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What is Natto? – Japanese fermented Soybeans

Natto is a Japanese snack consisting of fermented soybeans. It is brown with a texture that is slimy and sticky. Stirring the beans with your chopsticks will produce lots of thin, sticky strings. It can look unappealing, but it is a popular food among Japanese.

Freshly-stirred Japanese natto, sans recipe

Usually, natto comes packaged in individual, single-serve packages from around 50 to 100 grams, with the price for a set containing three such packets generally around 100 yen. Single-serve packages are made using small containers that often have a soy sauce or mustard packet with the beans. This is because Japanese often top natto with karashi mustard (hot Japanese mustard), soy sauce, or ponzu.

A natto package marked with Japanese, marked by little spring onion recipe flourish image

The Japanese consider natto’s unique flavor an acquired taste. Often, local Japanese enjoy asking foreigners to try it for their first time, then watch their reaction. For Australians reading this, compare this cultural dynamic with vegemite.

A simple recipe, try eating natto straight from the packet with a little soy sauce or karashi mustard; it is commonly eaten like this chilled or at room temperature. If you heat it up, the smell can sometimes be too strong or unpleasant to handle.

Common Japanese spring onions atop natto as a basic natto recipe

But if you’re looking for something a little different, I’ve listed some popular combinations below.

Natto with rice recipe

You can’t go wrong here. Simply top some hot rice with the natto, then season with scallops and some karashi mustard.

Some natto atop rice and below spring onions, simple Japanese natto recipe

Natto maki recipe

You can serve this on rice, or wrapped up like sushi. It’s a creative recipe because you can season it or add other sushi-like ingredients to suit your taste.

Truly Japanese, some natto maki, seaweed containing natto atop rice

Natto on toast recipe

Japanese commonly consume natto as a breakfast food. Try topping your natto toast with a bit of cheese along with Kewpie mayonnaise.

Japanese food meets western breakfast with this fresh natto toast recipe

Natto, egg and avocado recipe

Considering its ideal temperature and stickiness, natto makes a fine addition to salads. Raw egg yolks are a great combination as they give a buttery taste and a saucy texture. The simple recipe of avocado, natto and egg yolk makes a perfect, quick, easy lunch packed full of good fats and protein.
No-rice recipe mixing Japanese natto with avocado plus egg yolk

Alix Smith

Alix Smith

Hi I'm Alix, I'm an Aussie who has fallen in love with Japan. I love learning languages and all about foreign culture. I was first attracted to Japan because of its rich history and fascinating traditions. But as you may notice from my contribution to this site, my real passion is cooking. I hope I can share my experiences here in Japan with you, and hopefully invoke a little bit of Japanese inspiration in your diet. Have fun reading!

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