Miso: The New Chicken Soup for the Soul

Bowl of steaming miso soup.


Feeling a little run down lately? Meet your new favorite comfort food, miso! It’s taken the food world by storm. While a fermented soybean paste may not sound like something you’d associate with comfort and taste, consider this: miso has been a staple of the Japanese diet throughout history and for good reason.

Miso is:

  • A nutritional powerhouse containing enzymes, protein, fiber and most of all, flavor.
  • Available as red, white, yellow and others, but all are very similar.
  • A fermented product thought to help provide additional good bacteria to the body.
  • Salty in flavor with a unique “umami”, a pleasant savory taste that’s hard to describe.
  • Popular in sauces, salad dressings and soups.

While recipes abound for miso soup, it’s really not all that complicated. Start by adding a couple of tablespoons to your favorite heated broth (called a dashi in Japan). Adjust the taste by adding more miso or diluting with additional broth. Be creative and make it your own — just don’t boil the broth after adding miso, as high temperatures cause it to lose some of its beneficial qualities. Consider tossing in a few of the add-ins below and simmer in the broth before adding the miso:

  • Fresh green onion
  • Cooked tofu
  • Potato
  • Soba noodles
  • Mushrooms

So the next time you feel like you need a little extra TLC, try substituting miso soup for that chicken noodle soup and experience the comforting taste that other cultures have known about for centuries. It’s good for the soul!

— By Carolyn Minckler, Bastyr dietetic intern, and Amy Frasieur, MS, RD, core faculty in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.