Weeknight Cooking

A Brilliant Trick for Better Mac & Cheese

January 31, 2016

There are some clever vegan pasta recipes out there that approximate cheese sauces by way of blending nutritional yeast, miso, paprika, and probably a pinch of voodoo magic.

This is not one of those recipes. If you aren’t planning on diving face-first into a gooey bowl of pasta, butter, and extra cheese, I suggest you politely look away.

See, unless you live in a far-flung place and haven’t checked the internet lately, you know we’ve had some serious weather on the East Coast. All this ice and swirling snow has me craving warm, comforting food.

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I set out to make a simple baked macaroni and cheese, using the Mueller’s back-of-the-box recipe as a guide. I applied a few well-known tricks to improve upon it: choosing butter instead of margarine, slightly warming the milk for the béchamel, and initially cooking the pasta a few minutes shy of al dente.

While pulling out my pasta ingredients from the refrigerator, I spied my lonely jar of miso paste tucked in the back corner. Ever on the hunt for ways to use up miso, I wondered if I could try adding it to my pasta.

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Top Comment:
“I've just discovered an excellent use for miso. Mix miso in mayo for a dip. I've dipped mushroom tempura and fries and it's heavenly. (& I'm not a big mayo fan)”
— Rebecca G.

A quick internet search yielded very little on the pairing of miso and cheese. As experimentation is the best route to discovery, I tried it. And am I ever so glad that I did! One bite had me dangerously hooked, and I can’t understand why more dishes don’t marry miso and cheese.

Photo by Posie Harwood

Japanese food traditionally doesn’t use much dairy, so it’s not surprising that miso and cheese isn’t a natural combination. But consider the savory, umami-heavy, salty qualities of both: It makes sense that they amplify and intensify each other wonderfully.

If we use miso in place of cheese to add a rich complexity to vegan dishes, why not use it in addition to cheese and really go all out?

Photo by Posie Harwood

When you make this pasta, you’ll stir the miso paste into your béchamel sauce along with the cheese. The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of miso paste, but I suggest that you start with 2 tablespoons and taste the sauce. See how you like it: I found I preferred a more pronounced miso flavor, but you might prefer it on the subtler side.

Now go start cooking! I’ll just sit here and dream up the menu for my forthcoming miso and cheese-themed restaurant.

What's the most unusual miso combination that you've tried? Tell us in the comments below!

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • sandra
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    Rebecca Goguen
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    Renee Plummer
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    Laurie Gerber
  • Nimrod
I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.


sandra August 25, 2023
I’ve used miso to make caramel (and then swirled it into ice cream). Think salted caramel but instead of salt use miso 😉

I also have a William Curley recipe for miso walnut sables which are a big hit every time I bake them.
Rebecca G. July 22, 2016
I've just discovered an excellent use for miso. Mix miso in mayo for a dip. I've dipped mushroom tempura and fries and it's heavenly. (& I'm not a big mayo fan)
Renee P. July 22, 2016
I'm totally confused! Sitting here July 22nd and reading about cold we a there on the east coast when it's going to be near 100 today. When was thisvwritten?
sexyLAMBCHOPx July 22, 2016
This was written on January 31, 2016. Dont be confused, it's OK.
Laurie G. February 8, 2016
Mix equal parts miso and tahini, plus enough water to make a creamy paste. Use it on/in a baked potato.
Nimrod February 1, 2016
I discovered this years ago! Add Miso. Also Miso Makes killer black eyed peas with Soba noodles. And some dried New Mexico chilies!
Lindsay-Jean H. February 1, 2016
That is going to be my kind of restaurant.
Sarah J. February 1, 2016
Can I make the reservation now?
Zozo February 1, 2016
Just wait till you try it with risotto - also pretty awesome :)
chez_mere January 31, 2016
Miso and heavy cream is always a win. Especially when you drizzle it over roasted parsnips and kale
Deborah F. January 31, 2016
Fantastic idea!!! I'm on it!!
jbban January 31, 2016
I never have trouble using up miso - I put it in my daily porridge (+tahini)!