Miso

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 12 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
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Common Allergen: Yes (
  • Soy
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May cause allergic reactions.

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white miso paste on a table before being prepared for babies starting solid food

When can babies eat miso?

It’s best to wait until after your baby’s first birthday to serve food with miso and even then, to limit consumption. This is because miso is extremely high in sodium, which in excess can lead to hypernatremia, a condition of having too much salt in the blood, which affects body-water balance. Symptoms of hypernatremia may exacerbate into increased heart rate, muscle spasms, and possibly more severe conditions such as coma, brain damage or even death.1 Early and excessive exposure to sodium is thought to play a role in hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.2

Background and origins of miso

Miso is a deliciously salty paste that’s been used in Japanese cooking for centuries and increasingly shows up in all sorts of foods—from bread and baked goods, to soups and stews, to salads and pickles, even pizza! Miso is typically made of salt, soybeans, and kōji—the Japanese word for Aspergillus oryzae fungus which breaks down the beans into fats and sugars that give the paste a distinctive umami taste. The paste ranges in color from deep red to rusty orange to earthy brown to pale yellow depending on fermentation time and ingredients. Some miso contains grains like barley or rice, and there’s a growing trend of making miso with alternatives to soybeans, such as adzuki beans and chickpeas.

While your toddler’s miso consumption needs to be kept in check, fermented foods can be a terrific way to expand your child’s palette. Check out our serving suggestions.

Callie, 13 months, eats miso tofu for the first time.
Max, 15 months, tastes miso for the first time with cooked tofu.

Is miso healthy for babies?

It’s complicated. On one hand, miso offers lots of protein, plenty of nutrients like vitamins B and K, and a robust dose of probiotics—beneficial bacteria that foster a strong gut. On the other hand, miso is exceptionally high in sodium, which in excess, is unhealthy at best. If you want to offer your child food prepared with miso, take care to minimize the amount of sodium during other meals that week.

Is miso a common choking hazard for babies?

Miso is typically used as a flavor enhancer in dishes. It should not pose any choking risk when mixed into other foods, though the foods it is mixed with could certainly pose a risk.

For more information, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with common choking hazards.

Is miso a common allergen?

Yes. Miso is typically made of soybeans—one of the most common food allergens, especially in babies and young children. As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a very small amount to your baby during the first couple servings and watch closely. If there are no signs of an allergic reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future servings. Note that reactions do not always occur on the first exposure.

How do you prepare miso for babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 12 months old: Avoid due to sodium levels. A small taste of mommy’s miso soup or dad’s tofu is fine, but be forewarned: your babe may want more!

12 to 18 months old: At this age you may small amounts of miso in your cooking. Explore Japanese recipes, try adding a little miso to pan fried tofu cubes, cooked eggplant, or even just a thin smear of miso butter on toast.

18 to 24 months old: Miso soup time! If your toddler is struggling with self feeding soup, encourage your child to sip directly from the bowl. You may also thicken soups by adding some cooked rice or mashed tofu.

For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.

White miso is the mildest and versatile, while red miso is the saltiest. If you’re new to miso, start with white and explore how it enhances your food.

Recipe: Tofu Cubes with Miso*

bowl of cooked tofu cubes coated in a miso sauce, sitting on a countertop

Ingredients

  • 1 package extra firm tofu
  • 1 teaspoon white miso
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil, avocado oil or coconut oil

Directions

  1. Pat the tofu with a paper towel or tea cloth to dry it. On a cutting board, cut the block into bite-size squares. Set aside.
  2. Place miso and 1 tablespoon of oil in a mixing bowl and blend with a fork into a smooth sauce. Add the tofu and gently mix to coat in the sauce. Let rest in the marinade.
  3. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a nonstick pan on medium-high heat. Add the tofu and stir gently with a spatula ever few minutes until golden, about 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and let cool. Serve as a finger food or with a fork.

* This recipe contains common food allergens: peanut and soy. Be sure to introduce each allergen on its own before serving. If your baby is allergic to peanuts, try substituting the peanut oil with avocado or coconut oil.

Flavor Pairings

Miso is versatile! Think of it as a substitute for salt in recipes—and try working it into marinades and sauces to accompany proteins like chicken, fish, or tofu; meaty vegetables like eggplant; nuts like cashews or peanuts; flavor enhancers like citrus, garlic, seaweed, or sesame; and sweet fruits like apples, dates, nectarines, or pears.

  1. Mitchell, L. (2016). Risks of salt poisoning. University of Utah Health Retrieved 4/21/20
  2. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2019. Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.