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The flavors of doenjang vs miso can sound similar but actually have quite a few differences. This article shares a beginner’s guide to everything you need to know about doenjang vs miso.
At a glance people may think that there is no difference between doenjang vs miso. Korean doenjang and Japanese miso paste are both traditional fermented soybean pastes that are used in many Asian dishes. They are similar in taste and texture, but there are some important differences between the two that you should be aware of. Read on to learn more about the history, preparation, and health benefits of doenjang and miso paste.
Do you enjoy learning about the differences between Korean ingredients? If you would like to learn more about doenjang vs gochujang, or any other variation of sauces, please let me know. There are so many sauces and spices to explore in Korea. Now let’s get started!
WHAT IS DOENJANG?
Doenjang is a Korean soybean paste that is made by grinding soybeans into a thick paste and then fermented. The paste is then combined with water and salt, and left to ferment for several months. Doenjang has a strong, earthy flavor and a slightly gritty texture. Korean soybeans are one of the most popular sauces in Korea and can be seen in many different recipes. It is often used as a dipping sauce, soups, marinade, or seasoning for vegetables, meat, and fish.
Also, if you are in a Korean restaurant or grocery store, some places will actually call doenjang, “Korean miso” because more people recognize miso paste vs doenjang paste. Though they are different, I have seen doenjang translated to Korean miso paste.
WHAT IS MISO PASTE?
Miso paste is a Japanese fermented soybean paste that is made in a similar way to doenjang. The Japanese miso is ground into a thick paste and then combined with water, salt, and koji (a type of fungi). Miso paste has a sweeter flavor than doenjang, and a smoother texture. The fermentation process is different from Korean doenjang, which we will get into next in this article. It is commonly used in soup, sauces, and marinades.
HOW ARE THEY MADE?
Doenjang and miso paste are both made by combining ground soybeans with water and salt, and then fermenting the mixture for several months. The key difference between the two pastes is the addition of koji to miso paste. Koji is a type of fungi that helps give miso its sweeter flavor. Additionally, doenjang takes longer to ferment giving its almost “cheesy” smell whereas miso can be ready as soon as a week or two.
Fermented soybeans are not hard to make but it does take a lot of time and commitment. You do need some special equipment but the ingredients are super simple: soybeans, water, salt, and sugar (or honey). If you would like to learn how to make different flavors of bean paste, please let me know by posting in the comment section below.
WHAT DO THEY TASTE LIKE?
Doenjang has a strong, earthy flavor with a slightly gritty texture. It is more pungent than miso in terms of smell and taste. Some doenjang pastes can be smooth like miso but it can also come chunky (like chunky peanut butter even though they are completely different in smell and flavor). Doenjang has such a unique flavor much like fermented cheese such as blue cheese or Taiwanese stinky tofu. Though they are not the same, if you are familiar and enjoy these flavors, there is a good chance that you will enjoy recipes with doenjang.
Miso paste has a sweeter flavor than doenjang, and a smoother texture. It has a more mild flavor and is less salty. Miso paste can range in color from white to yellow to brown, depending on the type of soybeans used and how long it is fermented.
CAN MISO AND DOENJANG BE USED INTERCHANGEABLY?
Miso and doenjang can be used interchangeably in many recipes, but let me explain. Both doenjang vs miso taste will give your dish a different flavor profile. As mentioned above, doenjang is more pungent, while miso is sweeter. If you are unsure which to use, start with a smaller amount of doenjang or miso and add more to taste. Depending on the dish, you may need to gradually add doenjang vs miso.
In other words, It is important to note that they are not the same and are not direct substitutes. However, if all you have in your fridge is miso and the recipe you are cooking does not require doenjang as a main ingredient, you can swap doenjang for miso and it can still be a great dish.
For example, in my husband’s miso glazed steak recipe, it calls for 3/4 cups of miso paste. Once, when we were making this dish we didn’t have miso and wanted to swap Korean fermented bean paste (doenjang) instead because the grocery store wasn’t open. In order to swap miso for doenjang, use half the amount of smooth doenjang (if you don’t have smooth doenjang, just mix it in a high power blender until smooth and viola! You have smooth doenjang) and it will still turn out great! It will be slightly saltier but still delicious because the doenjang adds umami and won’t be overpowering the steak.
Other doenjang recipes that can use miso instead are different types of dipping sauces like the ones you would use at a Korean barbeque restaurant. Let’s also say you are making korean bean paste soup but don’t have enough doenjang, add a little bit of miso to not only help bring out the fermented soybean flavor but also add a little depth to the soup. Viola! You just made doenjang miso soup.
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF DOENJANG AND MISO PASTE?
Doenjang vs miso health benefits are similar. Doenjang and miso paste are both fermented foods, which means they contain live bacteria that are beneficial for gut health. Fermented foods like doenjang and miso are believed to have numerous health benefits, including improved digestion, reduced inflammation, stronger immune system, lower risk of cancer, and better bone health. Additionally, soybeans are a good source of protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals such as enzymes, calcium, probiotics, iron, and magnesium.
However, both doenjang vs miso have a high sodium content. The salt is necessary to preserve both Korean fermented soybean paste and Japanese fermented bean paste. I’m not expressing that salt is bad. Simply, I am stating that too much salt can be bad. To learn more about fermented foods, I recommend reading this scientific article that explains it more in-depth.
HOW DO I STORE DOENJANG AND MISO PASTE?
Doenjang and miso paste will last a long time in your fridge, but it is important to store it properly. After opening the container, make sure to seal it tightly and keep it in the fridge. I generally transfer mine into a smaller, airtight container so that less air can get to it (oxygen is the enemy of fermented foods).
It is best to use doenjang and miso within six months after opening it. However, if stored properly in an airtight container in the fridge, it can last up to a year or even longer. The flavor will become more intense over time.
I have not frozen doenjang or miso personally. However, I have friends that have frozen them and it made their freezer smell. It doesn’t go bad but it can change the viscosity of the paste when defrosting from the freezer. Regardless if you store doenjang vs miso in the freezer or refrigerator, I strongly recommend using some type of deodorizer to help protect the smell and even flavors of other ingredients in the refrigerator.
Additionally, if you make a doenjang sauce (or miso sauce to substitute for doenjang), the shelf life of these sauces are much shorter and should be stored in the refrigerator for no more than two weeks (depending on the temperature of your fridge).
WHEN DO I USE DOENGJANG VS MISO PASTE?
Now that we have gone over some general information about doenjang vs miso, it’s time to get into the fun part – how to use it! I love using both doenjang and miso in my cooking. As I mentioned before, they each provide a different flavor profile that can enhance the flavors of many dishes.
Doenjang can be used in soups, sauces, and marinades. The most popular soup is doenjang jjigae (soybean paste stew). Doenjang jjigae is a hearty, comforting stew that is perfect for a cold winter day. The bold flavors of doenjang pairs well with meats, seafood, and vegetables.
A popular sauce that requires doenjang is called Samjang. There are many ways to make samjang but it is most commonly used to pair with grilled meats (korean barbeque) and even raw fish (Korean sashimi).
When it comes to marinades, doenjang is used to brine pork dishes such as bossam. Bossam is a slow cooked thick piece of pork belly meat that has been marinated in doenjang, cinnamon and garlic.
Miso paste can also be used in soups, sauces, or as a marinade. The most popular soup made with miso paste is miso soup. I’m sure you have had this soup before as it is a staple in Japanese cuisine. The light, salty flavors of miso go well with tofu, seaweed, and vegetables.
A popular sauce that uses miso paste is miso dipping sauce. Miso dipping sauces are used for all kinds of meats, but my favorite is to dip chicken wings in miso dipping sauce.
Miso can also be used as part of a marinade for dishes such as yakitori (Japanese skewered chicken). Yakitori is chicken that has been marinated in a sweet soy sauce and then grilled. The miso adds a deep umami flavor to the yakitori.
If you would like to learn how to use doenjang or miso in specific recipes, please let me know in the comment section below. There are multiple dishes that use both and I wonder if you would like to learn more on how to cook these recipes. Your feedback always helps me know how to provide the best content for my readers and is greatly appreciated.
Doenjang and miso paste are two traditional fermented soybean pastes that have many similarities but also some important differences. If you are looking for a strong, earthy flavor then doenjang is the paste for you. If you prefer a sweeter flavor then miso paste will be more to your liking. Both pastes are rich in nutrients and have many potential health benefits.
There is no better paste between doenjang vs miso. Rather, there are better uses for doenjang vs miso for certain dishes. So whether you choose doenjang or miso paste for your next dish, my hope is that you’ve learned a little more about each paste and are better equipped to choose the right one for your needs.
Do you have a favorite recipe that uses doenjang or miso? Please share it with us in the comment section below!