It’s super easy to make authentic Japanese miso soup at home! My recipe shows you how to make quick and easy soup stock (dashi) from scratch and the classic miso soup with tofu and wakame seaweed. Homemade miso soup is not only delicious but also has many health benefits.
Miso soup is a staple in Japanese cuisine and is soup for the soul. We enjoy it almost every single day for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. As a Japanese home cook, I would also say that miso soup is probably one of the easiest soups you can make at home.
There are many paths to making miso soup, but you can branch out and customize once you know the basics. This post aims to arm you with all the essential knowledge to make yourself a bowl of authentic miso soup at home any time of the day. And trust me, what you make will taste 10,000 times better than the Japanese restaurants or the instant varieties.
Table of Contents
- What is Miso Soup
- How to Make Classic Miso Soup with Tofu and Wakame
- Two Important Cooking Tips
- Let’s Make Miso Soup with Various Ingredients
- Health Benefits of Miso Soup
- Other Variations of Miso Soup You May Enjoy
What is Miso Soup
Most Japanese meals are served with a small bowl of steamed rice and a traditional Japanese soup called Miso Soup (味噌汁). At its most basic, miso soup is simply made of three components:
Depending on the region, season, and personal preference, you can enjoy many miso soup varieties in Japan. In addition to the classic tofu and wakame combination I show you today, we also use different savory ingredients such as veggies, meat, and seafood to make the soup. That’s why we can never get bored with it.
We’ll go over how it all works together in detail below.
How to Make Classic Miso Soup with Tofu and Wakame
In this post, we’ll master the most basic miso soup with tofu and wakame (seaweed). Once you know how to make this classic Japanese miso soup, you can easily make endless variations by changing the ingredients.
Step 1: Make Dashi (Japanese Soup Stock)
Dashi (だし・出汁) is Japanese stock and the base of many Japanese dishes. To make authentic Japanese miso soup, you must use dashi as the soup broth and not any other types of broth. Miso soup is not miso soup without dashi.
Five Types of Dashi
While you may not be familiar with dashi, it is the easiest and quickest broth. There are five types of dashi that you can choose from. If you are serious about making Japanese food at home, you can read my ultimate guide on making dashi.
However, if you’re vegetarian or vegan, you can use Kombu Dashi (made with kombu kelp).
Three Ways to Make Dashi
I make homemade dashi from scratch because it is much simpler and more straightforward than making chicken or vegetable stock! Fortunately, you can find all the ingredients in Japanese and most Asian grocery stores or online. Click here for the video tutorial.
Some recipes online use instant dashi powder (dashi granules) for miso soup. However, I don’t recommend this option as most dashi powder brands contain MSG and additives, and the flavor and fragrance do not last long.
If you’re still reluctant to make dashi from scratch, try a dashi packet instead of dashi powder.
Japanese cooking requires dashi in many recipes. You can make a big batch of dashi and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3-5 days or in the freezer for two weeks. Use dashi for different recipes throughout the week. With dashi on hand, you can make the basic miso soup in under 5 minutes!
Step 2: Add Miso Paste
Miso (味噌), fermented soybean paste, is made from soybeans, grains (steamed rice or barley), salt, and koji culture (麹, a fermentation starter).
Types of Miso
There are many different types of miso in the market. In the US, most miso available at mainstream grocery stores goes by colors, such as white miso (shiro miso), red miso (aka miso), and yellow miso. Read this post if you want to dive deep into miso. If you want to make your own miso at home, read about it here.
Each miso paste and brand varies in saltiness and flavor. When it comes to miso soup, there is no “right” miso for your miso soup. All you need to remember is to adjust the amount according to taste. Mix two to three miso brands/types together for more complex flavors. Enjoy its unique characters using just one type if you have good quality miso.
Try out different miso and find your favorite!
My favorite miso is this Kodawattemasu from Hikari Miso (slow-aged red koji miso), which is the most versatile flavor. It has a more rounded character that goes well with any ingredients.
Dashi-included miso (だし入り味噌) seems convenient as you don’t need to prepare dashi; however, you can’t expect good health benefits from it. To keep the quality and taste and prevent the container’s expansion, the manufacturer has to add additives and sterilize by heating, which stops the action of yeasts. Therefore, I don’t recommend getting dashi-included miso.
Miso to Dashi Ratio
A typical Japanese miso soup bowl holds about 200 ml of liquid. Generally, we add one tablespoon (18 g) of miso per one miso soup bowl (200 ml dashi).
How to Dissolve Miso
First, put the miso inside a ladle and slowly add the dashi. Then, stir the miso mixture with chopsticks and let chunks of miso dissolve completely. You can buy the following tools to help dissolve miso.
Step 3: Add Tofu
There are three reasons why you add tofu last when you make miso soup with tofu.
- Silken tofu may break when you dissolve the miso paste in the soup.
- If you overheat the tofu, the water in the tofu will seep out and harden
- Tofu is edible (and delicious) from the package (try Chilled Tofu and Tofu Salad recipes) and does not require cooking. You need to reheat it gently.
Two Types of Tofu
- Silken or Soft Tofu (Kinugoshi Tofu 絹ごし豆腐) – Undrained and unpressed; the highest water content; a custardy texture.
- Medium to Medium-Firm Tofu (Momen Tofu 木綿豆腐) – Pressed; a spongy texture.
The typical size for the tofu used in miso soup is ½ inch (1.3 cm) cubes.
Although it is common to cut tofu on your palm in Japan (you have probably seen this in Japanese drama or manga), it’s not required. I recommend using a cutting board if you have never done this.
Two Important Cooking Tips
- Add miso paste to the soup stock right before serving. You can cook the ingredients in advance, but wait to add miso until you’re ready to serve.
- Never boil miso soup once miso is added because it loses nutrients, flavors, and aromas. If you turn off the heat right before boiling, this temperature (203ºF/95ºC) is considered the most fragrant stage for miso soup. And by the time you are ready to enjoy the soup, it is an ideal temperature (167ºF/75ºC) for drinking.
Let’s Make Miso Soup with Various Ingredients
Besides tofu and wakame seaweed, you can add seasonal and year-round ingredients to your miso soup. Here are some simple ones:
- Dense & root vegetables – carrot, daikon, potato, onion, gobo, taro, turnip, kabocha
- Soft & leafy vegetables – spinach, cabbage, leeks, eggplant, okra
- Mushrooms – shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, shimeji mushrooms.
- Tofu – aburaage (fried tofu pouch), koyadofu (freeze-dried tofu), yuba
- Seaweed – wakame, hijiki
- Noodles: cooked somen noodles
For root vegetables, cook them in cold dashi until they become tender, approximately 5-10 minutes (depending on the vegetables and cut). Then, cook leafy vegetables in the simmering dashi for a few minutes. For mushrooms and tofu, cook them until heated after you add miso to the dashi.
Health Benefits of Miso Soup
Japanese people drink miso soup daily, as we believe this delicious and healing soup is a gateway to excellent health. Just like green tea, you can say miso soup is the elixir of the Japanese diet. Here are just some of the health benefits of miso soup:
1. Helps maintain a healthy digestive system
With its beneficial probiotics, drinking miso soup helps to improve your overall digestion and absorption of nutrients.
2. Good source of nutrients
Miso is rich in minerals, copper, manganese, protein, Vitamin K, and zinc. Therefore, drinking a bowl of miso soup daily is like taking a natural supplement for your health.
3. Good for bones
Miso soup provides many bone-building minerals like calcium, magnesium, and manganese, which help to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis.
4. Improve your heart
The natural chemical compounds in miso, such as Vitamin K2, linoleic acid, and saponin, are known to reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol.
To enjoy the fantastic health benefits of miso soup, you will want to make your own miso soup. Instant miso soup will not be as good since it contains higher sodium and may include other preservatives. However, some good brands are out there, so just be sure to read the label.
Now that you’ve learned how to make miso soup at home, I hope you enjoy this nourishing soup every day!
Other Variations of Miso Soup You May Enjoy
- Homemade Instant Miso Soup
- Vegan Miso Soup (with silken tofu and wakame seaweed)
- Vegetarian Miso Soup (with easy seasonal vegetables)
- Kabocha Miso Soup
- Tonjiru (Pork & Vegetable Miso Soup)
- Clam Soup (Asari Miso Soup)
Homemade Miso Soup with Tofu
For the Dashi (makes a scant 4 cups)
- Gather all the ingredients.
- Cut 1 green onion/scallion into thin rounds.
To Make the Dashi (can make in advance)
- Add 4 cups water and 1 piece kombu (dried kelp) to a medium saucepan. If you have time, soak the kombu in water for 30 minutes. NEVER wash kombu and do not remove the white substance—that’s umami! These days, it‘s pretty clean, so just make sure there are no dirt particles.
- SLOWLY bring it to a boil (about 10 minutes) on medium-low heat so you can extract as much umami from the kombu as possible. Right before the stock boils, remove the kombu and set it aside for another use. (If you leave the kombu, it gets slimy and yields a bitter taste.) Now, what you have is Kombu Dashi. If you’re vegetarian/vegan, use this kombu dashi for your miso soup.
- If you‘re not vegetarian/vegan, add 1 cup katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) to the kombu dashi and bring it back to a boil again. Once the dashi is boiling, reduce the heat, simmer for just 30 seconds.
- Turn off the heat and let the katsuobushi sink to the bottom, about 10 minutes. Then, strain through a fine-mesh sieve.
- Now you have roughly 4 cups of Awase Dashi. You can store the dashi in the refrigerator for up to 3–5 days and in the freezer for up to 2 weeks. Reserve the spent katsuobushi and repurpose it; see the suggested recipes that follow at the end of the instructions.
To Make the Miso Soup
- Add the dashi to the saucepan. If you are using dashi from the refrigerator, bring it to simmer over medium heat and turn off the heat.
- Add 4–5 Tbsp miso. Put the miso in a ladle, slowly add the dashi into the ladle, and stir with chopsticks to dissolve completely. Here, I‘m using a miso muddler. If you accidentally add too much miso, dilute the miso soup with dashi (or water).
- Here, I‘m using a fine-mesh miso strainer, which helps you dissolve the miso faster. After dissolving the miso in the strainer, you may see rice koji (especially when it‘s koji miso). It‘s up to you if you want to include it in the miso soup or discard it (personal preference).
- Cut 7 oz soft/silken tofu (kinugoshi dofu) into ½-inch (1.3 cm) cubes and add to the miso soup. Tip: Add the tofu after the miso is completely dissolved; otherwise, you might break the tofu when stirring in the miso. Note: It is very common to cut tofu on your palm in Japan. However, I recommend using a cutting board if you have never done this.
- Add 1 Tbsp dried wakame seaweed to the pot. Reheat the miso soup until it is just hot. NEVER BOIL miso soup because it loses nutrients, flavor, and aroma. Add the chopped green onions right before serving to keep their fresh fragrance and color. Tip: If you worry about salt intake, I recommend rehydrating the dried wakame in a separate bowl of water to get rid of the saltiness, instead of rehydrating it in the soup itself.
- Serve immediately. Place on the right side of the table setting; you can read about this in my post Ichiju Sansai (One Soup Three Dishes).
- In general, it‘s best to consume all the miso soup right away because it will lose its aroma and taste as time passes. Let your miso soup cool to room temperature (up to 4 hours; any longer and it will spoil) and then refrigerate. Keep for up to 2 days in the refrigerator. If you want to make a big batch to store for later, it‘s best to refrigerate the soup without adding the miso. When ready to use, add the miso only for the portion you need. You can freeze miso soup for up to 2 weeks. However, you have to remove the tofu before freezing as the texture will change.
To Reheat the Miso Soup
- Heat the miso soup in a pot over medium heat, but do not boil. Miso loses its nutrients, flavor, and aroma at high temperatures.
What to do with the spent katsuobushi and kombu?
Editor’s Note: The post was originally published on Mar 3, 2011. The post has been updated with new images and a video on April 3, 2017. The post was republished with more content on April 18, 2022. The recipe and blog content were revised and updated on June 7, 2022.