By Vanessa Greaves

Fermented soybean paste has been a staple of Japanese cuisine dating back to 14,000 B.C., but it's enjoying a resurgence of popularity as adventurous cooks come up with new ways to use it.

What is miso paste?

Miso is a fermented paste made with soybeans and rice or barley that's known for its umami flavor, the so-called fifth taste. Turns out that besides being a mighty flavor agent in Japanese cuisine for thousands of years, fermented miso paste is also a nutritional powerhouse of probiotics and antioxidants. That's a lot of goodness concentrated in one little dollop of miso.

Top recipes with miso paste

Give these miso paste recipes a try and see what a concentrated hit of nutty, sweet, salty, umami flavor does to all kinds of food.

Miso Maple-Glazed Salmon

Tip: You can do this in the oven, but it's super-good on the grill, too.

Miso-Glazed Skirt Steak

Tip: Try this marinade on pork, chicken, and tofu, too.

Photo by Baking Nana

Asian Salmon Cakes

Tip: This creamy, citrusy sauce would go great with fish tacos.

Photo by cinnybear

Japanese Wafu Burgers

Tip: Drop a hit of miso in your regular burger or meatloaf mix, too.

Shrimp and Soba Noodle Salad

Tip: Use miso paste to make orange miso dressing for shrimp and soba salad.

"I fell in love with the Panera Bread Shrimp and Soba Salad, decided to recreate it myself, and fell in love with my recipe," says Chantal Rogers. "This is now one of my favorites!"

Photo by Buckwheat Queen

Pickled Ginger Asian Pear Coleslaw

Tip: You can substitute yogurt for the mayonnaise in this tangy miso-laced salad dressing.

Photo by Baking Nana

Miso Butter

Tip: Use this savory compound butter to enrich everything from grilled meats and fish to roasted vegetables.

Quick Vegan Gravy

Tip: Add miso paste to vegan gravies to build savory umami flavor.

Photo by House of Aqua

And of course, here's classic miso soup:

Miso Soup

Tip: To get that characteristic bloom of miso in the soup, don't let the broth boil once you add the miso paste. What is miso soup made of? A simple Japanese stock called dashi, water, miso paste, sliced green onions, and diced silken tofu. "Instant dashi granules are sold in conveniently-sized jars or packets and vary in strength," says Michelle Chen, who submitted this recipe.

Photo by France C.

Types of Miso

What is white miso paste? What is yellow miso paste? The difference between white miso paste and yellow or red miso paste is the grain that is fermented along with the soybeans. White miso paste is fermented with rice. Yellow miso paste and red miso paste are fermented with barley and sometimes a small amount of rice. White miso is lighter in both color and taste.