Miso is an interesting ingredient. On the one hand it’s ultra-familiar. Most everyone by now has had miso soup delivered to their table at a Japanese restaurant, but did you know that the seasoning is actually produced by fermenting soybeans with salt and an edible fungus?
And while many of us have ordered miso soup before, miso paste isn’t something that the majority of people have in their own kitchen. Even though its umami, savory flavor that ranges salty to sweet to earthy makes it one of the most versatile ingredients on the planet, miso often gets written off as just the base for a soup. Mostly because it’s really so delicious that way.
But it can do so much more. We’ve all been missing out on miso’s full potential as an ingredient for too long, so let’s broaden our horizons with this list of five things you can do with miso that don’t involve soup.
1. In A Glaze Or Crust For Fish
You can really use miso to glaze any type of meat—or even tofu!—where you want a golden brown crust with lots of great umami flavor, but we particularly like the way it pairs with mild white fish, like in our Miso Ginger-Crusted Pollock with Chinese Broccoli and Potatoes shipping this week. All you need to do for the glaze is stir together miso paste, soy sauce, and mirin (a type of rice wine similar to sake), allow the fish to marinate in the mixture for ten minutes, and then broil it under high heat until caramelized, perfectly melding the flavors.
2. To Pickle Vegetables
In the same way that many American households use vinegar for curing vegetables, it’s common in Japan to use miso as a pickling agent, and the process couldn’t be simpler. Just thinly slice up a pound of nearly any vegetable—this recipe suggests turnips, carrots, eggplant, zucchini, radish, jicama, celery, kohlrabi, or summer squash, instead of the traditional cucumbers—and submerge them in an inch or two of miso. After 24 hours, do a taste test, and then it’s up to you whether to put the veggies in longer or enjoy the crisp, salty pickles right away.
Also, here’s a helpful hint: You can reuse the same miso several times for many vegetables, so make sure you don’t throw it out after your first round of pickling.
3. Mixed In With Rice
You add salt to rice anyway when you cook it, so substituting a sodium-rich ingredient like miso paste is a no-brainer. We tried it out in our Miso Rice Bowl with Roasted Redfish and Fried Parsley, and found that adding in milk in addition to miso early in the cooking process mellows out the salt and leaves you with fragrant, steaming mounds of irresistible rice.
4. As A Salad Dressing
(Image: Bon Appetit)
Because of its complex, earthy flavor, miso is the ideal candidate to brighten up a standard vinaigrette. This one uses white miso, carrot, ginger, sesame, and rice vinegar, sweetened at the end with a bit of honey, and is sure to give you the perfect kick of acid on a crisp salad.
5. In A Compound Butter
If you thought roasted vegetables were delicious all on their own, or with a drizzle of olive oil, wait until you taste them dabbed with a bit of miso butter. As we found in our recipe for Apple Sesame Forbidden Rice with Miso Cauliflower, starchy vegetables provide a superb base for the rich, melty goodness of a miso butter with ginger, lemon, and a subtle hint of jalapeño. Our mouths are watering just thinking about it.
So now that you know some of the many delightful uses for miso, good luck ever writing it off as just a soup course ever again.