Natto and How To Eat It

Natto is a fermented soybean, and it is traditional and staple of Japanese food.  Compared to tempeh which is another fermented soybean originated in Indonesia, Natto is wet and slimy, and has strong smell.  Foreigners often find natto is one of the hardest thing to get used to among Japanese food. Most Japanese people can understand the fact because even Japanese people either love it or hate it.

It is highly nutritious and rich in proteins so often served on top of rice as breakfast.  If you are curious about the taste, try natto roll first at a sushi restaurant. Some of people who normally don’t like natto can enjoy it since vinegary sushi rice and dipping soy sauce hels to make the taste milder.  If you like it and want to try it, most Asian markets, some health food stores and high end supermarket such as Whole Foods carry it in soy products area or in a freezer.

Once you get it, follow the direction below.  It can be addictive!

How to prepare natto

  1. Open the package, and put it in a bowl.  Mix it up with chopsticks for at least 30 times.  Japanese people think more you stir, the better it gets.
  2. It often comes with a little package of dashi sauce and mustard.  Add them, and mix it up again until they are blended well. If your package doesn’t come with dashi sauce and mustard, you can use Asian mustard and soy sauce instead.
  3. Finally you add yakumi which is condiments in Japanese.  Typical yakumi is chopped scallions, but you can add other combination of condiments (see below for suggestions) as you like.  This would probably help to reduce the smell of natto. Now taste it, and adjust saltiness by adding soy sauce. It is ok if it is a little bit salty since you are eating with rice.
  4. Just pour it over warm rice, and dig in.

Condiments idea:

  • scallions
  • katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)
  • raw egg
  • shiso leaf
  • shichimi (Japanese spice mixture containing seven ingredients)
  • ichimi (ground red pepper)
  • grated ginger
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • umeboshi (salt plum)


I am originally from Japan and have been living in the US for about 20 years. Over the past 20 years I have traveled to many different parts of the world, seen different cultures, and tasted all kinds of interesting food. In between I studied anthropology, art and interior design. I currently live outside Boston and I teach cooking in continuing education programs and at home. I also take on freelance interior design projects. I hope you enjoy the blog! Yoko

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