Aka Miso vs Shiro Miso: What is the Difference?

“Miso (味噌)” is a quintessential Japanese seasoning loved by home cooks in many countries.

As you know, it is a smooth, salty, savory paste made by fermenting soybeans and rice or cereals like barley with salt and koji (malted rice).

Aka Miso vs. Shiro Miso

Aka Miso vs Shiro Miso

In Japan, a wide variety of miso pastes are available in groceries and supermarkets.

And among others, “Aka Miso (赤味噌: Red Miso)” and “Shiro Miso (白味噌: White Miso)” are the most common.

Today, these two types are well known even outside Japan, but do you know how they differ?

Aka Miso (赤味噌: Red Miso)

Aka Miso or Red Miso

For Aka Miso or Red Miso, soybeans are first soaked in water for many hours.

Then, they are steamed and aged at a high temperature for a long time.

In the process, the Maillard reaction is caused by the amino acids and sugars contained in soybeans and koji, which gives the paste a red color.

Since Aka Miso has a long aging period, its salt content tends to be high for preservation.

Accordingly, the resulting paste is quite salty. But Aka Miso is more savory, umami-richer than Shiro Miso or White Miso.


Tofu Dengaku

In addition to being used in miso soup, Aka Miso is often blended with sugar and soy sauce and is used for tofu, konnyaku, or simmered daikon radish.

Also for its savoriness, in Japan, Aka Miso is sometimes used as a secret seasoning in curry sauce or beef stew. 

Shiro Miso (白味噌: White Miso)

Shiro Miso or White Miso

For Shiro Miso or White Miso, soybeans are first boiled in water to make the protein and sugars in the beans run out.

That prevents the Maillard reaction from occurring. 

As the aging period of Shiro Miso is short, its salt content is low compared to Aka Miso, which brings out a strong sweetness.


Shiro Miso Marinated Chicken

In addition to being used in dishes such as miso soup and Nabemono hot pots, Shiro Miso is also often used as a marinade for meat and fish.

(Reference Pages: Wikipedia 味噌, MacaroniMoguna )


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

2 Responses

  1. Luiz Felipe says:

    Thank you, this article helped me a lot. I’m a brazilian enthusiast of japanese food, and I was just wondering wich miso should I buy for my recipies. ^^

    • Tomo says:

      Hi Luiz,
      Thank you for commenting and you’re welcome!
      There are actually so many varieties of miso but these are the most common and basic!

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