We are probably all aware of the importance of keeping a healthy and balanced diet – but many of us often overlook the criticality of keeping our gut healthy.
One of the ways people do this is by eating foods that are rich in probiotics, like some yogurts. The problem with these sorts of foods is that they’re not the best choice for a meal and aren’t that filling.
Luckily, there’s an awesome food known as Natto which is a Japanese favorite which is vegan, healthy and tasty!
So, if you like the sound of that and want to know more about it and where you might buy it, read our guide below and find out!
What Exactly Is Natto?
Natto is a traditional dish from Japan which is soybeans that have been fermented with a sticky texture. It has a unique strong aroma and has a flavor of what can be described as nutty.
Commonly, natto is topped with soy sauce, seasoning and mustard and usually served with rice. It’s normally prepared by wrapping some boiled soybeans within rice straw – which allows for the beans’ sugars to ferment.
It’s very rich in nutrients and minerals and can aid in the normal digestion process within our bodies.
What Should I Look For When Buying Natto?
If you’re reading this, the chances are that you’ve either never had natto before or you are unsure of what constitutes the best natto. That’s no problem because we have the answers for you!
If you are a first timer to natto, you’ll want to get the best possible natto available – otherwise you could end up having a poor experience and be put off the dish for good.
You’d actually be surprised how often this happens too. Some people who wish to try natto without some helpful tips and hints end up buying very slimy natto with an overpowering taste and they never go back.
One of the reasons for this is because there are lots of different varieties of natto out there.
Generally, it’s advised that first timers should look for something light before they decide to upgrade themselves with natto that is much more rich in flavor.
So, when you’re looking for the best natto, here’s some things you should consider.
The two most common types of soybeans that are used for natto are black and red. They both end up with the same result but each have their own unique flavor.
Think of it in the same way as how pinto beans have their own flavor when they are black.
It’s entirely possible you will find soybeans that are both red and black used for natto in a type of combination.
Organic Or Non-Organic
Most of you will be aware of the benefits of choosing organic food rather than non-organic or processed foods.
While organic natto might be a little more costly, you will benefit from a better flavor and no worries of pesticides or additional chemicals inside.
The size of the container actually plays an important role when choosing natto. Basically, once the vacuum seal of the container is broken, the process of fermentation starts all over again.
Once the container has been opened this way, you must eat the natto within a maximum of around 3 to 5 days.
As a result, it’s best for newbies to natto to choose a smaller container. Not only does this reduce potential waste, but it also lets newbies try natto and ascertain if they like it or not.
Salted Or Unsalted
The most common and popular type of natto is salted but that does not mean to say you have to have salted natto. Unsalted will give natto a milder flavor, but of course this is more to do with personal preference.
You might notice that some natto is made with extra seasoning – turmeric is a common one. Another personal preference choice for yourself here, but it can allow for your taste buds to expand and enjoy more flavors.
Now of course, these points are only the tip of the iceberg and there will be a lot more for you to consider before you finally make your purchase.
It’s worth noting though before we move on that some brands of natto have a container that actually tells you what the flavors, nutrients, seasonings etc are included in the dish.
Are There Different Types Of Natto?
Yes! In fact, there’s lots of different types of natto. Whilst many of them share the same tastes in some areas, there’s lots of differences when it comes to the wider texture and flavor profiles.
For example, some natto is dry and some is sticky – and some are made with different beans using different methods.
The point is, there’s lots of choices out there – so let’s take a look at some of the most popular types of natto available to you.
Popular Types Of Natto
Here’s some of the most popular kinds of Japanese natto.
This type of natto encompasses a method of chopping the soybeans rather than using them whole. This allows for a much more chewy texture and consistency.
This is perhaps the most common type of natto preparation method. This only used the black soybeans and is famous for its highly salty flavor and texture.
This is an interesting type of natto that uses small soybeans rather than the larger ones most commonly used. This results in the natto being very similar to the consistency of caviar.
This is a type of natto that you’d commonly use for a salad topping for the crunchy texture, similar to croutons in a Ceasar salad.
This is the perfect natto choice for first timers. It has a less powerful aroma and is a little drier which means newbies don’t get put off by a slimy texture.
Where Can I Buy Natto?
Years ago, it would have been next to impossible to buy natto outside of Japan and the nearby regions. After this, natto was only really available in the United States if you resided in New York or San Francisco.
Now and again you may have been lucky enough to come across an authentic Japanese restaurant, but this would have been very rare.
These days though it’s a completely different tale. Luckily, natto is much more popular – and while you might not be able to find it everywhere all of the time, there are several ways you can get your hands on it.
So, let’s look at some of the best ways you can get your hands on some natto!
Amazon is probably the first thing you think of when you are trying to find something that you don’t normally have access to. Let’s face it, we’re not all lucky enough to live next door to a Japanese speciality store.
Amazon is one of the best choices to make when it comes to finding some great natto. Typically, the sellers are small-time independent cooks who will make their own natto and sell in small amounts.
Having said that though, you may also find some big Japanese sellers who offer natto along with some other traditional and authentic Japanese products.
You’re unlikely to find natto that is eligible for Prime shipping though, so be patient and prepared to wait a few days before you actually get to chow down on this amazing food.
Pros Of Using Amazon
- Amazing quality natto
- Delivered to where you want
- Lots of selection on hand
- Affordable prices
Cons Of Using Amazon
- May struggle to find natto eligible for Prime shipping, meaning a little wait is necessary!
You may live near a Japanese specific, or Asian supermarket. If so, you’re in good stead to find yourself some tasty natto!
Of course, if given the choice, Japanese specific markets will likely have more selection and better quality of natto available to you, but Asian supermarkets will be a good second choice.
There are some downsides though. As the food items will likely be either imported or made in-house, the writing on the labels and boxes will almost always be in Japanese – making it a little tricky for newbies who only speak English.
We’d recommend that if you come across one of these stores that you speak with the staff who should be able to assist you in your search.
You may find that they do not currently have any natto in stock, but they can either get some in or point you in the right direction.
You’ll also likely discover that the natto on offer is organic and has fewer preservatives or extras that you do not expect. However, you might even find the opposite in some places – it’s more of a case of luck!
Pros Of Using A Japanese Market
- Lots of selection at hand
- Help available
- Usually directly from Japan making it authentic produce
- If in stock, it’s available that day
- Usually more affordable than some places
Cons Of Using A Japanese Market
- Imported items may require extra additives so the produce does not expire during transport
- Japanese labeling may make it difficult to understand what you’re buying
- Natto may not be available that day or at all
It probably goes without saying that if you want to get the most authentic and top quality natto, you shouldn’t look any further than a real Japanese restaurant.
Now, of course this will be the best if you’re lucky enough to be in Japan, but luckily there are many authentic Japanese restaurants available in the United States!
Not only will you be served some great natto, but you’ll also be able to enjoy the Japanese ambience, atmosphere and be served some amazing rice too.
There are plenty of Japanese restaurants in the United States that serve natto, and you can find some vlogs on YouTube or online that have tried and tested these places – they can give you the details of the venue along with their take on the food.
The problem really is that not every single Japanese restaurant will serve natto.
This is usually down to business reasons because many Japanese restaurants will cater towards American customers and natto isn’t always something on their priority list.
As a result, you may need to ask around and really look for a Japanese restaurant that definitely serves natto – which could end up being time consuming and tiring. However, it will be worth it in the end. Trust us on that one!
Pros Of Using A Japanese Restaurant
- Authentic natto
- Amazing taste
- Ability to enjoy real Japanese food, ambience and environment
- Extras served like rice
- Good food for the cost
- Widely reviewed on vlogs like YouTube
Cons Of Using A Japanese Restaurant
- Not all Japanese restaurants serve natto due to business tactics
- Can be difficult and time consuming to find
Does Natto Go Bad?
When natto is sealed in a jar or container, like if you bought it from Amazon for example – it will normally keep for several months.
Luckily, the majority of jars will have an expiration date printed on the labels, so you shouldn’t need to worry too much about this.
However, once the airtight container seal has been breached, you’re going to need to eat the contents within a few days.
This is because the fermentation process will restart again and the soybeans will end up going inedible due to a very sour taste.
One the seal has been opened, you need to store it correctly. Do not leave it out in direct sunlight or exposed to other elements, because it will speed up the process of expiry.
Is Natto Good For You?
Most natto is very good for you and can help your body benefit from the large quantities of minerals and nutrients in the food.
It’s been said that good natto can promote your heart health, digestion due to the probiotics present through the fermentation process.
Natto is generally a vegan product so you can benefit the planet as well as benefiting your own body’s health!
It’s also been suggested that natto can help boost your body’s natural immune system, so you can be sure that you’re eating some great food which is ideal for you.
However, it has to be stressed that although most natto is good for you – any additional products used for natto can make it less healthy.
For example, natto that is oversalted or preservatives that are added are not good for you.
Moreover, non-organic natto might have pesticides and chemicals present on it which is something you would want to avoid at all costs.
In reality, most natto is indeed good for you – but it’s critical that you read the labels carefully and ensure that you’re getting exactly what you are expecting with your food.
Also pay attention to anything natto is served with, especially if you are vegan or vegetarian.
Some restaurants may serve rice or sauces on the side that may not be entirely vegan or vegetarian – so be sure to ask before you buy.
The Bottom Line – Where Is The Ideal Place To Buy Natto?
Natto is, to best describe it, a unique and acquired taste. It’s definitely something that everybody should try for themselves at least once in their lifetime.
If we had to suggest the best place for you to get your natto, the answer would be Amazon due to the ease and the clear labeling on their products.
The container will be sealed and the product should be fresh – so you’ll be sure you’re getting safe food.