Introduction to Natto – A Stinky, Slimy, Japanese Superfood

Ah, natto.

Stinky, slimy, gooey, Japansee natto.

If you’ve never tried this Japanese superfood, you’re kind of missing out. And I say “kind of” because it’s an acquired taste. Natto tastes weird. Smells weird. But maaan… does it come with health benefits.

So, in this natto guide, you’ll learn:

  1. Introduction to Japanese Natto
  2. Health Benefits of Natto
  3. How to Make Natto – 2 Natto Recipes
  4. How to Eat Natto
  5. Popular Natto Dishes (AKA How to Make IT Taste Good)

1. Introduction to Natto

Natto is one of the most unique Japanese foods out there.

What is it? It’s fermented soybeans with have a sticky, slimy, and stringy appearance. The smell is similar to aged cheese. Japanese people eat it all the time and is a popular breakfast food.

What does natto taste like? Slightly bitter and similar to aged cheese. However, the taste isn’t what puts people off. It’s the smell and the slime all up in your mouth that most people can’t handle.

Despite how it looks and smells like, natto has become widespread around the world due to the numerous health benefits. You’ll learn about them below.

Where did natto come from? The origins of natto are not clear. There are many sources on how it was developed. One story of natto’s origin involves a samurai warrior in the 11th century. It is said that natto happened accidentally when his troops were attacked. They had left boiled soybeans inside the straw and forgotten about it. Days later when they opened it up, the beans had fermented. After tasting the fermented soy beans, they thought that it was delicious!

Today, natto continues to be a favorite food for Japanese people. In fact, it is possible to find this food freeze-dried as snacks, or as a topping on pasta. These modern twists on natto, shows how the food has evolved from samurai times.

And if you’re not in Japan but want to try it out, no worries. You can find natto on Amazon.

2. What are the Benefits of Natto?

There are tons of health benefits for natto.

It contains a bacteria called bacillus subtilis which is great for your gut health. There are also less calories compared to normal soybeans. There’s also special enzyme in natto  that reduces blood clots.

Natto is high in nutrition. A high percentage of protein, manganese, iron, dietary fiber, Vitamin K, and Vitamin C. And, a 100 grams of natto can provide you with 76 percent of your daily value for manganese!

Recap of Natto Benefits

  • Good for gut health.
  • Less calories than normal soybeans.
  • Has enzymes that reduce blood clots.
  • Protein
  • Manganese
  • Iron
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin C

3. How to Make Natto & Recipes

Now, what if you wanted to make natto for yourself? What would you need?

Well, to make natto, you’ll need:

  • small soybeans
  • rice straws or bacillus subtilis.

After that, there are 2 ways to make natto — the traditional and non-traditional way. The non-traditional way will be for you if you don’t have any “rice straws.”

The most traditional way of making natto is as follows: 

  1. Soak small sized soybeans in water for 12- 20 hours
  2. Steam beans for six hours.
  3. Pasteurize rice straw (contains the bacteria for natto) to kill all other bacteria.
  4. Use the rice straw to wrap the steamed soybeans.
  5. Leave the rice straw with steamed soy beans to ferment. You can aid the fermentation by adding heat of around 40 degrees celsius.
  6. After 24 hours, it should be ready to eat! For best results, age in the fridge for around a week.

Non-traditional recipe:

  1. Follow the previous recipe until step 2.
  2. Next, you’ll need to add bacillus subtilis (natto kin) to the steamed soy beans.
    1. You should be able to buy this online.
  3. Put everything in a pasteurized container and ferment at 40 degrees celsius for around 24 hours.
  4. Age in the fridge for around a week, and it is ready to eat.

How to Eat Japanese Natto

So, how do you eat this?

With chopsticks of course!

Well, there’s more.

So, unless you make natto yourself, you’ll typically find it in small styrofoam containers. These containers contain condiments such as soy sauce and/or mustard. You can add these as you like to add some salty and spicy flavor.

If you’ve made natto yourself, you can experiment with adding condiments. Aside from soy sauce and Japanese mustard, try adding chopped scallions, grated daikon radish, or nori seaweed.

Finally, make sure that you mix it well before eating! Some Japanese people say that it is good to mix it at least 100 times. Don’t be afraid of the gooey and slimy texture.

When’s the best time to eat natto? The best time is in the morning to give you some extra energy and nutrients. Many Japanese people eat rice in the morning, so natto is a great topping for their morning rice. However, it’s perfectly fine to eat it whenever you feel like it. You can also eat natto with various dishes that I’ll list below.

Recap of how to eat natto:

  • Open the container.
  • Mix well.
  • Add soy sauce, and mix some more.
  • Add mustard, and mix once more.
  • Best time to eat it is in the morning.
  • Feel free to eat it with something else, like rice or on toast.

Popular Dishes with Natto (and How to Make It Taste Good.

Wondering how to make natto taste good? Simple. Add it to some other dish.

And of course, Japanese people do this quite often to enhance the taste. So, natto is a versatile food that you’ll find in different forms.

1. Natto gohan (natto on rice)

This is the most popular way to eat natto. Natto is mixed with desired condiments, mixed well, and placed on top of a bowl of rice. The sticky texture of the natto works well with the texture of rice. It’s a great way to start the morning and a quick meal to put together.

Natto Gohan - Yakyudori

2. Natto maki (a rice roll with natto)

If you go to a convenience store or a casual sushi joint, you might find natto as a maki sushi roll. These are very tasty and it is a mess-free way to eat. Natto is usually so sticky that it is hard to avoid your chopsticks, bowl, and everything else from getting stringy and slimy. When it is wrapped in a maki sushi roll, you can enjoy the taste without the hassle.


I’ve bought one in the past… by mistake. That’s the lesson you learn for not reading labels.

3. Natto pasta

This is a more modern take on natto. You’ll find that some Japanese people enjoy putting natto on top of their pasta. This pasta can range from Japanese flavored pasta with dashi and soy sauce to meat sauce spaghetti.


4. Natto miso soup

Another typical way that people will eat natto is in their miso soup! Natto can be strong by itself. Putting it inside the soup mellows the flavor and texture. It’s also less messy than eating it on top of rice. When you put natto in miso soup, make sure not to add the extra condiments or mix it.

Rice, Miso soup, and Natto

Conclusion – Over to You

Now you know a bit about Japanese natto, natto health benefits, natto recipes and more.

Do you eat it often? Do you like it? And if you want to get some, feel free to check out Amazon.

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