Natto Recipe

A pair of wooden chopsticks picking up natto beans.

Serious Eats / Chichi Wang

Both beloved and reviled, natto, a.k.a. fermented soybeans, are a staple in traditional Japanese cuisine. To make natto, soybeans are cooked for many hours, then inoculated with bacteria and left to ferment in a temperature-controlled fermentation room (about 100 to 120°F.) After a day or so, the soybeans are cooled to room temperature and placed in the refrigerator to mature for a few hours.

The finished natto are stored and sold in styrofoam containers, complete with little packets of soy sauce and hot mustard. To enjoy, you simply mix the natto with the mustard and soy sauce, and serve with rice.

Though a fresh packet of natto looks innocuous at first glance, a brief stirring brings out the strands of slimy, fermented goo that covers the soybeans. More so than its appearance, the smell of natto—like a cross between ammonia and rank Camembert cheese—may be off-putting to those without a love for funky tastes and smells.

"I've never understood the hullabaloo about natto."

But really, I've never understood the hullabaloo about natto. Many delicious items are just spoiled food in disguise: salami, cheese, yogurt, and so forth. When carefully controlled, taking a food item past its prime does wonders for flavor and texture, and natto is a great example of that. There's nothing better than a piping hot bowl of rice with a pile of slimy soybeans on top. Add a few pickles and a bowl of miso soup, and you've got a delicious peasant meal in ten minutes or less.

Natto, in fact, is an excellent addition to miso soup. Traditional recipes for natto miso soup call for rinsing the soybeans in cold water before adding them to the dashi, but I think that doing so defeats the purpose of putting natto in the soup. The slightly bitter tang of natto complements the savoriness of a brown miso and counters the sweetness of a lighter, sweeter miso such as Saikkyo.

Happily for natto lovers everywhere, the product is readily found in Japanese markets. Look for the stacks of little styrofoam boxes next to the tofu and konnyaku.

natto miso soup

Serious Eats / Chichi Wang

Natto Miso Soup

Recipe Facts

Cook: 15 mins
Total: 15 mins
Serves: 2 servings

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  • 2 tablespoons brown miso

  • 2 tablespoons sweet white miso, such as Saikkyo

  • 2 cups dashi

  • 2 heaping spoonfuls of natto, or to taste

  • A handful of wakame seaweed

  • 1/2 block of tofu, cubed (silken, medium, or firm, according to preference)

  • Scallions to garnish


  1. Bring the dashi to a simmer in a soup pot and place the spoonfuls of natto into the liquid. Simmer for two minutes.

  2. Place the miso pastes into the pot and use the back of a spoon to dissolve the pastes into the dashi. Add the wakame and the tofu and simmer for 30 seconds longer.

  3. Serve immediately. Garnish with scallions.

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
223 Calories
10g Fat
15g Carbs
22g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2
Amount per serving
Calories 223
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 10g 13%
Saturated Fat 2g 9%
Cholesterol 2mg 1%
Sodium 1985mg 86%
Total Carbohydrate 15g 6%
Dietary Fiber 4g 13%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 22g
Vitamin C 4mg 19%
Calcium 358mg 28%
Iron 5mg 26%
Potassium 645mg 14%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)