Not Just Savory, But Sweet Too!

And it may sound a little out there, but white miso pairs well with sweet. Try adding a little to your next batch of caramel sauce for a savory counterpoint to the sticky sweetness. You’ll never know its there. Wait until the caramel has cooled a bit before whisking in 1 teaspoon at a time, tasting in between additions.

Savory miso paste is a powerhouse ingredient that we use broadly—beyond basic soup—to enhance our cooking. Its ability to deepen and round out dishes makes it an essential ingredient in our pantry. We’ve tasted quite a few styles and brands and picked four favorites with varying flavor profiles. Sealed tight, each miso will last indefinitely in the refrigerator.

Also known as “shiro” miso, white miso is slightly sweet, buttery and remarkably deep tasting. It's perfect in soup: simple miso soup, our bulked-up pork and vegetable soup (ton-jiru), or added to your favorite chicken soup for a rich body. Or try it in a simple compound butter. Mix equal parts softened butter with white miso for a do-it-all flavoring to slather on everything from chicken to blanched vegetables and pasta or rice. We think it’s particularly good with asparagus.

With a little foresight, white miso is a terrific way to intensify the flavor and tighten the texture of meaty fish fillets like salmon or sablefish. Blend equal parts white miso, sake, mirin and sugar and slather the fish in a skim coat. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 days, then wipe excess paste off and broil (watch carefully—the glaze’s sugar content can cause it to burn).

Earthy-red dark miso packs a robust flavor that pairs particularly well with red meats. Either marinate a big-flavored cut, like skirt steak, in equal parts red miso and soy or slather a thin layer on the meat as it rests. It’ll blend with the juices for an instant pan sauce. Add a dollop to your next beef stew or pot of chili for deep body.

Shot through with a rich sesame flavor, sesame miso provides one-stop shopping for soups, sauces and dressings. It blends with butter to smear on chicken or fish, or add a spoonful to extra-virgin olive oil to use as a light dip for crudité. Toss with warm asparagus or sugar snap peas for a quick side dish or fold into warm rice with a drizzle of sesame oil for an easy change of pace.

Yuzu is a Japanese citrus with a flavor falling between lime and grapefruit. When blended with soy and used as a dipping sauce, it’s called ponzu. In this case, it's blended with white miso for a potent soup base or easy enhancement for pan sauces. Yuzu miso is also terrific swiped on sautéed chicken cutlets or tossed with roasted vegetables. A little dab can add complexity to your favorite vinaigrette—or make for a nuanced spin on Caesar salad.