It’s super easy to make an authentic Japanese miso soup with savory homemade dashi. The Japanese drink miso soup almost every day with different ingredients. This video and step-by-step tutorial will help you make delicious miso soup at home!
Many of you probably tried miso soup at least once if you have visited Japanese restaurants. In the US, it is usually served before the main meal with the salad; however, in Japan, miso soup is ALWAYS served at the same time when steamed rice is served.
At the end of this post, you should feel pretty confident to make yourself a bowl of authentic miso soup at home. And trust me, what you make will be 10,000 times better than what you have tasted in restaurants.
Watch How To Make Homemade Miso Soup
It’s easy to make an authentic Japanese miso soup with savory homemade dashi. The Japanese drink miso soup almost every day with different ingredients.
What is Miso Soup?
Most Japanese meals are served with a bowl of steamed rice and a traditional Japanese soup called Miso Soup (味噌汁). As the Japanese drink miso soup almost every day, different kinds of ingredients are added to miso soup depending on the region, the season, and personal preference.
Part 1: What is Dashi?
Dashi is Japanese stock, and it is a fundamental ingredient in many Japanese dishes. Miso soup is NOT miso soup without dashi in it as it’s the most important part of miso soup.
There are several types of dashi you can choose from to make miso soup. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, make Kombu Dashi. Otherwise, make (Awase) Dashi with kombu (dried kelp) and katsuobushi (dried & smoked skipjack tuna shaved into thin flakes). Some folks prefer to make miso soup with Iriko Dashi (anchovy dashi).
For the non-vegetarian version, you have 3 ways to make dashi; dashi powder, dashi packet, or making from scratch (watch my video).
Choice 1) Homemade Dashi: I usually make it from scratch because it’s so easy, easier than chicken/vegetable stock! All the ingredients for homemade dashi are easily accessible in Japanese and most Asian grocery stores.
Choice 2) Dashi Powder: This is the easiest way and you can find dashi power in Asian grocery stores and online. However, dashi powder brands you can get in the U.S. contain MSG, and it’s hard to find imported MSG-free dashi powder unless your local Japanese grocery stores carry one. I don’t use dashi powder, but if this is your choice, add dashi powder right before adding miso in order to maxmize the flavor.
Choice 3) Dashi Packet: If I’m in hurry, I use a dashi packet to save time. The dashi packets may be difficult to find in your local Asian supermarkets, but well-stock Japanese grocery stores should carry at least one brand. My personal favorite is Kayanoya brand – this popular dashi brand from Japan recently came to the US (yes!), and we can even buy their dashi packet online (I buy from Nijiya Market). It’s slightly more expensive than other brands, but it’s very good quality and yummy.
Pro Tip! The Japanese cooking requires dashi in many recipes. You can make a big batch of dashi and store in the refrigerator up to 1 week, and it’s always ready to go. Use dashi for different recipes throughout the week and if you have any leftover at the end of the week, make miso soup to finish up your weekly batch. If you have your dashi standing by, you can make miso soup in under 10 minutes!
Part 2: What is Miso?
Miso (味噌), fermented soybean paste, is made from soybeans, grains (steamed rice or barley), salt, and koji culture (麹, a fermentation starter). It is left to ferment in cedar-wood kegs at ambient temperature for six months to five years.
The different colors of miso types are indicative of the different ratio of soybeans and rice used to make the miso, and the length of the fermentation period. The longer the fermentation, the darker and richer the miso is. The taste, aroma, texture and appearance of miso all vary by different regions in Japan.
Miso paste varies in saltiness depending on type (e.g. red/aka miso, white/shiromiso, mixed/awase miso) and by brand, therefore you will need to adjust the proper amount of miso based on your preference.
Typical Japanese miso soup bowl holds about 200 ml of liquid. Miso varies in saltiness depends on types and brands; but as a general rule, we add 1 tablespoon (20 g) of miso per one miso soup bowl (200 ml dashi).
If you feel like the brand of miso you use is too bland, you can blend 2-3 types of miso together for more complex flavors. Otherwise, if you have good quality miso, enjoy its unique characteristics. There are so many types of miso to choose from in Japan (like cheese!).
And remember, NEVER boil miso soup once miso is added because it loses flavors and aromas.
Part 3: Various Ingredients
I assume most of you have tried tofu miso soup at Japanese restaurants. Have you tried miso soup that has other ingredients? In Japan, because we drink miso soup every day, we make it with different ingredients.
Root vegetables need to be cooked for a long time to get tender. Therefore, we add root vegetables into dashi BEFORE BOILING, and simmer until they become tender. Then you can add ingredients that are quick to cook.
Green onions/scallions, mitsuba (Japanese herbs), hydrated wakame seaweed, and yuzu are added right before serving as they do not need to be cooked.
Ingredients that are added BEFORE BOILING DASHI
- Manila clams
Ingredients that are added AFTER DASHI IS BOILING
- Bean sprouts
- Shimeji mushrooms
- Maitake mushrooms
- Enoki mushrooms
- Shiitake mushrooms
- Aburaage (deep fried tofu pouch)
- Tofu (silken or medium)
- Yuba (soybean curd)
- Wakame seaweed
- Green onions/scallions
- Tokyo negi (leeks)
Other Variations of Miso Soup
- Clean kombu with damp towel. NEVER wash kombu! Do not remove the white substance on kombu -that’s umami! You just need to make sure there is no dirty particles left. Soak the kombu in water for 30 minutes to overnight (preferred).
- Now this is Kombu dashi and if you’re vegetarian/vegan, use this kombu dashi for your miso soup. If you’re not, continue next step.
- Pour kombu dashi into a saucepan and SLOWLY bring to boil on medium low heat. You want to extract umami from kombu as much as possible. Right before boiling, discard the kombu. If you leave it inside, it gets slimy and leave bitter taste. Therefore we always remove it.
- Add Katsuobushi and let it simmer for 30- 60 seconds. Turn off the heat and let katsuobushi steep for 10 minutes.
- Strain dashi and ready to use! the katsuo kombu dashi. You can save dashi for 3-7 days in the refrigerator and up to 3 weeks in freezer. You can use leftover to make Furikake (rice seasonings).
- In this recipe, we make 2 serving of miso soup, which requires half portion of the dashi you made. Save the half for later (in the fridge or freezer) or double the recipe and use all dashi you made. Add the dashi into a saucepan.
Add hard vegetables like root vegetables in dashi BEFORE you boil it. Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer until they become tender. You also start cooking clams in pre-boiling dashi. Once the shells are open, turn off the heat (do not overcook). If your miso soup doesn’t include hard ingredients, go to next step.
- Soft vegetables like leafy green, mushrooms, deep fried tofu pouch are added AFTER dashi is boiling because they require less cooking time. If your miso soup doesn’t include these ingredients, go to next step.
Add small amount of miso at a time (in this recipe, you can start with 2 Tbsp miso for 2 cups dashi). Put miso inside a ladle and slowly add dashi into the ladle to let the miso dissolved completely. You can buy a special miso strainer which helps you dissolve miso faster. If you accidentally added too much miso, dilute the miso soup with dashi (or water if you don't have it around. I recommend making a weekly batch of dashi - see my post). Once you add miso, NEVER BOIL miso soup because it loses flavors and fragrance.
Add tofu AFTER miso is completely dissolved because you might break tofu when mixing in miso. If you added chilled tofu from the fridge and miso soup got cooler, reheat miso soup, but stay around in the kitchen to avoid boiling miso soup.
Add rehydrated wakame (seaweed). I recommend re-hydrating dried wakame in a separate bowl of water to get rid of excess salt, instead of re-hydrating inside miso soup. Add ingredients that do not require cooking such as chopped green onions, mitsuba, yuzu, and blanched spinach right before serving to keep the fresh fragrance and color. Serve immediately.
Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.
Editor’s Note: The post was originally published on Mar 3, 2011. The post has been updated with better pictures, a new video, and more detailed recipe (same recipe).