Natto is a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans. They're so unique but healthy and an essential part of our diet! Here, you will learn what it is and how to eat this nutritious food.
Natto is a Japanese superfood!
The texture and flavor profiles are unlike anything else on Earth! It's an acquired taste, but it's also considered healthy!
If you want to challenge it for the first time, this article is perfect for you. You'll learn what it tastes like, as well as eight easy recipes to try Natto at home!
- This recipe is for you if:
- You are curious about Japanese natto
- You want to learn how to eat natto
- You are looking for natto gohan recipes
- You are looking for natto recipe ideas
Let's get started!
About this recipe
- What is natto?
- How to eat it
- Health benefits
- Where to buy natto
- 8 ways to enjoy Natto
What is natto?
Natto is fermented soybeans and traditional Japanese food. It is a healthy food eaten all over Japan and popular breakfast food.
If you stay in a Japanese-style hotel in Japan, most likely Natto will be on the breakfast menu.
The traditional way is Natto Gohan: Put Natto over a bowl of steamed rice and add some topping such as green onions (Some people eat it with a raw egg).
What does it taste like?
Natto is slimy, gooey, and sticky, but it's not rotten; it's fermented.
I grew up eating Natto, so the strong smell and slimy texture don't bother me, but if you try it for the first time, the smell and texture can be off-putting.
If you eat Natto without anything, you might taste it sweet slightly, which is the taste of soybeans and umami (savory) from fermenting.
Natto usually comes with a natto sauce (a mixture of dashi, soy sauce, and sugar) and karashi (Japanese mustard), and these condiments make it sweet and savory.
But anyway, it is hard to describe what the taste is like, so you have to try and experience it yourself.
You might like it or hate it, lol.
How is it made?
Natto is made from soybeans and natto-kin.
Natto-kin is a type of bacteria, and the Natto's stringy texture is made by the natto-kin breaking down soybean proteins.
By the way, Natto used to be made by wrapping in rice straw since natto-kin lives in it.
Here's how it's made:
- Rince soybeans
- Soak soybeans in water
- Steam soybeans
- Spray natto-kin (bacteria)
You can watch the process in this video: How to make Natto in a factory.
How to make it at home
Can I make it at home? It takes time and requires some cooking utensils, but YES you can!
You will need soybeans and natto starter: Natto spores.
This video, "How to make natto at home," shows you how to make it at home.
Natto is usually sold at stores like the picture above, three packs of Natto together.
The individual pack is in styrofoam containers and comes with natto sauce and karashi mustard (Japanese mustard). One package is for one serving which is about 50g.
If you open the pack, it's covered with transparent film to prevent the Natto from drying out.
Where to buy natto?
You can find it easily at a grocery store or convenience store in Japan. Like the picture above, it's three packs together, and the price is about 100yen ($1).
The most popular brand is okame Natto (the one with a woman's face in the picture above).
You can find it at Asian grocery stores or Japanese supermarkets if you live outside of Japan. You would find it around the tofu section or frozen section.
Types of Natto
There are many types of Natto you can find in Japan, but in this section, I share three different types by the size of the bean.
#1 XS and S size
This bean size is the most popular one eaten at home daily. It is close to the size of rice grains, which makes it easy to eat with rice and easy to mix.
#2 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.
#3 Hikiwari natto (crushed natto)
Hikiwari natto is made by crushing soybeans, removing the skin, and fermenting.
Fermentation time takes less, so it tastes slightly different from not crushed Natto. It has a soft and smooth texture.
Since there is no skin, dietary fiber is less and easier to digest, so it's recommended for small children.
It's often used for natto maki (sushi rolls).
Is natto healthy? (Natto Benefits)
Natto has a unique smell and strong flavor, but it's also a superfood with tons of health benefits.
It's packed with soybean's rich nutrients, and the nutrients are further increased by fermentation.
It is rich in:
- Minerals (potassium, magnesium, iron)
- Dietary fiber
- Vitamins (B vitamins, vitamin E, vitamin K2)
- Natto kinase
Natto has various health benefits, but nattokinase and natto-kin have significant effects.
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.
It's hard to know what's going on inside your blood vessels. But if Natto keeps it healthy? Then let's eat it and be healthy.
By the way, nattokinase doesn't like high temperatures and will be lost when heated above 70C, so if you want to get the benefit, the best way is to eat as it is (without cooking).
So, when you eat Natto Gohan (Natto rice), it's better to let the rice cool down a little before eating (avoid the rice right after cooking).
Natto-kin contained in Natto is a type of good bacteria, and it keeps your gut healthy.
When your gut works actively and healthy, bowel movement is improved, boosts your immune system, and prevents you from getting sick (immune cells are concentrated in your gut).
Gut health is a significant factor in our ability to absorb the nutrients we need. If your gut functions correctly, it will block harmful substances and make digestion easier for you!
Fortunately, heating natto doesn't kill this natto-kin, so you can cook it and still get the benefit.
Eat Natto and be energetic!
How to prepare natto
Let me show you how to prepare Natto. You can also watch this video.
Natto comes with natto sauce and karashi mustard (Japanese mustard). One pack is for one serving which is about 50g.
- Open: Open the natto pack, and you see the sauce and karashi mustard on the top.
- Take the clear film: Put the sauce and karashi mustard aside and take the clear film on top of the natto.
- Sauce and karashi: Pour the sauce and karashi over natto.
- Stir: Stir with chopsticks until smooth about 10 to 20 times.
Stir more to increase Umami
If you stir Natto many times, you can taste umami (savory taste) more.
There is an article that scientifically proves that if you mix well, the umami score will increase, and also, if you add the sauce several times separately, the taste will be better.
The method from the article:
- Mix 400 times
- Add the sauce after mixing
- Add the sauce in multiple times(not at once)
I've tried it, and see the photo below. The left image is stirred 20 times, and the right image has followed the method and stirred 400 times.
You can see white gooey stuff around the Natto in the right photo. It is more fluffy and soft as it contains more air and tastes better.
Also, it's less stringy, so easier to eat.
Stirring 400 times is work! But if you want more umami, please give it a try!
How to store natto
The fermentation process continues at room temperature, so storing it in the fridge or freezer is essential.
It will last for about one week in the fridge and one month in the freezer.
Please leave it in the fridge for a half-day to defrost when eating frozen Natto. Please do not use a microwave oven as it ruins the taste.
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 tastes will get bitter, so it's better to eat it within the date on the package.
Natto Recipes: 8 Tasty Ideas
Natto goes well with carbs such as rice and bread or noodles. You can eat it straight from the package (I often do) but cooking with other ingredients makes for an even better experience.
Let me share my favorite natto recipes!
Natto Gohan is the basic way to eat Natto! It's a quick, easy, healthy, and nutrient-rich breakfast (We eat it almost every day!). Let's learn how you can prepare it with eight topping ideas!
Make this recipe: 8 Ways to Enjoy Natto Gohan (Natto Rice)
If you love fried rice and Natto, try this Natto Chahan! It's a great way to enjoy Natto and rice and an easy lunch that you can make in no time at all!
Make this recipe: Natto Chahan (Fried Rice)
The Natto Rolls (Sushi Rolls) are a classic Japanese sushi recipe that will have you coming back again and again. It's perfect for finger foods or packing in your lunchbox to eat on the go!
Make this recipe: Natto Rolls (Sushi Rolls)
Natto, udon noodles, and egg combine in this delicious bowl to make a wholesome meal. Try the easy-to-follow Natto Udon Noodle Bowls for a delicious taste of something new!
Make this recipe: Natto Udon Noodle Bowl.
This Natto Egg Toast is a quick and tasty breakfast that is great for your gut health. If you want a quick natto recipe, try this one!
Make this recipe: Natto Egg Toast.
Natto Cheese Toast is a quick and easy breakfast full of flavor. To make it, place Natto, cheese with some stir-fried cabbage onto one slice of bread and toast in your oven until golden brown!
Make this recipe: Natto Cheese Toast.
This Natto Omelet is packed with soybeans and rich in nutrients. If you don't know what to do with Natto, try this recipe -- it's an easy but tasty main dish!
Make this recipe: Natto Omelet.
If you love Natto but are not too fond of its stick-to-your-mouth texture, then this Natto Miso Soup will be perfect for you! Let's learn how to make it!
Make this recipe: Natto Miso Soup.
Yes, you can eat it straight from the package (I sometimes do), but I recommend cooking with other ingredients if you're new to Natto. (See: "Natto Recipes: 8 Tasty Ideas" in this post)
It would be hard to try Natto for the first time 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.
If you stir Natto many times (400 times), you can taste umami (savory taste) more. (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 easier to eat. Stirring 400 times is work! But if you want more umami, please give it a try!
Please keep it in the fridge, and it will last about one week. You can also store it in the freezer for about one month.
Natto is slimy, gooey, and stink, but it's not rotten. It's fermented. I grew up eating Natto, so the smell doesn't bother me, but if you try 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 sweet slightly, which is the taste of soybeans and umami (savory) from fermenting.
If you stir Natto, It is more fluffy and soft as it contains more air and tastes better.
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 tastes will get bitter, so it's better to eat it within the date on the package.
I usually have one or two packs per day (one pack is about 50g). Two packs per day are good enough. But if you consume soy products daily like tofu and soy milk, one pack a day would be appropriate.
Thanks For Stopping By
Natto is an excellent fermented food and great for your health! Maybe the sticky texture isn't for you, but it's worth trying.
I hope you will enjoy it!
If you have any questions, please feel free to comment in the section below!
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog♡ If you've tried this recipe(or any other recipe on the blog), please give it a star rating below!
Also, feel free to leave comments if you have any questions. I love hearing from you!
Chef JA Cooks is a Japanese food blog that shares healthy and straightforward Japanese home cooking recipes, including vegan and vegetarian. From traditional Japanese recipes to modern recipes with step-by-step instructions.