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What Is White Miso Paste?

What is white miso paste? And what makes it different from other varieties? This post will explain everything you need to know about white miso and how to use it in your cooking!

Spoon scooping sauce made with white miso paste from glass jar

When you want to add some depth, complexity, and umami to a dish, white miso paste is a fantastic option!

White miso paste—also known as shiro miso—is a traditional Japanese seasoning made from fermented soybeans, rice, and salt. It has a smooth texture and a slightly sweet, savory taste. 

White miso paste is an essential ingredient in many Japanese dishes—most famously, miso soup, but also marinades, sauces, dressings, and glazes. You can also use miso as a flavor enhancer in other cuisines and particularly in vegan cooking, where the umami flavor makes it a good stand-in for the flavor of certain cheeses and dairy products.

Understanding the Different Types of Miso Paste

Miso paste has been a staple in Japanese cuisine for centuries, although food historians believe it originated in China. The process of making miso paste involves fermenting soybeans with salt and a type of mold called koji. Koji is a fungus that breaks down the soybeans and releases their natural sugars, which give miso paste its sweet taste. 

There are several different types of miso paste, classified by their color and flavor intensity:

  • White miso paste. As the name suggests, white miso is light in color and has a mild taste. It's made from soybeans that have been fermented with a large proportion of rice. White miso is slightly sweet and has a delicate umami flavor.
  • Red miso paste. Red miso is aged for a longer time compared to white miso, giving it a richer, more intense flavor. It has a deep red color and is made from soybeans that have been fermented for a longer amount of time. Red miso has a stronger, saltier taste and is often used in hearty dishes like stews and sauces.
  • Yellow miso paste. Yellow miso is kind of the option that falls between white and red miso—it has a milder flavor than red miso, but it's still robust enough for soups and stews. It's typically made by fermenting soybeans with barley, but it can also be fermented with rice.
Overhead view of quinoa salad made with white miso paste in large bowl

What Flavor Does White Miso Add?

White miso paste adds a complex flavor to dishes that’s almost hard to describe! It’s salty, savory, and a little bit sweet, with lots of that satisfying umami flavor to add depth and richness to sauces, salad dressings, and meat marinades.

Is Miso Good for Your Gut?

Yes, just like kombucha, tempeh, and kimchi, miso paste is rich in probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that help support gut health. Probiotics can also boost the immune system and promote a healthy digestive system. That said, white miso paste is high in sodium, so you should eat it in moderation.

Should You Refrigerate Miso Paste?

Miso paste should be stored in the refrigerator to maintain its freshness and flavor. It can last up to six months when stored properly, so you can have it on hand whenever you need it! Keep it in an airtight container and use clean utensils when scooping it out.

Overhead view of vegan ramen recipe with hands around bowl and chopsticks

How to Use White Miso Paste

There are endless ways to use white miso paste in cooking. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Miso soup. The most traditional way to use miso paste is in a bowl of miso soup. Simply mix it with broth (Instant Pot Mushroom Vegan Bone Broth is a great option) and add cubed silken firm tofu, seaweed, sliced green onions, and anything else you like.
  • Marinades and dressings. Use white miso paste as a base for sauces and dressings or add a spoonful to your favorite recipes to amp up their umami flavor.
  • Glazes. Mix white miso paste with other ingredients like honey, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar to create flavorful glazes for meat, fish, or vegetables.
  • Sauces. White miso paste can be used to make sauces for stir fries or for dipping spring rolls, potstickers, etc.

Recipes That Use White Miso Paste

ginger miso quinoa recipe with only 5 ingredients

Ginger Miso Quinoa

Quinoa is anything but bland and boring when you combine it with sweet-and-savory miso and the warm flavor of ginger. You only need 5 ingredients for this easy recipe!
Check out this recipe
Miso Roasted Vegetables with Cauliflower Rice

Miso Roasted Vegetable & Cauliflower Rice Bowls

One of the most frequent ways I use white miso paste in my cooking is in bowls. These veggie-packed cauliflower rice bowls are not only incredibly hearty and nourishing, they’re also surprisingly easy to make. 
Check out this recipe
Creamy Pepper Pasta Recipe

Vegan Cacio e Pepe

Traditional cacio e pepe is an umami flavor bomb thanks to the pecorino cheese, but white miso paste makes a fantastic swap in this vegan version.
Check out this recipe
overhead of a white bowl with asian salad of quinoa, carrots, edamame, purple cabbage and lime

Asian Quinoa Power Salad

This Asian Quinoa Power Salad is made with a combination of quinoa, fresh vegetables, and a flavorful Asian-inspired dressing. I love this one for lunch because it’ll power you through the rest of the day!
Check out this recipe
Sweet Potato + Kale Quinoa Spring Rolls -- a seasonal spin on a delicious gluten-free meal (they make great leftovers too!)

Sweet Potato, Kale + Quinoa Spring Rolls

Unique spring rolls call for a unique dipping sauce! Instead of the usual cabbage, these spring rolls are loaded with satisfying ingredients, then served with a miso-based sauce.
vegan broccoli tots with quinoa flour

Vegan Quinoa Broccoli Tots

These tasty little vegan broccoli tots require just 7 ingredients and take less than 20 minutes to prepare! White miso makes an unexpected appearance in the ingredient list, adding some cheesy umami flavor.
Check out this recipe
Healing Veggie Broth Recipe

Vegan Bone Broth

Bone broth is off limits if you’re on a plant-based diet, but this vegan version uses miso paste to boost its gut-healing benefits.
Check out this recipe
Slow Cooker Coconut Quinoa Curry

Slow Cooker Coconut Quinoa Curry

White miso paste isn’t commonly found in curry recipes, but I love the flavor it adds to this easy slow cooker recipe.
Check out this recipe
bowl of creamed vegan spinach

Best Vegan Creamed Spinach

This vegan creamed spinach is another recipe where miso mimics some of that cheesy flavor of the original, without adding any actual cheese!
Check out this recipe
Super CREAMY + only 30 MINUTE cauliflower chowder made with roasted garlic hummus + quinoa [gluten-free + vegan]

30-Minute Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Chowder

With roasted garlic and white miso paste, this easy cauliflower soup recipe packs in so much flavor.
Check out this recipe
Quinoa Sushi Bowls! Made with tons of veggies, spicy tofu and a ginger miso dressing!

Vegan Quinoa Sushi Bowls

These quinoa bowls are inspired by sushi, but with a few twists—quinoa in place of the rice, no fish, and a zesty ginger-miso dressing instead of mayo.
Check out this recipe

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