What Does Natto Taste Like? Tips for Enhancing its Taste

What does natto taste like? While it may take a bit of getting used to, this unique Japanese food offers a one-of-a-kind experience! Learn the taste and how to enjoy them in various ways!

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

natto in a pack

Natto has a unique flavor profile accompanied by an intense aroma and texture. While it may be an acquired taste for some, there are tips and tricks to make it more enjoyable. In this post, I will delve into the taste of natto and provide tips and tricks to make it more appealing, encouraging you to try it. Let’s get started!

A Brief Overview of Natto

natto in a pack

Natto is a traditional Japanese food made by fermenting whole soybeans with natto-kin (a type of bacteria). It is a popular breakfast food in Japan that we eat almost every morning, often included on the breakfast menu of Japanese-style hotels.

Natto is considered a Japanese superfood due to its great nutritional benefits. However, the unique smell and weird texture may be hard to get used to for some people, as it can be quite strong. Learn more in What is Natto? A Quick Guide to Japanese Superfood.

What Does it Taste Like?

stringy natto in a pack

Natto has a unique flavor that is difficult to describe. Its taste combines savory and slightly sweet with a nutty flavor (some say it tastes like aged cheese). The texture is slimy, sticky, and gooey, which can be off-putting to some people.

Natto also has a pungent smell, and this distinct odor makes this traditional Japanese food unique. Its aroma comes from the ammonia that forms during fermentation.

Natto taste in a nutshell:

  • Texture: Slimy, sticky, and gooey
  • Smell: Strong ammonia odor
  • Flavor: Savory and slightly sweet

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, it would be pretty challenging.

Why is it Slimy?

stringy natto in a pack

During fermentation, natto-kin bacteria break down the protein in soybeans, producing various substances, including glutamic acid and the carbohydrate fructan. These two components contribute to natto’s stringy texture and help create a stable consistency.

Why is it Stinky?

stringy natto on a bowl of rice

The natto-kin bacteria create the smell of natto during fermentation. The main components of the smell are ammonia and other organic acids. Since fermentation continues slowly even after the natto is made, the smell gradually strengthens over time.

How to Make Natto Taste Good

natto stir-fried rice served on a plate.

Now that you know what natto tastes like and its unique texture, you might think it is not for you. However, with some easy tricks, you can quickly turn the taste of natto into a delightful experience.

In the following sections, I will suggest some tips to help you make natto more enjoyable. Let’s dive in!

Try These Ideas to Make Natto Smell Better

Natto with kimchi and natto with green onions
  1. Add condiments such as sesame oil, vinegar, and mayonnaise to reduce the smell.
  2. Mix in solid flavor ingredients such as kimchi or garlic.
  3. Add green onions or yellow onions, which contain compounds that can help mask the odor of natto.
  4. Choose black soybean natto, which has a milder smell and smoother texture than standard yellow soybeans.
  5. Consider trying low-odor natto if you are sensitive to its smell. You can find it at a Japanese grocery store like Mitsuwa Marketplace or Marukai.

Try These Tips to Make the Texture and Taste Better

Natto miso soup and Natto with grated daikon
  1. Natto is often eaten as is, but cooking it with egg or putting it in a miso soup can help to reduce the smell, texture, and sliminess.
  2. Add about one tablespoon of water and mix it. The more water you add, the less slimy it becomes.
  3. The digestive enzymes in grated radish (daikon oroshi) help reduce the sliminess of natto. Even if the stickiness disappears, the nutritional content remains. It also has the effect of reducing the smell of pungent components.
  4. Whisking raw egg and combining it with natto creates a fluffy texture.
  5. To enhance the umami flavor of natto, try stirring about 400 times. This adds more air, resulting in a fluffy and softer texture. Additionally, this method reduces the stringiness, making it easier to eat.

Health Benefits of Natto

Natto nutritions

Natto may have an acquired taste, but it’s a remarkable superfood with abundant health benefits! Through fermenting, its nutrient content is elevated; packed with protein, fiber, and vitamins, natto provides a valuable addition to any diet, supporting digestion, immune system, and overall well-being.

  • Great source of protein
  • Vitamin B2 to maintain your body
  • Vitamin K for bone health
  • Nattokinase keeps your blood healthy
  • Natto-kin helps your gut health

Learn more about the health benefits here.

Where to Find Natto

natto in a pack

The most popular natto brand is Okame Natto, recognizable by the woman’s face on the packaging in the above picture. You can find a natto at Asian grocery stores or Japanese supermarkets listed below. Look for it in the tofu section or frozen section of these stores.

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

How to Prepare Natto Gohan

I’ll show you how to prepare Natto Gohan, the most simple and popular way to eat natto. (Watch How to Make Natto Gohan)

Store-bought natto is typically in styrofoam containers and comes with natto sauce and karashi (Japanese mustard).

  1. Open: Open the natto pack. The natto sauce and karashi mustard are on the top.
  2. Add the sauce: Take the transparent film and pour the sauce and karashi over the Natto. Add soy sauce if your natto doesn’t come with the sauce.
  3. Stir: Stir with chopsticks until smooth, about 10 to 20 times.
  4. Over the rice: Prepare a bowl of steamed rice and place the natto over it.
natto gohan (natto over rice)

I hope you try this traditional and healthy breakfast menu in Japan. If you’re not fond of the smell and texture, you can enhance the taste by adding kimchi, green onions, sesame oil, etc., as mentioned earlier.

Tasty Natto Recipes

4 natto recipes with text overlay.

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! Click here for “Easy Natto Recipes: Beginner-Friendly Dishes.”


Is natto an acquired taste?

Yes, natto is commonly considered an acquired taste due to its distinct smell and sticky texture, which may take some time for individuals to get used to and appreciate.

What is natto supposed to smell like?

Natto also has a pungent smell, and this distinct odor makes this traditional Japanese food special. Its aroma comes from the ammonia that forms during fermentation.

What does natto do to your body?

Natto offers several benefits to the body. Its nutrient-dense composition, including protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, supports overall health and well-being. Additionally, natto contains probiotics that promote healthy digestion and a strong immune system, while the presence of vitamin K2 contributes to bone health.

How do you eat natto if you don’t like it?

If you don’t enjoy the taste of natto, there are a few ways to make it more enjoyable. One option is to mix it with other ingredients to mask the flavor, such as adding sesame oil, garlic, or a splash of vinegar. You can also try cooking natto with some ingredients, where the other flavors can complement and balance out the natto.

How do you enjoy eating natto?

There are various ways to enjoy eating natto. One traditional way is natto gohan (natto over rice). Additionally, you can incorporate natto into dishes like sushi rolls, stir-fried rice, or soups to enhance their taste.

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2 bowls of natto gohan (natto over rice).

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