Some people refuse to mess with tradition, and tweaking the classics can be a real gamble — especially when it comes to pie. But if you’re sick of the same old pumpkin and pecan, slip in a little miso paste and watch as hardline traditionalists and radical pie anarchists alike fight over the last slice.
Holiday pies tend to be on the rich, warm end of the flavour spectrum, which means they really sing with a little extra salt. Miso brings both salt and umami, but it also has a butterscotch-y sweetness that works really well in desserts — especially ones that are heavy on the brown sugar, maple syrup, and spices. It’s a perfect match, and the effect is so subtle that most people won’t clock the miso. They’ll just notice that your pie is really good.
Just about every traditional savoury pie tastes better with a dab of miso. Pumpkin or sweet potato pies get some extra savoury depth, apple pie develops a buttery caramel note, and even a sugar-bomb pecan pie turns complex and extra nutty. You can use any variety you like, keeping in mind that each miso type has its own flavour and strength.
Light yellow miso is milder and sweeter than dark red types, which are powerfully salty and funky. For texture reasons, stick with miso that’s totally smooth, and save the rustic chunky stuff for soups and marinades. No matter what you use, you don’t need much: start with a teaspoon, give it a taste, and go from there.
As for how to actually incorporate it, my favourite vehicle is melted butter — just throw in a little glob of miso, melt on the stove or in the microwave, and mix thoroughly. Warm custard fillings will dissolve miso nicely, especially if you hit it with a stick blender. As for apple pie, stir some miso into the macerated juices, reduce it all to a syrup, and toss with the apples before baking. Be warned: People are gonna demand know why your pie is so damn good, so get ready to field lots of recipe requests. Whether or not you reveal your secret ingredient is, of course, up to you.