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8 miso recipes showcasing its versatility, including pasta, fish and cake

The first few months after I went vegan, I did a lot of experimenting in the kitchen with very mixed results. Once I became familiar with all the meat replacements — tofu, tempeh, seitan, textured vegetable protein and more — I discovered that the two hardest flavors to imitate were cheese and fish. Store-bought alternatives didn’t come close (the early days of vegan cheese were bleak), and homemade substitutions often lacked the complexity and dimension of flavor I was after. One day, I found a vegan mac and cheese recipe that called for miso. Skeptical, I followed the instructions closely and made a batch. After one bite, I was a believer.

Miso paste packs a major umami punch. Here’s how to use it.

Miso, a paste made of fermented soybeans, is a Japanese staple ingredient. It’s an umami powerhouse — one little spoonful holds a bold, salty punch. During my vegan years, I used it in everything: pastas, sauces, broths, dressings, replacements for anchovies and fish sauce, the list goes on. And even though I eat dairy now, I always keep a tub of miso in the fridge to instantly boost a wide variety of savory (and even sweet!) dishes. The below recipes from the Recipe Finder showcase the myriad ways you can use the versatile ingredient in your home cooking.

Caramelized Onion Grilled Cheese Sandwiches With Miso Butter, above. If you’re looking to take your classic grilled cheese to the next level, this is absolutely the way to do it. Sweet caramelized onions and rich miso butter add loads of umami to the gruyere cheese in the sandwich.

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Poached Salmon and Napa Slaw With Citrus-Miso Dressing. A citrus-miso slaw delivers a dose of brightness to this weeknight salmon dish. The versatile dressing can also be used for salads, tofu, poultry and more.

Pear and Toasted Miso Upside-Down Cake. Miso may be known for its savory applications, but it’s just as wonderful in desserts. As assistant recipes editor Olga Massov writes, this cake is “a flirtatious tug-and-pull of sweet and savory.”

Miso-Maple Acorn Squash Soup. This soup has cozy autumn nights written all over it. Miso and maple syrup complement one another, enhancing the natural sweetness of the squash. The recipe calls for acorn squash, but feel free to mix it up with butternut, kuri or kabocha.

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Miso-Orange Glazed Carrots. During special occasion meals, sometimes the sides get neglected. While there’s nothing wrong with simply seasoned vegetables, why not make them even more memorable with a miso-orange glaze?

Ochazuke. This Japanese late-night classic is an excellent way to use leftover rice. The hot, mushroom-laden miso broth heats up the rice when poured over, and flaky salmon is placed on top. Dress up the dish with scallions, sesame seeds, nori, wasabi or anything else that sounds good to you.

Miso Salad Dressing. This dressing is a balancing act of bright, salty and creamy. It’s sublime on salads but can be paired with so much more: veggies, fish and rice are just a few ideas.

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Miso-Parmesan Pasta With Chili Crisp. This pasta has every flavor you could possibly want: salty, savory, spicy. Miso, doenjang, parmesan and chili crisp marry into a bold, creamy sauce, while the scallion and crumbled nori toppings add freshness and crunch.

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