You’ve probably heard of miso soup, but did you know that you can make a delicious meaty miso sauce that you can use as a versatile side dish?
On those days when you want to whip up something quickly, you can make niku miso easily, and it goes well with all kinds of main dishes.
Niku miso is the ultimate all-purpose miso meat sauce. It’s a great versatile side dish that you can use as a dipping sauce, rice topping, wrap filling, mix with noodles, and meal prep.
It’s made with ground meat, miso paste, spring onions, and various Japanese condiments and seasonings, including mirin, sake, and soy sauce.
Niku miso has a savory flavor, and thick texture, with hints of funky fermented taste.
I’m sharing a tasty ground pork niku miso that you can add to any food or enjoy with your favorite rice and noodle dishes.
In this post we'll cover:
What is niku miso?
In Japanese food terminology, small, versatile side dishes are called Gohan no Okazu” (ご飯のおかず).
They are used as toppings, dipping sauces, fillings, and flavoring condiments for more bland foods or vegetables. Niku miso is one of these all-purpose foods.
Niku means meat, and miso is fermented soybean paste. Thus it’s a mixture of ground meat and miso although it’s much thicker than your average paste or sauce.
You can make niku miso with all kinds of ground meats, including:
- Ground pork
- Ground beef
- Ground lamb
- Ground chicken
- Ground turkey
Niku miso adds a savory-sweet flavor, and you can really change up the flavors depending on what type of miso you use and which other condiments you season it with.
Most Japanese associate niku miso with “umami” flavor, although the taste is quite complex as a result of the meat.
To make this meaty miso, you just cook ground meat, mix it with miso paste and other seasonings and add some vegetables.
Depending on what type of miso you use, you can add a different flavor profile to the meat. Most people prefer to use white/yellow miso because it adds a savory and sweet taste. Sweet mirin balances out the saltiness of miso.
Ground pork niku miso recipe
- In a blender, mix the miso, sugar, egg yolk, sake, soy sauce and mirin, until it’s has a smooth consistency.
- Heat up a pan, add the oil, and cook the scallion, mushrooms, and ginger until they start to brown and caramelize.
- Add the ground pork and mix well as it cooks.
- Once the pork is brown and cooked, add in the miso mixture and turn the heat to low. Keep stirring until the mixture becomes thick.
- Let it bubble for a couple of minutes, and then stir in the sesame seeds. Mix and remove from the stove.
- Now the niku miso is ready to serve.
How to serve niku miso
What I love about niku miso is that it’s so versatile; you can eat it with pretty much anything.
Although it’s technically considered a side dish for steamed rice, you don’t have to limit yourself to serve it like that.
Here’s how to use niku miso:
- As a side dish: eat with steamed rice, fried rice, noodle dishes (udon, ramen, pasta).
- As a filling: use it to fill onigiri rice balls and onigirazu (sushi sandwich).
- As a topping and pasta sauce.
- As a dipping sauce: dip carrots, celery, radishes and eat them as a snack.
- Spread it on sandwiches, lettuce wraps, and appetizer sandwiches.
- As a flavoring for stir-fries.
- You can serve the niku miso on its own with a hard-boiled egg or fried egg.
- Alongside onsen tamago (soft boiled egg).
- Eat it as a cold pork pate.
Put the niku miso sauce in a bowl on the table and let everyone take a serving, or have small bowls of this sauce beside each plate/bowl if you serve it as a side dish.
Since niku miso contains meat (in this recipe), you can always use it as a topping for steamed, boiled, sauteed, or grilled vegetables.
Niku miso: nutritional information
Niku miso is healthy because the meat is mixed with miso paste, which is very beneficial for the digestive system.
Generally, fermented foods are a great source of good gut bacteria which help maintain a healthy gut and aid digestion.
Pork is a good source of protein, iron, and zinc, and minerals, which help the body function properly.
Niku miso has approximately 335 calories and 0.9 g of sodium.
If you use lean beef, lean turkey, or even chicken, the dish is slightly healthier than pork. As well, if you want to reduce sodium, don’t use red or black miso paste, and stick to white.
Niku miso recipe variations
Meats & tofu
This recipe very changeable because you can use different meats and various types of miso.
Although I shared a ground pork miso sauce, you can use chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, or even ground tofu if you want to make it vegetarian and vegan-friendly.
Looking for a more vegan-friendly Japanese dish? Try this teriyaki tofu recipe, just as flavorful as niku miso.
The most common type of miso is Shiro miso (white or yellow miso). These are basically the same but in the US, yellow miso is often labeled as white. This is a mild and sweet flavored miso.
Awase miso – a mix between red and white miso. It has a bit of stronger flavor, and it is saltier. It’s my favorite type of miso for this recipe because the taste is more distinctive and pairs well with pork.
Aka miso – red miso which is fermented for a long time, thus it’s strong and pungent. If you use this for niku miso, use it sparingly because it’s going to make the niku very salty and perhaps overly pungent.
Shinshu miso – this is the real “yellow” miso and it’s less pungent than red or black miso but saltier than white. It is a good option for niku miso, especially if you want to use it to flavor plain, bland steam rice.
Hatcho miso – this is the ideal red miso you can use for this recipe in combination with white miso. It is pure, traditional miso made with only three ingredients: soybeans, salt, and water, and it’s fermented for a long time.
Aromatic vegetables and condiments
The most common vegetables and condiments for this recipe include:
- Spring onions (use the white part only)
- Yuzu kosho (fermented chili pepper paste)
- Fresh shiitake mushrooms
- Minced carrots
- Soy sauce
- Sesame oil
If you want to make the dish healthier, you can always mince up vegetables like eggplant and zucchini and add them to the dish.
It adds extra veggie servings and kids wouldn’t even realize they’re eating vegetables because the meaty flavor overpowers them.
Next time you’re looking for ways to add more flavor to your rice and noodle dishes, consider this tasty meaty paste.
You can always use it for meal prepping and then add it to meals, sandwiches and use it as dipping sauce throughout the week.
Since it’s quick, easy, and cheap to make, niku miso is one of those must-try Japanese foods the whole family is sure to enjoy.