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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 the 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 divided into several types depending to color, taste, and also the types of koji.

Miso is made from fermented soybeans, koji, and salt by fermenting and aging.

The type of miso that is made depends on the type of Koji used. 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, tastes from sweet to dry.

Another feature is that there are various types depending on how they are made.

Barley Miso; Mugi Miso

Barley miso 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 amount of koji volume than 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, and 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.

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, 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 stew, slow-cooking.

Nagoya Dote-style beef cheek recipe.

Mixed Miso

Mixed Miso is blended 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 miso.

A mild flavor without the peculiar habit of miso.
Combining different types of miso can enhance each savory flavor.

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.

Liquid type miso/ instant miso soup is also included in dashi miso.

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 these posts.

Types Of Japanese Miso Defined With Their Color

Japanese miso paste is also divided on their color-red, yellow, and, white.

These colors are due to *the Maillard reaction during fermentation and aging processes.

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

Also, raw materials, koji types, and fermentation processes can bring different colors to miso paste.

Red Miso; Aka Miso

  • The color is red/ brown
  • Long aging process
  • The strong rich miso flavor

Typically, the miso paste has red/ brown color is called “Red miso”.

This unique red color depends on a long-aging period, so a longer aging process is more reddish or brownish.

Red miso includes mainly rice and soybeans miso pastes, and rarely barely miso.

Interestingly, types of red miso vary from region to region, you can see local red miso characters in Japan, such as red miso in the Tohoku region generally made of rice, and red miso in the Tokai region made of beans.

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

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”. Sometimes, there are complex colors in yellow miso, it is difficult to clarify between white, light color, or red.

In general, the short-aging period gives miso a lighter (white/ yellow) color, and the longer period gives it a darker color.

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 period of the aging process. Lower sodium level compared with red miso, rich sweet flavor.

White miso has a short period of the aging process. Lower sodium level compared with red miso, rich sweet flavor.

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

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.

By the way, white Shinshu miso is often called shiro miso, however, it is actually not categorized as Shiro miso in Japan. (because of the sodium level.)

Types Of Japanese Miso Defined With Flavor

Japanese miso pastes are also categorized by their flavor.

Generally, the salt concentration is around 6 to 7% for “sweet miso” and around 10% for “sweeter miso”.

Both have the rich sweet flavor of Koji. “Sweet/ sweeter miso pastes” are mainly popular in the Kansai region, Shikoku region, Shizuoka prefecture, Hokuriku region, the Kyushu region.

Dry (red) miso has a salt concentration of around 12%. It is known for its strong salty and refreshing taste.

Miso Troubleshooting

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 yeast that is harmless. 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 component of the miso paste, so it is completely harmless.

Mix well with miso before serving.

How To Use Miso Paste

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