What Is Nattō? A Guide for Foodies

Updated 03/01/18
what is natto
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Fermented foods and drinks are having a moment in foodie culture. From the sour sweetness of kombucha to the savory crunch of kimchi, there’s just something about the fermentation process that awakens unique flavors and nutritional possibilities. If you’re already a fan of fermented tea and vegetables, it may be time to expand your horizons to fermented soy. (That’s what nattō is, in a nutshell.)

Nattō is a traditional Japanese dish made from fermented soybeans, and it’s commonly enjoyed at breakfast time. If you pair it with fish, rice, and miso soup, you have an authentic Japanese breakfast that covers all your basic food groups. Read on to learn exactly what nattō is and how it’s made.

The Basics

Nattō is a soybean dish that looks like beans. The beans are typically served over a bed of rice and flavored with soy sauce, karashi mustard, and Japanese bunching onion. Basically, it’s a Japanese-style beans-and-rice dish with a bit of a slimy consistency. Nattō has a strong, distinct flavor due to the fermentation process, and the initial taste and aroma can be quite strong if you’re new to the dish.

Nutritional Value

Nattō isn’t your average soy dish. Thanks to the fermentation process and organic nature of nattō, this dish has a completely different nutritional profile from standard soy dishes.

Consider that just one cup of nattō contains 34 grams of protein and massive doses of potassium, iron, and magnesium. The dish is also rich in calcium, zinc, phosphorus, and omega-3 fatty acids. It’s very low in sodium, which can’t be said about your typical soy meat substitute.

The Fermentation Process

While we’re on the subject of nutrition, we’d be remiss to not discuss the specific benefits of the fermentation process. Nattō is fermented with Bacillus subtilis, a bacterium naturally found in the gastrointestinal tract. When used as a fermenting agent for soybeans, it makes the beans easier to digest and can help the body to absorb nutrients more readily. It also provides a wealth of probiotic benefits—making it great for people with digestive issues or those looking to enhance their overall health.

Now that you know what nattō is, find out what makes tofu

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