Seven Main Varieties of Miso (either light or dark):
1. Shiro Miso
“Mellow White” miso is the most popular miso. Light in color and mellow in flavor, shiro miso is a pleasant way to introduce miso to the first time user. Ideal for soups, dressings and dips. (This is my favorite.)
2. Aka Miso
“Red miso” is darker in color than shiro miso but remains mellow in flavor. Cultured differently than the shiro miso, aka miso is richer than shiro.
3. Genmai Miso
“Brown Rice” miso is very popular in the natural food industry and has a nutty but mellow flavor. Made from whole soybeans, brown rice, water, sea salt and koji (Aspergillus orizae), genmai miso is a more recent creation, developed particularly for the foreign natural food market.
4. Mugi Miso
“Barley” miso is dark in color but mellow in flavor. Made from whole soybeans, pearled barley, water, sea salt and koji (Aspergillus orizae), mugi miso was once the most common variety of miso in Japan. This miso is fermented in wood at natural temperatures for at least 18 months. Because it is made with a slightly higher proportion of barley to soybeans, it develops a light sweetness, and is one of the more mellow varieties of substantially aged barley miso.
5. Hatcho Miso
Dark miso is made from soybeans, water, sea salt and a special koji (Aspergillus Hatcho). Hatcho miso is considered the top quality.
6. Kome Miso
“Rice” miso is made from whole soybeans, white rice, water, sea salt and koji (Aspergillus orizae). Kome miso is one of the most popular misos in Tokyo.
7. Mame Miso
Soybean miso. Like the hatcho miso, mame miso is made from soybeans, water, sea salt and koji (Aspergillus orizae). However, the mold inoculate is different, and the miso ferments without the extreme pressure used for the production of hatcho miso.
Note: If you are allergic to soybeans use with caution.
Also, always make sure the miso you buy is organic and not GMO which is the way many soybeans are grown.