Food, Recipes, Cooking Tips

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Know Your Miso: A Guide to the Three Main Styles

You’ve likely seen miso in many different menus and woven into recipes, but you may not really know what it is and how to use it. Miso is a fermented paste that’s made from grain, soybeans, salt, and kōji, a type of fungus that’s used to make soy sauce and saké. It has a savory flavor, adding that extra oomph you didn’t know you needed in your life.

Miso was birthed in ancient Japan, where each region and subculture imparted their own impression on a basic recipe. As such, it’s a deeply meaningful ingredient in Japanese cooking and today, there are literally hundreds of varieties of miso. They can generally be divvied up into three categories: white, red, and awase. Each differs based on the primary grain they use as well as the length of time they’re fermented for, dictating its color and flavor.

A great tip to live by when it comes to miso? The deeper its color, the more intense its flavor. Keep a hunk of it in on-hand to put a little funk into your soups, sauces, dressings, and even desserts. When stored in either the fridge or the freezer, it can keep for up to a year and depending on the quality of the miso, it may even taste better with time. You can readily find miso in grocery stores these days, but if you want one of the more uncommon varieties, your search may lead you to an Asian market. It’s a wonderful and unique ingredient—learn about the three main miso styles, along with a few niche varietals, and what to expect from each one. (Read more at

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