8 New Ways to Use Miso Paste

If you’re wondering how to use miso paste left over from that one meal you made a while back, we have some ideas for you! Here we’ll share what we think are the 8 best ways to use miso. Guaranteed you’ll find some uses for miso paste that appeal to you!

  • By Jess Dang
  • December 15, 2020

If you’ve cooked a Japanese meal recently, there’s a good chance you have most of a tube, tub, or bag of miso paste in your fridge, staring at you every time you open the door. You may be wondering what else you can do with this salty, umami paste. Is it a one-trick pony, or do you have options? And the answer is that while you’ll rarely use much miso paste in a single meal, there are actually a wide variety of ways to use miso, both Asian-inspired and not. 

But before we get into the specifics, let’s talk more about this delicious, savory ingredient.

What is miso paste?

Miso paste is made of soybeans fermented with salt and koji, an edible mold formally known as Aspergillus oryzae. Koji is also used to make soy sauce, sake, and other fermented delicacies. The mold occurs naturally in Japan, which is why it’s used most commonly found in Japanese food. But miso’s flavor is not specific to Japanese cuisine; you can add it to a wide variety of types of food any time you want a boost of umami flavor (as you’ll see in the non-Asian recipes we list below).

Once the soybeans, salt, and koji (often growing on some kind of grain) are mixed together, they’re left to ferment for as little as a few weeks and up to several years. Lighter colors of miso are typically sweeter and mild tasting, while darker miso usually has a stronger flavor. Though it sometimes makes sense to pair the type of miso with the type of recipe you’re making, you can generally substitute one style of miso for another. 

And if your miso has been waiting for you to return to it for a while? Good news! If kept refrigerated, miso can last around a year in your fridge without a reduction in quality.

Most of us are familiar with miso thanks to miso soup, but uses for miso go well beyond this simple broth. Here are some of our favorite ways to use miso paste. 

1. Use in ramen broth

Miso is an important ingredient in many ramen recipes. Use it to flavor your ramen broth along with ingredients like garlic, lime juice and zest, cilantro, and soy sauce, as we do in our Miso Lime Veggie Ramen. This is an easy recipe to use as a starting point to modify for use with whatever you have in your pantry and fridge.

We like to sauté hard vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, or carrots in a Dutch oven before adding aromatics including miso paste. Once the aromatics are fragrant, you can pour stock over the top and bring it to a simmer. Once the vegetables are nearly tender, add any ramen noodles, soft vegetables, and edamame or other beans that need to be warmed through. When everything is cooked, take it off the heat and stir in lime juice, soy sauce, and any additional miso paste you might want to use. Dress the individual bowls of ramen with cilantro, and serve them with additional lime wedges and optional hot sauce.

2. Make miso butter

Our Cook Smarts user community raves about miso butter, which we use in recipes ranging from grilled steak, as in our Steak with Miso Lime Butter, to halibut to tofu to pork chops. In its most basic form, miso butter is simply butter mashed with miso paste and a little lime juice, but depending on the other flavors in the recipe we sometimes like to add additional ingredients, such as sriracha, green onion, or cilantro. And while our favorite way to use miso butter is to spoon it over a warm protein, it also shines on steamed vegetables or rice.

3. Add umami flavor to vegetarian soups and stews

Soups and stews often get their umami flavor from meat, whose juices seep out into the broth and simmering vegetables. If you’re eating vegetarian, you may not miss the chunks of meat in your bowl as much as you miss the flavors that meat imparts to the stew as a whole. One way to add some of that great umami flavor back in without the meat is to add some miso paste to your broth. We recommend about one tablespoon for 4 servings of soup. We’ve used this trick in the vegetarian version of our Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup with excellent results, as well as in minestrone.

4. Use in a pan sauce

Nothing elevates a meal like a good pan sauce, which is a warm sauce made from the drippings and caramelized bits left behind in a pan after cooking meat. Pan sauces can be simple, but they’re a great way to add additional flavor to a meal, not to mention make it feel instantly fancy — and miso is a great way to add additional flavor to your pan sauce.

We use this technique in our Asian Pork Chops with Ginger Miso Pan Sauce recipe, but the same idea can be applied to other meats and flavor profiles. After cooking spiced pork chops, remove them from the pan and deglaze the pan with stock and a mixture of fresh ginger, rice vinegar, miso paste, toasted sesame oil, light brown sugar, and a little water. Scrape up the delicious browned bits from the bottom of the pan and incorporate them into the sauce as it simmers. Once it thickens slightly, remove the sauce from the heat and serve it over the top of your meat. 

5. Add to a stir-fry

Miso adds extra flavor to stir-fry sauces, along with ingredients such as garlic, soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, and toasted sesame oil. You can even make miso butter, as described above, and stir it into your stir-fry toward the end of cooking! We use this technique in our Chicken, Green Bean, and Mushroom Stir-fry, and Cook Smarts users report it’s the best part of the meal.

6. Make marinades even more flavorful

Marinating meat before cooking vastly improves the flavor and texture by tenderizing the meat and allowing more of the flavor to soak in. Marinades typically include oil, some type of acid (such as vinegar, citrus, or wine), and other seasonings that impart flavor. Miso makes a great marinade component. Add it in anywhere you need more salt and savory flavor, or make a marinade specifically meant to use miso. We like to make a miso-based marinade for our Sriracha Chicken Ramen Salad, in which half the marinade is used on the chicken before cooking, and the other half is saved to toss with the salad at the end.

7. Enhance a panko crust 

Panko breading adds a great crunch to proteins and even some vegetables, but by itself panko is low on flavor. That’s why we like to add some miso paste to panko breading before using it to crust chicken, fish, halloumi, tofu, or vegetables. For instance, you can mix maple syrup and fresh ginger with butter before stirring it into panko breadcrumbs for a breading that’s a little sweet, a little spicy, and altogether delicious, as we do in our Miso-Maple Crusted Chicken Breasts. Coat the chicken with the breadcrumb mixture and bake at 400 degrees F until cooked through and crispy — then use any leftover miso-maple butter on roasted carrots fresh out of the oven. 

8. Whisk into salad dressing

Add a rich, robust flavor to salad dressing by whisking in miso paste. This works especially well for Asian-inspired salads, such as our Tuna Roll Salad. This salad is reminiscent of deconstructed sushi, so miso is a natural pairing to bring out the flavors of the seared tuna. In the dressing for this salad, we use fresh-grated ginger, garlic, rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey, toasted sesame, and cooking oil along with the miso paste, which creates a well-rounded balance of sweet, sour, spicy, salty, and umami that works well for full-meal salads.

Want more great ways to use miso, along with specific recipes to ensure your efforts turn out perfectly? All of the recipes and techniques mentioned above are a part of our meal plan service, where we send you a carefully crafted meal plan menu once a week. For more info and to get a taste test with a free 14-day trial, sign up here.

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