Superfood Spotlight: Miso Paste

What is Miso Paste?By Chef Meg Galvin, Healthy Cooking Expert at

Though it's just been available for a few years here, miso paste has been around for centuries. Though the first iteration, made in China almost two millennia ago, was made from fish bones, it was used much in the same way it is today. The ingredients have changed (thank goodness!) and miso today is made from fermented rice, barley, soy beans and even my favorite, buckwheat. Though its primary flavor is salty, miso can be very subtle or complex with fruity, salty, and umami notes. The darker the miso the more flavor and depth it will add to the dish.

Miso, like yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut, contains probiotics, which aid digestion by creating microbial balance in the GI tract. Those delicate probiotics lose their effectiveness if miso is boiled.

I often use in the raw state or in cooked dishes that require shorter cooking times. I prefer to use miso in place of salt in lots of my dishes, such as salmon, mushrooms, chicken, whole wheat pasta or even eggs.

What about nutrition? Isn't miso high in sodium ? One tablespoon or so is all you really need to impart a rich, salty flavor--for 30 calories and 1/2 gram fat.

The sodium levels vary by brands, from 330 mg to 880 mg. Read labels and choose one that suits your dietary needs.

Where do you buy it? Miso is found in the refrigerated section at the supermarket. You can buy it at most large grocery stores, in the health food section.

How to store it? Once opened store in your refrigerator just like mustard or ketchup. Once opened it will keep for up to one year.

How do you use it?

At my house, we love it:

  • mixed with olive oil and spread on toasted bread instead of butter
  • swirled into soups
  • tossed with steamed green beans for a creamy sauce consistency
  • combined with grated carrots, vinegar, and olive oil for vinaigrettes
  • added to stews to boost flavor

My favorite is to use as a marinade for quick cooking seafood dishes. You will love my recipe for Orange Miso Grilled Salmon. You will also love Stepfanie's Super Miso Soup.

Other great miso recipes:

Have you ever used miso?

SparkPeople Healthy Cooking Expert Meg Galvin is a World Master Chef, culinary instructor, and the author of "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight." A farmer's daughter and marathon runner, she lives in northern Kentucky with her husband and three teenage sons.