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Japanese Miso Paste 101: Discover Types Of Miso Paste

Japanese miso paste 101, Food & Recipes

Miso is a traditional Japanese condiment with a rich flavor and this unique paste we always have on hand today worldwide.

It’s versatile, provides incredible umami flavor, and is rich in probiotics. (Yes, miso is fermented food!)

You know there are red, yellow, mixed, white, sweet, dry…whatever they call types of miso.

So, I will a little deeper dive into Japanese miso paste, including different types by several points.

Types Of Japanese Miso Defined With Types Of Koji

JapaneseRaw Materials
Rice MisoKome misoSoybean, Rice koji, salt
Barley misoMugi misoSoybean, Barley koji, salt
Soybean misoMame misoSoybean, koji, salt

Miso is made from fermented soybeans, koji, and salt by fermenting and aging and is divided into several types depending on color, taste, and also the types of koji.

Here, we will introduce the types of miso in detail.

Rice Miso; Kome Miso

Miso made from rice koji is called “rice miso” (Kome miso) which is the most common miso produced throughout Japan.

Rice miso is made from soybeans, rice koji, and salt after an aging period of about 6 months, and its flavor differs from sweet to dry.

There are various types depending on the manufacturing process even in the category of rice miso.

Barley Miso; Mugi Miso

“Barley miso” called “Mugi-miso” in Japan is made from barley Koji which is mainly produced in the Chugoku region, Shikoku region, and Kyushu region. (the western side of the main island, from Osaka.)

Barley miso has a high volume of koji compared with rice miso and also has a shorter aging period.

So, barley miso is mild, sweet, fruity taste.

Soybean Miso; Mame Miso

Soybean miso” called “Mame miso” in Japanese is mainly produced in the Tokai region such as Aichi, Mie, and Gifu prefectures.

Other types of miso are made of rice/barley Koji, however, soybean miso is made of soybean (applied Koji-malt), salt, and water, then fermented and aged for 1-3 years.

Compared to rice/ barley Koji, it takes a long aging period of about 2 years, so soybean miso is dark brown, strong salty taste, a rich umami flavor, unsweet.

Dark soybean miso is rich in umami and miso flavor, so you maybe consider its sodium level.

In fact, it has fewer sodium levels compared with rice miso.

The strong rich taste of soybean miso is from soybeans, which allows you to directly feel the taste.

Since it has a rich taste, only a tablespoon of soybean miso can add rich flavor to the dish, which can be expected to reduce sodium.

Also, soybean miso increases its rich savory miso flavor as cooking, so it’s the perfect miso for stewing, and slow-cooking.

The most popular Mame miso is “Hatcho Miso” produced in, Okazaki city, Aichi prefecture.

Hatcho miso has a different Koji unlike other types of miso although the only three ingredients for soybean miso are soybeans, salt, and water.

Since it has a rich and strong miso flavor, it can add the miso flavor instantly with a small amount so that it can be expected to reduce the sodium volume compared with when using other miso pastes.

Moreover, soybean miso adds rich umami flavor to the dish as long as it’ll be cooked, so this miso paste is perfect for slow cooking and stewing.

←←←Japanese-Style Beef Cheek Stew With Nagoya Miso Sauce

Easy slow cooking- This Japanese-style beef cheek stew combines rich red miso & red wine to make a flavorful appetizer. It is the staple Izakaya appetizer in Japan. Not only for the appetizer but also, can provide a savory melt-in-your-mouth topping on a rice bowl. This recipe is inspired by famous Nagoya local food called Dote-it’s originally Japanese beef tendon stew. The rich red miso flavor will definitely bring you an appetite.

Mixed Miso; Awase Miso, Dashi Miso

Mixed Miso is blended with multiple types of koji, or two or more different types of miso are called mixed miso.

By blending ingredients, it has a mild flavor and less habit.

Awase Miso

As I said, Japanese miso paste has three types miso- rice, barley, and soybeans, and Awase miso is blended with two or all types of these miso paste.

A mild flavor without the peculiar habit of miso for anyone will like the taste.

Another benefit of Combining different types of miso is that it can enhance each delicious umami flavor together.

Dashi Miso

Dashi Miso paste is literally miso paste containing dashi stock components.

When making miso soup or stir-fried dishes, it’s really handy since you don’t have to make dashi stock since it has deep-umami flavor in the paste.

We commonly take advantage of Dashi miso to make Miso soup.

Types Of Japanese Miso Defined With Their Color

Next, the category of Japanese miso paste, they are also defined depending on its visual color-red, yellow, and, white as well as defined by raw materials.

As well as raw materials, the fermentation and aging process are related to the color of miso paste.

By the way, when miso paste goes the color due to *the Maillard reaction.

*The Maillard reaction is the chemical reaction between amino acids such as those contained in soybeans and sugar to give the food brown.

Red Miso; Aka Miso

Japanese miso paste 101,
  • The color is red/ brown
  • Long aging process
  • The strong rich miso flavor

The miso paste has a red/ brown color is called “Red miso” and “AKA MISO” in Japanese.

The deepness of the red (brown) color defers by the aging process.

As long as taking the long aging process, the miso paste becomes deeper red (brown) color.

Red miso is commonly loved in the eastern and central regions of the main island, besides, the raw materials and types of koji have characters in each local.

For example, the local miso in the Tohoku region is generally made of rice, and red miso in the Tokai region is made of soybeans.

As I mentioned, Hatcho miso is the signature local red miso in Aichi prefecture (in the central region) known for its strong flavor.

The color is deep brown as you see, and it is known for its long-aging process.

Yellow (light-color) Miso; Tansyoku Miso

  • The color is light beige or yellowish
  • The shorter period of the aging process
  • The mild, rich sweet taste

In Japan, yellow miso is called “Tannsyoku Miso” which literally means “light color”.

Often, yellow miso has complex colors in each product, it is hard to clarify between white, light color, or red.

Like the photo, which is my homemade miso paste, by the way, it can be called “red miso” if I age it for another 2 months.

But, I stopped the aging process for 7 months, so it is “yellow miso”.

When you search “yellow miso” on Amazon, some products say “white” although it is precisely called “Tanshoku (light-colored) miso”.

Anyway, the color will depend on the aging period.

Besides, yellow miso has a mild miso flavor with a little sweetness.

Yet, the flavor also differs depending on the aging period.

As a longer aging period, the miso paste has a stronger miso flavor.

White Miso; Shiro Miso

  • The color is white
  • The Short period of the aging process
  • The Mild and rich sweet taste

White miso has a short aging process as you can guess already when learning about the miso paste color.

Lower sodium level compared with red miso and sweet miso flavor as its appealing point.

It is a sweet miso paste with a high amount of rice koji, with a salt content of 5 to 6%.

Classified as rice miso.

Shiro miso is often called “Saikyo miso” in the Kansai region.


Saikyo miso is known for its natural mellow sweetness.

It is very popular in the Kansai region, like Kyoto.

A sweet white miso with a beautiful light yellow color that originated in Kyoto.

It is characterized by a refreshing and smooth texture.

Enhance the natural flavor of ingredients while still being sweet.

It has become an indispensable part of Kyoto cuisines such as kaiseki and shojin cuisine.


Finally, I will explain the classification of miso taste (sweet/spicy).

Generally, Japanese miso paste is defined into three flavor types: AMAMISO (sweet miso), AMAKUCHI-MISO (mild-sweet miso), and KARAKUCHI MISO (dry miso0.

The difference between these three flavors refers to the difference in the amount of salt and the ratio of koji in the raw materials.


The sodium level in AMAMISO (Sweet miso) is 5-7% and high koji volume.

White miso or “Edo miso” which is the traditional local miso paste in Tokyo are representative AMAMISO.

Since AMAMISO has a high koji ratio and low salt content, it can be fermented quickly and very sweet and rich aroma.


AMAKUCHI MISO (mild sweet miso) miso mainly refers to TANSHOKU-MISO (yellow miso) which is light-colored miso made from rice koji or barley koji.

The sodium level is 7-12% and the koji ratio is less than AMAMISO.

Although the miso paste is called “mild-sweet”, the range of sweetness is quite wide from sweet to tangy and salty.


Dry miso paste has light-colored miso and red miso.

The sodium level is 11-13%, and the koji ratio is relatively low. Fermentation of this miso requires the action of microorganisms such as yeast and bacteria, so the fermentation period is longer than other types of miso paste.


How To Store Miso

Store a miso paste after opening a package in an airtight container in a refrigerator.

You can keep it at room temperature, but, the color and flavor will more likely be damaged.

You can also keep miso in a freezer. Normally, miso does not freeze.

You can also keep miso in a freezer.

Transfer the miso paste to an airtight container or freezer bag without any air pockets.

Cover the surface of the miso with plastic wrap and then put a lid on if you use the container.

Where To Store Miso

There is no problem with storage at room temperature before opening the package, but if the temperature is too warm in your pantry, the color and flavor of miso may be damaged, so better to store it in the refrigerator.

Miso Has Changed To Darker Color In Pantry

Miso is a fermented food, and it will not stop fermentation even after being packaged.

Even after your purchase, the color will gradually darken and the flavor will change. (richer and stronger.)

So, it’s safe to eat.

Especially in the summertime, these color and flavor-changing reactions will occur easily, so it may be better to keep miso paste in a cool place or the refrigerator.

Eat Expired Miso, Good Or Bad?

Miso 󠄀 is a preserved food that does not become inedible even after the expiration date, but the color and flavor may change.

However, the expiration date is the guide to consuming the best condition of Miso, so it’s better to use it before expiration.

White Mold On Miso

The white mold on the surface of miso is a kind of harmless yeast. However, the flavor will be impaired, so better to remove the part before use.

Sometimes, white crystals may form on the surface or inside miso, but this is the amino acid tyrosine formed by the decomposition of soybean protein, and has no problem using it.

Brown Liquid On Miso

This brown liquid is called a “tamari” which is a part of miso containing salt, sugar, peptides, amino acids, etc.

It’s all components of the miso paste, so it is completely harmless.

Mix well with miso before serving.

What’s Koji?

Koji is the essential ingredient for making miso, but what is koji anyway?

Koji is the mold and has been deeply rooted in Japanese history for a long. For more details, read this post.

Recently, sweet miso with a large amount of koji is favored.

You’ve often heard about “koji miso” if you’re a miso connoisseur.

It’s actually the name for commercial use to enhance the raw ingredients, especially, Koji.

It probably indicates that companies produce their products to guarantee using selected raw materials and Koji.

In this post, let’s deep into more about Koji miso.

Miso is made by mixing cooked soybeans with koji, salt, and water, and then, will be fermented for months.

You can make homemade miso easily while using rice koji easily.

Plan for the time to ferment soybeans.

Commonly, making homemade miso is preferred to start during the wintertime.

Jump to the next how to make homemade rice KOJI MISO!

Miso Recipe


NIKUMISO is a popular meal-prep item in Japan which is stir-fried ground meat such as pork, chicken, or pork&beef mix with plenty of minced garlic and ginger, and miso paste. Surely, the hint of this popular flavored ground meat is from Chinese dishes. It is added with sugar so that NIKUMISO is a savory sweet miso flavor (also it is addictive), moreover, you can make it spicy while adding chili peppers or chili paste. NIKUMISO is actually a super-versatile item besides delicious, easy to make, and will last for 5 days in a fridge and 2 months in a freezer.

Whole Roast Duck Over Potato With Japanese-Style Miso Duck Sauce

Savory sweet soy sauce Asian-fusion flavor basted a whole duck over thick sliced potatoes. This gorgeous golden-colored whole duck is marinated in Asian-style marinade sauce and stuffed with herbs, roasted over sliced potatoes that also get flavored from the duck fat and savory juice. Contrary to looks, this whole roasted duck is easy-to-make, and also you can get the side at the same time. It’s absolutely perfect holiday dinner.

MISOZUKE TAMAGO- Make Miso Flavor Boiled Eggs For Salad, Breakfast, Snack, Udon, Ramen nooldes

Make MISOZUKE TAMAGO at home. Salty, sweet, Miso-flavored boiled eggs are perfect for breakfast, salad topping, Udon and ramen noodles.

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