The Secret Ingredient for Making Salmon That Tastes Like It Came From a Restaurant

Salmon in skillet

When it comes to quick and healthy weeknight dinners, salmon is a popular choice. It’s easy to find in grocery stores, relatively budget-friendly compared to other seafood options, deliciously rich and flaky and filled with good-for-you omega-3s.

Salmon is great grilled, pan seared, air fried or baked in some olive oil and seasoned with just salt and pepper. But there’s a secret ingredient that will make your salmon taste even better: miso. The Japanese fermented soybean paste is salty and earthy and packed with umami. This ingredient brings a lot to the table and will make your salmon taste like it came from a fancy restaurant. Here's what you need to know to create this dinnertime magic at home.

Related: 65 Best Salmon Recipes

What is Miso?

Before we get into the specifics, let's dig a little deeper into miso.

Miso is a fermented soybean paste that is made by fermenting soybeans with koji (fermented grains like rice or barley, or soybeans). Like a lot of food history, the history of miso is a bit unclear. Some sources say it originated in China; others say it originated in Japan. What is clear is that miso has been a staple ingredient in Japanese cuisine for a very long time. Marukome, a Japanese company that's been making miso since the 1850s, says that miso may have arrived in Japan around the 7th century BC

In the past few decades, miso has become available in U.S. supermarkets, starting in health food stores and grocery stores like Whole Foods and then becoming more available in other supermarket chains. Look for it in the refrigerated section of your market.

In the grocery store, you'll likely find white miso (sometimes called shiro miso) and red miso (sometimes called aka miso). White miso isn't fermented as long as red miso, so it has a milder flavor. Either type of miso will work with salmon, though white miso is most often what's called for in recipes.

Related: Katsuya's Easy Miso Soup Recipe Is Better Than Take-Out

How to Make Miso-Glazed Salmon

Now that you're up to speed on miso, it's time to get cooking. There are many ways to make miso-glazed salmon, so it's best to start with a recipe that appeals to you and then adjust to fit your taste.

On Reddit, this 5-minute miso-glazed salmon from food writer J. Kenji Lopez-Alt got almost 700 upvotes!

All you have to do is stir together ¼ cup red or white miso, ⅓ cup sake, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and ¼ cup of sugar then rub all over your salmon and marinate for 30 minutes or up to 2 days. Pop it in the toaster oven (or under your broiler) for about 5 minutes, which will create a savory-sweet caramelized glaze and moist, tender, flaky salmon.

Don’t have sake? Kenji says a dry white wine would work too. You can also substitute another mild fish such as cod—or even tilapia or catfish if you’re on a budget—for the salmon. Feeling fancy? Try the miso treatment on black cod, which is a nod to the iconic miso-marinated black cod at legendary Japanese restaurant Nobu.

Food writer, recipe developer, and Simply Recipes Senior Editor Myo Quinn demonstrates a similar recipe on TikTok. She mixes the miso with sake, sugar and soy sauce. Although she likes to marinate the fish for about 6 hours, in the video she mentions that she was in a hurry and didn't have time to marinate it.

After cooking under the broiler for 6 minutes the top of the salmon was browned and bubbly and the inside was tender and flaky. Quinn confirmed that it was as delicious as it looks, which gives us all permission to take that shortcut when we need to.

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