Think of salads, and the dressing often comes as an afterthought. But imagine a sauce that could transform a simple bowl of lettuce into a satisfying meal with just a drizzle. That's the beauty of a Japanese salad dressing like this Ginger Miso Dressing. With a balance of tangy rice vinegar, savory miso, sweet honey, and the spicy zing of fresh ginger, this miso dressing recipe will take your quick healthy meals up a few notches by imparting torrents of flavor.
Why This Recipe Works?
- The balance of tangy and sweet tastes from the rice vinegar and honey is the perfect counterpoint to the nutty miso and spicy ginger.
- Miso naturally contains lecithin, which is the trick to making the dressing thick enough to evenly coat any vegetable in your salad.
- Although this is a salad dressing, it's versatile enough for other dishes such as cold noodles, poached fish, or grilled chicken.
- Vegetable Oil - A neutral oil such as canola oil or grapeseed oil is the perfect base for this dressing, creating a thick emulsion that carries the flavors of the other ingredients without overpowering them. Any mild-flavored oil will work, but if you want to go for a twist, you could use olive oil. Another variation is to boost the nutty flavor of the miso by replacing a quarter of the oil with toasted sesame oil.
- Yellow Miso - Miso paste is a Japanese seasoning made from soy beans fermented with koji and salt. It may not be as famous as soy sauce, but it's just as versatile and it brings loads of umami and a rich earthy flavor to this salad dressing. Yellow miso, known as tanshoku miso in Japan, has been aged from a few months to a year, so it's more flavorful than white miso but not as strong as red miso. You can check out my miso soup recipe for more information about the different types of miso. Miso can be made with different kinds of grains such as rice or barley so make sure you check the label if you want to make this gluten-free.
- Rice Vinegar - This gives the dressing its tangy brightness. Rice vinegar has a delicate, mild, and slightly sweet flavor that doesn't overwhelm the other ingredients. A good apple cider vinegar such as the one made by Bragg makes a reasonably close substitute though it doesn't taste exactly the same. Lemon juice would also be another option for something more light and refreshing.
- Honey - Honey brings a touch of sweetness that balances the saltiness of the miso and the acidity of the vinegar. Be sure to use one that isn't too strong in flavor, or it will take over the dressing. If you prefer a vegan option, maple syrup or brown sugar are good alternatives.
- Ginger - Freshly grated ginger adds a warm, spicy kick that brightens this miso dressing. There are other ways to add mild heat, such as using chili sauce or black pepper, but these won't provide the same refreshing zing.
How to Make Miso Salad Dressing
Making this dressing is just a matter of emulsifying the ingredients. Emulsification is just the process of combining two liquids that wouldn't usually mix - in this case, the oil and vinegar. Soybeans (and thus miso) naturally contain a compound called lecithin that attracts both fat and water making it easier to emulsify the ingredients.
To make the dressing, add vegetable oil, yellow miso, rice vinegar, honey, and freshly grated ginger into a bowl, and then use a whisk or hand blender to dissolve the miso while beating the ingredients together until the dressing is uniform.
You could also do this in a plastic squeeze bottle but adding all of the ingredients, securing the lid, and then vigorously shaking the bottle. This has the added benefit of serving as both the container and a dispenser when you want to use it.
Store the miso dressing in a sealed container or bottle for up to two weeks in the fridge.
How to use Miso Dressing
The great thing about most Japanese dressings, including this one, is that they are super versatile and can be used for much more than a green salad or steamed veggies. You can turn almost any salad into a satisfying meal by piling greens onto a bed of cold soba, udon, or somen noodles and drizzling over this ginger miso sauce. This dressing is also a delicious way to season various proteins such as poached salmon, cold silken tofu salad, or even grilled chicken.
- 80 grams vegetable oil (¼ cup)
- 35 grams yellow miso (2 tablespoons)
- 25 grams rice vinegar (2 tablespoons)
- 12 grams honey (2 teaspoons)
- 5 grams ginger (grated)
- Add the 80 grams vegetable oil, 35 grams yellow miso, 25 grams rice vinegar, 12 grams honey, and 5 grams ginger to a bowl and use a whisk to dissolve the miso and emulsify the vinegar and oil.
- Alternatively, you can add the ingredients to a squeeze bottle and shake them together to dissolve the miso and combine.