Miso Vinaigrette


I never get bored with dressed green salads. After years of having it regularly, both as a side-dish and a starter, I am always excited at the discovery of a new dressing, especially when warm spring days arrive and salad leaves are bought with higher frequency. This miso vinaigrette is simple, but original in its creamy consistency and quite complex taste it owes to miso. I have written below a short recipe, but to put it simply, it’s a traditional mustard vinaigrette with miso used instead of mustard. Accidentally this salad was a perfect company for the recently posted Chicken with Soy Sauce, Garlic and Molasses.

Miso has been frequently appearing on my table (see below) for several years now, but I have never thought of putting it into a vinaigrette. I have found this excellent and obvious idea in Japanese Farm Food by Nancy Singleton Hachisu, an American married to a Japanese farmer and living in rural area for several decades. The book contains both classic recipes and Nancy Singleton’s own inventions based on local ingredients. It is also full of stories about family, neighbours, local producers and, in general, describes life in the Japanese countryside. The book is a particularly compelling read, a beautiful object, a good source of recipes and I strongly advise it to all the Japanese cuisine fans, even novices because the majority of the recipes are easy and clearly explained.

For those who haven’t tasted miso (味噌), it’s a thick paste made by fermenting soybeans and/or barley or rice and one of the most important ingredients of the Japanese cuisine (Korean and Chinese cuisines use very similar pastes too). Miso is packed with protein, vitamins and minerals and some people claim it even helps to fight the radiation sickness. In Japan miso has three main colour types: white (shiromiso), red (akamiso), black (kuromiso), and there is also mixed miso (awasemiso). The only downside of miso is that is can be very high in sodium, so look for special “low sodium” misos (some high quality misos don’t even have this mention, but are less salty). Whatever the salt content, white miso has always a milder taste, so it’s a good idea to start one’s adventure with light-coloured miso. Apart from the three basic colours, there are myriads of different misos, depending on the brand or producer, the ingredients, the region…

If you have bought a tub of miso and wonder what to do with it, you might like:


Asparagus and Chicken Stir-Fried with Miso Sauce


Garlic Miso Chicken Breast


Miso Soup with Shrimp and Tofu


Mackerel Simmered in Miso


Chicken and Aubergine in Garlic Miso Sauce

And if you look for other salad dressing ideas, you might be interested in my recent delicious and very unusual discovery:


Sesame Paste (Tahini) Dressing

Apparently I am not the only one who eats more salads at the arrival of spring. This week Nami (Just One Cookbook) has posted a gorgeous seaweed salad and a miso (!) dressing, while Gourmantine (Gourmantine’s Blog) has presented no more no less but eight salad dressings. Visit their blogs for more inspiration!

TIPS: The below amounts should only be treated as approximate and adjusted to your taste, the miso kind or brand. (I have slightly modified the original amounts too). I have added some agave syrup to mellow the flavours (not present in the original recipe), but it’s not necessary.

I don’t like my salads drown in sauce, so double the below amounts if you prefer a very moist, rich salad.

Preparation: 10 minutes

Ingredients (serves two – three):

1/3 lettuce head, washed and torn into smaller pieces

(cucumber, tomatoes or any other raw vegetables cut into pieces)


3 heaped teaspoons miso of your choice (I wouldn’t advise the very dark, strong miso)

2 teaspoons oil

4 teaspoons rice vinegar

(1 teaspoon syrup or honey in case you need to adjust the taste; I have used agave syrup)

In a glass combine well the vinaigrette ingredients.

Place the salad leaves and other vegetables in a bowl and pour the miso vinaigrette over them just before serving.

42 Replies to “Miso Vinaigrette”

  1. Aha, your miso vinaigrette sounds like Japanese “nuta” (miso + vinegar + sugar (+ mustard)). Do you think that oil is an essential ingredient?

    1. Hi Hiroyuki, I think it’s essential because thanks to the oil’s presence the dressing is creamier and slightly fatty and thus can be called vinaigrette, in relation to a European vinaigrette pattern (oil+something acid+something salty or/and spicy/hot). Actually, the addition of the syrup was my own idea (not in the recipe) and I have cut down on oil here (I prefer less oily salads) because the original recipe the miso-vinegar-oil ration was 1:1:2 (just like most people do with Western vinaigrette: there is traditionally twice as much oil). There is this tiny oil difference which makes all the difference. The author calls it in Japanese “miso vineguretto” 😉 Nuta dressing is very good too of course! Miso gives such endless possibilities… (Nami’s miso dressing I have linked to is also a bit different).

      1. Thank you for answering my stupid question! I later learned what vinaigrette is (3 parts oil and 1 part vinegar).
        (I asked that question because I often leave out oil from my dressing.)

        1. Hiroyuki, of course your question wasn’t stupid! Japanese dressings are not oily and this is one of the reasons why the Japanese cuisine is so healthy… I never use the 3:1 ratio. It makes a vinaigrette much too oily for my taste (and also makes the salad which has more kcal sometimes than the main dish!). Even 1:1 is too much for me and I usually put the vinegar:oil ratio 2:1. I prefer it sour.

  2. Hi Sissi, I went through a stage in my life when I was just SO bored with salads, but now, like you, I feel like I can never get bored of simple leaf dressed salads. The problem is, when you have them as a side in a restaurant they won’t take care to select the tasty parts of the leaf and will just throw in all the bitter and tough parts.

    If you prepare it at home and have just the sweet, delicate leaves, with a delicious, invigorating dressing… it’s such a lovely little accompaniment to a meal, or even a meal in itself, topped maybe with an egg and some bread. Your dressing sounds lovely, though I must shamefully admit to still not having bought any miso so I’ll have to only “look” for now. One day….!

    1. Thank you, Charles. You should definitely buy miso! I am really a big salad fan and at first I was a bit ashamed to write about salad dressings, but since I love learning new ones and treat them as seriously as any recipe, I thought I would share my discoveries with readers. There is one excellent dressing someone from my family served recently and I will write about it soon.
      The older I am, the more difficult with the varieties I am. In France (and in Switzerland) my present favourite are two salads: frisée (I love its crunchy “shaggy” leaves and its mixture of sweet and bitter flavours) and la rougette (with violet leaves, discovered only two years ago; not to be mixed with “feuilles de chêne” because it’s so much sweeter…) and of course I still love rocket and lamb’s lettuce which both grow like crazy on my balcony (I already have leaves ready to be picked and I have sown them only three weeks ago!). Rocket is probably the least versatile for different dressings though.
      Like you, I often make salade composée as a main dish. Do you remember my post? I think I posted it last year and still remember some people were surprised to see a fried, not hard-boiled egg, on top. I must write about some more other versions of it.

  3. This looks delicious and refreshing, Sissi! How do you like the other recipes in the cookbook? I’ve been curious about it for some time…

    1. Thank you so much, Azusa. I don’t know what to advise… On one hand, the book is full of quite easy, but appetising recipes which remind me of your style: sophisticated simplicity. On the other hand, I’m not sure how many recipes would seem staple or standard Japanese fare for you (even I recognise some basic, very popular Japanese recipes among them). Of course, for us, foreigners, there is also an additional bonus: Mrs. Singleton’s stories about Japanese rural life, usually with a link to food, since she lives among farmers. As someone who went only to Tokyo I was very curious about the Japanese countryside which is rarely mentioned in the media or anywhere.
      The recipes are quite rustic, offhand and homely (logically) and sometimes the author presents known Japanese dishes but “farmer-style” (for example chicken teriyaki farmer-style). She sometimes adds Western touches (Dijon mustard or, like here, oil), but it’s definitely not a fusion cuisine but Japanese. On the other hand, as a big pisci- and carnivore, I regret that there are not too many meat or seafood recipes, but it’s full of great vegetable dishes ideas. I suppose you know Harumi Kurihara… I have only one of her books (Japanese Home Cooking) and find this book more inspiring and less crowd-pleasing in its approach, even though the target is a foreign cook.
      If I were you, I would have a look at least at the book’s excerpts on Amazon (“Look Inside” function) and especially read the INDEX at the end. It will give you the idea of the recipes. The best would be to look it up in a bookshop before buying of course. I’m certain this book would please any foreigner who learns Japanese cuisine, but maybe it’s too basic for you…

      1. Thank you for the thoughtful reply, Sissi! I’ve flipped through the pages at bookstores in the past and I find myself intrigued. Your assessment makes me more interested! I like simple, delicious recipes, so I’ll see if they have it at my library. Thanks again!

        1. You are welcome, Azusa. It was a pleasure (not sure if I have helped you though…). I hope you will like the book!

  4. That’s a beautiful dressing. I agree, I tend to serve more salad in Spring too. Gotta get ready for the summer clothing. 😉

    1. Thank you, Amy. I’m sure there are quite a lot of us thinking the same in spring…

  5. I’m definitely making this dressing the next time I have a greens salad … will try both the red and white misos I have.

  6. huhu Sissi! Sorry for the long absence, it has been crazy here lately. Hope you are fine. =)

    I have a dark tube of miso in the fridge and you are right I am not using it enough. Often I don’t know what to do with it except maybe soup. Thanks the ideas btw and your dressing idea is ingenious. The cool thing is that I have rice vinegar now (yay!) so I can make it one of these days.

    1. Hi, Helene. Yes, we have somehow lost each other… I see you have a new website address! Thank you for the compliment. I hope you will take your miso our of the fridge more often now.

  7. All winter, I’m on a salad hiatus. But magically, I start craving salads once the weather starts getting warmer. I’ve tried many variations of miso dressings and loved almost all of them. I will have to try yours. The salad looks refreshing and delectable! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Gomo. It’s so simple, but I found the idea (and the taste) excellent. I welcome every new occasion to use the miraculous miso.

  8. I’ve only had dishes with miso in restaurants…I always get confused about what kind to buy at the market. I’ll start with white and come back to try some of your lovely recipes. Thanks so much, Sissi!

    1. Thank you so much, Liz. Yes, try with the lightest one and if possible ask the shop assistant for the one which is not too salty. Good luck!

  9. I’ve made many variations of tahini vinaigrette but never miso — love the idea!! I too adore salads and never seem to tire of the simplest variations – it’s always nice to have something new to dress it up in and I’m so curious to see how I might enjoy miso served up in this way (I’m thinking it’s a pretty low-risk proposition 😉 since I’m a big miso fan). What an original idea Sissi and fun way to enliven everyday greens! I’m trying this one this week – I always have a bottle of miso in the fridge :).

    1. Thank you very much, Kelly. I also love the sesame paste dressing! I found miso here excellent (my husband loved this dressing too). I hope you will like this new vinaigrette idea.

  10. Could it have been a version of this recipe I had last night? I was at a restaurant and had a Lifestyle Asian Chicken Salad. It had fresh grilled chicken breast with edamame, red pepper, red onion & celery over artisan greens tossed with a house-made spicy sesame ginger dressing. I didn’t think it had any dressing on it until the first bite. The flavour was subtle and yet amazing. I wish I had the recipe to the dressing. Sissi do you have any thoughts on this?

    1. Hi, Zsuzsa. There is no sesame and no ginger here, so your dressing had probably nothing in common (they would have mentioned miso, I guess). Maybe your dressing had sesame oil and grated ginger or maybe sesame paste? Difficult to say. You should experiment! What does “artisan greens” mean? (It sounds very funny for me because artisan means craftsman in French).

      1. Haha, that’s funny. But just try translating English to Hungarian. Some of the translations are so convoluted you end up with the opposite that you wanted to convey. I have both English and Hungarian contacts on Facebook and often I have to translate when something piques a Hungarian contact’s interest.

        Artisan greens are a mixture of different types of lettuce in different colours [shades of green, purple and yellow] with differently shaped leaves. Some of them look more like weeds then lettuce. Although butter lettuce often one of the ingredients. The artisan variety lettuce mix has more delicate leaves and generally don’t contain iceberg or romaine lettuce.

        1. Thank you for the explanation. It sounds like a fancy way to name something just to sell it more expensive 😉 (Such tricks exist everywhere in the world…).

          1. I like it. Sometimes I buy a mix of fancy greens for variety. Its prewashed and packaged into different sized containers. Medium size works best for me, there is no waste. The alternative would be to buy every green separately. This would be a huge amount that I couldn’t possibly consume and would also make it more expensive.

            1. Zsuzsa, I avoid salads in bags. If they are not organic, producers – at least in Europe – have the right to treat them with certain products to kill bacteria and to make a longer shelf life (it scares me when I see no dirt or especially bugs in water after having washed and spinned the salad). Apart from this, they are really more expensive than the same leaves bought “by kilo” (not to mention whole salads). All the “fancy” baby leaf mixtures in bags are even more expensive. I have one outside market in my town (3x a week) and one in France on Saturdays. On both there are vendors selling a big array of whole salads and small “baby” leaves by weight. I also buy salads and leaves (weighed) in my French organic shops. Now I have my own lamb’s lettuce and a Japanese mixture labeled “baby greens” on the balcony too 🙂

              1. These are in containers and I always wash them for freshness and because I am a clean freak. But I never found bugs or dirt among the leaves. I try, but I can’t always get away from pretreated vegetables, not unless I drive to a local farm for them. Believe me I am all for cutting out unhealthy things, but sometimes we just have to let things go and make the best of what we have. If I started to worry about pretreated food in North America I would go nuts. It is virtually non existent and organic is often just a lie to sell rotten food.

                1. Zsuzsa, in emergency I do it too of course! I sometimes forget how lucky we are here… I know it’s not the case in every European country, but in Switzerland and France many people cannot imagine life without farmers markets, so they are everywhere, even in small towns. I hope that changes will arrive to Canada too. I have recently seen a program about a constantly growing number of farmers markets in US and a growing demand for local products.
                  On the other hand, restaurants rarely serve high-quality products, so when one gets used to good vegetables and good meat, most restaurant food tastes like paper. (Those paying attention are usually too expensive for me).

  11. There is absolutely nothing more important to healthy eating than a good repertoire of homemade salad dressings. No one should ever have to BUY dressing. I’ve been making my own salad dressings for so long that I can’t remember if I’ve ever even bought one. Your miso vinaigrette is a new one for me. I’ve never used miso in a salad dressing. I love the simplicity of this, which is the way vinaigrettes should be in the first place – simple. Adding this one to my repertoire along with Gourmantine’s! Thanks! Also, thanks for listing your other miso recipes. Maybe now I can start putting a dent in that huge bag of miso in the fridge. 🙂 Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

    1. Thank you so much, MJ. If you have miso, you should definitely try it this way. Maybe adjust the oil, vinegar and syrup amounts to your taste, but I’m sure you will like it. You know, when I was a child I don’t think ready-to-use dressing existed and in general very few ready-to-use products existed, so I have a deep repulsion for ready-to-use products, especially those which can be prepared at home in one minute!
      My mum has never bought any of these either, so frankly speaking I have even no idea how such a dressing tastes! (I suppose that awful).

      1. Sounds like we’re close to the same age. 🙂 I never even heard of ready-made salad dressing until high school. I started dating my husband in high school and whenever I went over to his house to eat, his mother put like 4 bottles of dressing on the table. They were awful, but she still uses them today!

  12. You really know how to utilise your sauce! Love the idea of miso Vinaigrette. It sounds perfect for spring days with fresh green salads! Next time when I am making salad this will be the one. I’ll let you know when I do.

    1. Thank you so much, Sue. I hope you will like it and please do tell me how it went.

    1. Hi, Jed. Miso dressing is such a delicious change from the “standard” vinaigrette, isn’t it?

  13. Thank you so much Sissi for the kind mention. Miso dressing/vinaigrette is one of my favorite! So easy to make and goes well with most of raw veggies (trying to think which one doesn’t go well, but can’t think of it right now). I enjoyed reading Nancy’s book too. Such an amazing lady. I can eat your salad everyday, and all the miso roundup is wonderful. Can’t get enough miso dish. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Nami. This miso vinaigrette was so good! In general I love miso dressings. I will try yours soon. I didn’t know you had this book too!

Comments are closed.