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a bowl of golden miso and bowl of dark miso

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Miso is a mixture of soybeans, salt, and koji — a mold typically made with rice or barley that acts as a fermentation agent. The resulting umami-rich paste is a key ingredient in many Japanese dishes, including miso soup. You can find miso paste at Asian markets and most well-stocked grocery stores, or purchase it online. Store it in the refrigerator for up to a year, with plastic wrap or parchment paper pressed against the surface to prevent oxidation.

Pick Your Paste

There are more than 1,300 different types of miso, but most American markets offer one of two categories: red or white. Red miso comes in various shades of brown and will feature a funky, salty flavor due to its long fermentation. White miso can range in color from beige to yellow and tends to taste lighter and sweeter.

Get a Boost

Because it’s a fermented food, miso is an excellent source of probiotic bacteria. It also delivers abundant B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, which is particularly valuable for those who don’t get those nutrients through animal products.

Mix It Up

Add a bit of red miso to a braise or stew to boost richness and complexity, or whisk a tablespoon of white miso into salad dressings or sauces to impart a mild umami flavor. Learn how to add white miso to roasted vegetables at Bryant Terry’s Molasses, Miso and Maple Candied Sweet Potatoes or check out our Miso Broiled Salmon.

This article originally appeared as “Miso” in the March 2021 issue of Experience Life.

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