For Deeper Umami Notes In Miso Soup, Substitute White Paste For Red

Does your homemade miso soup feel a little mild sometimes? If you answered yes, you're in luck. We have just the hack for you. To add deeper umami notes to your miso soup, the secret lies in a simple yet impactful swap: Substituting white miso paste with its red counterpart. 

What is miso exactly? It is a staple and fundamental component of Japanese cuisine and the hero of many traditional dishes, especially miso soup. There are a few types of miso out there, two of which are white and red. They come with noticeable differences in both color and taste. White miso is paler and beige in color and made with more rice, while red miso undergoes a longer fermentation process and contains more soybeans than rice. Red miso is actually tan or brown rather than red. 

Opt for white miso if you enjoy milder miso soups with a subtle sweetness. But if you're looking to step up the umami flavors, use red miso instead. Due to the longer fermentation time, red miso packs more of a savory punch and has more pronounced salinity. Choosing red miso to make miso soup will alter the final look of your dish; miso soup made with white miso looks somewhat "milky," while miso soup with red miso will appear darker. 

How to make a simple miso soup with red miso

Since the levels of salinity and umami vary depending on whether you use white or red miso to make miso soup, ingredient pairings can differ, too. Red miso is robust and bold; thus, you may want to balance its flavor with vegetables like carrots or corn, which have an inherent sweetness. Vegetables like kale and bok choy, and proteins like tofu, can help temper the strong red miso flavor as well. A splash of sweet mirin will also do wonders. 

The process remains similar when making red rather than white miso soup. Let's run through a simple miso soup recipe by Tasting Table's recipe developer Miriam Hahn. Hahn's recipe begins with a base broth, usually dashi in Japan, but in a pinch, using store-bought vegetable or chicken broth is fine for home cooking. Right as the broth begins to simmer, remove about one cup using a ladle and transfer to a bowl. Add in the red miso and stir until dissolved. Add this mixture back into the pot of simmering broth and stir. Add in the other ingredients, like mushrooms, scallions, and tofu, and continue to simmer over low heat until the other ingredients are cooked through and tender. Serve the umami-laden miso soup piping hot in a bowl and with chopsticks, as in Japan.