Just because it sits happily next to blocks of tofu in the supermarket doesn't mean miso is an ingredient strictly reserved for Asian cooking. Fragrant, sweet and wonderfully salty, this fermented soybean paste pairs surprisingly well in recipes across your entire cookbook collection—and not just the one that shows you how to make sushi at home.
In general, the darker the miso paste (which comes in white, yellow and red varieties), the more pungent and intense the flavor. A dab of dark-red miso can quickly overpower a dish, while its lighter and mellower cousins can be used more generously. Whichever one you spring for (we're not ashamed to admit we have all three on hand), the high salt content and the fact miso paste is already fermented means it can hang out in the back of your fridge alongside your forgotten jar of pickles, ready to use all year long.
Here are six ways to put this jack-of-all-trades condiment to work in your everyday cooking.
① Add It to Salad Dressings
Salt and sugar are natural partners to the acid in sharp salad dressings—add a teaspoon or two of yellow or white miso before whizzing together your weekly batch of vinaigrette, and you'll be serving greens delicious enough to actually warrant a second helping of salad.
② Make the Best Compound Butter
Bolster the already-beefy flavor of your Flintstones-sized sirloin by mixing softened butter with a few spoonfuls of miso paste before ladling it generously over finished steaks; save some for your corn on the cob and grilled vegetables. Sub homemade mayo (or even that store-bought brand you're zealously devoted to) for a burger spread that will make you forget all about Thousand Island.
③ Use It as a Parmesan Substitute
Yes, you heard us. As Eats discovered, vegetarians looking for a substitute for Parmesan (a cheese, which, as it turns out, is hiding a dirty secret) can use the rich flavor of miso as a substitute for a hunk of aged Reggiano in risottos and pastas. Both products are high in glutamates, the chemical compounds responsible for their addictive flavors.
④ Throw It in Marinades
Google miso marinade, and you'll find endless variations of the miso-glazed cod made popular by chef Nobu Matsuhisa. But miso is suited to way more than just fish: The sugars in the paste help whatever you're cooking—whether it's chicken on the grill or vegetables roasted in the oven—to caramelize into a glossy golden brown.
⑤ Use It in Place of Salt
If we can find a reason to put everyone's Salt Bae impressions to rest, we'll take it. But all memes aside, using miso to season your sautés, pan sauces and stews will add a savory backbone that your box of Diamond Crystal Kosher won't be able to touch.
⑥ Balance Out Your Desserts
Yes, we're absolutely telling you to throw the salty condiment into your desserts, where the sweet, funky edge can balance out confections on the more sugary end of the spectrum. Use a small dab to bolster the floral flavors of vanilla in your favorite ice cream base, or throw a dollop into butterscotch, caramel or any other trending dessert that comes with the word salted in front of it.
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