Once upon a time a girl had a recipe that she made for all her friends when they came to her house. She used it as a sauce, a dressing, a dip…the limits of this recipe were boundless. It included plenty of healthy ingredients, including miso paste. She enjoyed feeding it to people as she knew it would fuel them well. But she also had a secret. She knew that if she made this miso recipe for people, they would fall deeply, deeply in love with her. There is no sad end to this story, the girl now has a collection of friends from all over the world who still contact her for her miso sauce. That girl is me, and today I will share that recipe.
If you’re still reading this, thanks…I got a little carried away. But the truth is this miso sauce is a recipe that I get asked for every. single. time I make it. It’s the type of thing you could eat 3x a week for the rest of your life and likely never get bored. At least that’s my current status. Before we dive into the recipe though, I want to talk a little shop on miso, as it’s one of those ingredients that is not a staple in every refrigerator but deserves a spot on your shelf. It can be a little intimidating using a food that you’re not familiar with, so let’s break it down. Honestly, now I’m starving.
Miso Paste: The 411
What is it? Miso paste is made from soybeans that are fermented with salt, koji (a fungus) and usually other ingredients (see more below). Miso means “fermented beans” in Japanese (according to the internet). It’s salty but its flavor depends on the type. It can also be sweet, earthy, fruity, savory and has a definite umami flavor. In all, it’s actually hard to describe. Imagine miso soup and go from there. Miso is traditionally used in sauces, condiments, soups, braises and traditional Asian cooking.
Why should we eat it? Where to begin. Miso is a (beloved) traditional fermented food that has tons of beneficial probiotic bacteria (to give your digestive tract some lovin’). It’s high in protein, fiber, minerals (particularly copper, zinc and manganese), antioxidants and phytonutrients. The fungus helps break down the soy before it reaches our guts, letting us better absorb the beneficial properties (which can be harder to do when soy is consumed in its non-fermented state). Soy (organic, non-GMO and preferably fermented) is known to have anti-cancer and heart health benefits.
So what were those types of miso? Don’t get overwhelmed when you first buy miso. You’ll see there are a variety of options – the most common are white, yellow, and red, although you may even find black miso. What’s the difference?
- White miso is made from soybeans that have been fermented with a large percentage of rice. This miso has a sweeter taste. It’s best used in sauces or condiments.
- Yellow miso is also made from soybeans that have been fermented with rice. It has a mild, earthy flavor and is great for sauces, condiments, soups and marinades.
- Red miso is made with soybeans fermented with barley or other grains and has a strong umami flavor. It can overwhelm sauces and milder dishes but it goes great in heartier soups and recipes that call for it!
- Black miso is made with heartier grains like buckwheat and has a very strong taste. I don’t have experience using this type of miso but if you have the chance to try it let us know what you think!
Where do I buy it? You can find miso at health food stores, Whole Foods or Asian supermarkets. (We’ve yet to see it at Trader Joe’s and it’s hit or miss at commercial grocery stores.)
Miso Hungry Sauce
- 1/4 cup yellow miso paste
- 1/4 cup tahini paste
- 1/4 cup waterJuice of
- 2 lemons
- 1 large garlic clove
- 2″ knob of peeled ginger
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
- Add all ingredients in a high speed blender and blend for ~ 1 minute or until a creamy paste forms. If you want a thinner consistency (like for dressing) add more water / lemon. If you want a thicker consistency (like for sauce or dip), add an equal amount of miso and tahini.
- Taste and see if you want to add anything – more sesame oil, spice, etc.
- Pour over a grain bowl, drizzle on salad, use as dip for veggies, or on anything for really! Congratulations, you’re popular.