Miso Grilled Corn

In Recipe by Sean18 Comments

Miso Grilled Corn

Miso-Yaki Tōmorokoshi
味噌 焼きとうもろこし

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Ahhh, grilled corn. It’s kind of everywhere these days, isn’t it? Of course anybody who grew up (or spent time in) parts of Asia or Central/South America knows that it’s been popular there for a very long time, often as a roadside snack. It’s ridiculously easy to make, and because it’s grilled outdoors it doesn’t heat up the house (both biiiiiiig pluses in my books). But I think one thing that’s really launched grilled corn into the mainstream is the fact that you can flavour it in so many ways. This has endeared grilled corn to plenty of people, thanks in no small part to the fact that starchy (i.e. not sweet) corn is particularly common in a lot of the world, and it kind of begs for a bit of added flavour. But that doesn’t mean that good, fresh, sweet corn can’t benefit from being dressed up and grilled, but the key is balance.  Sure you want to add and accentuate flavours, but you also want to let the great taste of the corn speak for itself.  In order to achieve that, I decided to turn to the Japanese palate.

The corn commonly grown in Japan definitely falls into that starchy category, so the average North American cookout technique (boiled and buttered) doesn’t really do it any favours. It’s often flavoured with soy sauce and mirin, bringing salt and sweetness to bear on the relatively bland kernels. In fact, as the very talented Chef Marc Matsumoto (of the awesome cooking site NoRecipes.com) points out in his miso butter corn recipe, you pretty much have to douse Japanese corn with some kind of sauce in order to make it even remotely palatable. But the sweet corn grown here (in Canada and the USA) for summer consumption is just SO good as-is that it doesn’t need a whole lot to make it spectacular.  It’s also (as the name suggests) rather sweet, so I really wanted to compliment it with rich, salty, and savoury flavours.  Miso is a wonderful, nigh-magical ingredient that adds a one-two punch of salt and umami, along with its own distinctive and endearing flavours.  I used aka (red) miso for this corn, but you could use any number of good miso varieties to play with the flavours a little here.  There’s also some ginger and mirin in all that butter, and you get to top it off (should you choose) with spicy shichimi togarashi.  It kind of hits every flavour note, and I’m totally in love with it.  But my secret ingredient (can you call it that when you publish it for everyone to see?) is a really cool Japanese ingredient called shio koji.  There’s a decent chance you’ve never seen it for sale unless you frequently haunt a Japanese grocery store, but let me tell you now, it’s one of those life-changing ingredients.

Shio koji is quite simple.  It’s simply alcohol, salt (shio means salt), and rice koji.  What is rice koji?  I’m glad you asked, imaginary conversation partner!  Rice koji is cooked rice that’s been treated with the same species of mold (Aspergillus oryzae) used to ferment miso, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sake, and more.  The really cool thing about it is that it contributes salt and umami in a way that allows you to actually use LESS salt in your food.  Basically, it tastes saltier than it is, so you can use less salt in a recipe overall.  Check out the Recipe Notes below for a bit more information about it.

I love this corn alongside grilled Japanese food, which probably shouldn’t come as any surprise.  As you can see from the images below, it’s great with grilled chicken meatballs (aka tsukune, which admittedly are not ball-shaped in this case).  It’s also an awesome side to go along with bacon-wrapped shimeji mushroom kushiyaki.  But even if you’re not cooking Japanese food, this is a simple, delicious way to put a savoury twist on corn on the cob.

Recipe Notes

There are lots of different ways to grill corn, varying in terms of both methodology and complexity. I went with a very simple technique that yields a great end result. There’s no pre-boiling, and no wrapping in foil; instead, you simply lay some foil on the grill and cook the corn on top of it. When it’s nearly done, it gets brushed all over with the miso butter mixture. The only downside of this method is that a fair bit of the butter melts onto the foil, but plenty of it stays put to flavour the corn. You can brush the melted butter from the foil back onto the corn (or pour it off of the foil and spoon it over when you’re done), but you don’t need to worry too much about it in the end – there’s plenty of incredible flavour melting into the cobs even if you let some of the butter melt off. I will say this though: keep a close eye on the corn and a big glass of water beside the grill. I tore the foil when I was taking the cobs off of the barbecue and the puddled butter went up in flames. It was easy to put out, but keep it in the back of your mind so you don’t accidentally immolate your corn.

Shio Koji

As I mentioned above, shio koji is a really great ingredient that can add both salt and umami (savoury) character to any number of dishes. It can be found in well-stocked Japanese grocery stores, generally alongside miso in the refrigerated section. If you can’t find shio koji, add an extra tablespoon of miso in its place. If you’re a big DIY fermentation fan (yay!) you can actually make your own shio koji too. Here’s a great recipe and explanation from Just One Cookbook. Koji culture can be found online.


Miso is something I’m pretty passionate about, which is why I put together this uber-detailed guide. Whether you’re brand new to using miso, or looking to explore it in more detail, you’ll find a lot to work with there. I use aka (red) miso for this and I love the character it brings, but you could use a great shiro (white) miso for a milder/sweeter taste. White miso would also do a great job of improving the character of somewhat blander corn, so keep that in mind if you end up with a less-than-stellar batch.


I’ve added just a little extra sweetness in the form of mirin, but there are some tweaks you can make if you end up with sub-par sweet corn. You can double the mirin or add a tablespoon of honey or white sugar to the mixture in the even that your corn is on the blander/starchier side.

Garlic, while not particularly common in Japanese cooking, would make another great addition to this butter mixture, either alongside the ginger or in place of it.

If you like the idea of Japanese grilled corn but you don’t eat dairy, you can always baste the corn with an awesome tare sauce instead of miso butter. Tare (pronounced TAH-ray) is the sauce that gives teriyaki cooking its distinctive salty-sweet flavour. My own tare sauce is simple to make but very flavourful, and you can find it along with my chicken tsukune and bacon-wrapped mushroom kushiyaki recipes.

Nutritional information is given for a single ear of corn, and assumes that about 3/4 of your butter stays on the corn (the rest tends to end up on the foil on the grill).

Nutrition Facts
Miso Grilled Corn (Miso-Yaki Tomorokoshi)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 277 Calories from Fat 117
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 13g 20%
Saturated Fat 7g 35%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.4g
Monounsaturated Fat 3g
Cholesterol 29mg 10%
Sodium 135mg 6%
Potassium 10mg 0%
Total Carbohydrates 37g 12%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Sugars 10g
Protein 5g 10%
Vitamin A 7%
Vitamin C 10%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Nutritional Summary

This manages to be sweet, buttery, and salty without being particularly high in fat, sodium, or sugar. It’s kind of like magic. This is the kind of veggie side that everyone can get on board with.

If we’re being nit-picky, it’s a LITTLE high in saturated fat (it is butter after all), but even then I think that the data given actually reflects a pretty generous dose of miso-butter. You could probably get away with less.

Ingredient Pages

No ingredient pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe.  Like to see one?  Let me know in the comments below or by email.

Pantry Pages

  • Gluten free
  • Vegetarian
  • 15-minutes
4.5 from 2 votes
Miso Grilled Corn (Miso-Yaki Tomorokoshi)
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
12 mins
Total Time
17 mins

Corn on the cob get's the a delicious savoury-salty Japanese upgrade thanks to rich miso-butter, ginger, and an amazing, adaptable secret ingredient.

Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Asian, Japanese
Keyword: barbecue, grilled corn with miso butter, japanese grilling, miso, shio koji
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 277 kcal
  • 6 ears sweet corn
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (115 g) well softened
  • 1 tbsp aka (red) miso
  • 1 tsp shio koji (see note)
  • 2 tsp ginger (10 g) minced
  • 2 tsp mirin (or sugar)
  • shichimi togarashi to garnish (optional)
  1. Thoroughly combine the butter, miso, shio koji, ginger, and mirin in a bowl and set aside. If it's sunny outside, let it sit beside the barbecue while you work, as it will melt a little bit and be easier to work with. Alternately, you could microwave it briefly or leave it (in a heat-proof bowl) on the barbecue lid for a minute before using.
  2. Shuck the corn and remove as much silk as you can from the cobs.
  3. Preheat an outdoor grill over medium-high heat. If your grill has a temperature gauge, you want it to be around 350 F.
  4. Lay down a sheet of aluminum foil across the grill and place the corn on top of it. Cook for 8 minutes, turning occasionally to cook the corn evenly. If you find the corn is scorching too much, drop the temperature a little and keep the lid open for a bit.
  5. Spoon about half of the softened butter over the individual ears of corn and grill, covered, for an additional 2 minutes. Turn the corn over and spoon the remaining butter over the ears, then cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and serve. Garnish with a little shichimi togarashi if you're looking for a bit of a spicy kick.
Recipe Notes

Shio koji is generally available from well-stocked Japanese grocery stores, usually in the refrigerated section. If you can't find it, you can use double the miso, or use a mix of red and white miso. The taste won't be exactly the same, but it will still work well.

More Japanese Grilling Recipes

Bacon-Wrapped Shimeji
Mushroom Kushiyaki

Bacon-wrapped Shimeji Mushroom Kushiyaki with Homemade Tare Sauce

Chicken Tsukune

Allergy-friendly Chicken Tsukune

Charred Shishitos
with Sweet Togarashi

Charred Shishito Peppers with Sweet Togarashi Spice

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  1. “the key is balance”. Love that, my kind of mantra 🙂 . And I’m in love with the flavors of this corn, going to ask Loreto to make it, maybe with some Taber corn, so delicious around here. Intrigued by the Shio Koji, we’ll try to find it, and the mirin and red miso are always great to work with. Beautiful, Sean, such a delightful way to flavor a simple, seasonal ingredient such as corn!

    1. Author

      Why thank you Nicoletta! I get great corn here, but I do miss my Taber corn. Reminds me of my childhood! As for Shio Koji, try calling around to some Japanese stores in the area, though it’s admittedly a tough find in some areas. Fortunately, you can also get it on Amazon! And seriously, don’t hesitate to buy a bit. It’s an incredible ingredient, and it can do amazing things. I just made fish with it the other day (coming soon to the blog hopefully) and it was absolutely incredible. Thanks for coming by, and for the kind words!

  2. We love grilled corn here, especially when it is fresh in season. These all sound wonderful. I just happen to put corn on my grocery list…might just have to try some of these out this weekend.

    1. Author

      It’s a pretty addictive dish, isn’t it? It might be the biggest treat in the veggie world. If do you give it a shot, let me know how it goes! Miso and butter are some amazing and surprising cross-cultural BFFs.

  3. Corn, check! Miso, check! Butter, CHECK! I already know what I’m having for dinner tomorrow night. Colleen’s stuffed peppers and your corn. Spanish and Japanese = YUM. lol

  4. This sounds so delicious! I never would have thought of miso and butter together, but I can imagine how tasty that would be. I will have to check out shio koji, since we do have at least one Japanese grocery here in Kelowna. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Author

      Thanks Colleen! You can pick up shio koji online from Amazon, and you might even be able to find it from Japanese grocery-specific online shops. It’s an incredibly ingredient. My friend (who is from Kanazawa) raved about it and so I had to try it. If you do buy some, you’ll definitely have fun with it! Fortunately, even if you can’t find it, you can still make killer miso-butter corn!

  5. I love corn season, but somewhat of a purist when it comes to flavouring (salted butter and black pepper on occasion!)- but I think I might just have to give this one a try! 🙂 Great work!

    1. Author

      I’ve been the same way for years, but this was too good not to try, and now I’m hooked! In fact, I might make it again tonight….

  6. “I’m glad you asked, imaginary conversation partner!” Sean, you crack me up. And this corn looks incredible!!! I’ve been pairing it with miso quite a bit this summer (usually in the form of salad with corn, cherries, and arugula with a miso dressing), but I love the idea of slathering it in sauce and spices straight off the grill. And I’d never heard of shio koji before; will definitely look for it when I’m next at the local Japanese specialty store! (Truth be told, I’m in there far too often shopping for bowls anyway!)

    1. Author

      I’m glad you enjoyed the read Alanna, and the corn! Your pairings sound pretty freaking amazing too (cherries!!), but I hope you’ll give this one a shot. I actually made it again yesterday (for guests, no less) and it was even better the second time around. And hey, I don’t blame you for your Japanese bowl obsession – I have to exercise enormous self-control in order to prevent myself from amassing a gigantic Japanese dishware collection.

  7. Again, another super innovative recipe, Sean! I NEVER would have thought to use miso in this way but it’s the perfect way to unite it with late summer produce on the grill. I just pinned it and can’t wait to give it a try! 🙂

    1. Author

      Thanks Justine! Miso is ridiculously versatile… it’s one of those ingredients that can easily transcend a particular culinary tradition. I’m very curious to try it on some other produce myself (pattypan squash, for example!) so do tell me if you do the same!

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