Nato is a Japanese food that’s made from fermented soybeans. It’s known for its slimy texture saltiness and tasty umami flavour.
Invented by Buddhist monks as far back as the 11th century, natto is rapidly gaining popularity with people looking to improve their guy health. This superfood that’s packed full of probiotics has been known to have a potent antibacterial function. Natto extract has even been shown to impair infection by viruses.
Unfortunately, natto remains tricky to get hold of in the UK. So where can you buy natto? Here’s what I found…
The Different Types of Natto
Before we get into where to buy natto, you should know that there are several different types of natto available. These have quite different tastes, so it may be the case that you find one type of natto to be delicious and another to be a little too strong or slimy for your liking.
Here are the most popular types of natto:
- Daitokuji Natto: The most common type, it’s made with black soybeans and is very salty.
- Niowanatto: The best natto for first-timers, it’s not as smelly or slimy as most other types.
- Hikiwari Natto: This is made using chopped, rather than whole, soybeans so it’s softer and chewier.
- Mito Natto: Made with smaller soybeans, its consistency is a bit like caviar.
- Hoshi Natto: This dried, crunchy natto can be eaten as a snack or used as a salad topping.
- Natto Powder: If you just want the health benefits, you can add this to soups or stews.
Is Natto Vegan?
Natto is suitable for vegans as it is simply fermented soybeans. However, when you order natto in a Japanese restaurant it may be served in a sauce called tare that may sometimes be made using fish extract.
If you’re buying natto to make at home it will almost always be vegan, but if your natto comes in any kind of sauce then you should always check what the sauce is made of.
Where To Buy Natto In The UK
Unfortunately, natto isn’t available in any major UK supermarkets like Tesco, Asda, Morrisons or Sainsbury’s. However, it is still possible to get your hands on Natto without ordering it in a Japanese restaurant.
Here are the best places to buy Natto in the UK.
If you want to get fresh natto delivered to your door, then the easiest way is to order on Amazon.
This fresh natto comes in thermal insulation boxes with ice to keep it cool while it’s delivered from Germany. You can eat it within a month, or freeze it at home and thaw it out at a later date when you’re ready to eat it.
If you’re not sure about ordering fresh food to be delivered all the way from Germany, then Amazon does have another option for you.
You can buy a DIY natto kit and ferment your own natto at home from soyabeans.
Making your own natto appears to be pretty straightforward. The instructions do recommend that you use a pressure cooker and a natto machine, however, this really isn’t necessary.
Instead of putting the soybeans in a pressure cooker for 5 minutes, you could instead boil them for an hour. And a natto machine is basically just a yoghurt maker. If you don’t have one of those you could use a slow cooker or just the oven at a very low temperature.
Here’s the recipe for making natto at home.
2. Japanese Supermarket
If you live in a big city like London or Manchester, then you should be able to get to a Japanese supermarket. While it’s worth checking in Asian supermarkets, as natto is a Japanese food then a Japanese supermarket would be the first place to look.
The natto sold in Japanese supermarkets will have a Japanese label, so unless you know the language you’ll find it almost impossible to identify. You’ll have to ask the shop staff to guide you to the right product.
The expiry date will also be in Japanese, so don’t wait too long before eating your natto to make sure that it doesn’t go off.
3. Japanese Online Supermarket
If you don’t have a Japanese supermarket near where you live, then the best place to buy natto is from an online Asian supermarket.
Japan Centre is the best as it has a large range of different dried and frozen natto brands including Azuma, Kanro Puchipori, Kogugi and Kurakon.
What To Look For When Buying Natto
If you’re struggling to decide which is the best natto to buy, here are a few things that you might want to consider.
1. The type of soybeans
Natto may be made from black or red soybeans and each has different flavours. Some natto combines both black and red soybeans.
2. Fresh, frozen or dried
Fresh natto can be eaten straight from the container and frozen natto can be eaten as soon as it’s defrosted. They both have a very slimy texture though that can take some getting used to. Dried natto can be eaten as a snack or added on top of other foods like noodles or salads.
3. Salted or unsalted
Most natto is very salty. So if you’re trying to avoid salt or prefer something a little milder, then look out for unslated or low-salt natto.
Some natto comes with additional seasonings like turmeric. These can be great, but if you haven’t tried natto yet then you might want to get the plain variety to begin with.
5. Organic or not
Organic natto usually costs a little bit more, but you’ll know that no harmful chemicals or pesticides were used in the production.
What Does Natto Taste Like?
Natto has a very unique, earthy flavour. Some people say it tastes a little like salty cottage cheese or bacon with a bitter, coffee-like aftertaste. The texture can be very stringy and slimy.
A lot of people don’t like natto when they first try it because it does have a very strong taste. It also has a very pungent smell that many people find to be off-putting.
But, it is super healthy. And a lot of Japanese people absolutely love it, once they get used to it. The only way to know what natto tastes like and whether you’ll like it is to buy some for yourself and see what you think.