A Spoonful of Miso

Carina Baumgartner for Unsplash

As a college student, adding new flavors to to my everyday food can be a game changer. Particularly during the school week, when I lack the necessary time needed to make intricate meals, new spices, sauces, and condiments can be really transformative and switch up my routine. One that I return to again and again is miso. 

Miso comes as a paste, made from beans, salt, and koji-inoculated grains. (Koji, also known as aspergillus oryzae, is a fungus often used in fermentation.) When these three ingredients are combined and allowed to sit for a few months, the paste ferments, developing a funky umami flavor. Terms like fungus and might sound scary, but the process develops products enriched with bacteria beneficial to the digestive system. Here are some ways I love to incorporate miso into my diet.

  • Make it a sauce!
    • Add a spoonful of miso to a bowl and mix with warm water (warm water helps make the sauce more pourable) until you reach a desired consistency. I prefer a thicker consistency, so I use less water, but go ahead and experiment! If you want, add a pinch of sugar or a splash of agave for a more rounded flavor.
    • Pour this sauce over rice, salad, tofu, potatoes, or anything else. One yummy tip is to add the sauce to stir fried veggies before they finish cooking, so it sees some heat and completely coats the food.
  • Try a marinade!
    • I know I said I don’t have time for complicated meals, but marinating is such a great way to set and forget your food until later use. When I can remember to meal prep and have a few extra minutes, I use the sauce from before and add it to some tofu. An afternoon later, the pan fried tofu tastes like nuggets of gold.
    • At this point, you’re getting pretty fancy and can add even more spices to your sauce. Some of my favorite additions are toasted sesame seeds, green onion, ginger, and garlic powder.
  • Put it in your soups and stews!
    • One of my go-to staples when I need a quick dinner is simmering some beans in vegetable broth to make them more tender. Adding a spoonful of miso to this mixture elevates this staple. I then throw the beans onto a bed of rice or veggies for a quick meal.
  • Spice up your baked goods!
    • You’ll just have to trust me on this one. Adding a spoonful of miso to baked goods makes their flavor so much more delicious and complex. If you’re a fan of sweet/salty foods, this is the flavor combo for you. Try adding miso to cookie dough or blondies, to add a nice bite and complement the sweetness.

I’ve kept miso in my fridge for months at a time, so you should be able to use a container of the stuff before running the risk of it spoiling. That’s to say, why not spend a few bucks to unlock this new world of flavor that will last you months? Your gut and your tastebuds will thank you.