It’s super easy to make authentic Japanese miso soup at home! As the daily elixir of the Japanese diet, homemade miso soup is not only delicious, it also brings many great health benefits. Learn how to make this nourishing soup at home with my recipe tutorial and cooking video.
Many of you probably have tried miso soup at least once if you have visited Japanese restaurants. In the US, it is usually served before the main meal with a salad. However, in Japan, miso soup is ALWAYS served at the same time when steamed rice is served.
I may be biased, but miso soup is probably one of the easiest soups you can make at home! 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 taste 10,000 times better than the restaurant or instant one.
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). Depending on the region, season, and personal preference, you can find many varieties of miso soup enjoyed in Japan. In addition to the classic tofu and wakame combination, we also use a lot of different ingredients to make the soup. That’s why we can never get bored with it.
Part 1: Dashi (Japanese Soup Stock)
Dashi (だし・出汁) is Japanese stock, and it is a fundamental ingredient in many Japanese dishes. If you’re looking to make authentic Japanese miso soup, you will have to use dashi as the soup broth and not any other types of broth. Miso soup is not miso soup without dashi.
While you may not be familiar with dashi, it is actually the easiest and quickest broth one can make at home. There are quite a few methods to make dashi. Japanese home cooks commonly use Awase Dashi (made with kombu kelp+ dried bonito flakes) and Iriko Dashi (made with anchovies) for their miso soup. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you can use Kombu Dashi (made with kombu kelp).
I make my homemade dashi because it is so much simpler and straightforward than making chicken or vegetable stock! You can find all the ingredients in Japanese and most Asian grocery stores. Click here for the video tutorial on how to make dashi from scratch.
I have a detailed post on How to Make Dashi (The Ultimate Guide). It’s worth reading if you are serious about making Japanese food at home.
Some recipes online use instant dashi powder or granules for miso soup. However, I don’t recommend this option as most dashi powder brands contain MSG and the flavor and fragrance do not last long.
Pro Tip! Japanese cooking requires dashi in many recipes. You can make a big batch of dashi and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3-5 days or in the freezer for 2 weeks and it’s always ready to go. Use dashi for different recipes throughout the week and if you have any leftovers at the end of the week, make miso soup to finish up your weekly batch. With dashi on hand, you can make miso soup in under 10 minutes!
Part 2: Miso (Soybean Paste)
Miso (味噌), fermented soybean paste, is made from soybeans, grains (steamed rice or barley), salt, and koji culture (麹, a fermentation starter). There are many different brands and varieties of miso paste in the market.
My favorite miso is this Kodawattemasu from Hikari Miso (slow-aged red koji miso) as the flavor is the most versatile. It has a more rounded flavor that goes well with any ingredients.
Each miso paste and brand varies in saltiness and flavors, so do adjust the amount of miso according to taste. You can also mix 2-3 types of miso together for more complex flavors. Otherwise, if you have good quality miso, enjoy its unique characters.
A typical Japanese miso soup bowl holds about 200 ml of liquid. As a general rule, we add 1 tablespoon (18 g) of miso per one miso soup bowl (200 ml dashi).
The most important tip to remember – NEVER boil miso soup once miso is added because it loses flavors and aromas.
Part 3: Your Choice of Ingredients
I assume most of you have tried tofu miso soup (how to cut tofu) at Japanese restaurants. Have you tried miso soup with other ingredients? In Japan, because we drink miso soup every day, we switch up the ingredients all the time.
Follow these quick tips when you use different vegetables or seafood for your soup:
- Cook ingredients in succession based on their density.
- Add root vegetables into dashi first before boiling.
- Let them simmer until they become tender.
- Add other quick-cooking ingredients.
- Add garnishes such as green onions/scallions and mitsuba (Japanese herbs) only right before serving.
Ingredients that are added BEFORE bringing dashi to a boil
- Daikon radish
- Kabocha squash/pumpkin
- Manila clams
Ingredients that are added AFTER dashi is boiling
- Aburaage (deep-fried tofu pouch)
- Bean sprouts
- Cabbage/napa cabbage
- Green onions/scallions
- Mushrooms such as enoki, maitake, nameko, shiitake, shimeji, etc
- Negi (long green onion/leeks)
- Somen noodles
- Tofu (silken or medium-firm)
- Wakame seaweed
- Yuba (soybean curd)
Health Benefits of Homemade Miso Soup
Japanese people drink miso soup daily as we believe this delicious, healing soup is a gateway to great health. Just like green tea, you can safely say miso soup is the elixir of the Japanese diet. Here are just some of the health benefits of miso soup:
1. Helps maintain a healthy digestive system
With its beneficial probiotics, drinking miso soup helps to improve your overall digestion and absorption of nutrients.
2. Good Source of Nutrients
Miso is rich in minerals as well as copper, manganese, protein, Vitamin K, and zinc. Therefore, drinking a bowl of miso soup a day is like taking a natural supplement for your health.
3. Good for bones
Miso soup provides many bone-building minerals like calcium, magnesium, and manganese, which helps to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis.
4. Improve your heart
The natural chemical compounds in miso, such as Vitamin K2, linoleic acid and saponin, are known to reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol.
To enjoy the amazing health benefits of miso soup, you will want to make your own miso soup. The instant miso soup will not be as good since they tend to contain higher sodium and may include other preservatives. There are some good brands out there, so just be sure to read the label.
Now that you’ve learned how to make miso soup at home, I hope you enjoy this nourishing soup every day!
Other Variations of Miso Soup You May Enjoy:
- Homemade Instant Miso Soup
- Vegan Miso Soup (with tofu and wakame seaweed)
- Vegetarian Miso Soup (with easy seasonal vegetables)
- Tonjiru (Pork & Vegetable Miso Soup)
- Clam Soup (Asari Miso Soup)
For Dashi (makes scant 4 cups)
To Make Dashi (Can be Made in Advance):
- Clean the kombu with a damp towel and soak the kombu in water for 30 minutes or overnight (preferred). NEVER wash kombu and do not remove the white substance -that’s umami! These days it's pretty clean, so you can skip this process. Just make sure there are no dirty particles.
- After 30 minutes (or overnight), the kombu is rehydrated. This liquid is called cold brew Kombu Dashi.
- Pour kombu dashi and kombu into a saucepan. SLOWLY bring to boil on medium-low heat so you can extract umami from kombu as much as possible. Right before the stock is boiling (it gets slimy and yields a bitter taste if you leave it), remove the kombu. Now what you have is Kombu Dashi. If you’re vegetarian/vegan, use this kombu dashi for your miso soup. What to do with used kombu? You can reuse it to make Simmered Kombu or Homemade Furikake Rice Seasoning.
- If you're not vegetarian/vegan, add Katsuobushi and let it simmer for 30-60 seconds. Turn off the heat and let steep for 10 minutes.
- Strain over a fine-mesh sieve and now you have roughly 4 cups of Awase Dashi. You can store in the refrigerator for up to 3-5 days and in the freezer for up to 2 weeks. Repurpose the used katsuobushi to make Homemade Furikake Rice Seasoning.
To Make Miso Soup:
STEP 1 – Add Dashi
- Here I demonstrate to make 2 cups/2 servings of miso soup. You can use the formula; 1 cup (200-240 ml) dashi + 1 Tbsp (18 g) miso = 1 serving miso soup. If you add more ingredients/vegetables, the amount of soup will increase and you will also need more miso. Add 2 cups (480 ml) dashi in the saucepan.
- Are you in a hurry and no time to make dashi? You can use Dashi Packet or Dashi Powder to make instant dashi.
STEP 2 – Add dense ingredients BEFORE bringing dashi to a boil
- If your miso soup doesn't include hard ingredients or clams, go to the next step. Add hard ingredients like root vegetables. Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer until they become tender. If you're making Clam Miso Soup, add clams in cold brew kombu dashi. Bring it to a gentle boil and once the shells are open, turn off the heat (do not overcook).
STEP 3- Add quick-cooking ingredients AFTER dashi is boiling
- If your miso soup doesn’t include these ingredients, bring dashi to a boil and go to next step. AFTER dashi starts boiling, add in soft vegetables like leafy greens, mushrooms, deep-fried tofu pouch because they require less cooking time. At this point, keep the soup at a simmer and make sure it stays warm (not OVERBOILING).
STEP 4 – Add miso
- Add a small amount of miso at a time (you can start with 2 Tbsp miso for 2 cups dashi). Put miso inside a ladle and slowly add dashi into the ladle to dissolve miso completely. You can buy a miso muddler or a fine-mesh miso strainer which helps you dissolve miso faster. If you accidentally added too much miso, dilute the miso soup with dashi (or water). NEVER OVERBOIL miso soup because it loses nutrients, flavors, and fragrance.
STEP 5 – Add tofu
- Add tofu AFTER miso is completely dissolved because you might break the tofu when mixing in miso. If you add chilled tofu from the refrigerator, miso soup would get cooler. Reheat miso soup until it is just hot, but NOT BOIL.
STEP 6 – Add wakame & green onions
- Add rehydrated wakame (seaweed). I recommend re-hydrating dried wakame in a separate bowl of water to get rid of saltiness, 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. Place on the right side of the table setting (Read on Ichiju Sansai, or 1 soup 3 dishes; see the picture).
- In general, it's best to use up all the miso soup because the fragrance and taste will be lost as time passes by. Let your miso soup cool at room temperature (up to 4 hours – otherwise miso soup will be spoiled) and then refrigerate. You can keep for up to 2 days in the refrigerator. If you want to make a big batch, it's best to keep the soup BEFORE adding miso. Add the miso only for the portion you need. You can freeze miso soup for up to 2 weeks. If the miso soup contains potatoes or tofu, remove them before freezing as the textures subject to change.
To Reheat Miso Soup:
- Bring miso soup in a pot over medium heat, but not to overboil. Miso loses its nutrients at high temperature.
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).