Red Miso Vs. White Miso — How Do They Compare?

Red and white miso are both made from a mix of grain and soybean that have been fermented. Both kinds are essential for Japanese cooking and have also been integrated into some Western dishes to different extents. Each miso brings its specific qualities to food. Let’s see how they compare.

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How does red miso differ from white miso?

Red miso and white miso have different proportions of miso ingredients. Red miso may be made with barley or other grain but will always have a higher percentage of soybeans than other miso varieties. White miso can also be made with different grains but will contain a higher percentage of rice.

Red miso and white miso are fermented for different lengths of time. Red miso is fermented for the longest time of the two, sometimes as long as three years. White miso is fermented for the shortest time of all the miso varieties — between one week and six months.

As indicated by the names, red and white miso have different appearances. The reddish-brown color of red miso is the product of it being fermented for a longer time and because it contains more soybeans than the white miso, which is actually pale yellow.

Red miso and white miso have different flavor profiles. Red miso has a more robust flavor than white, another product of its long fermentation time and higher soybean percentage. Red miso is saltier and has more intense fermented and umami flavor notes than the white version. White miso is sweeter than red miso.

Red miso and white miso have different nutritional values. The higher percentage of soybeans means that red miso has more protein than isoflavones than white miso, which has more carbohydrates.

Can you use red miso as a substitute for white miso? And vice versa?

You can use red miso as a substitute for white miso, and it may work in some dishes because it shares some of the fermented taste; however, it won’t be ideal. The fact that it is not as sweet and is both saltier and stronger-smelling than white miso means that it may not work in all dishes.

Red miso may alter the flavor profile of the delicate dishes that depend on white miso’s subtle flavors. If you do make this substitution, it may be necessary to add a sweetener like sugar or mirin and use less of the red miso. Because the miso is reddish-brown, it will darken the color of pale dishes.

White miso won’t be suitable as a red miso substitute, but it will provide some of the fermented umami notes. White miso may also be a preferred substitute if you are trying to cut down on the salt in the dish. If you don’t want low-sodium miso, you will need to add more salt to compensate. Color is another area where white miso may fall short since it won’t make your dish brown.

–> Learn More: What’s A Good Miso Substitute?

When should you use red miso? And when should you use white miso?

Red miso is better for more flavorful sauces and glazing meat and vegetables. If you want a rich brown color and deep umami flavor, red miso is perfect. It works in more robust soups as well.

White miso’s mild flavor makes it more versatile than the red one, especially when using it in non-Japanese preparations. Use white miso in light Japanese soups or add it to Western preparations like mayonnaise and mashed potatoes. It makes an excellent vegan dairy substitute for savory dishes.