This miso sauce recipe is a must-try. The umami-packed sauce is savoury yet sweet and super versatile. It’s the perfect condiment for noodle dishes, marinades, dipping sauces and salad dressing.
And the best part? The all-purpose sauce requires only four pantry ingredients, it’s super easy to make, and it will keep in the fridge for up to two months.
Keep reading for more about the Nobu den miso sauce, ingredient information, and how to use miso sauce. Or jump straight to the recipe for miso sauce if you’re ready to get cooking.
Why you’ll love this recipe
Whether you use miso sauce for vegetables, marinating meat, making a glaze or a simple salad dressing, this miso sauce recipe is what you need to add instant flavour to any meal.
You’ll love it for its:
- Simple recipe: Whisk together four pantry ingredients and simmer them over low heat. That’s it!
- Accessibility: The sauce is naturally dairy-free and plant-based. Look for gluten-free miso paste if you need it to be gluten-free too.
- Long shelf-life: Refrigerated in a clean airtight container, the sauce will keep up to 2 months.
- Umami-packed flavour: Best of all, the combination of miso paste, mirin, sake and sugar creates a flavour-packed miso sauce you’ll want to put on everything!
What is miso sauce?
This all-purpose sauce, marinade and glaze is a sweet and savoury umami-rich condiment with miso paste as its main ingredient.
Miso paste is a fermented soybean paste common in traditional Japanese cuisine. There are different types of miso paste. The ratio of soybeans to grains determines the strength of the miso flavour, along with the fermentation time.
White miso paste has a higher ratio of grains to soybeans with a shorter fermentation time. It is mild and fruity, savoury yet sweet. Red miso paste contains a higher ratio of soybeans to grains, and the fermentation time is longer. The result is an intensely savoury miso paste. Asian grocery stores stock a wide variety of miso pastes.
Black cod in miso, the signature dish of chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa, gave rise to the global popularity of the Nobu-style saikyo miso sauce. And it’s easy to see why. The versatile sauce is sweet and savoury, perfect for salad dressing, marinade, dipping sauce, and seasoning sauce.
Ingredients and substitutes
This homemade miso paste is super easy to make and requires only four ingredients:
- Miso paste: It’s no surprise that this fermented paste is the key ingredient. I use white miso (shiro miso) for a mild flavour. But you can also use yellow miso or red miso for a more intense, savoury flavour – though you might want to add an extra tablespoon of sugar to balance the saltiness. Look for gluten-free miso if you need the sauce to be gluten-free. Or try a miso substitute if you’ve run out.
- Mirin: The sweet Japanese rice wine contributes sweetness and complexity. If you don’t have any, substitute the half cup of mirin with half a cup of sake and an extra tablespoon white sugar. I use hon mirin (aka real mirin). If your mirin contains corn syrup or sugar, it is not “real” brewed mirin and will most likely be significantly sweeter. But that’s OK, just use half the amount of sugar called for in the recipe.
- Sake: This Japanese rice wine is not sweet like mirin. So, if you don’t have sake, you can double up on the mirin. But you need to reduce the sugar roughly by a tablespoon. Or if you don’t have either, use sweet white wine. The resulting flavour is quite different, but it works in a pinch.
- Sugar: I use plain old white sugar, but you can use brown sugar or palm sugar for an instant caramel flavour.
How to make miso sauce
Homemade miso sauce could not be easier to make. Grab a small saucepan, whisk and your four ingredients. And let’s get started!
Step 1: Whisk together the cup of miso paste, half cup mirin and half cup sake in a small saucepan.
Step 2: Add a quarter cup of sugar for all-purpose miso sauce. Or add another quarter cup (half a cup in total) for a sweet miso glaze sauce (nobu den miso).
Step 3: Bring the miso mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring often. Turn the heat down to low and simmer until the sugar dissolves and the sauce thickens – about 15 minutes.
Step 4: Use the sauce straight away. Or allow it to cool down then decant it into a clean jar and refrigerate for up to 2 months.
Miso sauce is a versatile condiment that adds flavour to many different dishes. Its usefulness extends well beyond noodles and stir-fries.
Soups and stews: Use miso sauce to season soup and stews. Add it to taste at the end of the cooking process and adjust the amount to taste.
Miso marinade: All-purpose miso sauce is a great marinade for chicken, fish or vegetables. Use it to marinate meat or fish overnight or as a quick marinade for roasted veggies.
Sweet miso glaze: Use for miso dengaku – sweet, umami-rich glazed tofu or vegetables. This Nobu-style den miso sauce works especially well for miso-glazed salmon or eggplant – use it in this miso-glazed eggplant recipe. Or use it as a miso BBQ sauce to baste meats on the grill towards the end of cooking – taking care not to burn the sweet sauce.
Miso rice bowl: Create a base with white sushi rice (or brown rice if you prefer). Top it with shredded vegetables or leftover veggie stir-fry and a fried egg or sushi-grade salmon (like you’re making bibimbap or a poke bowl). Then top it with a generous drizzle of sweet miso sauce.
Miso dipping sauce: Miso sauce also makes a great dipping sauce. Mix four tablespoons of miso sauce with a teaspoon each of soy sauce, rice vinegar (or black vinegar) and sesame oil. Use chilli oil for a spicy miso sauce.
Miso dressing: Mix equal parts miso sauce, olive oil, apple cider vinegar (or lime juice) and half a part grated ginger (optional) for a quick and easy Asian salad dressing.
Frequently asked questions
The main ingredients in miso sauce are miso paste (fermented soybean paste), Japanese rice wine (sake, mirin, or both) and sugar.
Miso sauce has an umami flavour that is deeply savoury yet sweet. And the fermentation process adds a slight tang. Different types of miso paste have different levels of intensity and saltiness.
Miso glaze typically contains miso paste, mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine) and sugar. It can also contain sake and other seasonings like fresh ginger.
White miso is a type of miso paste made from soybeans, salt, and a koji-inoculated grain (usually rice or barley). It uses a higher ratio of grains to beans and a shorter fermentation time when compared to other types of miso. The resulting flavour is mild and slightly sweet.
- small saucepan
- 1 cup miso paste*
- ¾ cup mirin*
- ½ cup sake
- ¼ cup sugar , plus another ¼ cup for den miso glaze*
- Whisk the miso, mirin and sake together in a small saucepan.
- Add ¼ cup sugar to make all-purpose miso sauce. Add the extra ¼ cup sugar (another 4 tablespoons) for sweet den miso glaze.
- Bring it to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring often. Then turn the heat down low and cook until the sugar dissolves and the sauce thickens – about 15 minutes. Stir the sauce from time to time to ensure even cooking. It will look like butterscotch when it's ready.
- I use white miso for a milder flavour. But you can also use yellow miso or red miso for a more intense, savoury flavour. Just add an extra tablespoon of sugar to balance the saltiness of red miso.
- I use hon mirin for this recipe (sweet Japanese rice wine). If your mirin has ingredients like sugar or corn syrup, it’s not “real brewed mirin” and is likely much sweeter. Go ahead and use it, but know that your sauce will be a bit sweeter. See the ingredients and substitutes for more information.
- If you plan to make Nobu’s miso-marinated black cod, you can make a sweeter glaze with the extra sugar (½ cup total). But I prefer to make a batch of all-purpose miso sauce and sweeten it with maple syrup as needed when I want a sweeter miso glaze.
- Refrigerated in a clean airtight jar, the miso sauce will keep up to 2 months.