Teaching Tuesday: Miso (The Different Colors & Substitutions)

It's time for a new installation of Teaching Tuesday!

This week you're getting the 4-1-1 on miso!

So what is miso?

Miso is basically a fermented condiment. It's made from soybeans, barley or rice, or a combination thereof. Miso can also be made from chickpeas for a soy-free option. It has a salty taste, but a unique one. I really like the sharp taste in "cheese" recipes. It's also great for making broths and dressings and you can use it instead of table salt if you like.

Where can I find it?

Miso is refrigerated, usually by produce and other refrigerated condiments (like dressings). You can find it in health food stores (such as Whole Foods Market) and Asian grocery stores. Always ask, chances are it is in your store, but hiding.

What are the different colors?

Miso is often labeled by color, white, yellow, red and brown. The colors come from a combination of the amount of time the miso is aged, as well as how the soybeans are cooked (steamed or boiled) and if there are other ingredients (like rice or barley).

The color differences of miso can tell you the depth of flavor and level of saltiness to expect. The general rule is the darker the color, the stronger the flavor. Although there may be a few exceptions, depending on the brand or mixture.

White miso is generally the mildest and sweetest miso, followed by yellow, red and brown - the strongest and saltiest of the misos. Although I think some of the red misos are sweet too.

The white and red (sometimes) misos are an ok substitute for yellow miso. Most recipes that call for yellow or white miso only need a hint or of flavor and the brown miso is too strong. Red miso likely will alter the color of the dish if you substitute it in place of a yellow or white miso.

Brown misos won't work in HH recipes. Their flavor is too strong and different. If a recipe calls for brown miso, you can't really substitute it with a lighter color miso for the same reason.

What about substitutions?

Unfortunately, miso is very distinct and there is no substitute for it.

What is your favorite recipe that includes miso?