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Apr 8, 2007 12:22 PM

Is Instant Miso Soup Any Good? (moved from Home Cooking)

I was in a Japanese grocery yesterday and was tempted by instant miso soup but did not purchase. I know miso soup is easy to make from scratch but my husband doesn't eat it and I don't want to cook it just for myself. Is instant miso soup any good? Is there a particular brand I should look for?

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  1. I have to say the little individual boxes of pre-made miso soup at Whole Foods are really good. They're not that expensive either.

    I'm blanking on the brand name, but there is a powder that comes in a white pouch (several packs in a pouch) available in both red and white miso, and both are quite good. A little spicier for my taste, but still good. Personally, I prefer the WF boxed ones.

    1. Define "any good." It's about as good as the Knorr-Swiss instant soups if that helps any....

      1. I'm assuming we're talking about the "dual packet" system here, with the liquid miso packet and then the packet of somewhat sorry freeze-dried tofu/wakame/scallions/etc? (I've never seen powder, that does sound dubious)

        I'd say they're rather better than Knorr instant soups, actually. (And in fact, Japanese Knorr soups are better than American ones-- I have to admit, I happen to quite like the corn potage one for salt-laden afternoon snack :) but that's a different topic)

        Anyway, a *lot* of Japanese people use the miso soup packs for convenience, and depending on your dashi-making skills and the quality of your katsuoboshi, the packets may end up tasting about as good as the version you would have made from scratch. There are definitely differences among brands, though. I find that some of the really cheap ones (like Kikkoman) are too salty, or taste otherwise a little off. In the mid-range, though, they tend to be quite similar. The sell-by dates are important: they do go bad, so check the date and don't bother with the "expired shelf". The only other warning is that the packaged ones do have MSG, so if that bothers you, you should probably avoid them...

        4 Replies
        1. re: another_adam

          Can you recommend a brand?
          I recently brought the ones that come in a green package that has a big number 11 in yellow inside a red circle--the kind that has the dry and paste packages.
          It was a struggle to choose which brand to buy as all the packaging is in Japanese only, I couldn't even see an expiration date (not in English anyway)
          This web site was part of information in the back:


          1. re: maria_nyc

            Two that are quite popular are Marukome (with a fat baby logo) and hanamaruki ("flower brand"). I can't always put my fingers on these in Boston, and sometimes end up with cheaper or inferior brands, and often they're not all that bad (miyasaka seems to have extensive market penetration in the US). There are also low sodium versions of many, and when I see those, I tend to get them. (Most are already plenty salty as it is) The expiration date *should* be stamped on the top where it's sealed, usually.

            As for the canned vs fresh chicken soup comparison-- yes, I'm certainly not saying that instant is as good as a Japanese mom's version, homemade by individual technique. For those of us who can't always find really nice katsuoboshi where we live, though, and would end up using bland ones or powdered dashi anyway, it's probably not so incredibly different. (Think more like the comparison with chicken soup made with a flavorless factory farm supermarket chicken) There are some decent (not great, decent) tetrapak broths these days, and I'd put the better instant miso's in that category with them.

            1. re: another_adam

              Hey, adam...even though the package of my instant miso soup says Miko brand it also says manufactured by Miyasaka Brewery...kind of confusing but I guess Miyasaka is the predominant producer of miso soup in Japan.

              1. re: Val

                Or at least one of the major exporters? I'm not sure what the conglomeration relations are, but I'm pretty sure Marukome and Hanamaruki are distinct (and maybe more popular in Japan?)

        2. I think they are good in the sense that canned chicken soup is "good" -- but would I rather have canned chicken soup than a bowl made fresh, with a whole chicken, herbs and spices and slowly simmered for hours on end? No.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ipsedixit

            That's true of a lot of meals, but not everybody has the time, knowledge, or inclination. I always budget time on the weekend for baking bread or making soup or stirring roux for gumbo, and I freeze what's left for the rest of the week. But sometimes I get the hankering for a nice bowl of Campbell's Bean & Bacon Soup. Same with barbecue. I regularly smoke 12lb briskets and pork shoulder for 18 hours, but sometimes, I want a quick fix and don't have 18 hours to wait. Enter the local quick fix bbq joint that sucks compared to mine, but does the job just the same.

            And as for instant miso, Kabuto is a solid brand. Paste instead of powdered miso and a dehydrated tofu/onion packet.

          2. Okay, I have a package of Miko brand Instant Miso soup here, just recently purchased it...says "no msg added" "non gmo soybean used"...not sure what 'gmo' means--anyone?...with this, you get a packet of miso paste and some wakame seaweed per serving, 3 servings in all, no dried tofu (you add your own it seems)...I did try it and liked it HOWEVER, the sodium is pretty high...790 mg per serving. Ingredients are all natural too so that's good. I've read other posts on this board where people just take some miso paste and add hot water themselves to make miso soup, then, of course, you add in your seaweed and tofu, I guess--would the sodium be very different? I'm just learning about this but I do love miso and am exploring more ways to enjoy it.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Val

              GMO stands for genetically modified organism.

              1. re: Val

                Miso has a pretty high sodium content, it is made by fermentation. The sodium content will vary depending on the type (soy, barley, rice) of miso & the length of time it was fermented. If you make a batch of dashi (freezes well, also can be in fridge for a number of days) you can stir in just how much miso you like and have more control over the saltiness. One of the benefits of miso is that it contains beneficial bacteria, so do not boil once the miso has been stirred into the dashi or the heat will kill the bacteria. It will still taste fine but won't be as good for you.

                Most soy is gmo these days, so if that type of production is of concern to you then you really have to read the labels & ask. Most companies using non-gmo will make sure the info is on the label.