Miso Grilled Salmon with Honey and Orange

As much as I love experimenting with new foods, there are times when all I want is comfort. If I’ve had a tough day and need a hug, I make a bowl of mashed potatoes with a side of cucumber salad. Or I whip up lacy crepes and eat them with plenty of sour cream and cherry jam.  These dishes are old childhood favorites, and they always make me feel better. But over the years, I’ve added a new set of comfort foods to my repertoire. They range from my mother-in-law’s Indian sour lentil soups and vegetable stews to Vietnamese grilled pork on rice. And anything made with miso immediately qualifies as comfort food.

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What is it about miso that makes it so comforting? It might be its intensely savory flavor or the velvety, suave aftertaste; I’m not quite sure. All I know is that I love it. Miso paste is made by fermenting soybeans and/or other grains with salt and koji, a special starter. The result is the unique vitamin and protein rich condiment that has been used in Japan for centuries. The proportions of soybeans to other grains in the miso recipe will determine its flavor and color. There are numerous miso types, but the white (shiro) and red (aka) varieties are the most common. White miso, which is really golden yellow in hue, contains more rice than soybeans and has a mild, sweet flavor. By contrast, the soybean rich red miso is meaty, bold and salty.

Although in the West miso tends to be associated with soup, this condiment is much more versatile. You can use it for sauces, marinades, dressings and even as a relish. Stir a spoonful into a cream of vegetable soup and notice how miso enhances the savory flavor.  Mix miso with lemon juice and olive oil (no salt is needed) and use this sauce to dress bitter greens or crunchy lettuce. I especially like it with the distinctively non-Japanese Belgian endives and roasted Brussels sprouts.

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The marinade recipe I share today is one of the reasons why a tub of miso is a staple in my fridge. It makes for a quick preparation, and the results are invariably delicious.  Miso marinated fish is a traditional recipe, but mine is a personal variation. White miso, which I recommend for this recipe, has a delicate fruity sweetness, and I’ve added both citrus and honey to enhance the flavor. I also like the warmth of chili pepper, and depending on your heat cravings, you can vary the amount.

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You can serve miso marinated salmon with rice, but I like it with mashed potatoes. It’s the ultimate marriage of old and new favorites.

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Miso Grilled Salmon with Honey and Orange

Other citrus varieties can be substituted for orange, such as lemon, grapefruit, tangerine, or the king of citrus, yuzu. You can use other types of fish for this recipe, and I’ve had good results using cod, snapper and monkfish. The marinade works just as well on eggplants, onions and zucchini.

Serve with rice, mashed potatoes or baguette and a sautéed vegetable side dish.

2lb (~1kg) salmon fillets
2 Tablespoons white miso
1 teaspoon honey or brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 Tablespoon sake (optional)
red chili pepper flakes to taste
zest and juice of 1/2 small orange

Mix together miso, honey, ginger, sake (if using), red chili pepper flakes, orange juice and zest.

Pat the fish fillets dry and rub miso marinade on both sides. Place in a ziplock bag and marinate for 2 hours in the refrigerator, or for up to a day.

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C and turn on the broiler. Line a sheet pan with foil and oil the foil lightly. Remove excess marinade from fillets. Place skin side down on the baking sheet.

Broil for 10 minutes, or until the surface turns golden brown and caramelizes. The honey in the glaze burns easily, so watch it carefully. If the top is cooking too fast, while the insides remain raw, turn off the broiler and finish the fish in the oven.

If using a grill, place the fish skin side down on the grill and cook for 3-4 minutes per side, for medium-rare.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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59 Comments

  • Martha: That looks like an easy and effective recipe. I have a small jar of homemade white miso. A friend who loves to cook, and who especially enjoys making fermented foods gave me the miso for my birthday last month. The sliced oranges in the photo are making my mouth water. November 19, 2013 at 7:47am Reply

    • Victoria: How lucky! Homemade miso (especially unpasteurized) is even better and the flavor is more complex. I also like pickling and fermenting foods, but I haven’t tried my hand at miso. At least, not yet. 🙂 November 19, 2013 at 11:01am Reply

    • Solanace: What an amazing gift, specially for a perfumista. November 20, 2013 at 5:04am Reply

  • Anne of Green Gables: Thanks for the delicious recipe, Victoria. An idea for this weekend’s menu! I love Saba Miso (too bad that finding fresh mackerel is really difficult here) and I frequently make Salmon Teriyaki because it’s really quick and easy to make. I enjoy cooking but I don’t want to spend too much time on cooking after work. Ditto on the versatility of miso although I usually use Korean miso which has much stronger flavour. My best comfort food is rice with Korean miso soup and Kimchi.

    Just one question: don’t you add mirin or ginger to the marinade? I see ginger in the picture but it’s not included in the recipe so I wanted to check. I usually add mirin and ginger to enhance the flavour and to remove the fishy odour. November 19, 2013 at 7:54am Reply

    • Rachel: How do you make salmon teriyaki? You got my interest with easy. I’m studying for my exams right now and have little time to cook. November 19, 2013 at 9:01am Reply

      • Anne of Green Gables: Hi Rachel, you can have a look at http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/teriyakisalmon_66107. When I don’t have all the ingredients, I just mix approximately 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp mirin (rice wine) and 1 tbsp sugar to make the sauce. I first pan fry salmon fillet on both sides for a few minutes and then I add the sauce to the pan. Once the sauce starts to boil, I reduce the heat and boil it down for about 10 minutes, occasionally turning the fish. You’ll see that the sauce gets more viscous over time. I usually have it with rice but it also goes well with egg noodles. Good luck with your revision and exams! November 19, 2013 at 9:38am Reply

        • Anne of Green Gables: Oops, I made a mistake. I meant 1 tsp of sugar! November 19, 2013 at 11:07am Reply

        • sara: my son always order teriyaki fish in a Japanese restaurant, but i’ve never made it at home. didn’t realize it was this easy. November 19, 2013 at 12:24pm Reply

          • Anne of Green Gables: There was a time when I thought that pasta dishes were difficult to make because I used to eat them only in restaurants! November 20, 2013 at 6:59am Reply

    • Victoria: At the Korean store I get miso that has bits of vegetables and green chili peppers, and I’ve used it previously in soups. One of my favorite Korean miso soups is with seaweed and beef. Actually, kimchi is another comfort food for me. The first time I’ve tasted it, it seemed so familiar. Probably, a flavor link with the Russian style pickled cabbage.

      I sometimes add mirin and ginger nearly always (it should be in the recipe, right under honey). But when I moved to Belgium, at first I didn’t have access to a good Japanese grocery store and mirin was nowhere to be found. Since, it’s essentially a sweet rice wine, I’ve developed this recipe using sake and honey and then started playing with other flavors. Interestingly enough, white wine also works really well instead of sake. It gives a fruity, boozy kick. November 19, 2013 at 11:06am Reply

      • Anne of Green Gables: I’m so sorry, Victoria! I don’t know why I missed ginger in the recipe. Using white wine is a great idea. Getting the right ingredents is also difficult for me so sometimes I have to improvise.

        Miso paste with bits of vegetables and green chilli papers? Hmm… I’ve never heard of it. Also, the seaweed and beef combination in miso soup is new to me, unless you’re referring to another soup called Miyeok guk. I either make the Japanese style miso soup with seaweed and tofu or the Korean style miso stew (Doenjang Jjigae) with various vegetables and tofu. Other miso soup variations that I enjoy are spinach miso soup, Napa cabbage miso soup and white radish leaves miso soup. November 19, 2013 at 11:44am Reply

        • Victoria: I will take a photo and ask for the exact name the next time I see it. The lady at the store just said that it was “Korean miso,” but who knows whether it’s her own creation or something regional. It certainly tastes like miso.

          Sorry, I mixed it up; the Korean seaweed-beef soup I make doesn’t contain miso. I just checked my friend’s recipe. Just beef, kelp, garlic, green onion and seasonings (soy, sesame, etc). How do you make yours?

          When it comes to miso soups, I love pumpkin and mushrooms; potato and mushrooms; clams and scallions; spinach and tofu; etc. It’s an easy recipe to experiment with. November 19, 2013 at 11:59am Reply

          • Anne of Green Gables: I’d be interested in knowing what kind of “Korean miso” you bought. It certainly sounds unusual. Did you buy it at the store in Rue de Tervaete 12? I think that’s the only Korean store in Brussels. There’s an online Korean supermarket based in Germany which I can highly recommend (they also deliver to other EU countries) but unfortunately, the website is in Korean.

            Do you add spring onion to the seaweed soup? The traditional/common recipe doesn’t include it so I’m surprised. I sent my recipe via e-mail. November 20, 2013 at 6:53am Reply

            • Victoria: I would love a link anyway. I can manage! Plus, I need a source for Korean ingredients. The store I go to is in Overijse, so it requires driving.

              Yes, I include scallions, since my Korean friend’s grandmother includes them in her recipe. I understand from her that traditionally this soup is served to women after childbirth, so it’s supposed to be simple and nourishing. But for those not in such a state, some extra aromatics don’t do any harm, and I love the pairing of seaweed and scallion, whether or not it’s authentic. November 20, 2013 at 7:48am Reply

              • Victoria: P.S. I just saw your email! Thank you so much. 🙂 November 20, 2013 at 7:49am Reply

    • Hannah: Mirin is one of the most delicious things ever invented. I need to buy mirin and noodles but I still haven’t done that yet. I think the family I’m au pairing for thinks I lied when I said I like cooking but it’s not my fault that I can’t find the ingredients that I use at home as easily. I do know where to buy mirin and udon noodles though, I just haven’t picked them up yet. November 19, 2013 at 1:59pm Reply

      • Victoria: It takes a while to get your bearings in a new place. I’ve been there (well, still am). 🙂 November 19, 2013 at 3:49pm Reply

  • Jillie: Mmmm … delicious. Ever since you recommended yuzu paste, I like to put that on top of salmon, and sprinkle miso over it too; they go together very well, and the taste is addictive!

    I like adding miso to shepherd’s pie (well, I reckoned it made a nice change from Worcester sauce). It gives a lovely depth of flavour to all sorts of dishes, like lasagne and mushroom casserole – it definitely likes mushrooms! November 19, 2013 at 8:00am Reply

    • Victoria: Yuzu paste is another great condiment to have on hand, and while I haven’t yet tried it with miso this way, I love the idea (and your other ways to use miso too). Unfortunately, real yuzu are hard to find here, and whenever I see them, they are about 12-15 euros per single fruit. Ouch! November 19, 2013 at 11:08am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: Mashed patatoes and cucumber salad, what a great idea! How do you make the salad? with salt and vinegar? November 19, 2013 at 8:47am Reply

    • Victoria: I slice cucumbers and toss them with salt, pepper, dill (if I have it) and add either vinegar and olive oil or yogurt or sour cream. If I have tomatoes on hand, I add them too. If I have spring onions, they go in as well. I can eat this salad three times a day. November 19, 2013 at 11:10am Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: I can imagine! sounds delicious. November 19, 2013 at 12:14pm Reply

        • Victoria: My mom reminds me that you can use cucumber, radish, green onion and dill for another salad we always make at home. Sour cream is a dressing of choice for it. November 19, 2013 at 3:40pm Reply

          • Olga: We always had it when I was little. My grandmom called it spring salad. November 19, 2013 at 5:40pm Reply

            • Victoria: The radish in sour cream salad is associated with spring for me as well, probably because radishes and scallions were the first vegetables of the season we got. It’s different now that you can have greenhouse tomatoes and imported greens all year around. November 20, 2013 at 6:37am Reply

  • Rachel: Your photos are making my mouth water! Looks like an easy recipe even I can pull off. November 19, 2013 at 8:58am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Rachel! And yes, it’s easy enough. Just mix it all together, stuff in a ziplock bag, marinate, and grill or broil. November 19, 2013 at 11:11am Reply

  • Tijana: Hi Victoria – another lovely post! I am a vegetarian, but can appreciate comfort food very much. I don’t eat fish, but I love miso and I definitely love mashed potatoes! Yum! 🙂
    Victoria, have you ever tried grenadier march? That is my ultimate comfort food and anything else with pasta and potatoes combined! (Seems like every refion of this world has its own version of something that combines pasta and potatoes). I also adore veggie curries and could eat them daily for the rest of my life 🙂 November 19, 2013 at 9:15am Reply

    • Victoria: This miso marinade works really well on eggplant, pumpkin and other vegetables. I sometimes marinate salmon and cubes of squash and then grill everything together. This way, I only need to make a salad and I have a complete meal. I observe the Lenten fast for 40 days each year (40 days of complete abstinence from all dairy and meat products), so I’ve adapted some my favorites to be vegetarian.

      I haven’t tried grenadier march. Off to look it up online! November 19, 2013 at 11:14am Reply

      • Tijana: I will definitely try the marinate with veggies! 🙂 November 19, 2013 at 11:21am Reply

        • Victoria: I hope that you like it, and please let me know what you think if you try it. November 19, 2013 at 11:25am Reply

  • maja: Mashed potatoes and cucumber salad are my comfort food, too, the summer version. In winter it must be cabbage salad. And a quick batch of crepes as my mom’s ultimate treat filled with rose hip jam. 🙂
    Thank you for the wonderful recipe. I have never used miso and will certainly try to remedy very soon. November 19, 2013 at 9:17am Reply

    • Victoria: Rose hip jam sounds so exotic, but I remember that years ago my grandmother used to make it. She doesn’t anymore, since it’s a lot of work, but your comment made me want to taste it again. November 19, 2013 at 11:15am Reply

  • Annikky: I love salmon with Asian-inspired flavours and have quite a few variations in my repertoire, but somehow I only got round to making miso-marinated salmon a few months ago. It was delicious and I’m now curious to try it with added orange. Your version certainly looks prettier than mine! 

    I’m usually well stocked in miso department, too, as my 4-year-old daughter loves miso soup with salmon (she calls it “sushi soup”:)). November 19, 2013 at 10:00am Reply

    • Victoria: I have another friend whose toddler went crazy for miso soup when we went out to have sushi. So, my theory that miso is instantly likable holds true. 🙂

      The orange really adds a nice touch to any fish. I usually went for lemon, but after an Armenian friend showed how she marinates fish with orange slices and bay leaves, I haven’t stopped experimenting. Grapefruit is another great citrus to use in this dish, but you have to be very careful not to get any of the white part of the peel. You also don’t need as much zest, since it’s more strongly flavored. November 19, 2013 at 11:18am Reply

  • Madelyn E: Oh Victoria , Your recipe and the final product looks inviting and delicious . What is the difference between soy and miso ? I have a similar recipe for salmon or chicken, Soy sauce, a mix of fresh lemon orange and lime juice , garlic and onion , sea salt , cilantro, olive oil .(fresh ) .Salmon filets are broiled and baked .
    Bon Appetit ! Your photos are so inspiring . Hope life in Belgium has become more pleasant ! November 19, 2013 at 10:36am Reply

    • Victoria: Soy sauce is also made by fermenting soybeans and other grains with koji, but the process is different and the result is a thin dark brown liquid. Miso, on the other hand, is a thick paste, and the flavor is much milder than that of soy sauce. They don’t taste the same, but in this recipe, if you don’t have miso, you can just go ahead and use soy sauce. It will be a different marinade, but also very good.

      Your recipe sounds wonderful! I jotted it in my “Bois de Jasmin Friends’ Recipes” notebook. 🙂 So many of you are such great cooks, and I love trying something new. November 19, 2013 at 11:24am Reply

  • sara: looks and sounds delish! thanks for sharing this recipe. by the way, i made your chicken kofta last week and they were yummy. November 19, 2013 at 12:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m very glad that you liked chicken koftas. It’s one of my favorite weeknight recipes and another one of those dishes that can be prepared ahead of time. November 19, 2013 at 3:41pm Reply

  • Ann: One of my fav restaurants here has this super delicious entree of miso roasted cod with lots of lemon. I love lemons and oranges so …thanks for the idea!! November 19, 2013 at 12:42pm Reply

    • Victoria: Cod works really well with miso, although I don’t grill cod (can’t keep it intact this way); I just broil it. November 19, 2013 at 3:45pm Reply

  • Jamie: I “discovered” miso last year, and have been making miso soups at home. Now I have another delicious use for it. Thank you! November 19, 2013 at 12:47pm Reply

    • Victoria: I was a bit timid experimenting with miso at first, because it seemed like it had a very specific use. But once I got courage to try it in the non-Japanese dishes, I discovered that it can be such a great condiment. I hardly ever make a cream of cauliflower soup without including a little bit of miso. November 19, 2013 at 3:47pm Reply

  • Noelle: Just when I was pondering how to cook salmon steaks for dinner tonight! I don’t have miso but I have soya sauce. Do you think it will work? November 19, 2013 at 4:05pm Reply

    • Victoria: Noelle, yes, it will taste differently, since soy sauce is saltier and more pungent, but it will be very good nevertheless. The combo of soy sauce, honey, ginger and orange is great with both fish and meat. Please let me know how it goes. November 19, 2013 at 5:16pm Reply

  • jaybee7: Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. Love the idea of using orange with fish. But now I had to eat an orange. I agree with your other commenter – the sliced oranges in the photo made me hungry. November 19, 2013 at 6:12pm Reply

    • Victoria: The orange season is starting, so I’m looking forward to enjoying more citrus fruit. Very glad that you liked the pairing idea. Orange salmon and oranges also look very pretty together, if you wanted to bake fish covered with orange slices. November 20, 2013 at 6:39am Reply

  • solanace: Huuummm… This sounds delicious! I love misso marinated beef, now I’ll have to give this recipe a try. And I agree with you about seasoning greens with misso. Specially argula & sliced onions, which make a perfect match because of the bite. November 20, 2013 at 7:06am Reply

    • Victoria: My Japanese friend serves this kind of miso sauce as a dip with crudités, and what a great idea.
      Arugula would be great with miso dressing, especially if you were to have such a salad with grilled meat. I’m now hungry. 🙂 November 20, 2013 at 7:55am Reply

      • Solanace: it is a barbecue side dish, indeed! November 20, 2013 at 9:51am Reply

        • Victoria: We will be grilling steaks next weekend, and I’ll definitely make this salad as a side dish. Thank you! November 20, 2013 at 2:49pm Reply

  • Kim B: Thanks for sharing the recipe – it sounds fantastic!! I too have been experimenting with miso and usually have at least 2 in the fridge.

    I have started using miso in a dressing for steamed veggies and / or coleslaw – 1 part white miso, 1/2 part apple cider vinegar, 1/2 part olive oil. Season with fresh ground pepper or crushed chili peppers depending on your preferred heat level. The miso makes the dressing really creamy without the added calories. Sooooo addictive and smells great too! November 20, 2013 at 11:38pm Reply

    • Victoria: Sounds delicious, Kim! I also love the creamy but light texture of miso, and I will try your dressing in my coleslaw recipe. November 21, 2013 at 10:06am Reply

  • The Blue Squid: That looks like it would be extremely nice to eat.  Have you ever tried Thai salted, fermented soy beans?  Unsurpisingly, they have a misoesque flavour, but they are soft, whole beans.  I made a stir fried dish with asparagus, mushrooms, a spoonful of said beans, oyster sauce and garlic the other day, and it came out pretty good!  I ate it with a piece of salmon fillet.  November 21, 2013 at 5:07am Reply

    • Victoria: I have tried them, and that’s a terrific condiment. You mean the pale yellow ones that come with lots of liquid, right? November 21, 2013 at 10:08am Reply

      • The Blue Squid: Yes, those ones exactly. I must say, you really know your condiments! November 21, 2013 at 5:31pm Reply

        • Victoria: I find the flavor combinations used by different cuisines inspiring, both in the kitchen and in the perfume lab, so I love to explore. Now, I also don’t have any excuses not to, because I live across the street from a store that stocks Asian ingredients. November 22, 2013 at 8:06am Reply

  • Aisha: I had no idea you could make a marinade out of miso! I’ve only had it in soups, and I really love the taste and texture. Unfortunately, my husband doesn’t like it that much. He’ll eat it, but it’s not his favorite. I’m wondering if he’d even notice it in a marinade such as this one. November 21, 2013 at 11:01am Reply

    • Victoria: Since the marinade has other flavorings as well, the taste of miso doesn’t come through the same way as in a soup, for instance. You also remove the miso paste from fillets before baking/grilling them. November 21, 2013 at 11:10am Reply

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