This week we’ll share a series of articles inspired by our Fermentation 2.0 Workshop at the Cookbook Store last week.  We started the evening by promising that we’d answer all the questions that we could but that we were likely to get stumped by some of the questions and would answer them on the blog in the coming days.

This post won’t be a detailed step-by-step process of how to make Natto because

  • I’ve never made it
  • I’ve never eaten it
  • I hadn’t heard of it before last week

How’s that for anti-climactic!?!

It will however, introduce you to Natto based on what I’ve learned since hearing about it, give you an overview of the most common ways to make it and give you links for more detail.  I also promise to give you a tip about the trickiest part of this entire process (controlling temperature during fermentation).  I will also link you to an article that I found the most informative after reading many of them.


Natto is a traditional japanese ferment made with fermented soya beans.  It’s usually made with a starter and is often served as a breakfast food; it’s commonly served on top of rice.  It’s not for everyone – the final results are generally slimy, strong-flavored and stink… I mean smell… I mean strong smelling.

People eatit because they love the taste and it’s full of fermenty goodness.  Yes, fermenty goodness.


Natto isn’t overly common in North America but it can be found in healthfood stores and online.  It can be expensive, hard to find and of unkown origin (a LOT of soy products are Genetically Modified which is often undesirable to those who ferment their own food).


There are a few key considerations for making Natto:

  • Temperature.  Like any ferment, temperature is important.  I’ve read all sorts of claims about the temperature, the most common calling for 38-45C (100-113F).
  • Time.  It takes time to ferment although it’s faster than most salt-based ferments (the heat speeds things up).  Most day it takes about a day.
  • Aging. Flavors will continue to develop after it’s created and most store it in the fridge for a day (or several days) to develop.
  • Starter.  You can buy commercial starter (sometimes it’s fresh/ fermented and other times it’s been dried into powder at a low temperature) or start with unpasteurized natto (most, if not all natto, will be unpasteurized) to get things moving.

The trickiest of these items to control is temperature; and people do this all sorts of ways including:

  • Using a yogurt maker (though you’ll have to investigate the temperature the individual unit you intend to use is set to).
  • Buying a NATO maker (they aren’t commonly sold in North America but are available online).
  • Some try things like using the oven light (with the elements turned off) which is adapted from yogurt making.
  • NattoKing has an amazing post on the entire process (that I’ll link to again at the end of this post) that includes details on how they converted a cooler into a DIY Natto Maker.
  • The tip I offered in my teaser: the easiest way (in my mind) to acheive the required heat for 24 hours is to use a dehydrator with a thermostat.  If you’re using a large rectangular dehydrator, you can place a large container inside the dehydrator!


Here’s a 10,000 foot overview of how to make Natto:

  1. Wash the beans
  2. Soak the beans
  3. Cook the beans (Nattoking makes a great case for steaming them in a pressure cooker)
  4. Add starter
  5. Ferment
  6. Age

If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide to making Natto, check out NattoKing!

Have we missed anything you were hoping for in this primer?  I’d love to know!

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