What’s A Good Red Miso Substitute?

Red miso is one of the main varieties of miso, a fermented grain paste that is a staple ingredient in Japanese cooking. Red miso is made with grain combined with soybean, which then gets fermented; red miso has a longer fermentation time than other varieties. As the most flavorful miso variety, red miso is excellent in marinades and glazes for proteins or vegetables. If you have run out of it and need a red miso substitute, try one of the options below.

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Your best bet: White miso

White miso is sometimes called sweet miso and is a paler miso that has become popular outside of Japan. White miso has been fermented for a shorter time than red miso but has the same texture and some of the same flavor. The fact that white miso has become a popular ingredient may mean that you will have an easier time finding it than red miso.

The downsides of white miso are that it is less salty and has less umami than the red version. It is also different nutritionally speaking, since it also contains less protein.

A decent second choice: Doenjang

The Korean fermented paste known as doenjang can also work as a red miso substitute in some dishes. Doenjang has many of red miso’s characteristics, including its red color, umami, and saltiness, so it won’t dramatically alter the flavor of a red miso dish if you use it correctly.

It is important to remember that doenjang has a more concentrated flavor than miso, including greater saltiness. The more intense flavor means you will have to use it in smaller amounts.

Doenjang’s downside is that it is still a relatively obscure ingredient in many places, so while it should be available in most Asian grocery stores, you may not see it on the shelves of a mainstream chain store in Europe or the Americas.

–> Learn More: Doenjang Vs. Miso – How Do They Compare?

In a pinch: Soy sauce

Soy sauce — especially Japanese soy sauce — is a good miso substitute because it is made with similar ingredients and a process as red miso. Soy sauce began as a byproduct of making miso. Because of the same ingredients and manufacturing process, soy sauce shares some of red miso’s fermented umami flavor notes.

Soy sauce will also be the easiest red miso substitute to find if you have to run out and get some. The main drawback to replacing red miso with soy sauce is the consistency. Because it is a liquid, it may add unwanted moisture to dishes that depend on red miso’s creamy texture.

–> Learn More: Miso Vs. Soy Sauce

Other alternatives

A Chinese fermented paste made with soybeans and broad beans, doubanjiang can work as a miso paste substitute for some applications. It is important to note that doubanjiang is much more intensely flavored than red miso and contains chilis, which might not work in some dishes that require red miso.

Fish sauce can sometimes work as a red miso substitute if its liquid consistency doesn’t matter and you can’t find any soy sauce. It will give your dish some of the same kind of saltiness and umami that red miso would bring.

If you need an ingredient that simulates red miso’s consistency more than its flavor profile, tahini is a good option. Tahini will give your dish a similar texture to red miso, and it may be easier to find.