Miso soup is so rich and tasty. This quick miso soup recipe comes together in under 15 minutes. Now you can have that rich and comforting Japanese restaurant favorite at home in no time.
Here’s a quick and easy miso soup recipe that doesn’t use any hard-to-find ingredients, such as dashi (we’ll get to that in a minute). You’re going to love making this restaurant favorite at home.
What Is Miso Soup?
Miso soup is a Japanese soup made from miso and broth. It can contain other ingredients like mushrooms, potatoes, fish, tofu, or seaweed.
It’s a very rich tasting soup because miso has a lot of umami, a savory rich flavor.
What Is Miso?
Okay, so miso soup is, at its base, just miso and stock. But what is miso? Miso is paste. It’s made from a fermented mixture of mashed up cooked soybeans, grains, and a fungus called koji.
Not all miso tastes the same. Depending on how long it aged and the exact ingredients, it can be mild or strong-flavored. It is sometimes sweet and sometimes salty.
Most of the time in North America, we get a mild and slightly sweet miso (called shiro in Japanese). If the package you’re looking at doesn’t say anything specific beyond “miso” then that is probably what you’re looking at.
Here is a red miso, which is a darker and richer, and is great for miso soup.
Note that because misos taste different and have different strengths, the recipe below has you start with just 1 tablespoon of the paste. You add that to the soup (you thin it with some hot stock first) and then taste the soup. If you like it, you can stop there. If you want a stronger miso flavor, you can add more.
If you’re using a white miso, it is likely that you will end up wanting more. If you’re using a dark miso, you might need to stop after that first tablespoon.
Making Miso Soup Like Japanese Restaurants in North America
Miso soup has a number of ingredients that may be difficult for you to find, depending on where you live and shop. I’ve done my best to make this as simple as possible by not requiring many of the ingredients and giving substitutions for those that are harder to find. The result will not be exactly like Japanese restaurants, but it’s close. And you can definitely experiment with the ingredients to get exactly what you’re looking for.
Ingredients You Need for Miso Soup
So, you will need miso, as mentioned. You’ll also need some kind of stock. I like to use an unsalted chicken stock, but seafood or vegetable stocks are also good choices.
Tofu, otherwise known as bean curd, is usually found refrigerated in the produce section of the grocery store. If you don’t like tofu, go ahead and use chicken, cooked and cubed, or just skip it.
Choose a firm tofu, or even extra firm. This will hold it’s shape really well in the soup.
Seaweed, the green stuff that’s usually floating in miso soup. Seaweed is sometimes sold in the International section of grocery stores. It comes in dried sheets that you need to hydrate before using. If you can’t get seaweed, don’t worry about it. Use some chopped, fresh spinach.
Speaking of green things, a bit of green onion is always a nice addition too. It adds color and a touch of flavor.
Miso soup also usually contains dashi, a Japanese cooking broth which is made with bonito fish flakes and dried kelp. But my regular grocery store and two of my nearest high-end grocery stores don’t carry it. I therefore decided to skip it because it is likely too hard for my readers to find as well.
It’s okay though. You can absolutely go with a seafood or mild chicken stock instead.
In place of dashi, I’ve used a few drops of Thai fish sauce, which is much easier to find and more versatile. You will definitely find fish sauce in the International aisle of your grocery store, usually near the chili pastes and soy sauces.
It’s a liquid sauce that you store in your refrigerator after opening. It has a strong taste, so a few drops can really transform a dish. Fish sauce is common in Asian cuisines. People use it as a dipping sauce for meats or even as a flavor enhancer in casseroles.
That’s everything you need to know to make miso soup at home. I hope you love it as much as I do. Have a tasty day!
Instead of dashi, a traditional ingredient for miso soup that can be hard to find, this version uses seafood stock or chicken stock with a bit of fish sauce added to it. Note, if you can’t get seaweed, you can use spinach. Don’t mix it into the soup pot though. Instead, chop up 2 cups of fresh spinach leaves. Add some to each soup bowl. Ladle the soup over top so that the spinach will wilt just before serving.
- 6 cups low or no-sodium seafood, chicken, or vegetable stock
- 1/2 tsp. fish sauce
- 4 sheets of dried seaweed
- 12 oz. firm tofu
- 2 green onions
- 1–3 Tbsp. miso paste
- Put a large pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Add the broth and the fish sauce. Cover and bring to a boil.
- While the soup heats, break up the seaweed into 1-inch pieces. Put it into a large bowl and cover with cool tap water. Let sit in the water for 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- While the seaweed is soaking, cut the tofu into 1/2 inch squares. Chop the green part of the green onions.
- When the broth reaches a simmer turn the heat to very low. You won’t want the soup to reach a boil after this point.
- Measure 1 tablespoon of the miso paste into a small bowl. Add a tablespoon of the hot broth. Stir. Add another tablespoon of broth. Stir and then add it to the soup. Stir and taste. If you like the flavor, move onto the next step. If you’d like a stronger miso flavor, dissolve another tablespoon of the miso into a bit of hot broth and add it. Continue to repeat until you have the desired taste. If you go too far and add too much miso, dilute the soup with hot tap water 1 cup at a time.
- Add the tofu to the soup and stir gently. Let it heat through for 1 minute.
- Divide the seaweed and green onions between 6 soup bowls. Ladle the soup over top.
This post was originally published in February 2015. It was revised and republished in January 2020.