Share on Pinterest
Martí Sans/Stocksy

Available in a wide range of colors, textures, and flavors, miso is a type of fermented paste used in Japanese cuisine. It’s known for its ability to add some extra oomph to savory soups, sauces, and spreads.

It’s typically made by fermenting soybeans with salt and Aspergillus oryzae, or kōji. Kōji is a type of fungus also used in the production of other ingredients, like sake and soy sauce.

Although there are many different types of miso, the three main varieties are:

  • Red. Because it is fermented longer than other types of miso, this variety has a very rich flavor.
  • White. In addition to having a lighter hue than other types, white miso has a milder, sweeter taste.
  • Yellow. Made with soybeans that have been fermented with barley, yellow miso is earthy and mild.

Regardless of which type you pick, all three miso varieties boast a long list of benefits for immune health.

Scroll down for three unique ways to use miso — and reap its benefits.

Similar to other fermented foods, miso is jam-packed with probiotics, which are a type of beneficial bacteria that live in your digestive tract. (However, heating miso is likely to kill these probiotics, according to a 2018 research review.)

Probiotics are involved in regulating:

  • nutrient absorption
  • heart health
  • digestion
  • mood

Plus, they play a key role in immune function.

In fact, a 2018 prospective study suggests that certain probiotics can help stimulate the activity of the immune system, which could be beneficial against respiratory infections like the common cold and flu.

According to a test-tube study from 2018, one specific strain of bacteria found in miso was even able to alter levels of several types of immune cells. This suggests that it could help enhance immune function as well.

What’s more, miso contains several other micronutrients that can support immunity to help keep you feeling your best.

It’s particularly rich in manganese, an essential mineral that doubles as an antioxidant to protect against cell damage and chronic disease, per 2018 research.

Plus, it contains a hearty dose of zinc in each serving. This has been shown to significantly decrease the duration of the common cold in some studies, according to a 2020 review.

Although miso is most commonly known as the star ingredient in miso soup, it can also be used in a variety of other recipes, including sauces, spreads, and pickled meat or veggie dishes.

For some new ideas on how to use this flavorful fermented food, check out these three recipes.

This miso glaze is easy to make and can give almost any dish an instant upgrade.

Try drizzling it over cooked dishes, using it as a marinade for meats or veggies, or adding it to savory stir-fries to dial up the flavor.


  • 2 tbsp. (30 ml) white miso
  • 2 tbsp. (30 ml) tamari
  • 2 tbsp. (30 ml) maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp. (15 ml) rice vinegar
  • Dash of salt


  1. In a jar, whisk together red miso, tamari, maple syrup, rice vinegar, and salt.

Cook Time: 5 minutes
Serves: 6

Adding a bit of miso to your next batch of homemade pesto is the perfect way to give it a savory umami twist.

This flavorful pesto makes an awesome addition to bread, pasta, soup, roasted veggies, or even pizza.


  • 1/2 cup (68 g) toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp. (34 g) white miso
  • 1/2 cup (119 ml) olive oil
  • 3–4 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups (50 g) fresh basil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Water, as needed


  1. To a food processor or blender, add nuts, miso, oil, garlic, basil, and salt.
  2. Blend until smooth, adding water as needed.

Cook Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 12

Miso soup is a flavorful dish that’s great for when you’re feeling under the weather.

Although traditional miso soup is made with dashi — a type of stock used in Japanese cooking — as its base, you can also make a soothing bowl of soup using other ingredients you already have in your fridge.


  • 4 cups (948 ml) water or stock
  • 1/2 cup (15 g) greens (such as spinach, cabbage, kale, etc.)
  • Optional mix-ins, such as scallions, carrots, eggplant, seaweed, or mushrooms
  • 3–4 tbsp. (51–68 g) red miso paste
  • 1/2 cup (124 g) firm or silken tofu, cubed (optional)


  1. Add water or stock to a large pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Turn down heat and add greens and vegetable mix-ins. Simmer for 5–10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine a small amount of broth with red miso paste and whisk.
  4. Stir broth-miso mixture into soup and serve.

Cook Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 6

Miso is a type of fermented paste made from soybeans and often enjoyed in Japanese cuisine.

It’s rich in probiotics and several other ingredients that can support immune function, including manganese and zinc.

Best of all, it is easy to enjoy in a variety of recipes and makes a great addition to soups, sauces, glazes, and marinades.

For more great tips on using super ingredients, check out: