Learn how to make authentic homemade miso soup from scratch with my easy to follow recipe! Not only is it simple to make, but highly customizable and makes the perfect side for any Japanese meal!
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What is Japanese Miso Soup?
Miso soup (味噌汁) is a traditional Japanese soup made with ingredients such as vegetables, tofu, seaweed and shellfish which is then served in a thin dashi broth. The soup is flavored by dissolving miso paste (made with fermented soy beans) into the broth, creating a delicious soup rich in umami.
Miso soup has long been a part of the Japanese diet and is commonly served as a side, rather than on its own. It is also a very convenient way to use vegetables and local ingredients.
The taste of the miso soup varies depending on the soup stock, the kind of miso paste you use and the choice of vegetables and other ingredients you add, so it’s easy to drink miso soup every day without getting bored!
History of Miso Soup in Japan
Miso has been part of Japanese life and culture for more than 1300 years. Apparently, it was first introduced to Japan by the Chinese in the 7th century. At that time, miso was a luxury item only used by the rich and elite. It was also not used as a seasoning but instead, eaten directly.
It was around the Kamakura period (1185-1333) that Buddhist monks brought suribachi (pestle and mortar) from China and it became easier to grind grains and beans, which could then be dissolved in water to make soup. With this development, miso soup was born.
Over time, farmers would grow more soybeans and make their own miso. From the late Muromachi period (1336-1573), miso became a popular ingredient amongst common people. It was also favored by Samurai warriors going into battle as it was a great source of protein that was easily preserved.
Going into the Edo period (1603-1868) miso began to spread into the lives of ordinary people, and miso soup began to appear on every family’s dinner table. Since then, miso soup has always been a part of Japanese life.
Clear Soup VS Miso Soup: What are the differences?
Ever wondered about the difference between clear soup and miso soup?
They look different, but it might be confusing to know what sets them apart. Both soups are popular in Japanese cuisine, but clear soup is often reserved for special occasions like kaiseki or seasonal dishes. It’s known for its dashi broth flavor and seasonal ingredients, enjoyed simply without miso paste.
As the name suggests, clear soup is transparent. In short, if miso soup didn’t contain the miso paste, it would just be a simple unseasoned dashi broth; whereas clear soup is made with dashi broth seasoned with light soy sauce and salt.
Typical Ingredients You Can Add to Miso Soup
The core of miso soup consists of dashi stock and miso paste. But what else do we add to the soup? Here are some examples of common miso soup ingredients.
- Tofu (firm or silken, depending on preference)
- Seaweed (usually wakame)
- Mushrooms (commonly shimeji, enoki, nameko)
- Freshwater clam
- Aburaage (twice fried tofu)
There is a variation of miso soup with pork called Tonjiru (豚汁) as well. I will explain the ingredients I used in my recipe in detail in a later section.
Types of Miso Paste You Can Use For Your Miso Moup
There are many kinds of miso in Japan, and which one you use to make miso soup depends entirely on your preference! Here are a few examples of types of miso in Japan:
- Rice miso (米味噌): Made from rice, soybeans, and salt.
- Barley miso (麦味噌): Made from wheat, soybeans, and salt, often seen in Chugoku, Shikoku, and Kyushu regions.
- Soybean miso (豆味噌): Made from soybeans and salt, often seen in Chukyo region (which is where I’m from!).
- Mixed miso (調合味噌): A mixture of three or two types of rice miso, barley miso or soybean miso.
You can also categorize the type of miso by color too:
These are examples of the broad categories of miso in Japan. In reality, there are so many kinds from region to region. In the past, it was common for people to make their own miso at home too, so it even differed from family to family too.
I would recommend trying out lots of different types of miso paste to find your favorite type!
Awase Miso (Mixed Miso)
Awase miso is a mix of two or more types of miso. You can combine miso in many ways, like using different malts (rice, barley, or beans), colors (white, light, or red), regions, or saltiness, creating a new flavor by blending their unique characteristics.
Simply put, if you mix two or more miso pastes in your fridge, you’ve made your own unique awase miso. It has a mild taste without the strong features of just single type of miso, allowing you to enjoy the best of different origins, colors, and types, which makes awase miso a highly recommended choice for miso soup and cooking in general.
Red miso is another color-based classification of miso. Its darker color comes from the Maillard reaction that happens during production, where amino acids in soybeans react with sugar and turn brown. However, red miso is just a color term, and there are many types of red miso in Japan.
For example, hatcho miso, made from soybeans, is a traditional red miso from Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture, where I am from. It has a dark reddish-brown color and a unique rich flavor, with moderate acidity, strong umami, and a bitter-sweet taste. For someone like me, who grew up in Okazaki, this miso is standard, but it might be too strange for others from different regions. In other words, people have very different tastes in miso, which makes miso a beautiful thing.
Another dark miso, called shinshu miso, is sometimes labeled as red miso. Despite the same color label, it tastes completely different from hatcho miso. If you want to experience some unique flavor, give them a try!
White miso has a creamy color, like a mix of bright yellow and white. It’s the sweetest miso compared to red miso, with more rice malt, a shorter aging period and less salt. In other words, it’s less salty, so you’ll need to add more when making miso soup compared to red or awase miso.
Famous white misos include Fuchu Miso from Hiroshima, Sanuki Miso from Kagawa, and Saikyo Miso from Kyoto. If you’re interested in sweeter and milder miso, give white miso a try!
What is in Miso Soup? Five Variations for the Perfect Bowl
Miso soup can be made with a wide variety of ingredients, and the combination varies from region to region, household to household or even season to season in Japan. However, I highly recommend using local, in-season vegetables for your miso soup. No matter where you live in the world, using local vegetables is more “authentic” than trying to source Japanese ingredients, and it stays true to the soup’s spirit.
That said, here are five examples of ingredient combinations used in authentic miso soup.
Tofu, Aburaage and Wakame
This combo is my go-to favorite! The recipe cards and videos in this article feature it too. As for the tofu, you can use either silken or firm tofu, but I tend to opt for firm tofu which is less likely to break.
As for the wakame (seaweed), fresh wakame is best if available, but for convenience, I often use dried wakame. It expands in the soup so a little goes a long way.
Eggplant and Okra
This combo features okra and eggplant, known as “summer vegetables” in Japan. The eggplant soaks up lots of tasty miso broth, making it extra flavorful.
Plus, adding okra gives the soup a slightly sticky texture, setting this delicious summer veggie miso soup apart from the rest!
- Zucchini (Courgette)
- Bell pepper
Hakusai (Napa Cabbage) and Aburaage
Now let’s talk about winter vegetables in miso soup!
The flavor of Napa cabbage is amazing and pairs perfectly with the soup. If you can’t find Napa cabbage easily in your area, regular cabbage works too, or try adding some winter root vegetables too!
- Pak choi
Mushroom fans, you’ve gotta try this! Miso soup and mushrooms are a match made in heaven, and you can use any kind you like!
I used classic shimeji, enoki, and shiitake mushrooms in Japan, but go ahead and experiment with local mushrooms from your area. I write more about all the mushrooms you can use in my mushroom miso soup recipe.
- Button mushroom
- Maitake mushroom
- Portobello mushroom
Potato, Onion and Snow Pea
You might be surprised, but adding potatoes to miso soup is popular in Japan! They taste great together and make the soup more filling. Don’t forget to add onions when using potatoes too. Tossing in some snap peas for some added color is a bonus too!
I’d say this combination goes well with white miso. If you don’t like potatoes, sweet potatoes work just as well.
- Sweet potato
- Other kinds of onions
- Snap garden peas
Step-by-Step: How to Make Authentic Miso Soup
Miso soup is surprisingly easy to make, even from scratch! It’s also highly customizable. Here are my step-by-step instructions on how to make simple, authentic Japanese soup with homemade dashi, including tips and tricks along the way. For the full ingredients list, scroll down to the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.
How to Make Homemade Dashi
Dashi is the base for all miso soups and without it, it would lack authentic flavour and depth. There are various options when it comes to making dashi for your miso soup:
- Instant dashi powder (mixed with hot water)
- Dashi bags (steeped in hot water)
- Use miso paste that contains dashi (mix into hot water)
- Make your own homemade dashi (recommended)
While using instant dashi is quick and easy, homemade dashi brings your miso soup to another level and is a tip that I always recommend. Although it might sound intimidating to make dashi from scratch, it can actually be pretty quick and easy to make. A basic awase dashi only requires 3 ingredients; water, kombu (dried kelp) and katsuobushi (bonito flakes).
Start by soaking the kombu in water for about 30 minutes (or until rehydrated). Since the wait is only 30 minutes, I do this in a cooking pot. Some people like to soak it for longer for a stronger taste (in this case, it’s better to use a container with a lid). It’s up to you how long you want to soak it but 30 minutes is the minimum and 24 hours is the maximum.
Once the kombu is rehydrated, transfer it to the stove and heat on medium until small bubbles start to appear around the edges. It should be almost boiling, but don’t let it fully boil at this point.
Remove the kombu (you can discard or reuse it to make kombu tsukudani) and then bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, turn off the heat and add the bonito flakes.
Leave the bonito flakes soaking in the hot water for about 5 minutes. It doesn’t need to be cooking, just keep the pan hot using the residual heat on the stove.
After 5 minutes, place a sieve lined with a sheet of kitchen paper over a heatproof bowl and pour the dashi through. This will catch all the tiny pieces of bonito flakes and leave you with a beautiful, clear and golden broth.
Your final dashi should look something like this:
Once the dashi is complete, you can move on to making your miso soup!
How to Make Miso Soup
Cut your choice of ingredients into small bitesize pieces. Miso soup is usually eaten with chopsticks so you can eat the tofu and vegetables, then slurp the soup straight from the bowl.
For my recipe, I use firm tofu, aburaage (twice fried tofu), thinly sliced spring onions and shiitake mushrooms. Feel free to customise your soup to suit your tastes!
Transfer your dashi back into a pot and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Once small bubbles start to appear, add your vegetables and tofu to the pot.
I purposely used ingredients with similar cooking times so that I can throw them all in at the same time. However, if you decide to add ingredients that need sufficient cooking time like root vegetables such as carrots or potatoes, or shellfish, be sure to add those first to give them time to cook all the way through.
On the other hand, soft ingredients like tofu only need to be warmed through and should be added just before the miso paste. Make sure to consider the timing when adding your ingredients to the soup.
This is also optional but I like to add a small amount of soy sauce to my miso soup for some extra depth and umami.
After making sure that the ingredients in the pot are cooked, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and add the miso paste. Miso paste doesn’t actually dissolve, but instead needs to be broken down to incorporate it into the soup.
If you add miso paste straight to the broth, it will be difficult to break up and there will be large lumps of miso in your soup. This can also make the overall taste of the soup weaker because the miso paste is not evenly distributed throughout the broth.
I recommend placing the miso paste on a fine mesh spoon and resting the spoon on the surface of the broth so that they come into contact with each other. The hot broth will soften the paste, allowing you to whisk it while it’s still on the spoon, then it will seep into the broth through the mesh. This will thoroughly break up the paste and allow it to evenly distribute throughout the broth.
If you don’t have a mesh spoon, you can also break up the miso paste by placing it in a small heatproof bowl or ladle and whisking it with a few tablespoons of broth. Once it’s smooth, simply pour it back into the pot.
After incorporating the miso, do not let it boil and try to avoid simmering for too long. If you boil the soup, the taste of the miso will begin to deteriorate and the aroma will be lost.
It is said that miso soup is most fragrant when it is cooked slightly weaker than boiling, this is why I recommend setting the heat to the lowest setting before adding the miso paste. Apparently, the temperature at which miso soup tastes the best is about 75°C (165°F).
If you need to reheat the soup, I recommend heating it over a medium setting and then turning it off just before it starts to boil.
Finally, add the ingredients that need to be warmed through (rather than properly cooked). In my case this is tofu.
Simmer for a few minutes and then dish up!
Divide the soup into serving bowls and garnish with some fresh chopped green onion.
While miso paste is a fermented product and can be preserved for a long time, once it is made into soup and combined with other ingredients, it is very easy to spoil. If you must store leftover miso soup, avoid leaving it out too long. If you have no choice but to store it, cool it slightly and then transfer it to the refrigerator.
You should try and eat it as quickly as possible. I don’t recommend keeping it for more than 24 hours. Freezing is not recommended since the flavor will deteriorate.
Ideally, most Japanese families make miso soup in the morning and try to use it up before the end of the day. For example, make it for breakfast or lunch, then have it again with your evening meal.
On the other hand, dashi can be kept for 5-7 days in the fridge or up to 1 month in the freezer. If you have dashi, you can whip up some miso soup in less than 10 minutes. If you want to make miso soup regularly throughout the week, I recommend making a batch of homemade dashi for convenience!
I hope you enjoy this authentic miso soup recipe! What are your favorite ingredients to add? If you try out the recipe, I’d really appreciate it if you could spare a moment to let me know what you thought by giving a review and star rating in the comments below. It’s also helpful to share any adjustments you made to the recipe with our other readers. Thank you!
Perfect Pairings: What to Serve with Miso Soup for a Complete Meal
Growing up in Japan, I noticed some main dishes go amazingly well with miso soup. In fact, they seem even more delicious with miso soup on the side! In this section, I’ve picked five awesome main dishes you’ve just got to try with miso soup, rice and pickles!
Authentic Homemade Japanese Miso Soup (味噌汁)
- Add 10 g dried kelp(s) and 1 liter cold water to a large pot and soak for 30 minutes.
- Once rehydrated, place the pot on the stove and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. (Don't let it boil.)
- Once small bubbles start to appear around the edges, remove the kombu and turn the heat up to medium-high. Bring it to a boil.
- Once boiling, turn off the heat and add the 15 g bonito flakes. Allow the katsuobushi to soak for 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes, line a sieve with kitchen paper and place it over a large heatproof bowl.
- Pour the dashi through the sieve, the kitchen paper will catch the small pieces of katsuobushi, leaving you with a clear broth.
Making Miso Soup
- Pour the dashi into a pot and bring to a simmer over a medium heat.
- Thinly slice 30 g fried tofu pouch(s), 30 g green onion(s) and 30 g fresh shiitake mushroom(s). Cut 150 g tofu into cubes.
- Once the dashi is almost boiling, add the ingredients (except the firm tofu) to the pot along with 1 tbsp dried wakame seaweed(s).
- Adding ingredients lowers the heat, so wait for the broth to bubble again. Once it's almost boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and add ¼ tsp soy sauce.
- Place 4 tbsp miso paste onto a mesh spoon or ladle. Dip the miso paste into the dashi and then whisk it in the spoon to loosen up the paste.
- Keep whisking, gradually allowing more dashi to seep into the mesh spoon/ladel each time until the miso paste has dissolved into the mixture.
- Add 150 g tofu (cubed) to the miso soup and stir gently. Allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes to heat the tofu through.
- Divide the miso soup into bowls and garnish with finely finely chopped green onion(s).
- Serve and enjoy!
Miso soup is a traditional Japanese soup made with dashi broth and flavoured with miso paste (fermented soybeans).
Common miso soup ingredients include vegetables, seaweed (wakame), tofu and shellfish. There is also a pork miso soup we call u0022Tonjiruu0022.
Miso soup is very nutritious and lots of people eat it everyday as part of a balanced diet. However, it is quite salty so just be careful not to overdo it with salty foods.
While the main ingredient for miso is soybeans, many miso pastes these days contain extra ingredients to add umami. These ingredients often contain fish products. Miso paste for vegetarians and vegans do exist, but you need to check the packaging to confirm this. Do not assume that all miso paste is suitable for vegans.
See my vegan miso soup recipe for more information!
Miso soup, made from fermented soybeans, is good for you as it’s a fermented food. But, be mindful of its high salt content and don’t eat too much. Enjoying the right amount helps you get the most health benefits from miso soup.
Miso soup itself is not usually considered a gluten-free dish. Miso paste is primarily made from soybeans, but some miso may contain gluten because malt containing wheat or barley is sometimes used in the fermentation process. However, gluten-free miso paste is available on the market, and you can make gluten-free miso soup by choosing miso paste made with rice malt (koji), which does not contain gluten. Also, avoid ingredients made with wheat flour and choose gluten-free ingredients.
Soybeans, the main ingredient in most miso paste, are high in protein and carbs. Some miso paste may have too many carbs for a ketogenic diet. The carb content of miso soup varies with the miso and ingredients you use, so If you’re on a keto diet, choose your ingredients and miso soup amount according to your needs.
Miso soup is mainly made from these three ingredients:
1. Miso paste: an ingredient made from fermented soybeans, salt, and koji (malt) that gives the soup flavor and aroma.
2. Dashi (stock): a liquid base that adds depth to the soup, made from seaweed, dried bonito flakes, dried sardines, and/or shiitake mushrooms.
3. Ingredients: a mix of vegetables, tofu, seaweed, and mushrooms, and so on which can vary by season, region, and household.
While miso paste is a fermented product and can be preserved for a long time, once it is made into soup and combined with other ingredients, it is very easy to spoil. If you have to store leftover miso soup, avoid leaving it out for too long. If you have no choice but to store it, cool it slightly and then transfer it straight to the refrigerator. You should try and eat it as quickly as possible. I don’t recommend keeping it for more than 24 hours.
Fish is sometimes used as an ingredient in miso soup, but not very often. Miso soup with fish and shellfish is especially popular in areas near the ocean or in regions that consume a lot of seafood. Other than that, niboshi (dried sardines) can be used in the dashi broth, or in some miso paste depending on the brand.