Making Homemade Miso Paste

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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.

Making Homemade Miso Paste

Large Barrels of Fermenting Miso at Maruya Hatcho Co., Japan (Photo Attributed to Author: Kodachi)

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. misoFor 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-

Ingredients:

(Makes 1 gallon)

*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

fermentation crockOr, 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.

Directions:
To Make the Pre-Cultured Paste for Packing-
  1. Soak your beans overnight in fresh, pure water. Soak them at least 18 hours.
  2. 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.
  3. When your soybeans are cooked fully tender, strain them in a colander and reserve the cooking liquid. Keep the liquid hot on the stovetop.
  4. 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.
  5. Now make a brine by dissolving your salt into the hot cooking liquid you reserved.
  6. 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.
  7. Now add and stir the 4 tablespoons of unpasteurized miso paste into the salt brine. Then add and stir in the koji.
  8. 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-
  1. Form the paste into compacted balls—anywhere from the size of a golf ball to a baseball is good.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Now spread a liberal layer of salt over the top.
  6. Place a clean, flat, non-metallic object over the salt layer and put heavy weights on top.
  7. 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-
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. That’s 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!

Parting Notes:

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)

A Wealthy Affiliate Member


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22 thoughts on “Making Homemade Miso Paste

  1. Very good article, I am Korean native, now live in USA, and this looks like how my family elders really made miso at home.

  2. I love reading about and trying ethnic foods… really interesting article on miso paste! I didn’t know that it needed a starter – but I guess that makes sense as many popular fermented foods do. I’m thinking kombacha, yogurt, etc.
    Which is your personal favorite bean for this recipe? Have you tried some of the variations?

    • Hi Marlaine, and thanks for the visit and comment. To be honest, I’ve only made miso myself a couple times at home, so far. And I just used good quality, organically grown soybeans that I bought at Whole Foods Market. Both batches tasted great

  3. Wow! I love your website! So much information.
    I have know for quite sometime about the benefits of fermented foods but never had the courage to try making them for myself. At the store or famers market they can get pricey so I think I should give it a try. Starting with Miso! Thanks for a great article.

    • Thanks for the nice comment, Diana, and have fun making your own miso paste – I tried it and loved the whole process!

  4. My friend makes her own miso paste and has talked me into trying it. Although the process seems quite complex and of course requires a lot of patience I am certainly going to give it a go.

    Although I do not have as much experience I am going to compete with my friend and then we will each prepare a dish and see who’s tastes the best 😉 What is your favourite Japanese dish that uses miso paste?

  5. Hello,
    TBH this seems like a lot of work lol. But I know there’s no competition when it comes to making your “authentic” food and whatever that you buy from stores. I’m very interested in improving my cooking skills and I’d be happy to reach the level of “grandma’s cook” type of cooking. You know like the real authentic food that only you can taste at your grandma’s or mom’s

    • I know exactly what you mean by “Grandma Level” cooking, Joon! LOL, nothing ever quite like that homemade food served by Grandma, no matter WHAT culture or ethnic group you live in.

  6. Hi, what a wonderful site you have here! I was so excited to find it and all of the lovely recipes. I have never been much on Asian food, but my husband loves sauerkraut, and this gives me an idea to try to make some. The miso paste sounds really good , I think the reason I don’t care for Asian food, is maybe I have never had GOOD Asian food. I saw another recipe that looked so very good and that was the Campfire Taco Soup Supreme! Thank you for such a great site!
    With Kind Regards,
    Linda

    • Linda you are welcome, and thanks for the visit and nice comment. The Campfire Taco Supreme is wonderful, for sure. And yes, Asian cuisine, properly prepared is very good – give some a try!

  7. I have never tried miso paste, my wife really likes it though. So I am going to attempt to make this from your recipe.

    Thank you for offering such a clear, detailed recipe. I really like this site and have enjoyed looking at the various recipes on here. I look forward to visiting again.

    • Andrew you are welcome, and please do come back often. Best wishes making some awesome miso paste, too. 🙂

  8. My family and I love Asian foods, and we already have one of those fermentation crocks – which we make the BEST kim chee in! So this miso recipe is right on time for us, thanks so much!

    Also like the idea of making up enough to allow several batches to ferment even longer. But now I gotta buy more fermentation crocks, lol.

    • Theresa, yes, those crocks are perfect for making kim chee, too. And well worth the expense to own several if you want to make extra batches of longer aged miso, too. Although, as the article sets forth, you CAN be successful at making homemade miso paste with less expensive tools, too.

  9. Hey, just stumbled on your site Googling for this very subject. Way cool, thanks for this info – I’m definitely gonna try making homemade miso paste. And I like the idea of making enough to keep some extra batches aging for multiple “miso years”!

  10. Miso is great food, a super food, really. This was a very informative post, and much appreciated. I think I will try my hand at making some.

  11. Interesting information. I really like miso, but I’m not sure I want to go through all the work to make it, lol. But I do appreciate the post, and I also learned something – I didn’t know you should wait until the very last when cooking to stir the miso in. Losing the enzymes is not a good thing, so thanks!

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