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My sister has always been the miso enthusiast of the family.
Not that she ate it at every meal or used it as a replacement for leave-in conditioner or anything, but man, could she conquer a cloudy, salty bowl of miso soup at a restaurant.
I was always partial to something more bright and crunchy – like ice-cold greens with chunky carrot and ginger dressing – as my pregame-of-choice for whatever Asian delight was coming my way. However, each time a steaming bowl of broth was slid under my sister’s nose, I couldn’t help but feel at least a little curious.
Being the elder and more mature sibling that she is, I was always granted a bite, and those savory mouthfuls still stand out in my food memory bank.
That first spoonful of soup had a flavor unlike any I had ever experienced before. It was pungent and salty, and the delicate white cubes of tofu that cheerfully bobbed to the surface melted on my tongue.
If we’re talking about the flavor of this soup (which obviously lends itself to a conversation about miso paste itself), I can’t go one sentence further without name-dropping one of my very favorite flavor descriptors:
Not only is it wildly fun to say, it’s a little word with so much meaning. In addition to the usual subjects of culinary land that may touch down on your taste buds (salty, sweet, bitter, and sour), there is umami – synonymous with savory in the Japanese language.
Umami’s flavor compounds are often found in high-protein foods, which make your saliva glands go wild. Hence, this is why I drool when I see queso.
Miso paste is made of fermented soy beans. And while I would love to drone on about the ingredient, far more in-depth knowledge on the subject was already eloquently dropped in this article if you’d like to read more.
The smooth, pasty product is a bold condiment, and once you discover a few ways to weave it into your cooking, I guarantee you’ll be hooked.
Start slowly with the white variety 0f the paste. Its sweeter, more subtle flavor offers a gentle gateway into the world of umami, whereas you may not want to overwhelm your own or your dinner guests’ senses with darker varieties like red to start.
The red type is more funky and I find it is not everyone’s cup of tea. Or soup ingredient, in our case.
Wakame is the type of seaweed you’ll often see in miso soup, but nori sheets are a great substitute that’s often easier to locate at the grocery store.
Nori comes in flat, dried sheets, and wakame is satiny and looks a little shriveled. It also gets rehydrated before being added to soup, while nori dives straight in for a swim.
Mushrooms aren’t a must in this soup, but I find the meaty morsels enhance the soup’s savory flavors that much more – particularly shiitakes, which are already packing their own umami.
I will confidently state that the pop of chopped sweet green onions is indispensable, and adds all-important texture to a dish mainly made up of more readily slurp-able ingredients.
Now that I’ve mastered this quick, flavor-packed broth (which comes to fruition in under thirty minutes, mind you), I no longer have to beg my sister for a briny bite.
So grab yourself a spoon, but make your own batch.Print
Delicate tofu, tender shiitakes, and green onions grace the broth of this simple miso soup that comes together in under thirty minutes.
- 6 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
- 1 8-ounce package silken tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
- 1 sheet nori (dried seaweed), chopped into large pieces (about 1/2 cup)
- 4 tablespoons white miso paste
- 4 medium green onions, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- In a large saucepot over high heat, bring the vegetable stock to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and add the tofu, mushrooms, and seaweed.
- Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have softened, about 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place the miso in a small bowl and whisk in about 2 tablespoons of the hot stock until smooth, to ensure that it doesn’t add lumps to the soup.
- Stir the miso mixture into the soup until fully incorporated. Add the green onions and simmer for 3 more minutes. Season to taste with additional miso paste or a pinch of salt, if desired.
- Divide the soup among bowls and serve hot.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Category: Soup
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Vegetarian
Keywords: miso, soup
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep Soup Ingredients
Drain the tofu and cut it into 1-inch cubes. I prefer to use silken tofu as it has a smooth texture and melts right into the broth. Because it’s delicate, be sure to stir it in gently.
Stem and thinly slice the shiitake mushrooms.
As alternatives, you could use oyster or enoki mushrooms – though you should make sure to add enokis in during the last several minutes of cooking (along with the green onions) rather than at the start, because they’re thinner and flimsier than the other varieties.
Chop the nori and green onions.
Step 2 – Boil the Stock and Build the Soup
In a large saucepot over high heat, bring the vegetable stock to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and add the tofu, mushrooms, and seaweed.
Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have softened. This will take about 5 minutes.
Step 3 – Prep and Add the Paste
White miso (also called sweet or mellow) has the mildest flavor because it’s fermented for the least amount of time, but you can use any color you like.
You want to make sure the paste is free of lumps before it goes into the pot, so you’ll make a slurry first. To do this, place the paste in a small bowl and whisk in about 2 tablespoons of the hot stock until it’s smooth.
Stir this mixture into the soup until it’s fully incorporated, and then add the green onions.
Step 4 – Simmer and Serve
Simmer for 3 more minutes.
Season to taste with additional paste or a pinch of salt, if desired. You can also season the soup with soy sauce or tamari, which is darker, gluten-free, and less salty, with a stronger, more savory flavor than regular soy.
Divide the soup among bowls and serve hot.
All Hail Mighty Miso
Although a dab more miso added at the end can fine-tune the seasoning to your liking, it’s not the only road to Flavortown. I tap in a few drops of a spicy sesame oil like this one from Eden Foods for some heat. It’s available on Amazon.
Dashi is the standard broth used in this style of soup, but our quick version calls for vegetable stock instead. If you eat fish, feel free to grab some dashi powder to boost the umami and go the more traditional route. You can find it on Amazon as well.
I think a homemade stock (even just a simple veg version) is the key to really stellar soup, so don’t shy away from making one in advance and keeping it in the freezer for miso emergencies. Sometimes I sneak soba noodles into my soup for extra bulk, too.
Will you make yours into a meal, or leave it as is to serve as a light first course? Share your soup suggestions in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Hungry for more dishes that showcase miso paste? You’ll love these recipes:
- Roasted Butternut Squash & Black Bean Rice with Hemp Miso Dressing
- Buttered Miso Roasted Potatoes
- Roasted Sweet Potato, Corn, and Black Bean Salad with Spicy Dressing
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Jennifer Swartvagher on May 26, 2015. Last updated on January 3, 2022.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”