Miso butter popcorn is an umami bomb full of savory, salty and buttery flavor with a hint of sweetness. Miso adds layers of flavor, especially when combined with the rich, smoothness of the butter. Sesame seeds add nuttiness and a bit of texture to the popcorn.
This is one of my favorite ways to eat popcorn!
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What Is Miso?
Miso is a fermented paste usually made from cooked soybeans and cultured grains such as rice or barley. It’s a key ingredient in Japanese cooking, adding a salty, umami flavor to dishes.
The first records of miso date back more than 7,500 years ago. It is believed to have originated in China and found its way to Japan in the 7th century.
There are over 1,300 kinds of miso! It’s a versatile ingredient that can be used in many different types of dishes, probably the most well know being miso soup.
How Is Miso Made?
Miso is made by cleaning and cooing soybeans, then mixing them with koji (a grain inoculated with Aspergillus culture), salt and water. This mixture is then left to ferment.
Gradually, enzymes from the koji break down the beans and grains into amino acids and sugar. Once fermentation is complete, the beans are ground into a paste.
What Does Miso Taste Like?
Miso has a savory, umami salty, rich flavor. The depth of flavor varies depending on color and fermentation time.
Miso with a shorter fermentation tend to be lighter in color and have a sweeter, milder flavor. Those that have fermented longer are darker in color, have a stronger flavor and are more salty.
If you’re new to miso, it’s best to begin with a milder, sweeter miso like white or yellow miso.
Miso is used in a variety of recipes to boost umami or savory flavor and is not meant to be eaten on its own. You can use miso in sauces, soups, stews, dressings, dipping sauce, marinade for meat or fish, or even baked in bread or cake.
Different Types of Miso
Miso can be made from many different ingredients, including rice, barley and soybeans. It comes in several different colors depending on the length of the fermentation time. The longer the fermentation time, the darker the color, and in general, the darker the color the stronger the flavor.
- White Miso (Shiro Miso) – Primarily made from soybeans and rice and has a shorter fermentation time than red miso. It has a sweet, mild taste and has the lowest salt level of any miso. Great in soups, dressings and light sauces.
- Yellow Miso (Shinshu Miso) – Made from soybeans, it has a stronger umami flavor than white miso because it’s fermented slightly longer, but not as strong as red miso. Great to use in soups and glazes. This is the brand I use which I get at my local Asian market, but I usually buy white miso.
- Red Miso (Aka Miso) – Fermented for a longer period of time which produces a dark colored, strong and salty miso. Great in heartier dishes like meats, rich soups, braises, marinades or glazes. It has a higher salt content than lighter miso. Use sparingly – you only need a little bit!
- Blended Miso (Awase Miso) – Blend of approximately half and half white and red miso. A little more developed flavor than white/yellow but not as pronounced as red.
Is Miso Good for You?
Miso seems to have some health benefits. Because it’s fermented, it may potentially help with digestion, strengthen the immune system and help fight disease.
The fermentation process provides miso with probiotics which can have many health benefits, including improving digestion, reduce symptoms linked to digestive problems like IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), reduce gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea.
There is even a Japanese proverb about the health benefits of eating miso, “Eat miso and you won’t need to see a doctor”. It’s like the Japanese version of “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”!
Does Miso Expire?
Because it’s a fermented food it will generally keep for a long time if stored correctly. It doesn’t really go bad due to its high salt content. The color may darken, and it may lose some of its flavor over time, but this is normal and doesn’t mean it’s gone bad. If you notice any mold, change in smell, color or texture then discard.
How To Store Miso
Most commercial miso pastes come packaged in plastic tubs or bags. After opening the container, reseal and store in a cool, dry place away from light and heat. I store mine in the refrigerator.
Some miso containers come with a plastic or wax paper-like insert laying on the miso. That covers any exposed areas and helps prevent the miso from drying out or spoiling. I always keep either the insert or I lay a piece of plastic wrap on the miso to keep it fresh.
- Popcorn: You can use air-popped, unflavored microwave popcorn, or stovetop popcorn (see here for how to make perfect stovetop popcorn).
- Butter: This recipe calls for unsalted butter. There is salt in the miso, so you want to be careful about adding any additional salt.
- White miso (Shiro) – Adds a sweet, salty, umami flavor.
- Black sesame seeds – Black sesame seeds add a great contrast to the white popcorn, but regular sesame seeds will work too. Toast them for extra flavor!
- Salt (optional) – I didn’t add any salt because the miso added enough salt and flavor. If you want to add salt, do so just a little at a time so you don’t turn this popcorn into a salt bomb.
PREPARE THE POPCORN
Step 1: Prepare 10 cups of popcorn. I prefer stovetop popcorn (see my recipe for perfect stovetop popcorn here), but you can use air-popped or unseasoned microwave popcorn. Use 1/3 cup popcorn kernels to make 10 cups of popcorn.
Step 2: Make sure to remove all un-popped kernels.
Step 3: Place popcorn in a large bowl and set aside.
MAKE THE MISO BUTTER
Step 4: Melt 3 Tbsp butter over medium heat.
Step 5: Once butter has partially melted, add miso.
Step 6: Using a rubber spatula, press and mix miso into butter.
Step 7: Continue to mix miso and butter. The miso won’t fully melt into the butter, so you’ll end up with some lumps. You can also use a fork or whisk to mix together miso and butter.
Step 8: Pour the butter over the popcorn.
Step 9: Mix together until the popcorn is coated. Mixing will help distribute the miso more evenly.
Step 10: Sprinkle sesame seeds onto popcorn.
How to Store Miso Butter and Black Sesame Popcorn
Miso butter and black sesame popcorn is best eaten fresh. The miso butter is wet, so the popcorn will continue to soak up moisture and become soggy. It’s best to make just enough to eat in one sitting (which is not hard to do!).
Miso Butter and Black Sesame Popcorn
- 10 cups popped popcorn
- 3 Tbsp butter, unsalted
- 2 tsp white miso
- Black sesame seeds
- Prepare popcorn, remove unpopped kernels and put popcorn in bowl.
- In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.
- Once butter has partially melted, add miso.
- Use a whisk or rubber spatula to combine miso and butter.
- Once miso and butter are combined, remove pan from heat.
- Pour miso butter over popcorn and toss to coat evenly.
- Sprinkle black sesame seeds over popcorn.