5 Ingredients or Fewer

Chunky Chickpea Sweet Miso Paste

November 26, 2014
0 Ratings
  • Makes 1 gallon
Author Notes

Making soy-free miso paste at home is embarrassingly easy, especially now that we can now use the internet to order pre-cultured koji rice. As this is a sweet miso, it only takes a month to ferment at room temperature (opposed to red miso that requires minimum one year). This live culture food is wonderful in dips, stir fry sauce, glazes, and yes, even miso soup.

You'll need a gallon vat to ferment the miso in. This can be made from anything non-reactive (I use the pottery liner from a busted slow cooker). Pottery, glass, or even plastic makes a great vat, however, metal can react with the salt and fermentation in the miso to impart bad flavours or damage your container.

Koji is actually a mold that has been grown on the rice (koji rice) that converts the starch in the rice into sugars which can then be fermented. Koji is only just beginning to be recognized for some of it's amazing health benefits - something that traditional Japanese culture already knew for centuries. You can culture your own koji rice at home, though it takes a few days and careful temperature control. Better yet, buy some already cultured koji rice for this recipe. —trampledbygeese

What You'll Need
  • 2 pounds Dry Chickpeas
  • 2 pounds Koji Rice (rice inoculated with koji spores, it's yummy, really)
  • 5 ounces Sea Salt (NO iodine)
  • Optional: Kombu seaweed
  1. Make certain all your tools are very clean, either by pouring boiling water over them, or rubbing them with sake or vodka. Miso is very susceptible to outside influences at the early stage of fermentation, so if you have any other fermented foods on the go, like sourdough starter, or sauerkraut vat, then take extra care with this cleaning stage. Please do not use antibacterial anything as this will kill the beautiful invisible beasties that we rely on to make miso delicious.
  2. Sort through and give the chickpeas a good wash in cool water, removing anything that isn't a chickpea. Soak chickpeas overnight in plenty of water.
  3. Drain the chickpeas and give them another rinse. Put the chickpeas in a large pot (they will probably double in size, so you might have to do this in two pots) and cover with at least two inches of water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the chickpeas are very soft and easy to mush (more than regular chickpea cooking). You may need to add more water during the cooking so keep an eye on it. This can take one to six hours depending on the quality and age of your chickpeas. (feel free to use a pressure cooker for this stage, following the instructions that came with the cooker)
  4. While the chickpeas cooking, combine your koji rice and salt. Massage the salt into the rice with your clean hands. This helps wake up the koji. Place to one side
  5. Remove the chickpeas from the cooking liquid, keeping the cooking liquid to one side for later. When it's cool enough to handle; using the method of your choice, mash approximately one third of the chickpeas. I use to take one third of the chickpeas and put them in the blitzer, then return them to their friends, but now I use the back of a wooden spoon to mash the beans against the side of a bowl until roughly one third look mashed up.
  6. Leave the chickpeas to one side to cool (you can stir them occasionally to speed up cooling). When they are cool enough to handle (less than 120 degrees F) then mix the chickpeas, koji rice and salt together. Add small amounts of cooking liquid into the mix until everything has the consistency of soggy playdough.
  7. (optional: moisten and sprinkle the inside of the vat with sea salt first) A little bit at a time, put the mix into your fermentation vat (a one gallon size vessel made from non-reactive substance like pottery, glass, or even plastic). Be careful not to leave any air bubbles as you fill up the vat. Press it down well and smooth over the top. You can sprinkle about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of sea salt on top to encourage friendly fermentation - optional but recommended if you are going to be fermenting warmer than 72 degrees F
  8. Cover the top of the miso with plastic wrap, or the more traditional method of kombu seaweed that has been soaking in water for about half an hour. Find a plate or inner lid that is just a little bit smaller than the inside of your vat (about 1/4 inch is best, but miso is forgiving if it's a bit smaller). Place this inner lid on top of the miso and weigh it down with a cleaned stone, jug of water, or other food-safe weight. My rock weighs about 5 pounds, but again, miso is forgiving if you want a heavier or lighter weight. Cover the whole thing with a clean cotton or linen cloth to prevent dust and flies getting in.
  9. Tuck your miso vat away somewhere where it can stay at room temperature (roughly 68 to 72 degrees F is ideal, but it can easily tolerate hotter or colder temperatures). Leave it alone for at least three weeks, preferably a month, and up to six weeks. Check on it every few days if you like. After a few days, there should be a layer of liquid on top, if not, add some boiled and cooled water so it only just covers the top of the paste.
  10. When you open up your vat, there will be mold. If there isn't, it's unusual. It should still be alright if it has a sweet smell to it. Koji, the ingredient that does most of the hard work in miso making, is a mold. The mold will probably be white with blue, green or yellow patches. Although koji mold is good for us, it can also impart a musty, unpleasant flavour to the miso. So we will scrape the mold off the top (perhaps first draining the liquid into a bowl). If you have to scrape off some of the miso, that's fine too. (Here's the scary bit which is standard for just about all fermentations: If the mold is black coloured, then things are wrong and should be discarded, likewise if there is a horrible (non-miso) odor permeating from the ferment. It is highly unlikely that something will go wrong, especially with this time honoured technique; however, it's your miso, I can't be there to smell it for you, so you're going to have to rely on your own judgement.)
  11. Once the liquid is removed from the top and the mold is scraped from the surface mix up all the remaining miso paste together. It should be quite lumpy. If you want a smooth miso paste, puree it at this stage, but personally I take great joy in the traditional texture of chunky homemade miso. Besides, I can always pure a tiny bit if a recipe demands a smooth paste.
  12. Place the miso in clean jars (or other non-reactive containers) being careful to avoid air pockets. This should keep in the fridge for about a year.
  13. The liquid from the top of the vat is Tamari - a very potent sauce, something like soy sauce (only without soy because we used chickpeas!). Strain the tamari through a clean (I boil mine), tightly woven cloth to remove any spare bits of mold. Label and and use as you would soy sauce (only use less as it's super-potent).

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Natalie RoBards
    Natalie RoBards
  • Pia S
    Pia S
  • Susan W
    Susan W
  • trampledbygeese

12 Reviews

Natalie R. October 4, 2018
Will I need to change the fermentation time if I half or quarter this recipe?
Pia S. March 6, 2015
Hi - I've just found this recipe. I made a batch of sweet miso (using yellow eyed beans) three weeks ago, but I think I may have added too much water. In your experience, what, if any, are the negative impacts of using too much water and do you think it can be remedied? Thanks very much!
Susan W. December 13, 2014
My Yia Yia cooked that way and I still kick myself for not watching and writing things down. For a Greek, she made the best tacos and meat sauce ever. She always used a ton of butter when she cooked. She grabbed butter more often than olive oil.
Susan W. December 13, 2014
Latch lid would not mind sharing one little bit. The problem is that he has no recipe. he cooks by touching, feeling andsmelling. Literally. He's blind. My friend Nan told him I want to be there with my scale. She said he only quivered a little.
trampledbygeese December 13, 2014
What a fantastic opportunity! Please share everything you learn.

Now a days we are all about weights and measures in cooking, but from what I can gather, traditional recipes are much more, do this until you feel that. I think your friend must be much truer to history than we could ever be. My favourite recipes in historical texts are simply a list of (unmeasured) ingredients with some vague idea as to cooking method. It leaves so much room for learning and experimenting. People had to know so much more before mas literacy and the rise of the cookbook.
Susan W. December 12, 2014
Lol on fermenting police. I often get the stink eye from the food police, so I keep my rogue habits to myself.

The latch the lid guy is a friend of a friend. He's just an old hippy who has made miso for years. After I get this quick miso under my belt, I'll give his "wait 6 months to a year" version a try.

Your photo makes miso something I could sit down to and eat for dinner. It's too salty for that right? Confession. I dip a spoon into my chickpea miso several times a day.
trampledbygeese December 12, 2014
The fermenting police and I have a long history. I'm of the opinion that so long as certain safety concerns are met, I can feel free to try fermenting things any which way I like, then stick with the method that gives the best results... others disagree.

I would love to have latch lid's recipe if you ever get it. Maybe PM me if he says it's okay to share.

The miso this recipe made isn't as salty as commercial chickpea miso because the fermentation time is so much shorter. I sometimes put a spoonful on top of a bowl of rice, then mix it in. But I'm with you, there's nothing wrong with chickpea miso right from the jar.
trampledbygeese December 12, 2014
Clarify - I only share the recipes that work. My free form fermenting is just how I find my way to the good recipes. Record keeping plays a huge part in my process.
Susan W. December 12, 2014
So happy you did this. Seeing it layed out simply takes a lot of the food anxiety out. My questions so far:

I am wondering if I can use my Diamond kosher salt. I found sea salt at my Asian store. It comes in flakes, little rocks and fine ground. Does it matter which one? I'd rather use my kosher salt, but let me know. I definitely don't want to use my expensive French sea salt.

H Mart doesn't have koji rice, but I will order it from South River.

I am going to use my 1.5 liter glass jar with a flip lid and rubber gasket. There is a local guy here who uses them, so not worried about that.

Also, I have been sprouting all of my beans. Can I sprout my chickpeas before cooking them for miso?

Can you make miso from lentils?

Last but not least...it's cold here in Oregon. I am stingy with heat. It's probably 55-60° in my apt. Will this even work? I have a small bathroom attached to my bedroom. I could heat it. I also have a heating pad that I use for sprouting my beans, but those are in a wide strainer. I don't think it would work with a tall jar.

trampledbygeese December 12, 2014
Excited you're on your way to miso making. Good questions. I'll do my best but let me know if I miss something.

Yes, kosher salt works great. Traditionally in Japan, they use sea salt, but I've used kosher without any noticeable difference. The important thing with the salt is that it has No iodine. Also, because salt is so different, it's best to weigh the salt instead of measuring it by volume.

Mmmm, South River Miso. I have such envy, I hear their koji rice is as good as their miso - yummy.

Although you can use the flip top jars for miso fermenting, it's not the ideal situation. Miso being primarily mold and yeast ferment (with some bacterial action), likes to breath. Unlike Sauerkraut and other lacto-fermented veg which like a good deal less air access. If you can, try an open vat (a container with a clean cotton or linen cloth over it) instead of something with a lid. Or leaving the lid open and covering the opening with a cloth.

I'm actually fermenting some extra miso paste in a lidded container right now, I'm not happy with how it's developing - much faster to mold over, and not the colour mold I like to see. Whereas the open vat one looks and smells happy as... well... happy as miso.

Sprouted bean miso is getting more popular. I haven't tried it myself, but in my reading, they spout the bean then cook it, or sprout, dry it, cook it. I think they do it more for taste than any added digestibility, since the koji breaks down any difficult to digest parts of the bean. If you do go this path, please let me know how it goes. You may need to keep good track of your original dry bean starting weight to get the ratio right between bean and koji.

Miso from lentils? Of course! That's my plan for new years day to make two vats of lentil miso. One will be quick ferment, and the other a year long vat - so I can start a tradition of making miso and opening up last years Special New Years miso every new years day from now until I run out of new years. Actually, I've been toying with the idea of sprouting some lentils for it too. A local farm specializes in lentils and it would be a great excuse to buy their 25 kilo bag. Now what to do with the other 20 kilos of lentils?

Lentils would need to be cooked differently, maybe some experimenting with soaking (the literature is of different opinions as to whether the ferment begins with the soaking of the beans, or the adding of the koji), but it should be the same ratio of koji grain, salt, dry beans. I think different kinds of lentils would give different flavours, I know some lentils taste quite bitter to me, so maybe not those ones (small green, spotty or was that just me?). If you get there before me, let me know how it goes.

Colder temp will work fine. Remember miso is a peasant food as well as something for the Shogun to dine on. Not everyone could afford to keep their homes toasty warm year round. The long term (one year or longer) start their life very close to freezing temp then warms up as the summer approaches.

For sweet miso, with a colder temp, the miso will take longer to ferment. You could measure try reducing the salt by 10 percent to speed things up (I haven't tried it, so I'm not confident but in theory it should work) or increasing the koji rice up to double (so 1 part bean, two parts koji rice) or maybe 1.25x. But at 55 to 60 F I would probably wait for 6 weeks before digging into the miso. Possibly up to 8 weeks.

With the miso vat, it's best if you can keep the temperature consistent-ish throughout the vat, changing the temp slowly - or at least that's what all the literature says. On the other hand, I don't take that sort of care with mine. It gets to be whatever temperature I want the house to be. If we have guests, it gets hot, no guests, it stays cool. I won't get as consistent results as someone with consistent temperature control, but I know it will always be yummy. I change the time for when I open the miso vat depending on what the average temperature has been like in the house.
Susan W. December 12, 2014
When you say yum on the koji rice..do you eat it like rice or just use it for making miso. The one from South River is brown rice koji.

The local guy clamps his shut, but he ferments his for 6 months.I'm going to leave the lid off like I do when I make Kombucha mother SCOBYs. I will try the latch method another time.

If I get a larger amount of koji rice, does it store indefinitely? I am picturing wet rice covered in spores which I'm sure is incorrect.

I have pink local lentils. I'll try using them another time and this first time, I won't sprout the chickpeas.
trampledbygeese December 12, 2014
No, I don't actually eat the koji rice, but I hear that the things made from their koji are delicious.

You can of course clamp the miso shut if you like. There are some good reasons to do so in the commercial setting; however, in a traditional, farmhouse setting, it would have been done 'open vat' style. My personal experience has been that open vats make a tastier miso with very little problems. But of course, that's just me and my preference. If you do try the closed lid style in the future, please keep me up to date with how it turns out.

Koji rice is actually quite dry as the rice is steamed cooked instead of boiled, then often dried further for longer storage (ie shipping). You'll have to ask South River how they recommend storing it, but in general it has a limited shelf life. In the freezer it (officially) keeps for one year (However, I'm useing two year old stuff right now with no problems but don't tell anyone, I might get in trouble from the fermenting police.).