Miso Soup- Recipe

Post by Paula Jahn, Co-owner and Dietitian at Nourish Northwest

When I was growing up, my family often hosted exchange students during the summer. The most fun I had was with our Japanese exchange student, Miho. I was a sophomore in high school and she was not much older. One night, she invited some of her fellow students over to my parents’ house to make traditional miso soup. This was a cultural experience for everyone in my family. My mom made meals from scratch almost every night, but she rarely ventured to Eastern cuisines. I was fascinated by the smell of the ocean, the billowy clouds that settled in the bowl, and the savory fermented flavor that I now know as “umami”. I may have been the only person who loved it at first slurp (we also learned that in Japan, it is polite to slurp your soup).

While I have eaten miso soup many times since, it is curious to me that I have not made it at home until a few weeks ago. Between our various workshops, cooking classes and events at Nourish Northwest, I make a lot of soup. It was a strange delight to not start with oil, onions, garlic, and carrots. In fact, I was excited to take a knife to only some ginger, tofu and scallions.

The miso soup was a delicious. Simple steps that may seem insignificant have a profound affect on the finished product. Making the dashi, a broth made of kombu seaweed and bonito flakes, is an essential step to achieve the delicate minerality that miso soup has. It tastes like the ocean.

We are lucky to live in Portland, where there is no need to go to a specialty Asian market to find the necessary ingredients to make miso soup. I found everything shown here at a popular market down the street.

First, to make the dashi:

Kombu comes in flakes or whole.

Kombu is a form of edible kelp that is widely used in Japanese cooking. Simmering kombu in water is the first step to making the dashi. It contributes to the “umami” or savory quality of the broth. Kombu is nutrient rich and a good source of iodine. To learn more about the nutritional properties and health benefits of sea vegetables, check out our upcoming Sea Vegetables workshop.

The next step to making the dashi is to briefly steep bonito flakes into the water.

A must-have ingredient.

Bonito flakes are dried, smoked bonito fish, a type of herring. It looks like pencil shavings and smells like fish food but lends the perfect smoky, salty flavor to the broth.

Bonito flakes have fulfilled their duty.

Ginger and miso paste are added to the broth and simmered for less than five minutes. The final steps are to add the tofu, mushrooms and scallions.

Fermented rice and soybeans.

The final product produces clouds of suspended miso paste that quickly precipitate out. It is mesmerizing like a lava lamp.

Miso soup, just after stirring.
Thirty seconds after stirring.

Miso Soup

(Adapted from William-Sonoma Soups)


For the dashi

¼ cup (5 g) kombu seaweed flakes

5 cups cold water

1 cup (1/2 oz/15 g) bonito flakes

For the soup 

¼ cup yellow miso

2 thin slices fresh ginger, peeled

3 ½ oz (105 g) fresh enoki mushrooms, trimmed

¼ pound firm tofu, drained and cut into ½ inch cubes

2 Tbsp sliced green onions, including tender green parts


  1. To make the dashi, combine the kombu and cold water in a large saucepan.  Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat (do not boil, or broth will become bitter).  Remove from the heat, cover and let stand for about 5 minutes.  Strain the broth into a clean saucepan, discarding the kombu.  Gently reheat the broth over medium heat just until it begins to simmer. Remove from the heat and add the bonito flaks.  Once the flakes are submerged, let stand for about 30 seconds.  Strain the dashi into another clean saucepan.
  2. Place the dashi over medium-high heat and whisk in miso paste.  Add the ginger and bring to a boil.  Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 3 minutes.  Discard the ginger.
  3. Add the mushrooms, tofu and green onion and bring to a simmer.  Cook until the tofu is heated through and the mushrooms are slightly softened, about 1 minute.  Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.
  4. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and serve immediately.

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