What is Miso Soup?
Miso soup (味噌汁) 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.
Popular ingredients added to miso soup:
- 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 fermented beans)!
Different Types of Miso Paste
Miso paste (みそ) is a fermented soybean paste used in Japanese cooking as a base for soups, as a marinade for fish, meats, vegetables (to make pickles), and tofu, in stir fries and salad dressings, even in desserts.
There are many different types of miso paste but the three most popular ones used for miso soup are:
- White Miso Paste – (Shiro Miso 白味噌) : White miso paste is the sweetest and mildest of all three miso pastes (made with 40% soybean and 60% rice or barley grains). Because the fermentation period is shorter than other types of miso paste, the flavor isn’t very developed and can be a little one note at times. If you’ve had mediocre miso soup at a Japanese restaurant, they were most likely using white miso paste.
- Yellow Miso Paste – (Awase Miso 合わせ味噌): The word awase in Japanese means “to mix”, and that’s exactly what this miso paste is – a mix of white and red miso paste. It’s my favorite miso paste for almost any dish using miso, including miso soup. You get the sweetness of the white miso paste mixed with the smokiness and saltiness of the red miso paste. It’s a powerful combination and one that yields a bowl of miso soup where the flavors are in perfect harmony.
- Red Miso Paste – (Aka Miso 赤味噌): Red miso paste is the strongest, most punchy type of miso paste. It’s pungent, nutty, salty, and packed with umami (made with 70% soybean and 30% rice or barley). It has so much depth in flavor that I sometimes find it overwhelming, which is why I prefer awase miso. Needless to say a little goes a long way here!
The verdict: Awase miso is the best miso paste for miso soup. Unless you love a lot of smoke (like Ben does) in which case red miso paste will be your go-to ingredient.
Kitchen Tools Needed for this Miso Soup
- Chef’s knife
- Small or medium pot
- Small strainer
- Serving bowls
Ingredients for Miso Soup
- Onion: A large white or yellow onion, preferably sweet. Don’t be afraid to use a lot since it adds a lovely flavor to the soup. And once the onion slices are boiled, they are so tender they almost melt in your mouth.
- Water: Four cups of water or four cups of dashi if you are making it from scratch using bonito flakes or kombu.
- Dashi granules: One tablespoon is enough to add plenty of depth of flavor to the soup.
- Miso paste: Use red miso paste if you like your miso soup very smoky and salty, white miso paste if you prefer a milder, gentler, and sweeter taste, and awase miso paste if you like it in between.
- Ichimi togarashi (optional): Optional but a must for myself! I always add a sprinkle to infuse a little heat to my soup.
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.
How to Make Dashi from Scratch
Click here to learn how to make dashi and vegan dashi.
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.
Traditional Miso Soup
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.=
Miso Soup with Winter Veggies
Instant Miso Soup
You can buy the Hikari Miso brand in Japanese supermarkets or here on Amazon.
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
How to Pronounce Miso
The Best 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
- Diet: Low Calorie
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 4 cups water
- 1 tablespoon dashi granules
- 3–4 tablespoons preferably awase miso paste, but white or red miso paste is also okay
- Ichimi togarashi (optional)
- 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.
- Serving Size: 4
- Calories: 42
- Sugar: 1.7g
- Sodium: 23.4mg
- Fat: 0.8g
- Saturated Fat: 0
- Unsaturated Fat: 0
- Trans Fat: 0
- Carbohydrates: 7.1g
- Fiber: 1.4g
- Protein: 2.1g
- Cholesterol: 0.3mg
Keywords: recipe, Japanese food, appetizer, side, miso shiru
Absolutely the best miso soup that I have ever tasted and I am thrilled that I can make it whenever the urge strikes! Used 5 cups of water with no loss of taste and togarashi is a must. Thank you 🙂
Thank you so much Myrna! 🙂
This really is the best recipe, once you have the ingredients it’s pretty easy. The whole family thinks it tastes better than the miso soup from our favorite sushi resaurant 🙂
So easy to make, and so, so yummy! Thank you
An umami bomb and so simply delicious. I did add some sesame oil, togarashi, low sodium soy sauce. Wakami, bok choy greens,scallions ,shaved carrots and dashi
The brands that are linked in the ingredients list, are these the exact items you use? I love miso soup but am so picky about it. I’ve tried multiple brands at our local Asian market but haven’t loved any of them. I would love to be able to eat this multiple times a week.
Hi Megan! Yes, these are all ingredients that I use. As for the miso paste, I change it up between the one that’s linked to the recipe and Miko’s Awase Miso paste. I also like the Shirakiku brand and Hikari miso 🙂
Thank you for the recipe! It was very good 🙂 the ingredients were definitely hard to find in the supermarket so most of the items were bought online. Would you mind sharing which brand of awase miso paste you use? Thank you in advance!!
Hi Claudia! The brands I like to use are Hikari or Miko 🙂
One of my favorite Japanese foods is Miso Soup ! I’ve ordered it at great restaurants all over the world. I’ve tried many of the “ Instant “ soup mixes sold in the stores. I’ve even made it from scratch in my kitchen. I was never thrilled with my cooking attempts! Then I was lucky enough to come across this recipe on line !! WOW !! This is the Absolute Best soup ever !!! So Savory! So Unami Tasty ! So Delicious!! I was a little leery about the white sweet onions and the amount. Only used green shallots before this. But Caroline Phelps is right , they melt in your mouth, and don’t overpower the soup in anyway! And yes the Awase Miso is PERFECT! Not too sweet , not too smoky. THANK YOU , Caroline and to your Mother, for this FANTASTIC WONDERFUL recipe !! I will cherish it always!!
That is such a nice comment, you have no idea how happy you just made me! Thank you so much, and I will pass the word along to my mother as well 🙂
Great miso recipe. I love the strainer trick,I’ve never thought of that. I haven’t heard of putting fresh clams in miso, what are your steps for that modification?
Hi Courtney! Clean and rinse the baby clams well before using and add them to the miso soup just a couple of minutes before serving. It’s one of my favorites, so delicious!!
Just made the miso soup. OMG! My husband loves it. I used Hondashi bonito soup stock. Can’t wait to try the Riken brand. Wait til I make the soup at family reunion. It is cold and going for second serving.
That’s great Belta, so happy you enjoyed it! 🙂
I cooked miso soup for the first time today and it was delish! The pot was wiped clean! Fantastic recipe!!
I have tried several miso soup recipes. This is the best recipe on miso soup I found on internet. The information provided is clear and thorough.
I tried making dashi from scratch. I ran into a problem looking for bonita flakes in the supermarket, especially when package is not in english. It is just awesome that you provide alternatives.
I can’t wait to use your recipe this weekend. It is a perfect time to make soup in cold weather.
I am also looking forward to making sushi. I can’t wait to get recipe book.
Thank you so much Belta, I will share your comment with my mother, she will be so happy! 🙂
What type of miso do you prefer? And are there any brands you recommend?
Hi Leala! I like white or awase miso paste for miso soup. If you prefer it salty and smoky, then go for red miso paste. As far as brands, I like Hikari, Marukome, Hanamaruki, and Miko. 🙂
Thank you so much! I got the Hikari organic white miso. I just made your recipe, and it is absolutely delicious! It is on par with the miso soup I get at restaurants. Thank you so much!
Thank you so much Leala! 🙂
Thank you for this recipe, it’s my go to, it’s simple and delicious. I also appreciate the links for ingredients. I love all the recipes I have found on your website.
I love the salad dressing to hat has ginger and carrots in it, I LoVE it.
Thank you for sharing your family recipes.
Thank you so much Paula, you just made smile from ear to ear 🙂
My husband and I went to Japan several years ago and I fell in love with the food.
The Riken brand of powdered dashi that you mention was recommended to me by a woman who owns a small Japanese grocery close to my office here in the United States. She told me “All the Japanese housewives use this” lol. It’s so good and so simple to use, and your recipe is delicious!
Thank you so much Erika! 🙂
This hit the spot. The best miso soup I’ve ever had and the first I’ve attempted to make. I used Dashi granules and added some tofu with a little nori on top to serve. Thanks for sharing your mom’s amazing recipe!
Thank you so much Barbara, this makes me so happy! 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. The first recipe I’ve used that gives a delicate and full- flavored miso broth! I do make my own kombu dashi for this for a vegan version. I’ve made with Vidalia onions and occasionally include either mushrooms or Wakame. This is my go-to recipe from now on!
I have made several attempts at other miso recipes. This is by far the best and the easiest. No need to keep searching for any other recipe.
Thank you so much Andrea! 🙂
Approx. how much tofu and wakame are you roughly adding. I know a little goes a long way with the seaweed. Thank you!
Hi Craig! You’re absolutely right by saying that a little goes a long way with wakame 🙂 I usually add 5 or 6 pieces per bowl and right before serving so they are fresh and not slimy. As for tofu, use silken and dice them quite small (smaller than bite size is better). 2 tablespoons per bowl is about right.
Very good simple recipe!!! Found everything I needed at the local Asian market (the miso paste will be in the refrigerated section). Will be adding this to the normal lunch rotation. Thanks!!!
You are so welcome Nichi! And I’m sure my mother will also be happy to know that so many people love her miso soup as much as I do! 🙂
Hello from Texas!
I ADORE miso soup… my whole family does really. I cannot wait to try your recipe!! I have never made miso before… and to be quite honest… I’ve never bought tofu either. What would be the best tofu to use? Also what kind of seaweed. Is it dried or fresh? I would appreciate all the help I can get! Thanks so much in advance!
Hi Leta! Silken tofu is the only type I recommend for using in soups because of it’s delicate silky texture. As for seaweed, look for the dry wakame type, which you can find in every Asian grocery store, or here on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Wakame-Dried-Seaweed-Ounce-Shirakiku/dp/B0086XRRMW/ref=sr_1_5?crid=1ESL1VIG36BWA&keywords=wakame+seaweed&qid=1581950802&sprefix=wakame%2Caps%2C165&sr=8-5
Absolutely divine! My previous attempts at making miso soup did not even come close to this recipe. Clearly simple is best with miso soup. I changed my liquid concentrated dashi to the HonDashi granules mentioned in the article. Wow! What a difference! Thank you Caroline for another recipe that my Japanese mom would love:)
You are so welcome Carol, your message put a big smile on my face 🙂 ❤️
I LOVE the tip of using the strainer to help dissolve the clumps of miso. Brilliant! Thank you!
It is so easy and so delicious, I used a Dashi Miso paste so I didn’t add the flakes and it is amazing. My three boys all loved it too. What a crowd pleaser, it was so fast to make. I have gone to the store for Miso paste alone several times since the first and it is always great.
Wonderful Wendy! I make miso soup almost every day for the exact same reasons – because it’s so easy and so delicious! 🙂
I LOVE your blog and traditional recipes that include short cuts without the guilt from not preparing all ingredients from scratch. This miso recipe is simple yet tastes wonderfully complex from the cooked onions, hon dashi and miso combination. I am Sansei and was unable to capture my mom’s Japanese recipes because she rarely wrote them down. Finding your blog filled so many gaps in how I cook (or tried to cook) Japanese food. Many thanks for creating an amazing blog with background stories that make recipes come alive. Now off I go to the Japanese grocery store to find Riken dashi so I can decide if I have a new favorite to add to my pantry. 🙂
Thank you Carol for the beautiful comment! I always ask my mother about her recipes and though she never writes them down (just like your mother – is it a Japanese thing? ;P) she can always recreate her dishes the same way. Nowadays, whenever I’m in Japan visiting her, I make sure to keep notes on how she makes my favorite dishes, including using measuring cups and spoons (she always looks at me like I’m crazy haha!). I’m so happy you are able to capture some of your mother’s flavors, there’s nothing more comforting than a mother’s love 🙂
No it’s NOT a Japanese thing-it’s a Mother thing!. My mom’s from Missouri in USA, her mom is from Kentucky. Neither one of them have ever written down a recipe in their lives, never accurately measured anything and never really willingly shared a recipe outside the family!!
That’s too funny Kaye! And that’s why so many of us start food blogs so we can try to recapture some of mom’s amazing food. Maybe we all need to have a serious talk with them and tell them to write that stuff down!
I’ve been making miso soup everyday for over a year, and decided to follow your recipe today. It was the best.miso.soup.ever!!! Thank you. I especially liked the miso in the strainer.
That’s wonderful Karen! I’m really happy you like my mother’s recipe, I’ll let her know 🙂