I’ve long enjoyed miso soup from Japanese restaurants, but never really gave it much thought other than I was eating soup with seaweed (full of essential vitamins and minerals) and that was a good thing.  I never knew that miso was a fermented food that introduced good bacteria, or live enzymes, into my tummy.  I didn’t really know why good bacteria in my tummy was beneficial (hence I suffered through decades of intestinal distress, but that’s for another post).

Today, I’m in a much different place and try to incorporate fermented foods into our meals as much as possible.  I found an amazing company, South River Miso, that makes – from scratch in Massachusetts – small batches of the loveliest miso you will ever taste.  They do offer soy miso, but their product range goes much beyond soy.  We eat soy in moderation so when I found alternate miso options, I was thrilled.  It’s possible there are other miso companies that offer similar non-soy options, but I’m most familier with South River which offers chickpea (our favorite), barley, brown rice, garlic and red pepper (in a chickpea base), and many more.  (Information on where to buy South River Miso can be found at the bottom of this post.)

Miso is so versatile and easy to incorporate into your diet.  Chances are, if you pick up any recent cookbook you’ll find a recipe featuring miso.  Here are my favorite ways to use miso.

1.  Salad Dressing – This is a great way to ensure you will not heat and damage the bacteria in the miso.  Heidi Swanson has a most delicious recipe for Creamy Miso Dressing in Super Natural Cooking.  This is our go-to dressing.  I also refer to it on the Recipe and Tips pages.

Getting Kids Doing! Tip:  Find a salad dressing that you like, and use it as a dip with carrot sticks, peppers, celery, and cucumbers.  They can mix or help shake the salad dressing.

2.  Cooked Grains – If you are making any kind of cooked grain, such as couscous, brown rice, barley, quinoa, etc., it’s easy to add a little miso.  Miso adds big flavor to grains.  Just add a tablespoon or so to two cups of cooked grains (adjust to your flavor preference).  Do not add the miso before the grains are cooked because you don’t want to boil the miso.  I find myself up against the clock many nights preparing dinner, so I make a batch of whole wheat couscous and add a little miso before serving.  My kids love the saltiness the miso adds.

(A word on salt – there is research that too much salt in any form is not good for you.  My kids eat a negligible amount of processed foods, which is where most people get their salt, and so I am not concerned about the salt from miso.)

Getting Kids Doing! Tip:  In preparation of the cooked grains, little ones can help you measure the grains and water, then mix in the miso before serving.

3.  Cooked Soups – Similar to adding to cooked grains, we add miso to our soup just before eating.  South River Miso’s Garlic and Red Pepper miso tastes fabulous in homemade Black Bean soup.

You also can make a mild and widely appealing miso soup very easily by cooking mushrooms, carrots, onions in water until soft.  Then, add wakame (soaked in water while the veggies cook).  Before serving, add a tablespoon of miso to each bowl and ladle the soup in.  Mix well and enjoy.  I always keep the miso out of the soup until I’m about to eat it so those live enzymes don’t get damaged.

Getting Kids Doing! Tip:  In making soup, older children who can use a knife can cut up the mushrooms, carrots and onions; younger children can mix the miso in the soup before serving.

South River Miso can be found at your local natural health food store or purchased directly from South River Miso.  They only ship in colder months so if you want to try it, order soon.  Please read my details about product reviews.  I was not compensated in any way by South River Miso.  I just really like their products and company and want to share them with you.

If you’d like to read more about “live foods”, including miso, one of my favorite books is Wild Fermentation by Sandor Elix Katz.