What is Natto?

What is Natto?

May 18, 2023 Tags 

Natto is a fermented soybean dish that’s a food staple in Japan. Its stickiness and sliminess are almost similar to okra. While a lot of people do not appreciate its texture, let’s not forget that a natto a day can also keep the doctor away. 

Traditional natto in Japan uses whole soybeans fermented with hay bacillus. And according to the National Library of Medicine, fermented soybeans are beneficial to our physical health. But as with other foods, natto needs to be consumed in the right amount for us to reap its benefits. The dish is typically served during breakfast as a rice topping.

Let’s explore what makes natto worth a try.


What does natto taste like?


Wara natto


The pungent smell of natto is enough to make one’s stomach turn. As you chew on the beans, your tongue will taste bitterness and saltiness. Earthiness will fill your mouth and you’ll get a nutty finish after swallowing a bite.

People who don’t like natto are repulsed by its sliminess. This texture comes from the polyglutamic acid present in the soybean dish, which is brought about by the fermentation process. Believe it or not, it’s the stickiness of natto that makes it healthy.


Why do Japanese people eat natto?


To use outside of Japan, natto may be an acquired taste. But most Japanese people actually like this traditional dish. 
Japanese internet service provider Nifty released a survey in 2017, which revealed that 62% of respondents love eating it. And while there are 13% who don’t like its taste, most would consume it because of the positive effects on their health.

Think about it. It’s like when we were told by the adults to eat our veggies back when we were kids. We may hate them, but since we’re taught that they’re good for us, we’d eat vegetables anyway.


What is the correct way to eat natto?


Natto is already packed in a polystyrene foam container and comes with sachets of soy sauce and mustard. Just open the package, add the condiments, and mix them all together.

You can eat it with rice or as a stand-alone snack. Of course, we don’t recommend the latter, especially for people who are new to it.

If you can’t withstand the smell and taste, adding toppings is the answer. Some Japanese would top natto with a raw egg. But then, not all people can consume it. So for starters, add a sunny side egg. Other recommended toppings include green onions, dried sardines, katsuobushi (sliced dried bonito), and kimchi. You can also mix mayonnaise or pepper.


Is it OK to eat fermented soybeans every day?


As long as you eat natto in moderation, there’s no real problem with eating it every day. Ideally, it is best consumed in the morning as it boosts energy and metabolism. You can take advantage of its blood pressure-lowering effects when you consume it at night.



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Types of Natto


Typs of natto


In general, the types of natto are simply the size of the soybeans:

  • Ootsubu natto (大粒納豆) are the largest ones. This isn’t recommended for people who want to be introduced to fermented soybeans because they’re very pungent.
  • Chuutsubu natto  (中粒納豆) are middle-sized.
  • Kotsubu natto (小粒納豆) are small. They’re one of the common varieties.
  • Gokusho natto (極小納豆) are very small.
  • Chougokusho natto (超極小納豆) are extremely small.
  • Hikiwari natto (ひきわり納豆) is the crushed variety. 


Health Benefits of Natto


Healthy natto


Experts said that Japan’s fermented soybeans don’t lose much of their nutrients during processing. In other words, we get the most out of natto’s iron, protein, and dietary fibers. These nutrients are beneficial to weight and blood pressure.

Below are the specific benefits of consuming natto.


Slows Down Natural Aging


Fermented beans in Japan don’t just make people look young. Natto will help them feel young too! One serving already achieves the vitamin K requirement to prevent osteoporosis. Cell turnover is boosted by Vitamin E and B6, and as a result, skin aging slows down.

Some studies suggest that vitamin K2 in natto may help improve skin elasticity and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.


Aids in Digestion


Good gut health is essential for overall well-being. The good news is natto contains probiotics that can help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut, which can help improve digestion and strengthen your immune system. Studies suggest that probiotics may also help ease symptoms of digestive issues like gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea as well as inflammatory bowel diseases.

Fermented soybeans also have antinutrients that serve as your body’s shield from over-absorbing nutrients that cause nausea and bloating.


Better Sinus Health


Studies have shown that natto’s natural enzyme called nattokinase can reduce nasal polyps and make the mucus thin, improving airflow while lessening discomfort. 


Other Ways to Enjoy Natto



Who says natto can only be partnered with rice? The truth is, there are more ways to enjoy this pungent yet healthy dish.


Toasted Bread Topped with Natto


While your slices of bread are being toasted, mix all the condiments of your natto and then stir. Once the bread is lightly toasted, spread natto on one side then add more karashi mustard.

Did you know that cheese goes well with natto? What you can do is pan toast your bread with natto on top. Then add a slice of cheese. Toast until you’re satisfied with how the cheese is melted.


Add Natto to Your Salad


Add a unique touch of umami to your favorite salad by adding natto. Mix the fermented soybeans with root veggies then top it with bonito flakes and nori.


Eat as a Miso Soup Ingredient


Adding natto to your miso soup is an excellent way to eat natto without its slimy consistency. If you have a miso soup powder, prepare as instructed and simply add some natto.

If you’re doing miso soup from scratch, here are the ingredients:

  • Dashi
  • Miso paste
  • Natto
  • Scallions
  • Mushrooms



  1. Chop the scallions and mushrooms.
  2. Add dashi to the water then bring to a boil atop medium heat
  3. Turn off the stove then add some natto.
  4. Add a good amount of miso paste. Stir until it’s dissolved.


Add Natto to Your Noodle Dish


Whether it's for Japanese noodles or Western-style pasta, natto is an excellent ingredient. A simple recipe only needs natto, seaweed (nori), and tsuyu sauce. After the pasta has been prepared, stir-fry the noodles with natto. Add some nori on top and you finally have a Japanese-Western fusion dish.


Make Your Meals Extra Healthy with Natto


Incorporating natto into your meals can enhance their nutritional value, although its slimy texture may take some getting used to. Once you push past this initial aversion, you'll discover the numerous health benefits of this traditional Japanese food.

Fortunately, natto is readily available for purchase in polystyrene foam containers from Japanese manufacturers. You can easily order it from your preferred online store and try it out for yourself.

In the meantime, try getting yourself some Japanese snacks to get rid of the after taste in case you don't like natto!