While the flavors of different varieties of miso vary, all provide a salty, savory quality to foods. Some also add a subtle sweetness. Miso is almost always dissolved in water before it is added to dishes.
Miso has many uses, but the quintessential miso dish is traditional Japanese miso soup. This is a breakfast staple in Japan although it can be enjoyed at any time of day. Traditional miso soup starts with a fish-based broth called dashi, or a simple homemade miso soup can be made by simmering chunks of tofu and vegetables in broth or water. Just before serving, add 2 tablespoons of miso for each cup of water used. Dissolve the miso in a little bit of water before adding.
Miso can also be used instead of salt in many stews or soups, especially those based on vegetables or beans. Although it is high in sodium, miso can actually help to decrease sodium intake--miso is somewhat more flavorful than salt, so it takes less to make dishes flavorful. Miso can also be used to make a spread for corn-on-the-cob or to melt over vegetables. Blend together equal parts miso and butter or margarine.