How to make Natto taste good with 3 simple tips.

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Make Natto taste good. Picture of 6 packs of Natto.

How to make Natto taste better.

How can I make Natto taste good? If you’ve tried Natto before and thought “this is not for  me” well this post is for you. In this article you can learn how the Japanese like to eat their Natto. Hopefully you can enjoy a it a little more yourself too. I have lived in Japan for many years now and like you my first impression of Natto wasn’t good. However there’s a few things Japanese with do with there Natto to make it more enjoyable.

These little tips that I’m about to share are very simple. Thats the best thing about Natto it’s so easy to prepare and it’s really really healthy as well.

The Natto smell is not as bad as you think.

People often have one of two reactions when eating Natto; one of distaste while others love it. It’s one those foods that people react strongly to. People either love it or hate it especially in the West countries where we have nothing quite like quite like the taste or consistency.

Natto also has a unique smell. Everyone seems to describe it differently, I’ve even heard Natto described as dirty old socks. Yikes, I wouldn’t eat Natto either, luckily I think Natto has a nutty smell and actually quite like it. While some people don’t mind it like myself, others find it quite revolting and they may get up and leave the table if someones eating Natto at the same table.

It’s also pretty darn sticky.

Natto is also extremely sticky. Small stands can get everywhere if you’re not careful. These small strands look like a spider web and probably just as sticky.  Natto is hugely popular in Japan and is usually eaten at breakfast.

Natto is really good for you.

On the other hand Natto is one of healthiest foods you can eat. In Japan Natto is said to be good for your health. They even have a phrase “Natto Brain” for people for people who are gifted or intelligent. That’s not so scientific however it’s well known that Natto has a lot of vitamin K. It’s also very tasty I’d reach for a packet of rather than a packet of potato chips every time.

Natto Maki ready to served for dinner
Try Natto with sushi rice and wrapped in seaweed.

So how do Japanese eat their Natto?

Table of contents 

  • Make sure you have fresh Natto
  • Eat Natto cold
  • Choose your favorite Natto maker
  • Bonus tip
  • Conclusion 

How to make Natto taste good? 

Tip 1 Eat fresh Natto.

This is no surprise. However if your not used to eating Natto then fresh Natto may look off to you. Let me explain. Natto is fermented soybeans which has active bacteria. Fresh Natto will look moldy, and if you look closely fresh Natto it will have a layer of white mold on the surface of the beans. However older Natto will appear more brown with less bacteria this may look nicer but actually the Natto is getting past its used by-date and the taste deteriorates quickly.

  • Fresh Natto will look moldy with a white layer covering the beans. This is a good sign.
  • Natto that is a few days old will start losing this white covering. Beans become more slimy over time and there’s nothing worst than bad beans.

Eat Natto cold

Japanese people prefer to eat their Natto cold. So store your Natto in the refrigerator you want to eat nicer tasting Natto. While I’ve read people put their Natto in the microwave to warm it up, I’ve seen no Japanese people do this and I’ve lived in Japan for over 17 years. While you may have seen pictures of rice with Natto on top. However many Japanese like to Natto and rice eaten as two separate dishes or to eat straight out of the container. Sure you can put your Natto into of a bowl of rice however you don’t have to. I’ve done a little research on how Japanese like to eat Natto, while many like to eat Natto on top of a bowl of rice however many prefer keeping their Natto cold so they avoid adding Natto to hot rice.

  • Japanese prefer eat Natto cold or at room temperature.
  • Japanese prefer to eat Natto with rice separately. Natto placed on hot rice will heat up the beans so many Japanese like to keep the two dishes separate.
How to check if Natto is Fresh.
Tip: Fresh Natto will look rotten and it will have a layer of bacteria on the surface of the soybeans.

Choose your Favorite Natto brand. 

Choosing your favorite brand is easier said than done. In Japan there is a huge variety of different Natto to choose from. You may not have the same amount of choice in your local supermarket. However if you do have a few choices try them all. Each different brand has different tastes and they often come with different sauces so if you different like Natto the first time you try it. Please don’t give up try another brand because they really are different.

Each brand has a slightly different taste.

  • In Japanese supermarkets there is a huge selection of Natto to choose from. However if your supermarket offers a few choices try them all. Every brand of Natto brand can taste completely different.
  • Natto markers used bacteria to start the fermentation process. While this process has changed over time with most makers using bacteria which makes Natto less smelly. However these bacterial starters can strongly influence the flavor of Natto so you may prefer one brand over another. 

Natto comes with a variety different flavorings. 

There are other options to make your Natto taste better. While Mustard and a Dashi and soy sauce combination still remains popular many new flavors have entered the market. From Daikon to Wasabi there’s now many different choice available. Don’t make the mistake of skipping the little packets of sauce that come in the container they are there for a reason. They sure do make Natto taste better.

If you’re making your own Natto from a starter then you’ll need to add your own condiments to add a little flavor to your Natto. I recommend adding a little soy sauce and mustard. The Japanese mustard or “Karashi” tends to be a mild and a little sweeter than regular mustard. So the yellow mustard usually put on hot dogs is fairly close to Japanese mustard.

How to enjoy Natto? In the picture is four different packets of Japanese Natto
Try the different Natto. Each Natto brand is a little different, while you may not like one brand you may like another.

Natto comes in a variety of different bean sizes.

Bean size is another consideration if you want to enjoy Natto. While small soybeans are the standard size,  you can also buy Natto with larger beans and with beans that have been de-skinned and cut into tiny pieces. Personally I like the bigger beans, however even for a Natto fan like myself the bigger cast be quite the meal.

Three Natto packets that show the different types of Natto
Natto comes in a variety of sizes;
On the left the soybeans have been de-skinned and cut into small pieces.
In the middle the Natto has standard sized beans. However this brans came with a Daikon sauce.
On the right larger soybeans are used.

Experiment with Natto 

Even though many Japanese prefer to eat Natto as a stand alone dish Natto or in top of a bowl of rice. However Natto Maki and Natto sushi is also common. Note that sushi rice is not hot. Again coming back to the point that Natto is best eaten cold or at least at room temperature. However Natto is sometimes eaten in Tamagoyaki. (Type of omelet which is often slightly sweetened.) Although this is not so common.

Natto Maki at a sushi shop in Japan
Although not as popular as regular sushi. Natto Maki is sold at almost every Sushi stop in Japan

How to Make Natto taste Good? Learn from the Japanese.

It seems that eating Natto cold is the key to making Natto taste good. Make sure to store Natto in the refrigerator and served cold. The beans are also still fermenting so in warmer weather they can go bad quickly so keep them in the fridge. If stored correctly the Natto should keep well for a week.  This leads on to. the next tip: eat fresh Natto.

Japanese are really lucky to alway have fresh Natto available to them. For us we may need to pay attention to the used by-date since Natto probably isn’t a big seller in our local supermarkets.

Try different Natto brands.

Remember to try different brands and markers. Each Natto manufacture may use different bacteria to start the fermentation process and this starter can really change the taste of Natto. However now most large scale commercial makers have changed their fermentation process and use bacteria which makes Natto less smelly than before. However if you buy from a small scale business they may use bacteria which produces more ammonia and this Natto can be quite smelly.

Kuromame Natto.
If you thought Natto was sticky then try Kuromame Natto or Black soybean Natto. It has to be twice as sticky as regular Natto.

Have fun using different flavorings.

Try the different sauces. Sure the standard is the Dashi and Soy sauce mix and mustard is the most popular. However many Natto manufactures add  different sauces for customers a choice from. One of my favorite condiments to mix with my Natto is Wasabi. Wasabi has a little kick to it, but boy does it taste good.

Natto the Japanese breakfast of champions.

There are so many different Natto brands available. If your first experience wasn’t so good. I really recommend giving Natto another try. In Japan Natto is often eaten for breakfast and it’s well known to be good for your health. What better way to start your day?

2 COMMENTS

  1. Had natto my first time at a popular little Japanese restraunt…was dissapointed as it was bitter beyond belief and couldn’t even swallow a bite. 🙁 The next time I bought a pack of 3 from a market and had it over a little rice with some seasoning and was actually really good…mild almost smoky cheesy and nutty flavor- the stickiness was interesting but a little fun to eat..I started to crave it after that. If you hate it the first time try to get it fresh…have a feeling the one at the restaurant was extra fermented and probably sitting around in the fridge fermenting for an extra month or two after purchase.

    • Hi there Amber

      Thanks for leaving a comment, I’m glad you weren’t put off by your first try.

      Totally agree, for me, Natto has a really nutty favor.

      The stickiness put me off at first but when I saw how the Japanese quickly rotated their chopsticks to remove the natto stands. It was a game changer.

      Thanks for sharing your experience.

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