Miso vs Soy Sauce: Taste, Uses, and Nutrition Differences Explained

                by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  November 12, 2020

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As far as seasoning goes, miso and soy sauce are both fine choices.

They are flavorful, widely-found, and go great with a number of dishes.

They are both traditionally made from fermented soybeans mixed with other ingredients.

Miso vs soy sauce

This ranges from roasted wheat, barley, brine, Aspergillus oryzae, and even seaweed.

In this article, we’ll compare taste, nutrition, and more, providing you with a simple yet useful guide to these popular Asian flavors.

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

Find out how miso and soy sauce differ from each other.

General Characteristics

These two 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 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 three varieties:

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 stir fry.

Dark soy sauce is great for giving some color to noodle dishes.

Favorite Asian Recipes

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 sautéing vegetables, making marinades for fish, chicken, and meat, or can simply be a substitute 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 is also rich in protein and, as a fermented food, provides beneficial bacteria for the gut.

It does however contain a large amount of salt, and so is not 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.

Naturally-fermented soy sauce is therefore the best option.

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

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 is said to improve gut digestion and gut flora because of its probiotic properties. Soy sauce also has carbohydrates and proteins, has a higher amount of sodium content, some essential amino acids, but has less number of other nutrients.

It is suggested to enhance gastric juice secretion to improve digestion, lower bad cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of breast cancer. Caution must be taken when taking in too much sodium as it can increase blood pressure.

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 is 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.

Therefore, avoid boiling miso otherwise it’ll lose its flavor and nutritional benefits.

On the other hand, soy sauce is not 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 is 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 is typically served with kimchi fritters, chicken, dumplings, spring rolls, and shrimp.

Miso vs Soy Sauce: Best Brands

On the look-out for great options of both Miso and Soy Sauce?

Miso: Brand Recommendations

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

Soy Sauce: Brand Recommendations

Here are our top picks of soy sauce brands.

Bottom line

Overall, miso and soy sauce have their own roles in Asian culinary. 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.