Miso Soup
Miso Soup

This take on the traditional Japanese dish, miso soup, is drizzled with sesame oil and topped with togarashi for a slightly smoky and savory twist.

In this recipe

  • What’s in miso soup?
  • What’s the best miso for a soup?
  • How to make Dashi
  • What is dashi powder?
  • Tips and tricks for making miso soup
  • Exchange and substitution of ingredients
  • Miso Soup Variations
  • Serving suggestions for miso soup
  • How to store miso soup
  • More ways to enjoy miso!

Miso soup is a traditional Japanese soup that is often served as an appetizer in Japanese restaurants. In Japanese homes, it is commonly served for breakfast with a bowl of rice and a simple protein such as fried fish.

My version is light and smoky, but also comforting, savory, slightly smoky, a bit salty like the sea, with just a hint of sweetness. Cubes of silken tofu bulk up the soup to make it more filling, while scallions add some freshness.

This recipe is a pretty classic take apart from my addition of sesame oil and the spicy Japanese dried spice mix called Shichimi Togarashi, which is a mixture of red chili powder, Japanese pepper, orange peel, black and white sesame seeds, ginger, and seaweed powder.

What’s in miso soup?

The base of miso soup is a broth called dashi, which is made from strips of dried seaweed (kombu) and dried smoked bonito flakes (katsuobushi). Miso, a salty, fermented soybean paste, gives the broth that palatability called umami, giving it a cloudy appearance that settles as it sits.

The simple version of miso soup served in restaurants is sprinkled with scallions and includes diced silken tofu and another, much thinner type of seaweed called wakame.

What’s the best miso for a soup?

I like to use white miso in my soup as I prefer my soup for both the density and flavor.

However, there is no hard and fast rule as to which type to use. It’s not uncommon to use red miso for a heartier soup or a mix of white and red, smooth or chunky. Because of its shorter fermentation time, white miso has a mild and sweet flavor and is best used in light soups, salad dressings, and seafood marinades.

Saltier, more robust, and earthier with its longer fermentation, red miso is used for heavier soups and stews and marinades for meat.

There’s even a miso paste that has dashi already incorporated, so all you have to do is add hot water. I once asked a Japanese friend to recommend a brand of miso and she told me to buy the most expensive one I could afford. When looking through the types of miso in the Japanese market, I usually check the ingredients and buy one that has only non-GMO soybeans, rice, and salt.

How to make Dashi

Dashi is a staple in the arsenal of Japanese cuisine.

It is made by soaking kombu, thick strips of dried seaweed, in hot water. The kombu is removed and then katsuobushi, smoked bonito flakes (fish flakes), are added to the water for infusion and then strained. This resulting pale yellow broth, with its smoky and slightly salty flavor, is the backbone of much Japanese cuisine.

In addition to being used in clear soups like miso soup, dashi is also used in dipping sauces, savory egg custards, and for poaching or braising. After making dashi, it can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.

I first learned how to make miso soup while assisting Japanese cookbook author Elizabeth Andoh on a cooking demonstration of Japanese dishes that focused on the basic ingredients of the kitchen.

She made dashi the traditional way and showed us beautiful large pink shavings of smoked bonito. She also showed us instant dashi granules and pre-measured packets of much smaller and darker bonito flakes. There is no shame in making your life easier by using them as they are used regularly in Japanese homes.

What is dashi powder?

Dashi powder is to dashi what chicken bouillon is to chicken broth. Instant dashi is made from dried bonito powder and extract, salt, sugar, and other spices and additives. Often it contains MSG. (Note that dried seaweed is a natural source of MSG.)

Dashi powder is used by either dissolving it in water or sprinkling it directly into a bowl during cooking, just like you would any other dried spice. It’s a very handy option when you only need a small amount of dashi. The instant dashi brand I see the most is Hondashi.

While kombu, bonito flakes, wakame and miso are becoming more common in well-stocked supermarkets, I prefer to buy these items at a Japanese market. They are also sold in Chinese and Korean markets, but usually not as varied as in Japanese markets.

Tips and tricks for making miso soup

Miso soup is easy to make, but here is some important information to know before you start cooking:

  • Many cooks rinse off the seaweed or gently wipe away the white, powdery residue with a damp cloth. I skip this step because this white residue, called mannitol, provides a lot of umami and flavors the soup.
  • Remove the seaweed from the water before it boils, otherwise it can impart a bitter taste and make the broth slimy.
  • Once the kelp and bonito flakes are removed from the dashi, it’s safe to bring to a boil. Don’t boil the soup after adding the miso or you’ll lose a lot of the nutrients. A source of probiotics, miso contains choline, niacin, folic acid and vitamin K.
  • To dissolve the miso without leaving large lumps, dip a large, fine-mesh sieve into the dashi and whisk the miso into the broth in the sieve. If your miso is rather chunky and leftover bits (from soybeans) remain in the strainer, feel free to scrape it into the soup.
  • You can also use a fork to dissolve the miso in a bowl or mug with some dashi, then pour the mixture back into the pot.

Exchange and substitution of ingredients

While my recipe is for the classic white miso soup preparation, here are some other options you might want to try:

  • Use red miso or a combination of red and white miso for a heartier, richer soup.
  • Use dashi granules in a pinch for a much faster, almost instant release.

Miso Soup Variations

There are countless variations of miso soup, depending on the region and personal preferences. Go beyond the classic miso soup and try these versions:

  • Make a vegan version by substituting dried mushrooms and their soaking liquid for the bonito flakes.
  • For a savory version, cook veggies like carrots, potatoes, and kabocha squash in the dashi before stirring in the miso.
  • Wilt vegetables like watercress or spinach in the soup before adding the miso.

Serving suggestions for miso soup

Typically, after a stretch of greasy, rich, and heavy food, I like to serve my family large bowls of miso soup accompanied by a small bowl of rice to help balance our diet. Otherwise I do it like the Japanese and serve smaller bowls of soup with rice and some fried mackerel or salmon and a simple sautéed vegetable. I’ve also been known to pair it with kimchi.

How to store miso soup

Miso soup is best eaten right away, otherwise it loses its freshness. If you have leftovers, it still tastes good, just not as good. When reheating, be sure to remove the pot from the heat as soon as it simmers, as many of the nutrients in the miso are lost when the miso is cooked. Eat it within 3 days.

Alternatively, the dashi can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. When ready to serve, bring the dashi to a boil, then whisk the miso into the soup.

More ways to enjoy miso!

  • Winter chicken salad with spicy miso dressing
  • Grilled oysters with spicy miso butter
  • Steak Noodle Shells with Miso Lime Dressing
  • Fried Japanese eggplant with ginger and miso
  • Chicken wings with miso glaze

Miso soup

preparation time
5 minutes

cooking time
25 minutes

total time
30 minutes

4 servings

7 1/2 cups soup

Have steamed rice ready to serve on the side.


  • 2 tablespoon dried pre-cut Wakame seaweed

  • 1 (14×2 1/2 inch) piece of dried seaweed (kombu)

  • 8th cups water

  • 2 cups (20G) big dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi), lightly packed

  • 1/3 Cup White miso paste

  • 1 (16 Ounce) package silken tofucut into 1 inch cubes

  • 2 teaspoon sesame oil

  • 1 spring onionthinly sliced

  • 1/8 teaspoon Shichimi togarashi (Optional)


  1. Rehydrate the Wakame:

    Place wakame in a medium bowl and cover with hot water. Let it rehydrate until it unfolds and softens, about 5 minutes. Drain the wakame, rinse with cold water and press dry with your hands. The wakame will expand quite a bit, so cut into bite-sized pieces and set aside until ready to use.

  2. Make the dashi:

    While the wakame is soaking, place the dried seaweed and water in a 5 1/2 quart saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat until just about simmering, 15 to 20 minutes. The kombu will have expanded quite a bit and the water should be pale yellow. Take the kombu out of the pot and throw it away.

  3. Add bonito flakes:

    Put the bonito flakes in the saucepan and bring to the boil. Take the pot off the stove. The flakes float in a moist layer on the water. Allow the flakes to sink to the bottom of the pot and let stand for 15 minutes.

  4. Strain dashi:

    Place a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl or 8-cup glass measuring cup. Pour the dashi through the sieve. You should have what looks like a golden broth. Discard the bonito flakes and rinse out the strainer, you will use it again. Wipe any residue out of the pot and return the dashi to the pot.

  5. Stir in miso:

    Bring the dashi to a simmer over medium heat. Dip the sieve into the dashi. Pour the miso into the sieve dipped in the dashi and mix with the whisk.

    Do not bring the soup to a boil. If you like, you can scrape the small pieces of soybeans from the miso into the soup.

    Alternatively, you can use a fork to dissolve the miso in a small bowl or cup of the dashi, then pour it all back into the pot.

  6. Finish the soup:

    Add the tofu and wakame to the soup and let it warm up for about 3 minutes. Drizzle the soup with sesame oil and garnish with spring onions and togarashi.

  7. Surcharge:

    Ladle the miso into bowls. Serve with the rice.

nutritional information (per serving)
164 calories
8g Fat
10g carbohydrates
15g protein
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Hello everybody, Even if you're limited on time and money, I believe you can prepare wonderful food with everyday products. All you have to do is cook cleverly and creatively!