Roasted Miso Powder
Each time I open the refrigerator door, a substantial bag of miso stares me down. Even being a frequent guest at meals in our kitchen, the umami-rich soybean paste needs only smidgens to get its deeply savory point across. A teaspoon here, tablespoon there barely adds up, and I couldn’t bear the thought of watching it languish.
Little did we know that my proclivity for preservation would yield a recipe to make miso even more interesting.
Oven-drying, like we saw with fresh tomato slices, removes water to concentrate and magnify flavor. This literal de-hydration also transforms the original into an entirely new, differently textured version of itself (and increases shelf-life).
In the case of miso, low and slow heating to create a brittle of sorts that gets blitzed into a finely ground powder that has the same distinctly earthy miso-ness, but on a darker, richer, funkier level. We start with yellow miso, which is richer than the bright + sweet-ish white miso, but subtler than big + bold red miso.
What’s in it for me?
The fermentation of soybeans with the natural, live fungus called koji, small amounts of whole grains (typically steamed rice) and a bit of sea salt to create miso paste also creates free glutamate — the amino acid our taste buds recognize as that “fifth taste” known as umami that enhances the savory flavor of other foods.
Another by-product of fermentation are the beneficial probiotic bacteria that help promote the health of our GI + immune systems. Pair these with prebiotic foods (e.g., onion + garlic, dark leafy greens, tomato or potato, whole grains, chana dal), and you’ll receive an even bigger boost.
A good rule of thumb about sodium in miso paste: it typically increases as color deepens. The light white miso pastes often contain only about 300 mg per 1 Tbsp; whereas some of the dark miso pastes contain 800 mg or more. Our yellow miso — labeled “20% less sodium” — still has 680 mg per Tbsp, or approximately 45% of the ideal ≤ 1,500 mg/day. The oven-drying process essentially condenses the miso by half, meaning each 1/4 tsp serving provides roughly 113 mg, or just over 7% of the ideal limit.
As a comparison, regular table salt contains about 581 mg per 1/4 tsp. With the added umami of miso paste, you need only a small amount to enhance the savory qualities of the food it’s sprinkled on, making miso powder an excellent way to add flavor in place of regular salt. (The same properties apply to my jalapeño– + fresh basil– infused salts, as well as my Herbes de Provence blend.)
Learn more about the nutrition + how to purchase, store + prepare miso in last week’s Have You Met.
It bears repeating from previous posts that in recipes like this, containing so few components + typically used in dishes as a finishing season, starting with top-quality ingredients yields the best results.
How do I make it?
In four simple steps that are mostly hands-off: 1) Spread thinly; 2) Bake until it comes away from the paper; 3) Flip + bake again; and 4) Pulverize the dehydrated pieces into a powder with a food processor or spice grinder.
How do I use it?
Think of roasted miso powder as a substitute for salt or salt-based seasonings. As for what foods + dishes its sneaky big umami kick will instantly improve, the list is pretty much exhaustible, so go ahead with whatever tickles your flavor combination fancy pants.
Enhance the savory flavors of meats, poultry and seafood — particularly on the grill — either added after cooking or as part of a dry rub. Let the heat of an oven-roasted tray of colorful veg (winter squash, potatoes, mushrooms, eggplant + broccoli come to mind first), a hot bowl of pasta, soup, chilli or whole grains melt the rich earthiness in even further. Or keep it subtly chill on cold green or veg salads, sandwiches, hummus, creamy dips or whisked into vinaigrettes. Obviously egg dishes of any and all kind, pizza — strawberry-halloumi or asparagus-ricotta — and our hands-down favorite: POPCORN.
I can see myself kneading it into bread or tortilla dough, or sprinkling atop my besan crackers before baking, and am imagining how delightful a surprise the lightest of sprinkles over nut butter-ed toast, a deeply chocolaty cake or chocolate macadamia (or chocolate chip) cookies would be.
It’s good stuff. Really. You need to try + taste for yourself.
Tell me… Do you have a favorite non-traditional seasoning?
- 1/2 cup yellow (or any other color) miso paste, lower sodium if you can find it (see HGN Notes)
- Preheat the oven to 170°F (or its lowest setting) with a rack placed in the center position. Line a large baking tray – rimmed or rimless – with a piece of parchment paper or a baking mat. Using a rubber scraper or offset spatula, evenly spread your miso paste into a very thin layer across the paper or mat.
- Transfer the tray to the preheated oven and bake until the paste has dehydrated enough that it easily comes away from the paper. This can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours, depending on the temperature of your oven and the thickness of the paste spread, but begin checking at the 1 hour mark.
- Remove the tray from the oven and carefully flip the hardened miso as one large piece or in smaller pieces. Return the tray to the oven and bake another 1 to 3 hours, until the miso is very dry and easily cracks apart into little bits. (The color will naturally darken with moisture loss, but keep an eye on it toward to the end to avoid burning.)
- At this point you can skip directly to the next step and blitz. Because we like a very fine powdery grind, I want to ensure as full of a dehydration as possible. To do this I turn off the oven and keep the tray inside, the door propped open with the end of a long wooden spoon, for another 1 to 3 hours. I’ve also had success leaving it in the oven overnight, but remove the spoon before going to bed.
- Remove the tray from the oven, then carefully remove the parchment or mat with the dehydrated miso paste to the counter to cool completely, at least 30 minutes. When cool, use your hands to crumble the larger pieces into smaller bits. Transfer these to a food processor or spice grinder (see HGN Notes) and blitz until the desired fineness of powder is achieved. If the grind is uneven, you can sift the powder through a mesh sieve to re-blitz the larger pieces.
- Transfer the miso powder to an airtight glass spice jar, canning jar or other container, and tightly seal. Store in a cool, dark place up to 2 months, in the refrigerator up to 6 months, or in the freezer up to 12 months for best quality.
If you don't have a food processor or spice grinder, a mortar and pestle is a good manual alternative. You can also transfer the pieces to a large plastic freezer bag (keep partially open), and use a rolling pin, wine bottle or the bottom of a small pan to evenly crush.
Inspired by Mark Bittman in The New York Times: Cooking.
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