Posted: October 25, 2021
Author: Ryan Kukuruzovic, Corporate Chef

Ryan has 20-plus years of R&D and foodservice experience. His focus is on the design and implementation of diverse and innovative culinary visions with the highest standards of excellence.

In the process of diving into our latest Wixon Innovates research on Japanese flavors and cuisine, we experimented with miso. Rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals, miso is a prominent ingredient in traditional and modern Japanese cuisine and is gaining global interest. A traditional Japanese seasoning, miso is made by fermenting soybeans with salt, koji (a fungus), and sometimes, rice, barley, buckwheat, and/or seaweed. The fermentation process results in a thick paste, which is used liberally in Japanese cuisine for making sauces, spreads, soups, pickled vegetables, fish, meats, and more.

The flavor nuances and intensity amongst various miso pastes are tremendous. We focused on the relatively standard three varieties: white, yellow, and red. Here’s a quick review of the trio:

White (Shiro) Miso – known as “sweet” or “mellow” miso – is fermented for a shorter time and is lower in salt than darker varieties. It has a milder, more delicate flavor and is easily adaptable within a wide range of applications. 

  • Made with fewer soybeans and a higher concentration of koji
  • Great in warm-weather soups, dressings, and light sauces 
  • Can be used in place of dairy in some recipes (consider miso mashed potatoes)

Yellow (Shinshu) Miso – another mild type, it’s fermented slightly longer than white miso. The color of yellow miso ranges from light yellow to light brown. 

  • Made with a larger percentage of soybeans and barley than white miso 
  • Saltier and more acidic than white miso 
  • Works well as a multipurpose flavoring or condiment 
  • Adaptable for most cooking applications from soups to glazes

Red (Aka) Miso – a longer-fermented miso, it encompasses any darker red and brown varieties. red miso is generally saltier than light yellow and white miso and has a pungent flavor. 

  • More concentrated flavor 
  • Tangy and salty 
  • Made with more fermented soybeans than white or yellow miso 
  • Some very flavorful red misos are so dark they have the name “black miso” applied, though this is somewhat uncommon 
  • Best suited for heartier dishes like rich soups, braises, and marinades or glazes 
  • Can easily overwhelm milder ingredients, so use sparingly

With miso, the darker the color, the longer the fermentation process, and the stronger the taste will be. 

Miso Magic

Unsurprisingly as our team brainstormed concepts using miso, we identified opportunities within a wide application range. As we expected, the results within savory applications were extremely favorable. Where we were collectively taken aback is by how well each one of the misos performed in sweet/pastry applications. This discovery led us to create our Salted Miso Glaze – a spin on the classic Salted Caramel pairing – mmm so delicious! 

My recommendation to anyone within product development exploring these umami-rich flavor enhancers is don’t limit your application range. Miso paste is a universal flavor enhancer, no matter the cuisine or food category. Depending on your project objective, miso at low usage lends an indistinguishable, signature nuance of umami to a food product or alternatively at higher usage, miso lends an undeniably distinctive umami-rich foundation to whatever the final food product is. So ultimately, be open to the many flavor opportunities miso can offer. 

And, as always, Wixon’s team of Culinary and R&D scientists are here to support your flavor development and concept needs.

Please, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Domo arigato! (“Thank You!” in Japanese)