Does Miso Soup Have Gluten? Is Miso Soup Gluten Free or Not?

  • Miso soup is a traditional Japanese soup.
  • Its ingredients include different combinations of grains.
  • Depending on the type of grains, the soup may contain gluten. 
  • You need to check out the label or ask the makers to know if it has gluten.

Does miso soup have gluten or not? As an asian food fan, I found it very confusing to learn is miso soup gluten free or not. I researched the soup and honestly, was just more confused.

In this article, we will try and explain what miso soup is, what are the ingredients and if it’s safe to eat on a gluten free diet.

Asian foods always sound fascinating, right? Actually, they’re famous for exotic flavors.

That’s why their names evoke a sense of exquisiteness. Take miso soup as an example.

Laced in Japanese tradition, this soup has complex flavors from many ingredients. So the question is, does miso soup have gluten?

Miso soups’ flavors come from dashi stock and miso paste, of which the latter contains different combos of grains.

Some varieties of miso soups have wheat, barley, and other gluten products, while other varieties do not.

You can understand the gluten-containing status of the soup from the name itself.

Does Miso Soup Have Gluten – What is Miso Soup

does miso soup have gluten
Is miso soup gluten free?

Miso soup is one of the culinary delights that Japan has gifted to the world. It is no easy job to make a bowl of this flavorsome soup.

At every step – from the dashi stock to the miso paste – there are layers of hard work and complex flavors. Such flavors come from miso paste and dashi stock. 

Miso paste, made of beans and grains, adds a hint of pungency to different miso soups.

The paste is made of beans like azuki, chickpeas, and soy, and all of these are gluten free.

Miso paste also contains grains. If gluten-containing grains are used in the soup you’re having, it is not safe for you.

Gluten free grains that go into miso include rice, amaranth, millet, and quinoa.

Other grains that can add gluten content to miso are wheat, barley, and rye. If you’re not well acquainted with Japanese food, it will not be easy for you to detect from the name whether it contains gluten grains or not. 

For instance, mugi miso contains barley, while tsubu miso has wheat and barley.

On the other hand, awase misos are mixed varieties that may have gluten grains. But the name doesn’t always reveal its gluten status.

You also shouldn’t fall for the myth that the soup’s color can give you the information.     

To put it simply, miso soup can contain gluten, and it depends on the grains being used.

So, if you’re going to a friend’s place or want to try the new Japanese joint near your house, you better ask the person cooking whether gluten grains are used in the miso soup variety and find a variety that’s for you.

It is also a good idea to find out if the eatery serving you miso soup has gluten free arrangements, in general.

Cross-contamination can be a major issue at many restaurants. Find out if they use shared cooking utensils, storage facilities, crockeries, and cutlery for gluten-containing and non-gluten products.  

Like most traditional dishes from around the world, miso soup, too, is now available in the form of mixes so that you can make your own miso soup at home.

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If you’re more traditional in your cooking style, you can bring home miso paste, dashi powder, and other ingredients like tofu and wakame. 

A good way to ensure that all these products are gluten free is to look at the list of ingredients and make sure that everything used is naturally free from gluten.

Needless to say, the only fool-proof way to get the safest products is by looking for certified gluten free items with a clear label to mark that. 

Gluten Terms Used for Miso Soups

If you are not severely allergic to gluten, you will likely be able to lead a healthy life by choosing products that are naturally gluten free.

If a food or beverage bears a gluten free certification, it has less than 20 ppm of gluten content, which is the permitted limit for gluten in all things edible. 

If a product is not certified, it may contain trace gluten. But if eating naturally gluten free ingredients has been sufficient for you, then you can go for miso soup, paste, or mix that’s not certified but has no gluten-containing ingredients.

For that, you will first need to look at the list of ingredients.  

Look for terms like “mugi ortsubu”, “tsubu”, and “hadakamugi”, which mean barley, wheat, and rye, respectively.

You must avoid these gluten ingredients. If the list of grains has kibi, kome or genmai, and sobamugi, i.e., millet, rice, and buckwheat, you can consume them without worrying about reactions.

You also need to be careful about other ingredients, especially if you’re buying ready-made mixes or powders used in miso soup.

They often contain additives that might have gluten. You should also check out if there’s soy sauce, which might contain wheat. You can contact the manufacturers to find out more.    

Gluten Free Miso Brands

There are several gluten free miso variants with no gluten-containing ingredients in them. Some of them are as follows:

Eden FoodsTheir Shiro Miso and Brown Rice Miso are marked on their website as gluten free.
South River MisoThey have eight misos with gluten free ingredients but are made with the same tools they use for their barley miso, though the equipment is thoroughly washed first.
Edward & SonsIts four instant miso soup varieties proudly show off the gluten free label.
Marukome MisoThis product is marked gluten free on the container and is safe for you.
Hikari MisoThe organic miso varieties of this brand are gluten free and safe for you. 

If the product is not certified as gluten free, it means that it hasn’t been tested for gluten content in the ingredients, manufacturing, and storage facilities.

So the final products for trace gluten. Even if it contains naturally gluten free ingredients, you won’t know if there has been cross-contamination. 

Certified miso products in the market are quite few in number. As a result, you might have to settle for those with naturally gluten free ingredients.

If you have a history of falling ill as a reaction to trace gluten, you have to be very careful about such products. Otherwise, you can test them in small amounts.

Types of Misos

There are different types of misos, and they all have different levels of boldness in flavor and color.

It all depends on the ingredients used and the duration of fermentation.  Let’s take a look at how miso soups differ from each other on the basis of the ingredients used – 

  1. Kome Miso: Most popular miso in Japan, made with white rice, and available in different colors 
  2. Genmai Miso: Used mostly in North America, made with brown rice, with a nutty taste
  3. Mugi Miso: Fermented with barley to give it a dark brown color and earthy flavor
  4. Mame Miso: A mix of soybeans and other grains for a dark color and rich taste
  5. Soba Miso: An uncommon miso made with buckwheat added during fermentation 
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These are some common categories of misos on the basis of ingredients. You can also categorize them by color. Let’s take a look:

does miso soup have gluten
Types of miso creams

i) Shiro Miso

This is the white miso that is known for its light color and mild and sweet flavor.

It is also used for making marinades and dressings, besides soups. This type of miso paste is light on the soybean content, while the koji, i.e., cultured grains, is a little higher in concentration. The fermentation process is shorter.  

ii) Shinshu Miso

This is the yellow miso variety, made by extending the fermentation process a little more than white miso.

The quantity of soybeans and barley is a little more, too. The flavor is more on the salty and acidic side of the scale, making the paste a multipurpose condiment and flavoring agent for soups.

iii) Aka Miso

This is the red miso variant with which things start to get more intense in terms of color and flavors.

The fermentation process is the longest, and it contains the highest amount of soybeans. It is sour and salty, with a bold pungency to it. It adds complex flavors to stews and other hearty Japanese dishes.  

iv) Awase Miso

This is actually mixed miso. Simply put, this kind of miso contains a combination of red and white misos and has a unique balance of delicateness and richness of taste.

It is used as a multipurpose flavoring agent in different types of soups and dishes in Japanese cuisine due to its versatility. 

These are the broad categories of misos. There are other misos, too. These are used in soups in different quantities, with other delicious ingredients to make a wide variety of miso soups, all varying in color and flavor.

Accordingly, they influence the look and taste of the soups – or other dishes – into which they go. 

Don’t Judge A Miso Soup by its Color

As mentioned earlier, there’s a notion that depending on the color of the miso soup, it is possible to tell whether it contains gluten or not.

For instance, many believe that hatcho miso, which is dark red in color, is made from soybeans and no gluten grains. However, aka miso, i.e., red miso, contains barley. 

Again, kome miso, or white miso, contains rice paired with soybeans and is quite light in color, which is why it is referred to as red miso.

However, mugi miso, which is yellow in color and can yet be quite light, is made of soybeans and barley. So, do not give in to such baseless claims and look for certified misos.     

Soy-Free Miso?

By now, you have understood that miso soup contains soybeans. It’s actually not much of a surprise, considering how it is a crucial ingredient in any Oriental cuisine.

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But many people are allergic to soy, too, and for them, having a condiment or soup that’s primarily made with soybeans is a strict no-no. 

Does that mean you can’t taste the beauty of miso? Not at all! You’ll need to work a little harder to find your solution, i.e., soy-free miso made of chickpeas.

Brands like Miso Master and South River make them. Or, you can always make your own miso and wait for about a year for the fermentation to complete.    

Health Benefits of Miso 

The key ingredients of miso soups, i.e., miso paste is delicious in more than one way.

But did you know that it is also packed with health benefits? Miso contains essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Plus, because it is fermented, it is also full of enzymes and probiotics. 

The health benefits of miso are as follows – 

1. Offers Helpful Probiotics

The fermentation process of miso helps develop live active cultures, which provide you healthy bacteria called probiotics.

If you’re allergic to dairy or have lactose intolerance or any other food allergy, probiotics can be helpful in boosting your gut health, thus improving your digestion.

Miso soup is considered the most potent form of miso as a healing product. It can combat problems like constipation, diarrhea, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, bloating, leaky gut syndrome, colitis, and other gut problems.

It can also help to control appetite, decrease obesity, and take care of your overall health. 

2. Might Control Blood Pressure

Miso contains a high amount of sodium, which is why you should limit your daily miso consumption to 6g.

But miso can be linked with blood pressure reduction. Studies suggest that the long fermentation process with other ingredients might cause sodium in miso to act differently from sodium chloride.   

This may be possible that the gastrointestinal tract absorbs lower amounts of sodium after long-term consumption of miso soup because of the effects of other ingredients in miso.

By decreasing blood pressure, miso also helps to reduce the risks of associated kidney or heart conditions and cholesterol. 

3. Fights Growth of Cancer Cells

Miso is loaded with nutrients – vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, probiotics, and even proteins.

All of these are essential in strengthening your immune system and making you strong enough to ward off cancer. Studies show that miso can prevent cancerous cells or tumors from progressing. 

Miso can also provide protection against radiation protection, according to studies with animal subjects.

Experts have also noticed that the longer the fermentation process, the better the miso is at preventing cancer, growth of tumors, and boosting the survival of healthy cells, strengthening your body further.

4. Improves Cognitive Health

Another good reason to include miso in your diet is that it can help with improving your brain health.

Miso contains flavonoids, which can be associated with improving cognitive functions.

They can also enhance your learning ability. Miso is also known to help with mood regulations and fight off brain fog.

5. Other Benefits

As mentioned earlier, miso contains several nutrients. As a result, it can improve your health in general by preventing many diseases and conditions.

It can strengthen bones, regulate blood circulation, maintain calcium levels, keep away osteoporosis, and boost skeletal health. 

Conclusion:

Miso soup is a culinary delight because of the wide range of flavors that it can bring you.

It is also packed with health benefits, as long as it is taken moderately. However, miso contains grains, which may or may not include gluten-rich wheat, barley, or rye. You need to find out what’s in your soup before eating it. 

If you’re planning to make miso soup at home, you must check the ingredients to ensure they’re gluten free.

Miso paste, the key ingredient in miso soups, may also be made with non-gluten grains, but there’s still a possibility of cross-contamination. So it’s best to pick certified gluten free miso paste and mixes. 

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About the Author: Diana

Foodie at heart, ever since I discovered I had Celiac, I completely changed my diet and eating habits, I enjoy writing and reading about recipes and actually cooking for my family