Miso vs soy sauce: Taste, uses, and nutrition differences explained

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  April 17, 2022

17 easy recipes anyone can make...

All the tips you'll need to get started in Japanese cooking with, FOR A LIMITED TIME, FREE as our first email: the complete Japanese with ease cookbook.

We'll only use your email address for our newsletter and respect your privacy

I love creating free content full of tips for my readers, you. I don't accept paid sponsorships, my opinion is my own, but if you find my recommendations helpful and you end up buying something you like through one of my links, I could earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more

Ever had trouble finding Japanese recipes that were easy to make?

We now have "cooking Japanese with ease", our full recipe book and video course with step-by-step tutorials on your favorite recipes.

If you’re familiar with Japanese cooking, then you might’ve heard of the terms “miso” and “soy sauce”.

As far as seasoning goes, miso and soy sauce are both fine choices. They’re flavorful, widely found, and go great with a number of dishes.

They’re both traditionally made from fermented soybeans mixed with other ingredients. This ranges from roasted wheat, barley, brine, Aspergillus oryzae, and even seaweed.

But what are the differences between miso vs soy sauce?

Miso vs soy sauce

Although miso and soy sauce have many common qualities, these 2 ingredients are distinct in flavor, consistency, uses, and health benefits.

In this article, we’ll compare taste, nutrition, and more, providing you with a simple yet useful guide to these popular Asian flavors. Find out how miso and soy sauce differ from each other.

General characteristics

These 2 Asian condiments come from fermented soybeans but may differ in other components, variety, taste, and consistency.

Miso is a thick fermented paste, with salt and yeast. Some products may have other components like rice, wheat, corn, or chickpeas for a richer taste.

On the other hand, soy sauce is a rich fermented liquid or sauce, mixed mainly with wheat.

 The taste varies depending on the type of miso and soy sauce. But generally, miso is less salty than soy sauce.

Miso has 3 varieties:

  • White
  • Red
  • Mixed

For a richer umami taste, red miso is fermented for a longer period than white miso, which has a sweeter, milder flavor.

Soy sauce is classified as light, dark, and thick. Light soy sauce has a thinner consistency and saltier flavor, while dark soy sauce has molasses or cornstarch in it to produce a thicker consistency and sweeter flavor.

Miso vs soy sauce: Taste

Miso is a Japanese seasoning paste, while soy sauce is a liquid condiment of Chinese origin.

Miso is typically salty, but special varieties of miso have also been described as sweet, fruity, and earthy.

Soy sauce is also predominated by a salty flavor, along with a slight sweetness and strong umami flavor. The umami flavor has a savory and meaty, broth-like taste, and is unique from the other accepted basic tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter).

Miso vs soy sauce: Uses

Miso is great because it’s versatile.

As well as a seasoning option, it can be served as a main course soup or used to complement your salad dressings and marinades. You could even stir it in with onions or other vegetables to ramp up the flavor in vegetarian dishes, or alternatively, use it as a sauce to serve with fried meat or fish.

While soy sauce is delicious as a sauce, it also makes a great marinade. You can drizzle it into a stew or add it to your stirfry.

Dark soy sauce is great for giving some color to noodle dishes. Alternatively, you could use it as a dipping sauce for dumplings or spring rolls.

Miso is known for its rich umami flavor and has been widely used in many Japanese dishes. Most of us may have encountered miso in a form of Japanese miso soup.

Aside from soups, you can use miso to make sauces, batters, and spreads.

Soy sauce also has a lot of uses, especially in Asian cuisine. Mainly, you can use it for sautéing vegetables, making marinades for fish, chicken, and meat, or simply substituting for salt.

Both miso and soy sauce are popular teppanyaki dipping sauce ingredients!

Miso vs soy sauce: Nutrition

Miso is high in important minerals and can be a good source of B vitamins, as well as vitamins E, K, and folic acid. It’s also rich in protein, and as a fermented food, provides beneficial bacteria for the gut.

It does, however, contain a large amount of salt. So it isn’t a good option for those who need to limit their salt intake for medical reasons.

Soy sauce is also high in sodium (salt); high intakes of sodium have been linked to increased blood pressure. However, there are sodium-reduced varieties available.

Research has suggested that soy sauce can improve digestion and reduce allergies.

Chemically-produced soy sauce contains toxic substances that can contribute to the risk of cancer. So there, naturally-fermented soy sauce is the best option.

Miso is comprised of carbohydrates and proteins that act as substrates for energy, as well as vitamins and minerals to boost the immune system. It’s said to improve gut digestion and gut flora because of its probiotic properties.

Soy sauce also has carbohydrates and proteins, a higher amount of sodium content, some essential amino acids, but less of other nutrients. It’s thought to enhance gastric juice secretion to improve digestion, lower bad cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Like all things, miso and soy sauce should be consumed in moderation.

Miso vs soy sauce: Cooking time

The soybean fermentation process for natural miso and soy sauce can take several months.

Before adding either seasoning to your dishes, it’s worth considering their burning point.

Miso is traditionally stirred in during the final stage of cooking, either on a low simmer or no heat at all. So avoid boiling miso; otherwise, it’ll lose its flavor and nutritional benefits.

On the other hand, soy sauce isn’t affected by high heat and can be added at any point during the cooking process.

Miso vs soy sauce: Common dishes

Miso soup is a common dish made from miso.

Miso paste also works well with meat or fish, and common dishes include grilled chicken, salmon, and squid.

It’s also customary to mix miso with tofu or eggplant. Similarly, miso combined with vinaigrette creates a well-loved salad dressing.

Soy sauce is commonly used with ramen and rice-based dishes; it goes particularly well with fried rice meals. Many sesame and vinaigrette salad dressings also use soy sauce.

As a dipping sauce, it’s typically served with kimchi fritters, chicken, dumplings, spring rolls, and shrimp.

Miso vs soy sauce: Best brands

On the lookout for great options for both miso and soy sauce? Then here are my recommendations!

Miso: Brand recommendations

There are many options when it comes to buying miso, but here are my recommendations for some top brands:

Soy sauce: Brand recommendations

Here are my top picks for soy sauce brands:

Bottom line

Overall, miso and soy sauce have their own roles in Asian cuisine. Each of them has their own unique taste and effect on the flavor and color of any dish.

Both have their own health benefits as well when taken in moderation.

Find out about this classic Japanese brand: Kikkoman brand origin, products and style

Ever had trouble finding Japanese recipes that were easy to make?

We now have "cooking Japanese with ease", our full recipe book and video course with step-by-step tutorials on your favorite recipes.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.