Natto is a unique, Japanese ingredient made of fermented soybeans. It has a long history and is well-known for promoting better digestion and improving bone health.
Natto isn’t always easy to find, so it’s likely you’ve chosen to freeze larger quantities and eat it later.
Now that you’re ready to eat it, you might be wondering how to eat frozen natto.
Frozen natto first needs to thaw regardless of how you choose to eat it. After that, you can let it thaw naturally or use a microwave.
To ensure the frozen natto you eat tastes great, I’ll offer a few tips on preparing it.
Table of Contents
Can Natto Be Frozen?
If you’ve tried natto and loved it, you may want to buy it in bulk and store it for later.
The problem with that idea is that natto doesn’t have a very long shelf life.
Once you open a box, bag, or jar of natto, it’s best to consume it within a week or so.
Furthermore, it’s imperative not to store natto at room temperature, as that will expedite the ongoing fermentation process.
Soon enough, the familiar ammonia-like smell will become intolerable, making it impossible to eat the natto.
Remember that natto doesn’t spoil, but the natural processes make it inedible unless appropriately stored.
Therefore, most people keep an opened container of natto in the fridge and eat it within those two weeks.
But what do you do with a large quantity of natto that is impossible to finish before the flavor changes?
You freeze it, of course.
Natto can be frozen, but not indefinitely. Some natto enthusiasts argue that freezing it is a bad idea, but not because it’s unsafe.
Instead, they say that the nutritional value of natto decreases once the dish is frozen.
The freezing and thawing process could potentially disrupt the Bacillus subtilis bacteria that creates the fermentation in natto.
Still, freezing natto won’t affect its texture and flavor.
Frozen natto can stay in the freezer for up to three months, but it’s best to eat it within one month to ensure you get the most out of it.
Do You Heat Natto Before Eating?
You don’t have to heat natto up before eating it. It’s a fully fermented food readily prepared for consumption.
Usually, the packaged natto one-portion meal comes with packets of sauce, fish or soy, and mustard.
You can use chopsticks or a fork to mix the ingredients to create the gooey biofilm produced by the bacteria.
But if the stringiness accomplished with mixing the sauce and mustard isn’t enough, you can try heating natto up.
Unfortunately, heating natto softens the texture, which isn’t to everyone’s liking.
It also brings out natural flavors and makes the entire dish stand out.
Remember that you can heat natto even if it’s fresh out of the container or thawed after freezing.
How to Defrost Natto
Having natto in the freezer is handy as it allows you to enjoy its umami and pleasantly savory flavor without going to the store first.
But, again, don’t eat frozen natto because it won’t taste good, and you won’t be able to chew it properly. Instead, let natto thaw naturally.
One way to do so is to put the frozen natto in the refrigerator and let it defrost overnight.
Another option is to take the natto out of the freezer and place it in a room temperature setting.
If you choose the second option, you will need to monitor the defrosting process to ensure natto isn’t exposed to a suboptimal temperature for too long.
Thawing requires more than merely warming up fresh natto, for which you need about 20 seconds in the microwave.
In addition, the extended access to high heat will affect the texture and flavor of the dish.
How to Prepare Frozen Natto
You might be wondering how to eat frozen natto and what you can do to make it more flavorful.
As we established, you shouldn’t eat natto that’s still in a frozen state but defrost it properly first.
But if you’ve thawed natto out, how do you prepare it?
Many people enjoy natto as a nutritious snack and mix it with a bit of mustard, soy sauce, and even scallions.
This is the most traditional way to consume natto, but other popular and “old school” ways exist.
Here are a few ideas to consider.
Natto and Rice
Those who don’t eat natto straight out of the container usually pair it with rice.
That’s how many Japanese people prepare and present it as a complete meal.
All you need to do is sprinkle some natto over a bowl of rice and add a little bit of chopped avocado, cucumber, or any other tasty fresh ingredient you like.
Natto and Toast
For many, natto is breakfast food.
The single serving size of natto is three tablespoons with around 100 calories.
Adding natto to buttered toast gives you a nutritious and filling breakfast.
Natto also mixes well with mayo, so why not add it to the toast?
Natto and Eggs
If you enjoy eating eggs in the morning and want a little extra flavor, natto is a great option.
Some stores sell hikiwari natto, which is basically crushed natto.
It’s a good option for children and the elderly, as it’s softer and easier to digest.
But it’s also a great addition to any food, including eggs.
Tips for Eating Frozen Natto
As a dish, natto is pretty versatile, and there isn’t one right way to eat it.
So naturally, don’t eat completely frozen natto, but wait until it thaws.
While that’s rule number one, a few other guidelines will help you enjoy natto to the full.
Once you defrost natto, consider the following ideas:
- If you’re heating natto in the microwave, do so for 20 seconds at 400-500W.
- Stir natto to improve its texture and flavor.
- When adding natto to cooked meals, ensure it’s the final ingredient to prevent overcooking.
- If defrosted natto’s smell is too strong and even rancid, the flavor will be compromised.
- Don’t re-freeze natto, as the constant aggregation state changes will deplete its nutritional richness.
How to Freeze Natto
Before you learn how to eat frozen natto, it’s imperative to know how to freeze it properly.
For example, if you purchase a frozen bag of natto at the store, it’s crucial to ensure it doesn’t thaw before storing it in the freezer again.
Also, check the “best by” date to avoid freezing natto that has been frozen for some time stores that sell natto often package it in Styrofoam containers and only cover the product with protective plastic.
These are one-portion natto packages designed to be consumed immediately.
But if you have more than one, you might want to freeze it.
The number one rule about freezing natto is to do it as soon as possible to avoid changing the natto flavor.
The second vital rule is to transfer natto into an airtight container and do your best to prevent cross-contamination with other foods.
By following these two steps, your frozen natto will last longer and retain the authenticity of its flavor.
The most important lesson on eating frozen natto is that you shouldn’t eat it frozen.
Instead, those who enjoy this unique Japanese dish will need to defrost it properly and prepare it to their liking.
If you have fresh natto you want to save for later, freezing is a fantastic option.
But you need to place it in clean, airtight containers and don’t keep it in the freezer for longer than one month.
Otherwise, natto’s taste will change and won’t be as enjoyable.
Finally, if you don’t want to freeze natto, you should store it in the fridge instead.