What is Miso Soup?
Miso soup is a traditional Japanese soup made with dashi (soup stock made with kombu or bonito flakes), miso paste and various ingredients depending on regional and seasonal recipes.
While it’s usually served together with a salad as part of an appetizer in the US, miso soup comes with rice as part of a main meal in Japan.
What is in Miso Soup?
- Miso paste (fermented soybean paste)
You can use any type of miso paste (white, red, awase, etc…) to make miso soup. The taste will vary from salty to sweet, depending of the color of the paste you choose. A light colored paste (white) is usually on the sweeter side while a darker (red) paste will be smokier and saltier.
Popular ingredients added to miso soup in Japan are:
- Green onions (scallions)
- Seaweed (wakame)
- Deep-fried tofu pouches (aburaage)
- Shimeji mushrooms
- Kabocha squash
You can also add fresh clams to make the broth briny (so delicious!) or ground sesame seeds for a little nuttiness. The options truly are endless! I’ve even seen miso soup with natto beans (the famous Japanese slimy rotten beans)!
You can make dashi from scratch by:
- Adding bonito flakes to boiling water (about 15 grams of bonito flakes for every 2 cups of water), turning the heat down to low and letting it simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
- Drain the liquid through a strainer and use.
Or you can do it the easy way – my way 90% of the time – and use dashi granules. I used Hondashi for years until a Japanese friend of mine told me about other brands that tasted closer to the real thing. Nowadays, I use the Riken brand which you can buy in Japanese supermarket or online on Amazon.
They have two types of dashi to choose from – bonito and sardine. I have been using both after my mother told me that sardine stock is becoming more and more popular in Japanese cooking.
1 teaspoon to 1 cup of water is the recommended ratio for the Hondashi brand.
Vegan Miso Soup
Another option for making miso soup is using kombu dashi which is made from dried seaweed.
The dashi granules are 100% vegan, making it ideal for those who are on a plant based diet. I use kombu dashi all the time in many of my dishes because I really enjoy the mineral taste of seaweed.
You can also make it from scratch but I really like the granules which have a stronger seaweed flavor. If you’d like to make it from scratch:
- Grab a 5″ x 5″ piece of kombu and soak it in 4 cups of cold water for at least 30 minutes, all the way to overnight. The longer it soaks, the more flavor your broth will have.
- Pour the water and kombu in a pot and bring to a boil. Remove the kombu right before the water starts to boil and throw it out. This step is important since boiled kombu releases bitterness and gets super slimy.
- Turn the heat off and use.
You can buy the Hikari Miso brand in Japanese supermarkets or here on Amazon.
How To Make Miso Soup
- Add 4 cups of water, onions and dashi granules to a pot and bring to a boil.
- Lower the heat, cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until the onions are tender.
- Place the miso paste in a colander and lower it into the pot until enough water covers the miso paste.
- Using chopsticks, swirl the paste until it completely dissolves into the soup.
- Turn the heat off and serve.
Traditional Miso Soup
Miso Soup with Winter Veggies
Ichimi togarashi are ground chili peppers which are used to spice up soups, noodles, yakitori, all any other type of food. You can find it in all Japanese noodle shops and stands as a seasoning, and you can buy it Japanese supermarkets or on Amazon.
I like to add to add a sprinkle of ichimi to my soup to enhance the flavors – a trick I picked up from my mother 🥰.
What to Serve with Miso Soup
For a traditional Japanese meal, serve with this soup with a bowl of steamed white rice and:
- Japanese pickles (tsukemono)
- Okonomiyaki (Japanese pizza)
- Nasu dengaku (Japanese broiled eggplant with sweet miso glaze)
- Baked chicken katsu
- Japanese white cream stew
My Mother’s Miso Soup
This is a simple miso soup with sliced onions just like the way my Japanese mother makes it!
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 15 minutes
- Yield: 4 1x
- Category: Soup
- Method: Stove top
- Cuisine: Japanese
- Put the sliced onions, water and dashi granule in a pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and cook for 10-12 minutes, until the onions are tender.
- Place the miso paste in a small strainer and lower the strainer into the pot, until the liquid covers the miso paste. Stir the miso paste with chopsticks until it has fully dissolved.
- Turn the heat off and serve. Sprinkle a little ichimi for heat.
This miso soup will keep for three days, refrigerated in an airtight container.
Keywords: recipe, Japanese food, appetizer, side, miso shiru