Miso and cheese are cut from the same cloth.Described as salty, tangy, funky, and savory, both miso and cheese are high-protein and pack a big umami punch thanks to fermentation (or culturing, in the case of curds).
Miso is a traditional Japanese ingredient made by fermenting soybeans with salt and kji, a microbe that produces enzymes that decompose proteins in the soybeans. The result is tasty and unique to miso, but closely mirrors cheese. Best known for accompanying dashi (fish stock) in the eponymous Japanese soup, miso is a star ingredient in the Japanese pantry.
If you’re in the market for miso, it’s important to know your options. The most common varieties are white miso and red miso, but makers like Massachusetts-based South River Miso have been using additional ingredients to create alternative miso masterpieces. To show off how well miso and cheese can work together, test out our pairing recommendations, or try your hand at a homemade miso cure for your favorite wheel or wedge (recipe below).
- 1 jar South River Sweet White Miso
- ½ cup mirin
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ cup sake (Junmai is ideal), or water for an alcohol-free version
- Nettle Meadow Farms Kunik
- ►Combine miso, mirin, sugar, and sake in a large mixing bowl. Wrap cheese in one layer of cheesecloth and submerge in miso cure. Place bowl in the refrigerator, then cure to taste. (Sample the curing cheese over time, curing for up to one week.)
- ►Wipe cheese clean and serve with toasted milk bread or a super seeded cracker (ideal if sesame seeds are included). Use leftover miso cure in dashi for soup.
White + Yellow Miso
This is the mildest and most common of miso options. Its lighter color indicates that a large amount of white rice was used in the fermentation mix, and that the miso underwent a shorter fermentation period. If the proportion of soybeans to rice tilts toward soybeans, the color changes from beige to yellow (this also indicates a longer fermentation period). Try Cold Mountain Miso; Its subtle sweetness makes it a great match for luscious, slightly pungent cheeses.
Philadelphia Cream Cheese (seriously!)
Red + Mugi Miso
Dark color and rich flavor signal a longer fermentation period, or the addition of mugi (barley) kji. To sample this darker variety, look for Horikawaya Nomura brand from The Japanese Pantry. Red and mugi miso can stand up to stronger cheeses, like sharp cheddar, or tease out the nuances of a more docile wedge.
Get wild! South River Miso has produced miso in Massachusetts for over 30 years. They’ve got a slew of adventurous miso varieties to sample, as well as traditional white, red, and barley options. Plus, these alternative misos could make for an impressive addition to your cheese plate.