Alternative namesSoybean paste, 味噌 (Japanese)
Place of originJapan
Associated cuisineJapanese
Main ingredientsFermented soybeans, salt, kōji (Aspergillus oryzae)
Miso is sold in storage containers.
Akamiso (red miso) has a reddish-brown color.
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy831 kJ (199 kcal)
Dietary fiber5.4
Tryptophan0.155 g
Threonine0.479 g
Isoleucine0.508 g
Leucine0.82 g
Lysine0.478 g
Methionine0.129 g
Cystine0 g
Phenylalanine0.486 g
Tyrosine0.352 g
Valine0.547 g
Arginine0.784 g
Histidine0.243 g
Alanine0.5 g
Aspartic acid1.171 g
Glutamic acid1.915 g
Glycine0.447 g
Proline0.619 g
Serine0.601 g
Vitamin A equiv.
4 μg
52 μg
0 μg
Thiamine (B1)
0.098 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.233 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.906 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
0.337 mg
Vitamin B6
0.199 mg
Folate (B9)
19 μg
Vitamin B12
0.08 μg
72.2 mg
Vitamin C
0 mg
Vitamin D
0 IU
Vitamin E
0.01 mg
Vitamin K
29.3 μg
57 mg
2.49 mg
48 mg
0.859 mg
159 mg
210 mg
3728 mg
2.56 mg
Other constituentsQuantity
Alcohol (ethanol)0
Percentages estimated using US recommendations for adults.[1]

Miso (みそ or 味噌) is a traditional Japanese seasoning. It is a thick paste produced by fermenting soybeans with salt and kōji (the fungus Aspergillus oryzae) and sometimes rice, barley, seaweed, or other ingredients. It is used for sauces and spreads, pickling vegetables, fish, or meats, and mixing with dashi soup stock to serve as miso soup, a Japanese culinary staple. Miso is high in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals, and it played an important nutritional role in feudal Japan. Miso is still widely used in both traditional and modern cooking in Japan and has been gaining worldwide interest.[2]

Typically, miso is salty, but its flavor and aroma depend on the ingredients and fermentation process. Different varieties of miso have been described as salty, sweet, earthy, fruity, and savory.


The origin of miso of Japan is not completely clear.

In the Kamakura period (1185–1333), a common meal was made up of a bowl of rice, some dried fish, a serving of miso, and a fresh vegetable. Until the Muromachi period (1337 to 1573), miso was made without grinding the soybeans, somewhat like nattō. In the Muromachi era, Buddhist monks discovered that soybeans could be ground into a paste, spawning new methods using miso to flavor other foods. In medieval times, the word temaemiso, meaning homemade miso, appeared. Miso production is relatively simple, so homemade versions spread throughout Japan. Miso was used as military provisions during the Sengoku period, and making miso was an important economic activity for daimyōs of that era.

During the Edo period (1603–1868), miso was also called hishio () and kuki (豆支)[8][9] and various types of miso that fit with each local climate and culture emerged throughout Japan.

Today, miso is produced industrially in large quantities, and traditional homemade miso has become a rarity. In recent years, many new types of miso have appeared, including ones with added soup stocks or calcium, made with beans other than soy, or having reduced salt for health, among other varieties available.


The ingredients used to produce miso may include any mix of soybeans, barley, rice, buckwheat, millet, rye, wheat, hemp seed, and cycad, among others. Lately, producers in other countries have also begun selling miso made from chickpeas, corn, azuki beans, amaranth, and quinoa. Fermentation time ranges from as little as five days to several years. The variety of Japanese miso is difficult to classify but is commonly done by grain type, color, taste, and background.

Many regions have their own specific variation on the miso standard. For example, the soybeans used in Sendai miso are much more coarsely mashed than in normal soy miso.

Miso made with rice such as shinshu miso (信州味噌) and shiro miso (白味噌) are called kome miso (米味噌).

Types and flavor

The taste, aroma, texture, and appearance of miso vary by region and season. Other important variables that contribute to the flavor of a particular miso include temperature, duration of fermentation, salt content, variety of kōji, and fermenting vessel. The most common flavor categories of miso are:

Although white and red (shiromiso and akamiso) are the most common misos available, different varieties may be preferred in particular regions of Japan. In the eastern Kantō region that includes Tokyo, the darker brownish akamiso is popular while in the western Kansai region encompassing Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe, the lighter shiromiso is preferred.

A more nuanced breakdown of the flavors is as follows:

Chemical properties of flavor and aroma compounds

The distinct and unique aroma of miso determines its quality. Many reactions occur among the components of miso, primarily the Maillard reaction, a non-enzymatic reaction of an amino group with a reducing sugar. The volatile compounds produced from this reaction give miso its characteristic flavor and aroma. Depending on the microorganism in combination with the variety of soybean or cereal used, many flavor compounds are produced that give rise to the different types of miso. Fermentation products such as furanone compounds, including 4-hydroxy-2(or 5)-ethyl-5(or 2)-methyl-3(2H)-furanone (HEMF) and 4-hydroxy-2,5 dimethyl-3(2H)-furanone (HDMF) are novel flavor compounds of miso.[11] HEMF is especially known for its sweet aroma and is very important for the sensory evaluation of the aroma of rice miso.[11]

The unique sensory properties of miso are complex. The key factor in the final product's overall quality is the microorganisms' enzymatic activity. They use the composition of miso (rice, barley, and soybeans) to produce different pigments, flavors, and aroma compounds.

Proteolysis of soybean protein produces constituent amino acids that impart an umami taste that enhances the relatively dull taste of soybean by itself.[11] Soy protein contains a substantial amount of glutamate, the salt of which is known as MSG or monosodium glutamate, a popular ingredient used by food manufacturers to improve the taste of their products.[12] The umami effect of MSG itself is one-dimensional. The umami taste of miso is multidimensional because of the myriad amino acids and fermentation products.

Barley miso is a traditional farmhouse variety made for personal use. Often called "rural miso", domestic barley is used more than imported barley. Containing glutamic acid and aromatic compounds such as ferulic acid and vanillic acid, barley miso is distinguished by a characteristic flavor.[11]


Miso's unique properties and flavor profile can be attributed to the compounds produced through the fermentation process. Miso, depending on the variety, consists of a starter culture called kōji (), soybeans, and usually a grain (either rice, barley, or rye).[13] The miso goes through a two-step process; first creating the kōji, and second the kōji is combined with the other components, and the mixture is left to be enzymatically digested, fermented and aged.

Creating koji

Koji is produced by introducing the mold Aspergillus oryzae onto steamed white rice. This mold culture comes from dried A. oryzae spores called tane-kōji (種麹, たねこうじ) or "starter koji" and is isolated from plant matter (usually rice) and cultivated.[14] In the past, the natural presence of A. oryzae spores was relied upon to create koji, but because of the difficulty of producing the culture, tane-kōji is added almost exclusively in both industrial and traditional production of miso. Tane-kōji is produced much in the same way as koji, but also has a small portion of wood ash added to the mixture[15] which gives important nutrients to the fungus as well as promoting sporulation.

A. oryzae is an aerobic fungus and is the most active fermenting agent in koji[13] as it produces amylolytic, and proteolytic enzymes which are essential to creating the final miso product. Amylolytic enzymes such as amylase aid in the breakdown of starch in the grains to sugar and dextrin,[16] while proteolytic enzymes such as protease catalyze the breakdown of proteins into smaller peptides or amino acids. These both aid in the enzymatic digestion of rice and soybeans. Depending on the strain of A. oryzae, the enzymatic composition varies, thereby changing the characteristics of the final miso product. For example, the strain used to create the sweeter white miso would likely produce a higher content of amylolytic enzymes, while comparatively, soybean miso might have a higher content of proteolytic enzymes.

To create optimal conditions for enzymatic production and the growth of A. oryzae, the koji's environment must be carefully regulated. Temperature, humidity, and oxygen content are all important factors in maximizing mold growth and enzyme production and preventing other harmful bacteria from producing. Once the koji has reached a desirable flavor profile, it is usually mixed with salt to prevent further fermentation.[17]

Although other strains of fungi have been used to produce koji, A. oryzae is the most desirable because of several properties, including the fact that it does not produce aflatoxin.[15]

Storage and preparation

Miso typically comes as a paste in a sealed container requiring refrigeration after opening. Natural miso is a living food containing many beneficial microorganisms such as Tetragenococcus halophilus, which can be killed by overcooking. For this reason, the miso should be added to soups or other foods prepared just before they are removed from the heat. Using miso without any cooking may be even better.[18] Outside Japan, a popular practice is to add miso only to foods that have cooled to preserve kōjikin cultures in miso. Nonetheless, miso and soy foods play a large role in the Japanese diet, and many cooked miso dishes are popular.


Miso is a part of many Japanese-style meals. It most commonly appears as the main ingredient of miso soup, which is eaten daily by much of the Japanese population. The pairing of plain rice and miso soup is a fundamental unit of Japanese cuisine. This pairing is the basis of a traditional Japanese breakfast.

Miso is used in many other types of soup and soup-like dishes, including some kinds of ramen, udon, nabe, and imoni. Generally, such dishes have the title miso prefixed to their name (for example, miso-udon) and have a heavier, earthier flavor and aroma than other Japanese soups that are not miso-based.

Many traditional confections use a sweet, thick miso glaze, such as mochi and dango. Miso-glazed treats are strongly associated with Japanese festivals, although they are available year-round at supermarkets. The consistency of miso glaze ranges from thick and taffy-like to thin and drippy.

Soybean miso is used to make a type of pickle called misozuke.[19] These pickles are typically made from cucumber, daikon, napa cabbage, or eggplant, and are sweeter and less salty than the standard Japanese salt pickle.

Other foods with miso as an ingredient include:

Nutrition and health

Claims that miso is high in vitamin B12 have been contradicted in some studies.[20]

Some experts suggest that miso is a source of Lactobacillus acidophilus.[21] Miso is relatively high in salt which could contribute to increased blood pressure in the small percentage of the population with sodium-sensitive prehypertension or hypertension. Several studies using salt-sensitive hypertensive models and analyzing long-term intake have suggested that miso lessens salt's effects on blood pressure.[22][23][24]

See also


  1. ^ United States Food and Drug Administration (2024). "Daily Value on the Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels". Retrieved 2024-03-28.
  2. ^ Global Miso Market 2018-2022 (Technical report). Research and Markets. 27 March 2018. IRTNTR21132. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  3. ^ "お味噌の歴史 (The History of Miso)" (in Japanese). Yamajirushi Jyozo. Retrieved 2013-11-20.
  4. ^ Shurtleff, William; Aoyagi, Akiko (2009). History of Miso, Soybean Jiang (China), Jang (Korea) and Tauco (Indonesia) (200 BC-2009). Soyinfo Center. p. 627. ISBN 978-1-928914-22-8.
  5. ^ Albala, Ken (2007). Beans: a history. Berg Publishers. p. 216. ISBN 978-1-84520-430-3.
  6. ^ a b "Open innovation of Marukome and Panasonic to create "New Miso Life"". Panasonic.com. Naoaki Yamamoto. 2018-03-07. Retrieved 2022-05-18.
  7. ^ a b "The origin of miso". Abokichi.com. Yumi Miyamoto. 2017-03-02. Retrieved 2022-05-18.
  8. ^ khintan (2020-12-02). "All About Miso & Miso Soup Recipe". Indoindians.com. Retrieved 2021-06-15.
  9. ^ Writers, YABAI (16 May 2017). "Everything You Need to Know About Miso Paste | YABAI - The Modern, Vibrant Face of Japan". YABAI. Retrieved 2021-06-15.
  10. ^ "Recipes for Hatcho Miso". NaturalImport.com. Archived from the original on 8 September 2015. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  11. ^ a b c d Steinkraus, Keith (2004). Industrialization of Indigenous Fermented Foods, Revised and Expanded. CRC Press. pp. 99–142.
  12. ^ Inoue, Yutaka (2016). "Analysis of the cooked aroma and odorants that contribute to umami aftertaste of soy miso (Japanese soybean paste)". Food Chemistry. 213: 521–528. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.06.106. PMID 27451212.
  13. ^ a b Davidson, Jaine; Alan, Tom (2014). "miso" The Oxford Companion to Food (3 ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199677337.
  14. ^ Steinkraus, Keith H., ed. (1989). Industrialization of indigenous fermented foods. New York: M. Dekker. pp. 99–112. ISBN 978-0824780746.
  15. ^ a b Robinson, Richard K. (2000). Encyclopedia of Food Microbiology, Volumes 1–3. Elsevier. pp. 66, 67.
  16. ^ "amylolytic, adj". OED Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 12 March 2016.
  17. ^ Shurtleff, William; Aoyagi, Akiko (2001). The book of miso. savory, high-protein seasoning (2nd ed.). Berkeley: Ten Speed Press. pp. 232–237. ISBN 978-1580083362.
  18. ^ Shurtleff, William; Aoyagi, Akiko (2001). The book of miso: savory, high-protein seasoning. Soyinfo Center. p. 48. ISBN 978-1-58008-336-2.
  19. ^ "Misozuke Recipe (Japanese miso pickle)". Whats4eats.com. Brad Harvey. 26 July 2008. Retrieved 2013-11-20.
  20. ^ "Vitamin B12". The Vegetarian Society. The Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom Limited. Archived from the original on August 22, 2008. Retrieved December 28, 2010.
  21. ^ Ehrlich, Steven D. (2011-05-24). "Lactobacillus acidophilus". University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). Retrieved 2013-11-20.
  22. ^ Ito, Koji (2020-08-31). "Review of the health benefits of habitual consumption of miso soup: focus on the effects on sympathetic nerve activity, blood pressure, and heart rate". Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine. 25 (1): 45. doi:10.1186/s12199-020-00883-4. ISSN 1347-4715. PMC 7461326. PMID 32867671.
  23. ^ Kondo, Hiroaki; Sakuyama Tomari, Hiroe; Yamakawa, Shoko; Kitagawa, Manabu; Yamada, Minami; Itou, Seiki; Yamamoto, Tetsuro; Uehara, Yoshio (November 2019). "Long-term intake of miso soup decreases nighttime blood pressure in subjects with high-normal blood pressure or stage I hypertension". Hypertension Research. 42 (11): 1757–1767. doi:10.1038/s41440-019-0304-9. ISSN 1348-4214. PMC 8076009. PMID 31371810.
  24. ^ Du, Dong Dong; Yoshinaga, Mariko; Sonoda, Masaru; Kawakubo, Kiyoshi; Uehara, Yoshio (2014). "Blood pressure reduction by Japanese traditional Miso is associated with increased diuresis and natriuresis through dopamine system in Dahl salt-sensitive rats". Clinical and Experimental Hypertension. 36 (5): 359–366. doi:10.3109/10641963.2013.827702. ISSN 1525-6006. PMID 24047246. S2CID 207516579.

Further reading