J Food Sci. 2021 May 30. doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.15773. Online ahead of print.
Miso is a well-known traditional Japanese fermented food, with a characteristic savory flavor and aroma, known predominately as the seasoning in miso soup. Miso production involves a two-stage fermentation, where first a mold, such as Aspergillus oryzae, is inoculated onto a substrate to make koji. A subsequent fermentation, this time by bacteria and yeast, occurs when the koji is added to a salt and soybean mash, with the miso left to ferment for up to 2 years. The microbial community of miso is considered essential to the development of the unique taste, texture, and nutritional profile of miso. Despite the importance of microorganisms in the production of miso, very little research has been undertaken to characterize and describe the microbial process. In this review, we provide an overview of the two-stage fermentation process, describe what is currently known about the microbial communities involved and consider any potential health benefits associated with the consumption of miso, along with food safety concerns. As the popularity of miso continues to expand globally and is produced under new environmental conditions, understanding the microbiological processes involved will assist to ensure that global production of miso is safe as well as delicious.