This easy recipe for miso pasta is the ultimate vegan comfort food. With the rich umami flavour of miso and the creaminess of vegan butter, this is a meal we keep coming back to for more. Ready in just 15 minutes!
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Fermented foods have seen a bit of a hype lately. While many foods in this category get their attention from potential health benefits, we really fell in love with miso paste for its bold umami flavour!
This is easily one of the best and most simple pasta recipes we’ve ever made, and it’s become one of our absolute favourites. Although it takes just five ingredients to make the pasta and miso sauce, it’s not missing anything in flavour. That’s what miso does for ya!
For our creamy miso pasta we’ve adapted this popular recipe by the New York Times, to make it dairy-free and vegan friendly. And we’ve also added a simple Japanese inspired sesame and seaweed seasoning that is easy to prepare while the pasta is cooking!
Here’s all you need for the pasta and creamy miso sauce:
- Pasta - spaghetti work best. We also use the starchy water that the pasta is cooked in to create the sauce.
- Salt for the pasta cooking water.
- Miso paste - we use organic white miso or yellow miso paste.
- Nutritional yeast - for a cheesy and savoury note.
- Vegan butter - to make a rich, smooth and creamy sauce.
While the creamy miso pasta is very enjoyable as is, we just love it with a sprinkle of this simple furikake seasoning, which adds a whole layer of dimensions to it's flavour.
To make the furikake seasoning, you need:
- sesame seeds
- a sheet of nori seaweed (the kind that maki sushi are rolled up in)
- and salt and sugar, just a pinch each.
What is miso?
Miso is a fermented soy product traditionally used in Japanese cuisine. It’s similar in flavour to soy sauce with a bold amount of umami, but it’s a bit more acidic and a paste rather than a liquid.
Miso is the key ingredient to make miso soup, a Japanese staple. But it can also be used in sauces, stews and spreads. Western cuisine has recently adapted the use of miso for its deep flavour and its reputation as a health food.
Miso is considered both as a probiotic and a prebiotic. So even when it’s cooked, it’s beneficial to your gut health.
There are different types of miso, the most common are white, yellow and red miso. The darker in colour, the longer the fermentation process and the more intense the flavour of the miso paste. What type of miso is the best choice depends on the specific use and recipe.
You can also find miso made from chickpeas, beans or barley and other grains, as an alternative to soy based products.
Here’s a visual step-by-step guide on how to make this simple recipe. You can find the detailed method in the recipe card at the end of the post.
Creamy miso pasta method
Step 1 - Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until just a minute underdone. Drain and reserve the starchy cooking water.
Step 2 - Add some of the pasta cooking water back to the pan along with vegan butter, miso paste and nutritional yeast.
Step 3 - Whisk over medium heat to melt the butter and mix everything into a uniform liquid.
Step 4 - Add the cooked pasta and stir vigorously over low-medium heat for a few minutes until the liquid emulsifies into a glossy, creamy sauce.
Here are our top tips to make sure the pasta is perfectly cooked and the sauce has the right consistency when it is served:
Undercook the pasta. If you want it to be perfectly al dente when it’s time to serve, drain it when it’s still a bit too firm. The pasta finishes cooking while you stir it into the sauce.
Stir the pasta vigorously with the sauce. Yes, we absolutely mean it! Throwing the spaghetti round and round in the liquid is what makes it emulsify and turn it smooth creamy.
Know when it's enough. Don’t overstir the pasta, or it might get too dry and stick together. If this happens, just stir in a bit more pasta water to make it saucy again.
How to tell when the sauce is emulsified enough? While stirring the pasta into the sauce, occasionally check how the sauce pools at the bottom of the pan. Stop stirring and take it off the heat when the liquid doesn’t pool, or only flows very slowly. The pasta should be nicely coated in a glossy, creamy sauce.
Serve immediately. Make sure to cook and prepaare that any vegetables and garnishes so they are ready to go by the time the creamy pasta is ready to serve. The pasta might dry out or overcook if it sits in the pan with the sauce for too long.
Furikake seasoning method
You have time to prepare the simple furikake seasoning while the pasta is cooking.
Step 1 - Briefly crush the sesame seeds in a mortar and pestle or pulse briefly in a food processor. Leave most of the seeds intact.
Step 2 - Lightly toast the crushed sesame in a dry skillet or large saucepan over medium-high heat.
Step 3 - Fold the nori sheet several times and cut it into thin strips and then cut again into small squares.
Step 4 - Combine toasted sesame and cut up seaweed with salt and sugar.
Variations and substitutions
You could use other types of miso like red or brown, but white or yellow work best in this recipe.
Spaghetti is the best kind of pasta to use for this recipe. It works so well to emulsify the sauce. But with a bit of extra vigorous stirring, you should get a smooth and creamy sauce with other kinds of pasta, too.
To make a spicy miso pasta you could add red pepper flakes and briefly fry them in melted vegan butter before adding the remaining sauce ingredients.
You can create a soy-free miso pasta by choosing a soya-free miso paste, like this chickpea miso. Be aware that barley or rice-based misos often still use soya as well. Check the ingredients and allergen information on the label of the miso before using.
Use gluten-free pasta to make this dish gluten-free and check the miso paste for ingredients containing gluten, such as barley.
The pasta is best to serve immediately after cooking, so it doesn't get the chance to dry out.
We love a good sprinkle of the furikake seasoning with the creamy miso pasta, so we’ve included it in this post and recipe. Place it on the dinner table in a jar or small bowl, with a spoon to sprinkle on as desired.
Or just do with a small spoonful of sesame seeds, some nori flakes or a good old crack of black pepper.
To add some veggies and extra protein, try fried mushrooms, red bell pepper or steamed broccoli.
We also recommend some fresh edamame beans, which add even more of a Japanese touch. Boil them for three minutes if using frozen, then fry them in a bit of oil and with a pinch of salt.
Finally, you can add a finishing touch with some green onions (a.k.a. scallions or spring onions) on top.
Vegan Miso Pasta
Furikake seasoning (optional)
- ¼ cup (35 g) sesame
- 1 sheet nori seaweed
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp sugar
- Bring a large pan of salted water to boil, add the spaghetti and cook it on a steady rolling boil over medium-high heat until almost done, or just about al dente. For us, this typically takes about 9 minutes.
Furikake seasoning (optional)
- While the pasta is cooking, prepare the furikake (sesame seaweed seasoning): Roughly crush the sesame seeds in a mortar and pestle or very briefly pulse in a food processor, to break them up but still leave some seeds whole.
- Place the crushed sesame in a saucepan over medium to medium-high heat. Once hot and aromatic, toast for 1 - 2 minutes, while stirring frequently to not let them burn. Take of the heat immediately and place the toasted sesame in a small bowl.
- Fold the sheet of nori several times, cut into thin strips and then cut again into small pieces. Then add them to the bowl with the sesame.
- Add the salt and sugar and stir to combine.
- When the pasta is almost done (just a bit former than al dente), drain the spaghetti but reserve ¾ cups of the cooking water.
- Add ½ cup of the reserved pasta water back in the pan, along with the vegan butter, miso and nutritional yeast. Whisk over medium heat until the butter is melted and everything is combined into a uniform liquid.
- Add the drained pasta back into the pan with the liquid. use tongs to vigorously stir over low-medium heat for a few minutes, until the liquid emulsifies and smoothly and evenly coats the pasta. If at any point the sauce gets too dry and the spaghetti sticks together a bit, stir in a bit extra pasta water to make it smooth and glossy again.
- Serve immediately with a generous sprinkle of furikake.
This information is calculated per serving and is an estimate only.