Miso, Tempeh, Natto & Other Tasty Ferments

A Step-by-Step Guide to Fermenting Grains and Beans


By Kirsten K. Shockey

By Christopher Shockey

Foreword by David Zilber

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2020 IACP Cookbook Award Finalist
2019 Foreword INDIES Winner 

Best-selling fermentation authors Kirsten and Christopher Shockey explore a whole new realm of probiotic superfoods with Miso, Tempeh, Natto & Other Tasty Ferments. This in-depth handbook offers accessible, step-by-step techniques for fermenting beans and grains in the home kitchen. The Shockeys expand beyond the basic components of traditionally Asian protein-rich ferments to include not only soybeans and wheat, but also chickpeas, black-eyed peas, lentils, barley, sorghum, millet, quinoa, and oats. Their ferments feature creative combinations such as ancient grains tempeh, hazelnut–cocoa nib tempeh, millet koji, sea island red pea miso, and heirloom cranberry bean miso. Once the ferments are mastered, there are more than 50 additional recipes for using them in condiments, dishes, and desserts including natto polenta, Thai marinated tempeh, and chocolate miso babka. For enthusiasts enthralled by the flavor possibilities and the health benefits of fermenting, this book opens up a new world of possibilities.



Dedicated to Lyra and Finn, who wholeheartedly embraced sticky beans and fuzzy rice. And to all the children who dive into fermented foods with abandon because they understand instinctually that it is good food. The ­little humans and their parents of this time face tougher environmental challenges than our generation, who inherited a more polluted and played-out world than our parents. What we all worried about, you have to adapt to and hopefully begin to heal. The ­planet's future rests on your continued brave food choices. We hope this book plays a small part in that work.


Foreword By David Zilber



Part I: Learning

Chapter 1: Fermantation Fundamentals

Chapter 2: Fermantation Equipment

Chapter 3: A Guide to Legumes and Cereal Grains for Fermentation

Part II: Making

Chapter 4: Getting Started: Spontaneous Ferments

Chapter 5: Natto and It's Alkaline Cousins

Chapter 6: Tempeh and Other Indonesian Ferments

Chapter 7: Koji

Chapter 8: Amazake and Other Tasty Ferments

Chapter 9: Miso and Other Fermented Bean Pastes, Plus Tasty Sauces

Part III: Eating

Tasty Sauces, Pickles & Condiments


Smaller Bites

Larger Bites





Metric Conversions

Source Guide




Expand Your Gut Health and Your Culinary Creativity with More Storey Books

Share Your Experience!


By David Zilber, coauthor of The Noma Guide to Fermentation

"Fermentation and civilization are inseparable." These words, penned by the American poet John Ciardi, will stay with me forever.

I was 18 and still in high school when I first stepped into a professional kitchen, a forward-­thinking and inventive restaurant whose style was self-described as pan-Asian fusion (it was the early 2000s, after all). I found myself surrounded by unusual and unfamiliar ingredients — fermented tofu, shiro shoyu, hatcho miso, natto, nam pla, and rice wine vinegar, to name but a few. These products were far from the mash-up of Caribbean and Jewish food culture I'd known at home. I learned of whole new worlds of flavor and toured many aisles inside dubious downstairs grocery stores in Chinatown, shopping for strange jars whose labels I couldn't read. It was a fascinating headfirst dive into the world of fermented food, and while I appreciated these ingredients for their novelty, functionally, I thought of them as just that: ingredients.

A decade later, after cooking my way through top restaurants, I landed at Noma and took yet another deep dive into the world of fermented food, but the approach this time was different. I had to leave my preconceptions at the door and relearn how to cook. At Noma, everything is considered . . . and then reconsidered. The very notion of edibility is challenged, and through that pursuit, new techniques and flavors are discovered and put to use. In the fermentation lab, ferments aren't just a set of novel ingredients; they're tools. Instead of using traditional fermented foods to remix recipes and create new and exciting dishes, as I had at the beginning of my career, I was remixing traditional fermentation techniques to create exciting ferments that would then be used to make even more progressive and exciting dishes. We do this to improve flavor, but other benefits are improved digestion and microbiotic health, and even a philosophically grander view of life. We are creating food on a deeper level than what has come before, and that deeper level can only happen through education and knowledge.

The Shockeys have put together a thorough and masterful work that builds on that same theme — that education and knowledge are essential. Though our daily lives are very different, in many ways, we work in parallel track. But if there's one thing I know about fermenters and their world, it's that they only ever want it to grow. They seek to share their microbial cultures, the bits and bobs, the know-how; and in doing so, they hope to enlarge the community of it all. While cooking might bring people together, fermentation weaves those people into a common tapestry. All life comes from life, all cells from cells, and all culture from culture. As the authors will explain, fermentation has persisted for so long because it has helped civilizations the world over to sustain themselves and thrive.

There's beauty in the idea that you have to share ferments to make them. Because you have to share knowledge, too, to create it. And within these pages, you'll find a wealth of it.


Food is a tool for exchange of culture.

David Zilber

We each grew up with the standard Western plate — meat, starch, and side of veggies. It varied for Kirsten when her family lived in Southeast Asia and the time her mom ventured off to hummus sandwiches before anyone else had heard of hummus, but those were fleeting. Christopher would eat a total of three vegetables when he met Kirsten, and one of those was iceberg lettuce, but only if it was drenched in blue cheese dressing. The other two — corn on the cob and potatoes — were closer to starches than vegetables, Kirsten argued. When we were in college, the one meal Christopher cooked was a Frito taco casserole; Kirsten made a lot of stroganoff or other meals that softened cheap round steak, but really, we ate mostly quesadillas.

Then a couple about five years older than us (old in our 20-year-old eyes) moved in next door. They were vegetarians. We started experimenting with our core meals, and honestly, we had no place to go but up. Our budget was limited, and at first, saving money by not buying meat — combined with enjoying more interesting flavors — was fun. Okay, we also enjoyed watching people squirm when we told them that the chocolate pie in their mouth was really tofu (it was the 1980s and tofu was still unconventional). As we went deeper into our vegetarian diet, we loved that we were eating better food that also had a smaller ecological footprint.

We don't remember when we transitioned from having a few vegetarian meals a week to being subscribers to Vegetarian Times, nor do we remember whether this shift was a gradual progression or a lofty declaration. We wore our vegetarian identity like young adults rebelling from the life they were raised with. Sometimes that made traveling difficult. Kirsten, who'd been raised as the daughter of an anthropologist (which meant accepting all food that is offered, for food is the host's greatest gift of self), felt conflicted: what was more important, self-­imposed ideals or building relationships through meals? As Christopher worked worldwide in developing rural areas, he too was faced with this collision of culture. When he was invited to a meal where the household had fried their one piece of bologna for him, he ate it with gratitude. We began to see that most of the world does not have the luxury of grinding up 10 pounds of carrots to drink. Food, and protein especially, must be eaten as it is available. These thoughts were cracks in our armor but by no means the end of our journey toward high-­quality, ecologically sustainable food.

Ten years and four children later, pregnancy and nursing had depleted Kirsten; most notably, she was anemic. Wheat and soy took the edge off Kirsten's constant hunger, but they made her feel chronically achy and fatigued; she was gluten intolerant and suspected a soy intolerance as well. Because Kirsten needed protein, we added meat back into our diet. It was at this time that we moved to our homestead, where we could ethically and sustainably raise our own dairy and meat animals. Living as stewards of the land, our understanding of what was sustainable and ecological became more complex and nuanced (like our understanding of fermentation). We found that we could feed a family of six over the course of two years with the gift of life from one steer. We grew fruit and vegetables, milked cows and goats, made jam and cheese and cider, and began to ferment vegetables.

In deference to Kirsten's situation, we avoided soy at our table, except for naturally fermented soy sauce and the occasional miso or tempeh meal (fermented soy did not seem to have any negative effects for her). And then life had a beautiful (cosmically comical) way of making us grow: Storey Publishing asked us to write a book on fermenting legumes and grains — including soybeans. Our first thought was that we — who generally avoid soy — were not the people to write this, and then we realized that maybe our own relationship with soy was perfect.

A few things have happened while we wrote this book — we turned 50, our last child moved away, we ate more soy (fermented) than we had in the last 20 years, and we started growing rows and rows of heirloom beans. And we feel great. Our focus on good food and fermentation — even with a boost in our soy consumption — is treating us well. (We both took blood tests and microbiome samples, because you can now, and found no evidence of sensitivities or worrisome factors.)

We share our food story to show that it is a progression — a continuing fluid journey of trying to navigate feeling good and doing the best we can do. We would be lying if we said we didn't have moments of way too much dogma, but that rigidity has given way to an appreciation for balance. With this book, we hope to share a well-researched, unbiased perspective on fermented foods and how they can contribute to the health and wellness of both humans and the planet. We don't advocate any one diet, and we understand how confusing food choices are at this time. We don't want to add to the confusion but instead to help you understand, appreciate, and enjoy these superfoods just as much as we do.


Food systems have the potential to nurture human health and support environmental sustainability; however, they are currently threatening both. Providing a growing global population with healthy diets from sustainable food systems is an immediate challenge.

The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, and Health

We wrote this book to introduce you to foods, both ancient and ultramodern, that come from fermenting legumes and grains. Historically, grains are the most important food to humans, followed closely by legumes. These foods are inexpensive, easy to grow, and easy on the planet, and most of humanity still relies on them for the majority of their nutrition.

Here is the thing — when fermented, these humble ingredients are transformed, becoming more delicious and nutritionally charged. In fact, their benefits can go beyond basic nutrition to positive effects on our health in other ways, making them functional foods. The first step to appreciating what they have to offer is understanding how the microbes responsible for fermentation alter the foods right down to the molecules they are made of. Fermentation is all about breaking down the big molecules of proteins, starches, and fats. Why? Because as Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking, pointed out, big molecules don't have much flavor, but the smaller ones do. We see this when we turn grain into bread or beer, when we make wine out of fruit juices, when we turn cabbage into sauerkraut, and when we transform soy beans into miso. It is really that simple — ­fermentation makes flavor.

In the pages ahead, you will get to know and appreciate foods produced by the fermentation of legumes and grains, like miso, tempeh, natto, amazake, koji, and more. There are many reasons to get to know these foods. For some it is that flavor we just talked about, for many it is about eating more sustainable foods, and for all of us it should be about health: fermentation makes food a whole lot better for us. Even if you come to these foods only because you've heard that they're good for you, the flavors will surprise you; you will fall in love, and so will your gut — you may even begin to crave them.

We want to help you enjoy these foods regularly. Our hope is that you will be inspired to make or buy some miso, tempeh, natto, or amazake and get to know these foods. If you are lucky enough to have grown up with these fermented foods as part of your food heritage, we hope our recipes will provide a new twist to some of the standards and perhaps give you a reason to appreciate some long-forgotten flavors from your childhood. For everyone else, we hope you get curious about these foods and learn more. Pick a recipe that looks interesting and give it a try.

You can generally buy traditional ferments like soy sauce, miso, and tempeh at the grocery store, and you'll find recipes for using these foods to make delicious dishes in part III. For those of you who want to ferment these foods yourselves, we've got you covered. Whether you're an experienced fermenter or this is your first foray into the field, this book will give you comprehensive step-by-step instructions and troubleshooting sections. We not only include traditional recipes but also invite you to choose your own adventure by taking the concepts and using nontraditional ingredients to create unique and modern flavors. In short, it's time to play with your food.

It's About the Planet

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." With these words, food author Michael Pollan famously summed up his eating advice in his book In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, published in 2008. The next year chef Dan Barber, one of the originators of the farm-to-table culinary movement, was anointed one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world. In the decade that followed, green smoothies, farm-to-table salads, and other trendy plant-based dishes featuring the superfood veggie du jour reigned supreme in the American food scene. In the middle of all this, however, Barber fired a shot over the revolution that he had championed by essentially exposing the mounting environmental costs to the planet of our A-list-vegetable desires. His radical solution? We all need to eat plants that are restorative to the farmer's soil, so that our appetites are good for the farms and the environment.

If you have ever planted a row of greens and nursed them through summer's heat, when all they really want to do is lie down under the scorching sun and die, you understand the intense labor required for growing many vegetables. To produce them again and again from the same land, farmers need to continually replenish their soil with nutrients because nearly all vegetables are takers — not givers — of nutrients from soil. When there was more land and time available, farmers could plant restorative nitrogen-fixing legumes in a field and give that field a year off from production. Today, when time and costs are paramount, feeding the soil is accomplished by bringing in fertilizers between each planting, and sometimes during the planting when fields are completely played out.

In 1967 there were 3.5 billion people on the planet. In 2018 there were well over 7.6 billion — that is, twice as many humans needing to be fed. During the same period, scientists estimate we lost one-third of our arable land to erosion or pollution. Much of the arable land in agricultural production today is being used to support the demands of our growing global meat consumption. Taken in composite, the need to feed rising populations with decreasing arable lands (which are increasingly used for animal production) is hardly sustainable.

There are things we can do. One of the best is to bring into our diets the economical, nutritious, soil-replenishing plants in the legume family. Like most plants, legumes pull nutrients from the soil as they grow, but they also pull nitrogen from the air and put it back into the soil, leaving it a bit more fertile for the next crop. They also contain high levels of vitamins, minerals, and protein. They are the nutritional workhorses of the plant world. In some cases, like with soybeans, they also have constituents that are not good for us when we digest them. However, the process of fermentation reduces or entirely removes these antinutrients and toxins while also unlocking the nutrients for us.

Sounds great, right? It is! But many of us did not grow up eating these foods. We don't know how to make them, use them, or enjoy them. We don't crave them. That can change. And we can make a big difference for ourselves and our planet beginning with that first bite.

How Does Blood Sugar Work?

When we eat food, our bodies convert it into sugar (glucose), which goes to our cells to provide them with energy. Ideally, the food-to-­energy coming in matches our body's need for fuel, but that's usually not the case. When we eat more food than we can use, producing more blood sugar than our cells need at that time, it gets stored for later use. The storage and the delivery to our cells are managed by the dynamic duo of our liver and pancreas. Our liver both stores and makes glucose. Our pancreas secretes the hormone insulin into our bloodstream, which helps ferry the sugars to the awaiting cells. The rate at which food is converted to glucose differs from food to food; some foods are quickly converted into glucose, spiking glucose levels in our blood, and others have a slower, more sustained rate of conversion.

Good fats, proteins, and fiber all help reduce the rate of glucose conversion. High-sugar and refined carbohydrate foods are quickly converted into sugar, demanding comparable high levels of insulin. High insulin levels over prolonged periods of time can cause our insulin to begin to lose its ability to convince our cells to accept the glucose. They become insulin resistant. Type 2 diabetes may result.

It's About Culture

What foods do you crave? Why do you crave them and not something else, perhaps something healthier? One answer is that we learn to love the foods we are given from a young age. Think about it. From your first bites of solid food through your rebellious toddler food fights and on to grade-school lunches, it's a journey that starts pretty much out of our control. The culture we were raised in, and the socialization we received from our families, told us what we should eat. Then we grow up and gain our freedom over this important decision we make multiple times a day. Or do we?

Leading science now suggests that our cravings come not from our heads but from our guts.1 More specifically, from the microbes that live in our guts. It turns out these bacteria have their own cravings and use our 100 million nerve cells between our digestive tract and our brain to place their orders, all while we — their hosts — think it's us making that decision. Bacteria prefer to eat a wide range of foods, from the worst junk food to raw veggies not yet out of the ground.

Why do the bacteria in our gut matter? Because the food choices we make affect our gut, our health, and the health of our environment. If you have ever tried to change your diet only to revert back to your old habits in a few weeks or months, you know how daunting dietary changes can be. The good news is that if the science is true, our cravings mostly come from our gut microbes. Gut microbes crave all kinds of things, good and bad. If you want to change what you are eating, change your gut. How can you do this? One way is by bringing more fermented foods into your diet.

It's About You

A number of major chronic diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer share physiological aberrations and stressors — things like inflammation, oxidative stress, and alterations in the body's metabolism. Fermented legumes and grains have high levels of several bioactive compounds that appear to combat these conditions. Their actions are multi­faceted and not easily reduced to simple if-you-eat-this-it-will-cure-that formulas. Our individual diets, microbiome composition, genes, and lifestyle choices all play a part as well. Still, there is mounting evidence from recent studies2 that the consumption of fermented legumes is a contributing factor in the reduction of obesity, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, lower cholesterol levels, improved calcium uptake in postmenopausal women, and improved glucose control and reduced insulin resistance in prediabetic and diabetic populations.

Fermentation techniques have been around for as long as humans have had too much food to eat all at once and needed to preserve it for another day. For some cultures, the day's diet is made up of barely 5 percent fermented foods, but for many cultures, as much as 40 percent of the daily diet comes from fermentation. That's just shy of 1 pound of cheeses, breads, pickles, hot sauces, tempeh, charcuterie, miso, beer, wine, cider, sake, salads, soups, fermented legumes, curries, stews, and yes, even fermented desserts consumed every day by over 7 billion people on this planet.

As we've discussed, we find these foods tasty because microbes in us think the same thing and signal us to eat those foods. With probiotics and prebiotics, we can "cultivate" our gut microbial population to support healthy dietary preferences. Studies show that we can make measurable microbial changes in just 24 hours.3

The live microbes we ingest, whether in fermented foods or in a probiotic pill, go on one of three possible journeys within us. Some pass right through us, like tourists checking off sites as they pass by them while speeding down the highway. Some slow down, stop, and stick around in our digestive system for a while, like those tourists who actually want to experience a place. The last group tests our tourist metaphor a bit because they become food for the microbes in our gut — their tour ends when they are consumed. This last group is referred to as prebiotics — food for probiotic microbes in us. If we think of probiotics like the schoolkids in the Magic School Bus series, magically shrinking in order to adventure through our digestive system, then prebiotics would be the lunches they pack for themselves for the journey.

It's About Flavor


  • "Miso,Tempeh, Natto Other Tasty Ferments is a detailed and informational book on the art of fermentation––recommended for professional chefs and passionate home cooks alike." — Foreword Reviews

    “What an exciting new resource for fermentation enthusiasts! Kirsten and Christopher Shockey explain in clear step-by-step detail classic methods from different parts of Asia for fermenting legumes and grains, as well an innovative new applications. The ferments in this book include some of the most complex, technically demanding, and potentially intimidating, but Kirsten and Christopher demystify them and make them readily accessible for home and restaurant kitchens. This book opens the door to amazing culinary adventures and incomparable umami flavors.” — Sandor Ellix Katz, Author of Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation
    “The Shockeys have put together a thorough and masterful work that builds on the theme that education and knowledge are essential. There’s beauty in the idea that you have to share ferments to make them. Because you have to share knowledge, too, to create it. And within these pages, you’ll find a wealth of it.” — David Zilber, co-author of The Noma Guide to Fermentation
    “Kirsten and Christopher have written a beautifully researched and approachable book for lovers of Asian ferments. This book demystifies the processes and methods for producing foods such as tempeh, miso, and koji, and will enable anyone to make these foods successfully at home or in a professional kitchen. I’ve been waiting for a book of this magnitude and approachability for a long time. I now have something to keep in my kitchen to guide me down the rabbit hole that is Asian fermented foods.” — Jeremy Umansky, larder master, wild food forager, and owner of Larder Delicatessen Bakery

On Sale
Jun 25, 2019
Page Count
408 pages

Kirsten K. Shockey

Kirsten K. Shockey

About the Author

Kirsten K. Shockey is the author of Homebrewed Vinegar and the coauthor, with her husband, Christopher Shockey, of The Big Book of CidermakingMiso, Tempeh, Natto & Other Tasty Ferments, Fiery Ferments, and the best-selling Fermented Vegetables. She is a co-founder of The Fermentation School, a women-owned and women-led benefits corporation supporting the voices of independent educators to empower learning and build culture. The Shockeys lead experiential workshops worldwide and online helping people to make, enjoy and connect with their food through fermentation. They live on a 40-acre hillside homestead on unceded Dakubedete territory in the mountains of southern Oregon. 

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Christopher Shockey

Christopher Shockey

About the Author

Christopher Shockey and Kirsten K. Shockey are the coauthors of Miso, Tempeh, Natto & Other Tasty FermentsFiery Ferments, and the best-selling Fermented Vegetables. Christopher has years of experience producing ciders from their mountain homestead orchard and is a trained cider maker. The Shockeys got their start fermenting foods more than twenty years ago on their 40-acre hillside smallholding, which grew into their organic food company. When they realized their passion was for the process, they chose to focus on teaching fermentation arts to others. They teach worldwide and host workshops on their homestead in southern Oregon.

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