How to Eat Natto (the tasty way)

Natto is a super healthy probiotic and prebiotic-rich food that is made from fermenting beans. It is sticky, slimy, and to the uninitiated, pretty disgusting (there are plenty of videos on Youtube of people eating natto for the first time and getting repulsed).

I’ll admit I was not a fan of natto when I first tried it. Even if you get past the texture and visual slimy-ness of a stirred-up packet of natto, the flavor is pungent and somewhat bitter. On its own it’s a difficult flavor to try and swallow, especially if you aren’t used to it.

stirred natto
Natto, when stirred, forms these white viscous strings between the beans that seem to be a highlight of the dish. You can stir less for less white gooey bits. The nutrition is still the same.
natto with tare and mustard packets
Many natto packs come with tare and mustard packets that are meant to be mixed with the natto for better flavor. If you have no issues with gluten, feel free to use the included tare. Otherwise you’ll need to provide your own.

Traditionally, the Japanese way to eat natto is on top of a bowl of rice, with maybe a runny egg on top of that to mellow it all out. This method works well to mask the texture (the runny egg yolk melds with the natto texture well and the rice helps spread out the “goo” so it feels like just a sauce coating a bowl of rice), but the flavor is still quite pungent.

This method of eating natto is a great “beginners” way of introducing this probiotic food into your diet and includes omega-3s and iodine from the added ingredients: sardines and seaweed! This rice bowl is a delicious and nutritional powerhouse that’s great for breakfast or any time of day.

rice bowl with natto, carrots, and sardines
Pairing natto with other asian flavors such as ginger and sesame oil, and salty pungent flavors like sardines meld well together and make for a nutritiously delicious bowl

I also add shredded carrots to give some vegetation to this dish (I happened to only have purple carrots at the time of making this, which is why mine have a reddish hue).

For the seaweed, I regularly buy Costco’s “Organic Roasted Seaweed Snacks” which are packets of salted seaweed sheets, similar to sushi nori, but thinner and smaller (Koreans use these a lot when eating rice). These can be taken out of the pack and cut smaller to top a rice bowl instead.

Kirkland Organic Roasted Seaweed Snack packet
Costco has a great option for salted dried seaweed
seaweed sheets being cut into strips
Seaweed snacks can be cut into strips and used as a rice bowl topping
natto rice bowl with nori seaweed

Natto & Sardine bowl

An easy "beginner" way of introducing natto into you diet, the combination of flavors used here meld well with the flavor and texture of natto to create a nutritional and delicious bowl that can be eaten for breakfast or any time of day.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Course Breakfast, Main Course
Cuisine Japanese
Servings 2


  • 1 cup freshly cooked rice
  • 1 can sardines in olive oil
  • 1 carrot julienned or shredded
  • 1 packet natto Defrosted at room temp or refrigerated. Most packets are bought frozen.
  • 1 packet nori sheets
  • 1 TBSP sesame oil
  • 1 tsp dried ginger


  • In a pan on low heat, add the sardines and olive oil and ginger. Use a spatula to break the sardines apart slightly and cook until slightly crisp. Remove sardines but leave remaining oil behind
    1 can sardines in olive oil, 1 tsp dried ginger
  • Add shredded carrots and toss to cook in remaining oil for about 1 min. Add the sesame oil and use the spatula to stir and coat the carrots. Remove from heat.
    1 carrot julienned or shredded, 1 TBSP sesame oil
  • Open the defrosted natto packet. Using a pair of chopsticks, stir the beans vigorously until the viscous write strings form. If using the tare and mustard packets, add these in now, and then stir to incorporate. Set aside (see note).
    1 packet natto

Assemble the bowl

  • Add 1/2 cup of rice to each bowl.
    1 cup freshly cooked rice
  • Add the carrots and sardines to the bowls. Add natto to the bowls as well.
  • take a few sheets of nori seaweed and cut into small strips. Top each bowl as desired.
    1 packet nori sheets
  • Serve and enjoy!


If this is your first time, it’s ok to not stir the natto and just serve it directly out of the package. It will be less slimy. I actually don’t know if there’s any nutritional benefit to “activating” the natto, but the slime does help to hold all the pieces of the bowl together when eating it. Anways I hope you enjoy!
Keyword natto, nutritious

Note: Selecting Good Natto

Store-bought natto SHOULD just be soy beans and bacteria (probiotics!) with added tare sauce (soy sauce and sugar mostly) and mustard on the side within the packet, but a lot of brands and varieties add preservatives and other ingredients, which can often include corn or corn-derivative products (maltodextrin, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup). Be sure to check the ingredient list when picking up a pack of natto. Not all brands or packets are made the same!

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