Japanese Miso Garlic Recipe - Ninniku Miso-Zuke

Image Garlic Miso Garlic and miso are a perfect marriage in this traditional Japanese recipe, given to me by a friend who grew up in Japan. Incredibly easy to make, the most difficult part is having to wait! It needs to “age” (ferment), just like the Pickl-It fermented pepper mash, for at least 3-months, with 1-3 years even better.

Fermented garlic, whether in a brine, or using this miso-method, has the mellow-flavor of baked garlic. Those attributes which often make garlic objectionable – strong odor, flavor, or after-taste – are neutralized. That benefit, all by itself, is enough reason to give this recipe a try. Garlic is an amazing food, considered for centuries as having potential, beneficial health properties, its chemical properties differing depending on whether it is raw, fermented, dehydrated or heated. For a more in-depth look, check out our research area.

Flavor Results Will Depend on Miso

Use any favorite miso, its flavor will infuse the garlic cloves. Our favorite miso is made by South River, fellow-New Englanders who spent time in Japan, studying the inaka tradition of miso-making. There are no short-cuts in their miso-making, and it shows in their final, high-quality product, something which we’ve appreciated in our quest to return to nutrient-dense “slow” foods. While we have bought every flavor of miso South River creates, our favorite for making garlic-miso pickles are their barley, soy or the sweet white which can be purchased directly from South River, sold by the jar or bucket.

Caveat! We’re not affiliated with South River in any way, nor do we financially benefit from recommending them. We’re just very happy customers!

Mirin Adds Another Layer of Flavor Complexity

Mirin, a naturally-fermented sweet-rice cooking wine, is another component in this recipe. While we list it as optional, because it isn’t necessary for the fermenting of the garlic, it does add a rich layer of flavor which we love.

Just like soy sauce, not all Mirin is created equal, so one needs to be cautious in the brand purchased. Look for those that are traditionally fermented using time-honored methods. We like a product by the Sumiya family, some of the last remaining traditional Mirin makers. Their product is “organic” and rich in flavor – Mitoku Organic Mikawa Mirin. Again, as with the miso, we are not affiliated, nor do we financially benefit.

Red Dot Divider

Pickl-It Traditional Miso-Fermented Raw Garlic
Image Miso Garlic

This recipe can be double, tripled, quadrupled, only limited by the size of your container. Unlike other lacto-fermented foods, it will not expand, but do leave “head space” between the final layer of miso and the the airlock – at least 1 1/2-inches of room.

  • 9 oz fresh organic garlic
  • 9 oz miso, organic
  • 3-4 Tbsp traditional, organic Mirin (optional)
  1. Peel the garlic.
  2. Blanche garlic briefly in simmering water – no more than 20-seconds.
  3. Pat dry with a clean, kitchen, lint-free towel.
  4. Stir together miso and Mirin.
  5. Layer miso and single-layers of garlic in a 3/4-liter Pickl-It, beginning and ending with the miso.
  6. Gently press the layers as you build them, forcing out excess oxygen which is NOT beneficial to lacto-fermentation.
  7. When layers are completed, give your mixture one last gentle press.
  8. Latch Pickl-It, fill airlock with 1 1/2 T water.
  9. Place cover around Pickl-It shielding mixture from light.
  10. Let stand in a cool, dark corner (60-72F) for at least 1 week.
  11. Store in refrigerator in summer (or all-year round if your house is heated or is warm).
  12. Takes 6-months to properly age the garlic. Won’t reach full flavor for 3-years.

Eat miso-fermented garlic “straight” from the jar, or sliced/smashed, topping off bowls of soup or stew, with or without a spoonful of the equally tasty garlic-infused miso.

Crushed miso-garlic, added to gently-melted butter, is a wonderful way to begin a meal, used as a “dip” for traditional sourdough bread.

When you have cleared a layer of pickled-garlic, use the miso as you would with any other dish or recipe, adding spoonfuls to heated soup or stews, being careful not to cook the miso along with your food, or you’ll kill the living nutrients which make it such a wonderfully healthy, beneficial food.