If you love Asian cuisine and enjoy preparing authentic and traditional dishes, then making homemade miso paste is a skill you might want to acquire. Originating in Japan, miso is a fermented food, made with soybeans. And it has for millennia been a staple in their cuisine. But it’s use long ago spread all over Asia, and is highly popular and included in Korean, Chinese, and many other Asian cuisines, as well.
You can, of course, just buy good quality, authentic and traditional miso paste in most major metropolitan areas, around the world. Companies like Maruya Hatcho Co., in Okazaki, Japan, mass produce miso while still using ancient and traditional methods.
You can even purchase from a wide variety here on our online foods store. For making homemade miso paste, you will need just a small amount of already prepared miso – it acts as a “starter”, with the bacteria in it initiating the fermentation process.
But there is nothing quite like the satisfaction of making homemade miso paste yourself, and using it to prepare your favorite Asian dishes. And making homemade miso paste also gives you the ability to adjust the taste with what beans you use, the length of fermentation time, additional kinds of ingredients you can include, etc. – which we get into later in this article.
But first, the basic ingredients and methods for …
Making Homemade Miso Paste Recipe-
(Makes 1 gallon)
- 8 cups uncooked organic whole soybeans*
- 4 cups of koji (special malted rice)
- 1-1/4 cups high quality salt (either Celtic Sea Salt or pink Himalayan salt are excellent choices)
- 1-3/4 cups (plus a little more, if needed) reserved bean cooking liquid
- 4 tbsp. unpasteurized miso
*You can also use other beans, like garbanzo beans, black beans, pintos, etc. – garbanzos are one of my favorites. You can also mix the types of beans. If you like the garbanzo flavor, but would like a darker looking miso, mix in some black beans, for instance. But traditionally, soybeans are what the Japanese have used for millennia.
Tools You Will Need to have:
- 5 liter ceramic crock or wide mouth glass jar, or a similar 5 liter vessel
- Some kind of lid, a not metallic object that will fit snugly inside the vessel’s opening
- A clean towel and/or cheese cloth for enclosing the top of the vessel
- Some heavy weight objects: washed rocks work well for this
Or, Ideally: A lidded 5 liter German fermentation crock, which comes with its own ceramic stone weights.
These crocks are a bit pricey, but if you are going to be making homemade miso paste regularly, they really make the process much smoother and easier. They also guarantee much better chances of achieving the best results.
They can also be used for other fermented foods processing, like Kim Chee, traditional sauerkraut, pickles, and much more.
But you certainly can be successful at making homemade miso paste without this kind of first class equipment. Just have on hand the above listed tools, and follow these directions that follow to the letter.
To Make the Pre-Cultured Paste for Packing-
- Soak your beans overnight in fresh, pure water. Soak them at least 18 hours.
- Cook the soaked beans until fully softened and tenderized. This can be done several ways, with different cooking times. If using a pressure cooker, cover the beans in water and cook at 15 pounds pressure for 20 minutes. If using conventional stovetop pot cooking, bring the water to a boil and cook for 3-4 hours. If using a slow-cooker, cook for 6 – 8 hours, on high heat.
- When your soybeans are cooked fully tender, strain them in a colander and reserve the cooking liquid. Keep the liquid hot on the stovetop.
- Let the beans sit in the colander for a few minutes, then add them into a bowl; allow to cool down to where they are not so steaming hot you can’t handle them, but still warm enough for mashing or processing.
- Now make a brine by dissolving your salt into the hot cooking liquid you reserved.
- Mash the beans by hand, using a potato masher or a mortar and pestle. You can also process them in a food processor, but be sure to not over-process – you will get a paste that is very smooth. Some people prefer very smooth miso, but traditionally, and in my own tastes, a texture that is still a bit rough and lumpy is preferred. Your choice, however.
- Now add and stir the 4 tablespoons of unpasteurized miso paste into the salt brine. Then add and stir in the koji.
- Using an appropriately sized large bowl, add in your mashed beans, then pour about 1-3/4 cups of the brine/koji mixture over them. Stir to combine. Add brine if needed, but no more than necessary to achieve a thick, firm paste consistency.
For Packing and Preparing to Ferment-
- Form the paste into compacted balls—anywhere from the size of a golf ball to a baseball is good.
- Wet the insides of the fermenting crock or jar you are using. Do this with your hands, dipping them in clean water and brushing the water off your hands onto the crock.
- Place some salt inside the vessel, put a lid on top, hold it firmly shut and shake the salt all around, coating the bottom and all sides of the jar or crock.
- Pack the miso balls into the vessel and, with clean hands, press down firmly to mash them together and remove any air space. Make the mash level and smooth on top.
- Now spread a liberal layer of salt over the top.
- Place a clean, flat, non-metallic object over the salt layer and put heavy weights on top.
- If using an open glass jar or ceramic crock, cover it with cheese cloth and a towel. Secure it tight with a rubber band (you may need to make a chain of rubber bands, depending on the size of your vessel and the rubber bands you have). If you are fortunate enough to be using a manufactured fermentation crock, it will come with a lid that protects the ferment but allows gases to escape, as well as weights to place on the lid.
For Storing and Fermenting-
- Important! Date and label your miso vessel – the rest of the process involves a considerable length of time, and you need to keep accurate track of it.
- Store your fermenting miso in a cellar, basement, cupboard, or any pantry space that is dark and cool. You will allow the miso to ferment for one “miso year”. A “miso year” is attained when the fermenting paste has gone through one hot summer.
- It is ideal to start the fermenting in the cooler seasons and allow it to go through one summer before decanting. If you start your “miso year” in the hot season, it may mature sooner than one calendar year. If you live in a hot, tropical region, a “miso year” will be only 6-8 months. But be sure to find the coolest, dark place you have available to store the fermenting vessel.
- When your fermenting miso year is over, remove the cloths, weights, lid, and scrape off about 1/2 inch of the top layer. Just below that crust is your cultured, finished miso. It should have an aroma similar to dark soy sauce: savory and rich.
- You can store your miso in clean glass jars with tight fitting lids in a cool place or refrigerator. It will keep indefinitely that way.
- If your “miso year” was a short one, your koji may not be fully broken down. If so, and you wish to, you can process the paste a bit more in a food processor.
- That it – you are done! Invite some family and friends over for a Japanese meal, featuring a batch of your very first (and successful!) attempt at making homemade miso paste!
Again, miso years are calculated by the number of summers the miso has aged during fermentation. If you have gone through one summer of fermentation, you have miso that is one year old. Understand, that miso is much like fine wine. The older is gets, the better it gets. So if you have the patience, making homemade miso paste that is 3, 4, 5 years or even older is totally your choice. You will be amazed at the taste of very old, properly aged miso.
You could, for instance, start several batches of miso at once. After one miso year, enjoy your first batch. Then, each year after, open up another one, taste and enjoy the same batch, but now a year older and even better!
Remember to keep a little bit of your miso to use as a starter for your next batch. And when you have become familiar with the basic process, you can get creative with making homemade miso paste. You can try different beans, combine beans, add seaweeds, grains, vegetables and even superfoods.
One last thing to remember about cooking with miso:
Probably the most significant health benefits of eating miso are the enzymes and nutrient content in it. These – especially the enzymes – are negatively affected by high heat; therefore, it is best to add miso into a broth, soup, stew, etc., at the very end of the cooking process. Most often it is best to just stir it in after the rest of the cooking is finished and the heat has been turned off.
Chow, Y’all … enjoy making homemade miso paste, and please leave a comment. How do you like to use miso in your cooking? Have you ever make you own? Offer feedback, give suggestions, share, whatever – it’s all good here at Ethnic Foods R Us.
My Best Always, Your Friend,
Marvin D Wilson (AKA The Old Silly)
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