What Does Natto Taste Like?

Natto, if you weren’t already aware, is a Japanese dish that’s quite popular as a breakfast item. It’s stringy like melted cheese and goes well on top of rice.

So, the question: what does natto taste like? It depends on the way it’s prepared or served, but in general natto is a slightly bitter flavor with some earthy undertones – often compared to aged cheese.

What is natto?

In short, it’s a traditional Japanese fermented dish made of soybeans, made with a bacteria called Bacillus Subtilis. 

In traditional preparations, natto was made by boiling soybeans and wrapping them in rice straw. The rice straw naturally grows the fermenting bacteria on its surface.

This process allowed the bacteria to collect with the sugar of the soybeans, resulting in fermentation. This, over a brief period, eventually presented natto.

In more modern times, natto isn’t made with rice staw anymore. Styrofoam boxes are used now.

The process is much simpler now. The boiled soybeans are placed in the styrofoam box and B. subtilis is directly added to them to kickstart the fermentation.

Is natto healthy?

Yes! Natto is incredibly healthy and contains many very important nutrients.

100 grams of natto contain fats, iron, vitamins, calcium, potassium, and many many others!

Along with that robust list of electrolytes and nutrients, it also has a healthy dose of folate and pantothenic acid. 

It’s also bursting with antioxidants, which we all know are good for heart health and cancer prevention.

While the concept of eating bacteria may seem off-putting, that’s exactly why natto is so healthy and good for you. Because of that bacteria and what it does to the soybeans during fermentation, natto is quite a bit better for you and more nutritious than simply boiled soybeans.

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Does natto help with digestion?

Your gut health is incredibly important. The stomach houses trillions of microorganisms that help maintain the processes of digestion.

The types of bacteria residing in your gut are directly responsible for the state of healthy gut flora – which is directly linked to many different health benefits. Some of which don’t even directly relate to your digestive system!

A healthy dose of probiotics can do a lot for your body, from reducing gas and bloating, to soothing the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease.

Because of how dense the probiotics are in natto, it’s possible to get the same amount from a single gram as you do from whole servings of most other probiotic-rich foods, such as yogurt.

What is the texture of natto?

Natto can be quite off-putting to most foreigners, and the texture is one of the reasons for this.

It’s simultaneously sticky and slimy. When it’s first bought in its packaging, it looks quite sickly in fact.

However, once you get some chopsticks in there and mix it all up properly, the gross-looking texture is changed to a gooey stringy cheese-like goodness you can pair with a lot of different foods.

Does natto stink?

Yes, natto does have a pungent odor. 

The intense ammonia-like scent is a huge turn-off for many people, even some native Japanese tend to steer clear of this unique dish due to the smell.

Though, truth be told, most store-bought natto doesn’t have such an intense odor anymore.

The smell could be compared to a nutty aged cheese, which is quite appropriate given the stringy cheese-like texture of the dish.

How do you eat natto?

Despite the polarizing state of this dish, natto is quite unique and versatile. There are many different ways to eat and serve it.

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Traditionally, natto is served plainly on a bowl of white rice. Occasionally, it would be topped with some other ingredients such as vegetables or condiments, but for the most part it was served simply.

The goopy texture can make it a little difficult to eat the natto by itself, but it can totally be done if you find a cheesy stringy texture appealing – which many do!

In a few parts of Japan, natto is served hot in miso soup instead of on top of a bowl of rice. It makes sense, because miso soup is also a fermented soybean dish, despite the difference in appearance and taste.

However, you can truly eat natto in just about any way. On eggs, made into ice cream, even natto topped pizza. A popular and simple way is to slap some beans on your breakfast toast.

Final thoughts

Natto, while extremely polarizing, is an incredibly popular dish in Japan – and now it’s found all over the world.

When mixed with rice, or in miso soup, or any other dish you could think of, natto becomes a versatile and unique food you can enjoy at any time of day and any season of the year.

Even though the smell and appearance can be off-putting, the health benefits of natto can’t be denied. It’s a staple in Japan for a reason.