When bought, stored, and prepared with care, this fermented paste—an age-old Japanese staple—offers a unique, healthy flavor to your favorite dishes.

Health benefits

Probiotics Miso made from soybeans, as most is, provides extremely high levels of probiotics.
Protein: Contains about 2 grams per tablespoon and eight essential amino acids.
Genistein: Boasts large amounts of this chemical that helps fight free-radical damage.

Tips

Find: In the refrigerated section of most grocery and natural food stores.
Buy: Traditionally made, naturally aged miso is superior in flavor and nutrition to chemically fermented options. Look on labels for domestic, unpasteurized, naturally fermented miso. Most miso, with the exception of barley-based varieties, is naturally gluten-free, though the best way to avoid gluten is to look for the gluten-free label.
Store: Miso can develop mold easily, but when refrigerated in an airtight container it should last for at least a year.

Types

Red or brown: Fermented longer (one to three years) with a stronger flavor that kicks up stews and stir-fries. Made from barley and/or soybeans, it contains the highest protein levels of any miso. Mix in toward the end of cooking time, or use in marinades for meat or vegetables.
White:Made primarily from rice, it varies from yellow to white in color. Its short fermentation period (two to three weeks), results in a lighter, softer, sweeter miso. Use in soup or salad dressing, or as a fish marinade.