This natto recipe is for you if you’re someone who doesn’t like natto. 

I’m sure you already know that eating natto is really healthy. It’s Japan’s #1 superfood. That’s not the problem. You’re just not sure how you’ll ever be able to get past the smell and sticky texture. 

If this is you, I’ve got an easy recipe for you to try. You can have it ready for your breakfast in minutes. And it will have you say, “Hey, it’s nah-toe so bad.”

Eating natto this way, I learned to actually like it. It only took me about a week to acquire the taste. It’s possible for you to love eating natto too, even if you weren’t born Japanese.

Read on and you’ll learn my secret to learning to like natto. Also, make sure to read the advice from natto-loving expats who live in Japan.

Jump to the recipe

natto recipe

Have you ever tried eating natto?

Living in Japan as a foreigner, we all eventually get asked the question in textbook English “Can you eat natto?”

The canned response from foreigners has been “ewe,  no thank you!”, with a plugging of our nose gesture.

Maybe you’ve tried to incorporate this ultra-healthy Japanese food into your diet before. But the smell, taste, or slimy texture put a quick end to that well-intentioned idea.

Natto is so good for you– isn’t it worth a second try?

Many people will automatically respond “no!”

But for those brave souls with more adventurous palettes,

this natto recipe is for you. 

When mixed with other ingredients, the strong taste and smell of the natto gets masked.

For me, there was one key ingredient that was a game-changer.

It makes it so much easier to like natto, if you aren’t used to eating gooey, fermented foods.

natto recipe with avocado and tomato

Natto Health Benefits

In Japan, natto has long been hailed as a superfood. It’s believed that consumption of natto is linked to improved blood flow and reduced risk of stroke.

Natto is an excellent source of plant-based protein, which is especially good news if you’re vegetarian or vegan.

It’s also high in fiber and rich in vitamins and minerals.

  1. Natto contains more vitamin K2 than any other known food on the planet. 

2. It contains the enzyme nattokinase.

3. It’s full of probiotics.

4. It promotes bone health.

5. It enhances your gut microbiome and digestive health.

6. It keeps your heart healthy and prevents blood clots.

It’s also packed with vitamin B6 and vitamin E, which boosts cell turnover and slows skin aging.

Why is Natto so Healthy?

Natto is made by soaking whole soybeans, then steaming or boiling them. A bacteria called Bacillus subtilis bacteria is added. The mixture is stored for 16 hours at a temperature of around 40˚C before being allowed to mature for 24 hours at a low temperature. 

The fermentation process produces Vitamin K. It also increases the health benefits of the enzyme found in natto, nattokinase, and other health-boosting components such as isoflavone and polyamine.

People who eat fermented soy-based foods such as “natto” and “miso” on a daily basis reduce the risk of dying from a stroke or heart attack by 10 percent, according to a long-term study by the National Cancer Center in Tokyo. Source: British Medical Journal 

sticky natto in styrofoam package

Tips for learning how to like natto 

This week, I surveyed expats who live in Tokyo and Sapporo about how they learned to eat natto. I was lucky to receive comments from over a hundred foreigners living in Japan.

Here is the best advice that they shared on how to acquire the taste for natto.

1. First, you have to have the right mindset.

“Just try as a new challenge! It’s healthy and you can eat it in many ways.”

“I think half the battle is mental. I had to convince myself that it was good.”

“It’s the initial experience that throws you off but if you muster enough courage to try a second time, it’s actually fine.”

“Used to hate it, but heard it’s great for your body so I’ve forced myself to have it and now I love it.”

“It helped that before I tried it someone described it as, ‘an acquired taste, like a well aged cheese,’ and I was thinking ‘I love cheese!!’ while I tried it for the first time. If you try natto in the context of everyone saying ‘it’s gross, snotty, and smells bad,’ and expecting you not to like it, it’s not a pleasant experience, unrelated to the flavor.”

2. Start small. Take baby steps.

“At first I ate very small quantities mixed with rice. When my husband ate it, I would steal 4-5 beans and eat them with my own rice. Then progressively upped the quantity, now I can eat a normal portion alone!

3. Add toppings! Mask the taste and smell and alter the texture with other ingredients.

“I like natto, especially served on hot (freshly made) rice and with raw egg. I love karashi mixed with it too.”

“I have it with a raw egg and a dash of soy sauce at least 3 times a week. It’s my go-to snack when I need something nourishing, in a hurry.”

“I had it with parmesan cheese one day on rice and it worked. Also tried with kimchi and also liked it – then I was over my dislike. I usually have it a la japonaise with raw egg. I love to pepper it with a lot of black pepper (saw the idea on television one day and tried it and liked it).”

“Natto curry. That’s also how I acquired the taste.”

“Initially, I had to mix it with either mayonnaise or kimchi or both. Mixing it with Korean seaweed is great too. There’s so many ways to change its tastes for it to be better till you actually ‘acquire’ the taste. Ume-shiso is amazing. Avocado and soy sauce. Or just go crazy with the neba-neba and add yamaimo, okra, mekabu, etc.”

“Try putting ponzu instead of soy sauce. I feel like it takes the ‘slime’ out a bit and tastes great!”

“I kept coming back to it but the recipe that changed me was a natto cheese omelette.”

“I ate it mixed with rice, kimchi, and melted cheese. Though I suspect that was because it pretty much masked the natto completely.”

“I usually mix it with avocado, green onions and ponzu, and then it’s quite good!”

The secret ingredient in this recipe is extra-virgin olive oil!

The oil coats the surface of the beans, making it less sticky. It also masks natto’s strong smell and taste. 

The olive oil may also make it easier for you to digest natto, if you normally have a hard time digesting legumes.

how to cut avocado inside the skin

How to eat Natto

First, open the package of natto. Inside, you’ll find a small packet of tare (soy saucebased sauce) and karashi (Japanese mustard). Take both packets out and set them aside.

Next, peel off the clear film that’s on top of the natto. 

The sticky natto will cling to the plastic sheet. Give the plastic sheet a twirl in the air if any stubborn strings of natto try to stay attached.

Since natto is so sticky, there are specific tricks to remove the plastic film without making a mess. 

Using chopsticks, you can mix natto right inside the package. Some Japanese people say the natto will taste better if you mix the natto well until it becomes sticky. 

After mixing, you can add the tare and mustard on top. 

Then, mix it again.

When you eat natto directly from the package, there is also a specific technique so you don’t make a mess with the gooey strings that stick to your chopsticks. 

How to eat natto with chopsticks without making a mess 

When you eat natto directly from the package, there is also a specific technique so you don’t make a mess with the gooey strings that stick to your chopsticks. 

1. First, it’s important to hold your bowl in one hand up close to your mouth.

2. Next, pick up some natto (and rice) with your chopsticks. Raise your chopsticks directly vertical above the bowl. Your chopsticks should be horizontal (parallel to the table). 

3. Then, gently move your chopsticks up and down so that that any loose natto beans fall back into your bowl.

 4. After you put some natto in your mouth, make a few small counter-clockwise circles in the air with your chopsticks to minimize the sticky strings stretching from your mouth to your chopsticks.  

My guess is that Japanese people do this as a habit without even realizing they do it.

How People in Japan eat Natto

The most basic way, is eating it straight from the package, mixed with the tare sauce and karashi mustard that comes in the package.

I imagine budget-strapped college students in Japan eating natto this way. 

Most people eat natto by mixing it in a bowl with condiments and dashi (sometimes substituted with soy sauce) and then spreading it over hot rice.

Chopped green onions or katsuobushi, shreaded bonito flakes, are probably the two most popular toppings.

It’s also very common to eat natto mixed with raw egg over rice. If you come to Japan, you gotta try it! Otherwise, please don’t eat raw egg in your home country unless you are Rocky. As a safe alternative, you could try natto with a fried egg, sunny side up. 

Natto-kimchi is another combination to try. At a cheap restaurant I used to go in Yoyogi Uehara, I often ordered this with yakitori. On the menu, it was only like 200 yen.

At restaurants, I’ve also tried natto pasta, natto tempura, and natto atsuage, fried tofu stuffed with natto. All of these dishes were surprisingly wonderful.