How to Eat Natto and A Beginner’s Guide

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Discover the tips for How to Eat Natto with our beginner’s guide. You will easily savor this unique food from Natto Gohan to delicious recipes!

Looking for natto recipes? Try my Natto Sushi RollsNatto Cheese Toast, or Natto Chahan!

How to Eat Natto

Natto is an acquired taste, with its unique texture and flavor profiles unlike anything else on Earth. However, it’s also well known for its health benefits. This article covers everything you need, whether you’re taking the first step in trying natto or aiming to expand your repertoire and relish more of this Japanese delicacy! Let’s get started!

Natto

Natto is a traditional Japanese dish made from fermented soybeans. It is known for its distinctive aroma, sticky texture, and robust flavor. Natto is made by fermenting soybeans with a specific bacterium known as natto-kin. This unique food has been consumed in Japan for centuries and is considered a superfood due to its rich nutritional profile, including high protein content and probiotics that support gut health. To learn more about natto, you can see these articles:

Which Natto To Select

natto in a package

When choosing natto, there are a few key factors to consider. First, look for trusted brands like Okame Natto (the one with a woman’s face in the picture above), which offers a high-quality natto experience.

Another trusted natto brand is Mizkan, and they offer Mizkan Niowanatto. This specific natto doesn’t carry the strong aroma typically associated with natto, making it an easy option for anybody who prefers to avoid the typical natto odor.

When purchasing a Japanese brand of natto, it’s typically packaged in individual styrofoam containers and includes natto sauce and karashi (Japanese mustard). These packages are designed for a single serving, making the individual portion size perfect for those new to natto.

Size of Natto

natto, 4 different types

You can explore different natto varieties depending on the size of the soybeans, and each size brings a slightly unique flavor profile. Here are a few examples:

  • XS and S size: This bean size is the most popular one eaten at home daily. It is close to the rice grain size, making it easy to eat with rice and mix.
  • M and L size: Beans are larger than S size, and they are chewier. You can enjoy the texture and flavor of the fluffy beans. It’s good to eat as it is and suitable for soup.
  • Hikiwari natto (crushed Natto): This natto is made by crushing soybeans, removing the skin, and fermenting. It has a soft and smooth texture. Since there is no skin, dietary fiber is less and easier to digest, so it’s suitable for small children. It’s often used for natto maki (sushi rolls).

How To Eat Natto

First, open the natto package and mix it with the sauce and karashi provided. Let me guide you through the process of preparing Natto.

How to eat natto.

Step 1

Open the natto pack, and you will see the sauce and karashi mustard on the top.

How to eat natto.

Step 2

Take the transparent film on top of the Natto.

How to eat natto.

Step 3

Pour the sauce and karashi over the Natto.

How to eat natto.

Step 4

Stir with chopsticks until smooth, about 10 to 20 times.

You can enjoy it as is, but the best way to savor it is with Japanese steamed rice!

Natto Gohan is The Best!

Natto gohan.

Natto Gohan, which is natto over rice, stands out as the most versatile and effortless method to enjoy natto. It’s not only simple and delicious but also offers various options for toppings. Once you’ve prepared your natto, as demonstrated earlier, place it on top of freshly cooked Japanese rice!

Natto Gohan Toppings

Natto rice toppings variations.

The great thing about Natto Gohan is its versatility. Here are 8 different topping suggestions to enhance your experience: Nagaimo (Japanese mountain yum), Umeboshi (pickled plum), scallions, daikon radish, kimchi, okra, boiled egg, and avocado.

If you enjoy some spiciness, try adding kimchi or hot sauce. If you’re a fan of eggs, include a boiled egg or raw egg. The most commonly used topping is chopped scallion.

Stir More To Increase The Umami

natto

An article scientifically proves that mixing well increases the umami score, and adding the sauce several times separately improves the taste.

  • The left image follows a regular approach: add the sauce and mix approximately 20 times, which is how I usually do it.
  • The right image follows the method described in the article: mix 400 times, add the sauce after mixing, and incorporate the sauce multiple times (not all at once). You can see a white, gooey substance surrounding the natto. This texture is more airy and tender, and has a less stringy texture, making it easier to eat.

Stirring it 400 times can be quite an effort, but if you’re seeking more umami and better taste, it’s worth a try!

Where To Buy Natto

You can find natto in Asian grocery stores or Japanese supermarkets. Look for it in the tofu or frozen section, where it’s commonly stocked. If you live in the US, you can find it in the list below.

  • Japanese market: Mitsuwa MarketplaceMarukai
  • Asian market
  • Whole Foods Market
  • Health food stores
  • Online stores: Instacart, Walmart, Amazon

Storage

Since the fermentation process continues at room temperature, it is best to store it in the refrigerator or freezer. In the fridge, natto can remain fresh for up to 10 days, and when frozen, it can stay good for up to a month.

If you’re planning to consume frozen natto, let it thaw in the fridge for half a day. Avoid using a microwave oven, as it can negatively impact the taste and smell of natto.

Easy Natto Recipes

4 natto recipes with text overlay.

Natto pairs well with carbohydrates like rice, bread, or noodles wonderfully. If you’ve already tried Natto Gohan, the next step is to explore recipes using natto. Check out “Easy Natto Recipes: 11 Beginner-Friendly Dishes” and enjoy natto thoroughly!

Health Benefits

nutrients include in natto.

Natto is a superfood with many health benefits. It’s packed with rich soybean nutrients, which are further increased by fermentation. It is rich in:

  • Protein
  • Minerals (potassium, magnesium, iron)
  • Dietary fiber
  • Vitamins (B vitamins, vitamin E, vitamin K2)
  • Natto kinase
  • Natto-kin
  • Natto contains an enzyme called nattokinase, which helps break up blood clots and blood flow smoothly. Thanks to that, it also prevents vascular diseases, so it is recommended to eat Natto every day. By the way, nattokinase doesn’t like high temperatures and will be lost when heated above 70C, so if you want to benefit, it is best to eat as it is (without cooking).
  • Natto-kin contained in Natto is a type of good bacteria that keeps your gut healthy. Gut health is a significant factor in our ability to absorb nutrients. If your gut functions correctly, it blocks harmful substances and makes digestion easier! Natto-kin is known for its strong vitality, remaining active even up to 120 degrees. While deep frying isn’t recommended, you can still enjoy its benefits by cooking it below 120 degrees.

Making Your Own Natto

How to make natto.

If you want to make it on your own, it’s relatively simple. You’ll need soybeans and a natto starter to create your own batch. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Rinse the soybeans and then soak them in water.
  2. Cook the soaked soybeans in a pressure cooker.
  3. Spray natto starter to initiate the fermentation process.
  4. Allow the mixture to ferment for a couple of days.

This video, “How to make natto at home,” shows you how to make it at home.

Your Questions Answered

Can you eat Natto by itself?

You can eat it straight from the package (I sometimes do), but if you are new to natto, I recommend cooking it with other ingredients, such as rice, noodles, and eggs.

How do you eat Natto for the first time?

Trying Natto for the first time would be hard because you might not like the gooey texture and strong smells. Mixing it with something that tastes stronger, such as vinegar, garlic, or Kimchi, would help. Also, cooking it with other ingredients will help make things easier such as Natto Omelet and Natto Chahan.

How do you make Natto taste better?

If you stir Natto (400 times), you can taste more umami (savory taste). (See “Stir more to increase Umami” in this post.) It is more fluffy and soft as it contains more air and tastes better. Also, it’s less stringy, so it’s easier to eat. Stirring 400 times is work! But if you want more umami, please give it a try!

How long does Natto last in the fridge?

Please keep it in the fridge, which will last about 10 days. You can also store it in the freezer for about one month.

What does Natto taste like?

Natto is slimy, gooey, and stinks but not rotten. It’s fermented. I grew up eating Natto, so the smell doesn’t bother me, but if you try it for the first time, it might be challenging to deal with (please don’t be scared!!).
Natto usually comes with a natto sauce (a mixture of dashi, soy sauce, and sugar) and karashi (Japanese mustard). These condiments make it sweet and savory.
If you eat Natto without sauce, you might taste it slightly sweet, which is the taste of soybeans and umami (savory) from fermenting.

Why do you stir Natto?

If you stir Natto, It is more fluffy and soft as it contains more air and tastes better.

Is expired Natto safe to eat?

It might generate a foul smell when exposed to 10C (50F) or higher for a long time. Even after the expiration date, you can eat it (I sometimes do), but the smell will get stronger, and the taste will get bitter, so it’s better to eat it within the date on the package.

How much Natto should I eat daily?

I usually have one or two packs daily (one pack is about 50g). Two packs per day are good enough. But one pack a day would be appropriate if you consume soy products daily, like tofu and soy milk.

Does Natto go bad?

It might generate a foul smell when exposed to 10C (50F) or higher for a long time. Even after the expiration date, you can eat it (I sometimes do), but the smell will get stronger, and the taste will get bitter, so it’s better to eat it within the date on the package.

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2 bowls of natto gohan (over rice).

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納豆ご飯キムチのせ

Natto Rice Bowl with 8 Toppings

5 from 11 votes
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Prep: 1 minute
Total: 1 minute
Servings: 1 serving
Author: Juri Austin
If you're curious about eating natto, try the Natto Rice Bowl! I'll guide you on how to enjoy it and suggest delicious toppings that pair well!

Ingredients

  • 1 pack Natto, 50g/1.8oz (use attached sauce and karashi)
  • 1 bowl of Cooked Rice, 150g/5.3oz

Toppings (as much as you want)

  • Nagaimo, Mountain yam
  • Umeboshi, Pickled Plum
  • Scallions
  • Daikon
  • Kimchi
  • Okra and Katsuobushi, Bonito flakes
  • Boiled egg, Mayonnaise,
  • Avocado and Salt

Instructions

  • Mix natto: Open the pack of natto, add the natto sauce and karashi, and mix well.
  • Natto over rice: Prepare a bowl of rice and place the natto over the rice.

How to prepare toppings:

  • Grated Nagaimo: Peel and grate it, place it on the natto, and pour a bit of soy sauce.
  • Umeboshi: Remove the seed, chop it to make a paste, and place it on the natto.
  • Scallions: Chop them and place them on the natto.
  • Grated Daikon: Peel and grate it, and place it on the natto.
  • Kimchi: Place it on the natto.
  • Okra: Boil okra for a couple of minutes, chop them, put them on the natto, and top with katsuobushi.
  • Boiled egg: Mash it, season with mayonnaise, and put it on the natto.
  • Avocado: Cut it into bite-sized pieces, add a pinch of salt, and put it on the natto.

Video

Notes

  • Substitute: If your natto doesn’t come with sauce and karashi, you can use soy sauce or make it on your own by mixing soy sauce, dashi and sugar.
  • Storage: Keep natto in the fridge or freezer. When eating frozen natto, please leave it in the refrigerator for a half-day to defrost naturally. No microwave oven as it ruins the taste.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 300kcal | Carbohydrates: 42.9g | Protein: 12.2g
Course: Rice
Cuisine: Japanese
Keyword: how to eat natto, natto rice
Did You Make this recipe?Please Leave a star rating!

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11 Comments

  1. Hello,
    I enjoyed reading your blog on natto.
    A concern I have about soybeans is that they are heavy sprayed with pesticides (at least here in the US). Are the brands you recommend organic?
    Also I’m interested in trying to make this at home. Does it smell much while fermenting?
    Thanks

    1. Thanks for your comment, Renee! Here are answers for you: Most Japanese natto is made with non-GMO soybeans from the United States and Canada, and these soybeans, including the brands I recommended, are not organic. However, you might find organic alternatives at your local market or health food store. As for making natto at home, it usually doesn’t have a strong smell. But if some bacteria gets in, it might start smelling like ammonia. So, make sure to clean your tools and hands while making natto to avoid this. I hope this helps!

  2. 5 stars
    Sorry, was typing on my phone in last comment. Please fix typos: LOL.

    Wait! First you say Nattokinase doesn’t like temperatures above 70 deg, then you say, Natto-kin is not damaged by high temperature so feel free to cook with it? As a biologist, I kind of feel that heating natto will kill off some (if not all) of the good bacteria along with damaging the enzyme nattokinase.

    I’m very confused!

    Thank you! (Oh, great recipes! I just tried natto with white rice and raw egg!)

    1. Sorry for the confusion! (I’ll revise the post)
      It’s known that Natto-kin is quite strong vitality. While deep frying is not ideal, natto-kin can survive when cooked at temperatures below 120 degrees. Thanks for trying the recipe!

  3. 5 stars
    Wait! First you say Nattokinase doesn’t like temperature above 70 deg, then you say, Natto-kin is damaged by high temperature so feel free to cook it? As I biologist I kind of feel that heating will kill off some (if not all) of the good bacteria along with damaging the enzyme nattokinase.

    I’m very confused!

  4. 5 stars
    Thank you – excellent post. Worked in Tokyo for two years and for the first year I couldn’t stand natto – it was only after I spent seven weeks in hospital eating natto for breakfast every day that I really grew to enjoy it. I even get cravings for natto if I haven’t eaten it for a while. Now, back in Sydney, recently found a place here that makes fresh natto and a Japanese grocery shop that sells the frozen kind, so I eat it every day. Usually just eat it plain or with the sauce from the packet. Sometimes I put barbecue sauce on it which isn’t very Japanese but it works!

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience with natto, Rowan! It’s amazing how our tastes can change over time. I’m glad to hear that you can get natto in Sydney and can continue enjoying it.