzymes.

                                    This probably will annoy purists, but I usually make a big pot of dashi then portion and freeze. I can then let what I need thaw and voila -- I'm ready. It's also useful in other things, such as okonomiyaki.

                                    Have fun!

                                    1. Shiro (white) miso is also very yummy mixed with some mirin and a tiny bit of sugar and used as a marinade/glaze for broiled salmon.