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Natto: Make-It-Yourself Recipe

Natto: Make-It-Yourself Recipe


Vegans and Vegetarians (and omnivores!) rejoice! Here is a simple way to make your own natto!
It does require a little sneaky trick for the first batch (like for yoghurt) but from the second batch it will all yours and only yours!
As usual, as this is a basic recipe, I willl explain step by step, and mentioning the quantities on the way!

Firts the soy beans (daizu/大豆 in Japanese).
Use a large vessel as you will need 2 to 3 times as much water: 1 volume of soy beans + 2~3 volumes of water.
Make an effort touse clean cold water!
Let the the soy beans soak overnight.

You will discover that after a night of soaking the soy beans will have changes in shape from round to elongated!

Next you must steam the soy beans (preferably the slow way) for three hours to get them soft, otherwise they will not ferment. You may use a pressure cooker, but you will have to expperiment!

Important point: From now on, especially, make sure that all vessels and utensils you use are properly boiled in hot water first to kill all germs, or you will end with a yeast/germ/mold battlefield!
Use a large metal shallow vessel for even wieght and spread.
Transfer the steamed soybeans on eat as shown in above picture.
Be aware that the smell will be strong, so choose your room!

Now, for the all-important “sneaky” trick!
The beauty of it is that from the second batch you will use your own batto! Friends with some knowledge in yoghurt or Japanese sake fermentation will easily understand!
Drop a few grains of natto bought at the market in half a cup of water/ 100~cc/ml. (use high quality non-gaseous mineral water!)
After stirring 2 or 3 times, the water should start turning whitish. This is your yeast/fermentation starter!

Carefully pour the fermentation starter (with the natto beans) evenly all over the steamed soy beans.

Cover/wrap the whole with cellophane paper. Punch small holes (about 20) with a toothpick to allow ventilation.

Tap the cellophane paper so as to keep it close in contact with the soybeans. Do not press.

Now, the whole important thing: the temperature!
Like for Japanese Rice fermentation, it must stay between 30 and 40 degrees Celsius. There are many ways to do it if you do not have the right room for it: use a hot water bottle (above) put nearby and cover it with a blanket, or put it under a heated blanket….

keep checking the temperature!

Let ferment for 20 hours.
Upon lifting the cellophane paper, the natto should show white filaments.

Here is the finished product!
True to tell, home-made natto might not as “sticky” as natto bought in markets, but this is still true natto.
Actually, the lack of “stickiness” might be be a blessing for some!

Keep in mind this is a true food, especially for vegans and vegetarians who are in more need of nutrients than omnivores!




  1. Mgt

    Thank you for this I did everything as you said and it worked a treat. Love the smell of natto in the house it smells like really good cheese or a big batch of yeast bread. Used 500g of organic soya beans. Plan to eat about 2oz a week to get that good K2

    1. dragonlife

      Well, the Japanese use (clean) rice straw!

    2. Mark

      For rising bread dough, I put a silicon baking mat over the big bowl, with a cookie sheet or light cutting board on top to seal it.

  2. jibberino

    Thank you for these wonderful instruction. It worked perfectly, I just made my first home-made natto and it is delicious 🙂

  3. artbygordana

    I have started making my own natto. The first batch was excellent. I used natto from a store as my starter. Since it’s not organic, and it’s made from Gmo soy, I am wondering could I reuse my own natto to start new batch? I know you said yes, but I read on another blog that I should not. The reason mentioned was that the less stringiness (slime), the less beneficial bacteria is in the final product of natto,and if I use my own natto as a starter, the final product will be less stringy… Could you please elaborate little bit about this? Thank you

    1. L. Chagas

      As a sake and beer homebrewer, i can say that you can use the natto you first produced as a starter, and it will produce a very similar result most of the times. However you can experiment using other nattos and see what’s comes out. Keep in mind that yeast/bacteria originated from same colony will, almost always render similar results. But, as you keep using the same again and again there are chances the microorganisms could go crazy and render different results. This is why, for example, I will use the same beer yeast saved from a batch on the next one but once every eigth or ten batches I will dump the old yeast and start fresh from brand new yeast cells. On fermentated foods and beverages It all comes with experimentation. Do small batches until you get the confidence for large quantities.

  4. Rusty Brown

    I plan to experiment with a wide square dish with four types of beans – traditional soya, lentils, kidney beans and canned (!) soybeans to see for myself what works and what doesn’t. If canned beans produce the desired result I will always use them. All I want is a reliable source of vitamin K2 and authentic doesn’t matter to me.

    1. Kimi

      I am curious, Rusty, what results you found with your experiment?

      1. Rusty Brown

        Oops! I never got around to it. I did make a large batch using organic soybeans and it worked great. Soon time to do it again, including promised experiment.
        Thanks for the reminder.

      2. Bob Shipp

        Hey Kimi, I have used canned beans with good results from canned soy beans, and also from canned black beans. In both cases I used the no salt beans. I have also made tempeh from canned no salt garbanza beans.

      3. Rusty Brown in Canada

        Thanks for your information. I have stopped trying for now since the little convection oven I was using stopped working totally when the plastic housing for the fan crumbled into several pieces. It was working great for natto up to that point.

  5. Lloyd

    I’ve made natto twice. The first time it came out so bitter that I had to force myself to eat it. The second time, it’s less bitter but it’s still there. Reflecting on the whole process, there were many factors that could have caused it: the water quality, bean quality (my soy bean looks different from the store-bought), inconsistent temperature. Does anyone have any idea?

    1. Victor

      The bitterness could be from not sterilising properly the containers,utensils,tools,spoons; and not keeping the temperature at 40c or above constantly. When all the above requirements and conditions( especially temperature) not meant, other bacterias and pathogen may reach to the soya beans and then cause bitterness of the soybean, spoiling them.

    2. L. Chagas

      It could be either unsanitized stuff that hot in contact with the beans during fermentation causing wild fungi or bacteria to take part on fermentation, or (very likely) it got too much oxygen while fermenting.

    3. A.

      Did you boil or steam the beans? Have you soaked them and for how long?

  6. j

    how do I make a powder of natto?

  7. j

    can I use a natto supplement or a natokanise supplement instead of the starter ? if I can, how much do I need to put ?

  8. louise

    It seems that Natto does’nt have STRINGS when it’s too DRY !!
    If you want Strings, try to keep the cooking water from the beans.
    Let me know if it works ? thank you

    1. Rusty Brown

      I assume you mean to retain some of the cooking water and use a bit of it to moisten the natto as it ferments. It would have to still be sterile if you want to use it during fermentation.

  9. trienebiene

    does anyone know if it is possible to use chickpeas (from the can?). Has anyone tried it? I couldn’t find anything in the web about it! I really appreciate if anyone can give me an answer. Thanks a lot!

    1. Bob Shipp

      Hey trienebiene! I have used no salt canned soy beans and no salt canned black beans and they worked. I have used canned no salt chickpeas for tempeh, but not for natto. You may need to do a coarse chop on the garbanzas to get greater surface area to start the natto growth quicker.

  10. Kathrin

    I have one question: can you theoretically make nattou also with other kind of beans ? And would it be possible to make it from beans out of the can ?
    I know it does not sound that healthy but cooking beans takes so much time that is why I ask … I really appreciate if anyone has it tip for me !

    1. dragonlife

      Other dry beans might be possible, but from the can definitely not!

      1. Kathrin

        Thanks so much. I started searching in Japanese at cook pad and there one is using canned beans (different ones also kidney beans and black beans) and it seems to work!
        I am wondering if the taste is different!
        Why do you think it won’t work dragonlife? Because of
        Enzymes? Or not sterile enough? Or just taste wise?
        Anyway: I will give it a try!
        I can throw it away if it won’t work. Sorry honestly: yes I am lazy cooking the beans! 🙇🏼 it takes sooooo long…and the one from the can are not that bad! Again thanks dragon life!

  11. Anita

    I love making Natto. I made a little incubator with a light bulb and Styrofoam box.

    1. dragonlife

      Well done, Anita!

    2. Brenda Kauffman

      One can easily do it in the over with the oven light on and the oven door closed for 36 hours. I made my first batch with soybeans and it came out fabulously. My first try wasn’t successful several years back. Be prepared for a strong odor and stringy sticky texture and a very strong taste. With perfect amino’s, a homemade dressing with mayo & horseradish.

    3. sandeshd87

      Hi Anita,

      Are you from Mumbai?

      I m finding hard to get a culture for natto in Mumbai.

      May be you can help.

      Sandesh Dalvi

  12. Ivan Outtahier

    Is it OK for VEGANS to eat NATTO? After all, the yeast you use are tiny animals.

    1. dragonlife

      It is OK! Bacteria are everywhere and you cannot f\grow vegetables without them!

    2. Matsumoko Yamasatsu

      Yeast are not tiny animals they are fungal. And natto is made by Bacillus subtillis which is a gram positive rod shaped bacterium. Is a little creature that can swim and stuff but is not classed in kingdom animalia. You have to eat to live, other living things have to die for you to live. And if you starve to death you are being incredibly cruel to an animal – you!

      1. Natto13

        That is the “interesting” part about being a vegetarian or even vegan. They are declaring the “kingdom animalia class” as beings which shouldn’t be eaten and declare all other living things as “it’s okay to kill and eat them”. On a side note: Even plants are alive and do feel what happens around them.

        I believe it’s best not to declare something as “not okay to eat” just because we can relate more easily to these creatures.

        As an omnivore, we have the power to treat all living things evenly and can “eat all of them”. We can still be picky about food and chose what we eat, but that should be based on likes and dislikes, rather than some strange, warped, superficial things most (not all) vegetarian/vegan people have.

    3. mark

      The culture is bacterial (Bacillus subtilus), not yeast. Also: yeast are fungus not animals. You’re safe all around.

    4. Adin Teufel

      Even if you think you are completely vegan, you are eating microscopic organisms all the time. Vegan isn’t something natural, it doesn’t occur in nature. There are no vegan animals. Humans are the only animal capable of having the thought of not eating animals. Kudos to you though for taking on the challenge.

    5. Pete

      The bacteria (bacillus subtilis… which you could get in weak form from your own saliva, and hope to cultivate toward natto-making strength) are prokayotes, actually ‘lower’ in the animal kingdom than plants. I’m sure all vegans have reached their own intuitions about what is animal, vegetable and mineral.

  13. Adventures in Natto: What is Natto?

    […] Just in case this post hasn’t completely thrown you off of natto and you want to try your hand at it. Read on for general directions. For more specific directions, go here or here. […]

  14. maggie

    Hi I have purchased the
    Kinetic Culture” from Dr mercolas website. It has the right bacteria for making the Vitamin K2 which is what natto has. I was wondering about trying to use the powder on organic chick peas ! What do you think?
    kind regards

  15. msbeastle

    Hi! Well, I hit a wall using my “3rd” or possibly ‘4th” generation natto from my own batches. This batch has very few strings. I will travel to get the frozen import, and use that for my next batch. However, a question: even if it’s not stringy, is there still a good amount of nutrients (specifically vitamin k2, MK7) in the batch to make it worthwhile eating? I’m using this food as a part of my overall health plan, and the MK7 is the main reason I started this natto-making project (besides the fact that I love this stuff!) I can’t find anything specific on the ‘net, perhaps you know! Thanks!

    1. Renee

      I have the same question. I made a few batches of Natto, the one on top of my refrigerator got white and leathery, and eventually became moderately stringy. The batches on my seedling heating mat did not get the white leathery coating, and was not stringy. (Perhaps the temperature was too high). It smells of ammonia, and also slightly nutty and cheesy. I’d like to know if this is still a substantial source of Vitamin K2, and if the phytic acids are indeed neutralized, even without the strings and white leathery appearance.

  16. Suchi


    I am planning to prepare some Natto this weekend. But I am having difficulties in finding the Natto-kin starter / culture. I know I could use the 2nd batch Natto as a starter but how can I make the first bacth when I dont have the culture available here in my city(Bangalore, India)

    Is it possible to prepare Natto without the bacteria culture at all? May be by allowing it to sit for more than 48 hours soaked in water or something? How to about curd bacteria? Please let me know an alternate solution to this and something that is possible in India.

    Also I have always wondered as to how I could be sure that the end result is nutritious though it is stinky and NOT some rotten food which is filled with bad bacteria? Is there a defiite way to difefrentiate the good and the bad?

    1. dragonlife

      It is like cheese *I should know, I&m French! LOL), all fermented foods have a strong smell!
      You cannot prepare the Natto without the bacteria, full stop.
      The Japanese use the environmental bacteria inside their factories whose walls and ceiling they never wash!
      So, as you said you might have to come back regularly to imported natto for more batches. Make hose batches bigger as they can be frozen!

    2. Kimi

      natto was originally made with bacteria from straw. Maybe you could wrap your beans in straw and hope for a wild ferment?

      1. dragonlife

        In that case use fresh untreated rice straw!

    3. Akshata172003

      Did u happen to succeed in making natto?

  17. maggie

    Great article thank you. Do you know where you can source the starter culture for the Natto Please. I live in Mandurah , western Australia.

    1. dragonlife

      Dear Maggie, you can make a starter with any natto or yourself as indicated in the article!
      Best regards,

      1. maggie

        Thank you
        If I use a commercial bought Natto ( I cannot find any organic Natto) to make the starter and use organic soy beans, will the new Natto then have GMO contents from the original Natto ? I have been wanting to make only organic non GMO Natto.
        Kind regards

      2. maggie

        Hi there
        I just attempted to ferment my first batch !. Still some liquid ! Did I use too much ? Cant see white filaments 🙁 Is it fermented? is it safe to eat. How do I store it ?
        Kind regards

      3. Rusty Brown

        I’m with Maggie. I live in a small town and the nearest natto is about 100 km away. The mail-order starter takes forever to arrive, if it even gets here at all. It’s not as easy as it would seem to just “buy some natto and use it for a starter” for many of us, at least.

    2. maggie

      Hi there
      I just attempted to ferment my first batch !. Still some liquid ! Did I use too much ? Cant see white filaments 🙁 Is it fermented? is it safe to eat. How do I store it ?
      Kind regards

    3. dragonlife

      I live in Japan, and I don’t know if the Ozzie customs allow natto through. But you should find marketed Japanese natto in Asian stores or through the Internet!

  18. msbeastle

    thanks for the information! I’ve had major success with my natto batches recently, they are so stringy it’s amazing. Tastes wonderful. I make a new batch about every 3 weeks, using leftover starter from my previous batch. Glad I found the information on your website!

  19. kit

    For msbeastle

    organic works for me but ordinary don’t. If you’re getting white mould, it’s working. If your beans are soft enough, then you may need to ferment a little longer to get the strings. If the beans aren’t soft enough, it takes a very long time for them to ferment and/or they don’t ferment properly. I soak mine for 18hours and steam in a pressure cooker for 1hour. works for white and black soy. I’ve used Japanese natto starter but using bought natto as a starter has worked really well too

  20. msbeastle

    Ah, I wish it were so…I stirred and stirred, and not a thread appeared. I think the beans were not soft enough after pressure cooking. I already have my next batch soaking. I’ll change up a few things and maybe the next batch will be better. *sigh*

    1. dragonlife

      “Gambatte!”/Do your best as they here in Japan!

  21. msbeastle

    Thanks for your patience. I guess there’s no shortcuts when it comes to natto! I’ll just make smaller batches. Love your blogsite!

    1. dragonlife

      You are always most welcome!

  22. msbeastle

    Thanks for your quick reply!
    Please allow me to clarify: if I make a large amount of beans, but do not use them all at once to make natto, say I use only half of them – the extra beans NOT mixed with the natto starter, just soaked and steamed – if I freeze these BEFORE mixing with natto starter, and use them some time in the future, (defrost, heat up, mix with natto starter, ferment) will that be OK? Thanks for your patience!

    1. dragonlife

      Dear Jackie!
      No, actually, you have to make the whole natto first and freeze it all. Frozen cooked beans will not work well because of the water inside the beans breaking the texture!
      best regards,

  23. Jackie

    If I make a large amount of beans, but don’t want to use all of them for a batch of natto, can I freeze them? Then when ready, defrost, heat them up and then add natto starter and make a batch to ferment? I’m planning on using a natto maker machine, which only holds 1 liter (about 1 quart). It’s a lot of work and time to process the beans to get them to the point of adding natto starter, so I thought freezing the excess and using them later might work. What is your opinion?

    Also, OK to substitute regular black beans or garbanzo beans instead of soy beans? Thanks!

    1. dragonlife

      Dear Jackie!
      Freezing natto is no problem. Make sure the packagng is as airtight as possible.
      I’m afraid only soy beans can be made into real natto, but you never know. It all depends on taste, texture, etc.!

      1. msbeastle

        Just completed my first batch of “not quite” natto. Tastes good, but strings are so few as to be nonexistent. Not sure where I went wrong. Followed all steps, saw white stuff growing on the beans in the incubator, but no “neba neba” to be found.
        Even bought the smaller, round, organic non GMO beans! Used starter culture from Gem Cultures (no local Asian market for 1.5 hour radius), sterilized everything, had a constant 107 degrees incubator…
        any suggestions?

      2. dragonlife

        Don’t worry! Strings should appear when you “mix/stir” the natto before eating it! In Japan we stir it dozen of times before eating it!

  24. amylost

    I used to eat this food from time to time when I was on the JET programme as an ALT in Japan. Since coming back to Australia & reading some negative things about soy foods (in relation to women who have PCOS) I cut all soy foods from my diet. However I have just read an article by a very credible source on natto being the highest known food in vitamin K2, known as the ‘anti-wrinkle’ vitamin. The fermentation process reduces the phytic acid content of the beans & does something magic to the proteins & amino acids basically unlocking the nutritional potential of the beans. Ancient China & Japan can’t be wrong… & look at the beautiful skin many people have there! There is a world of difference between the processed foods & oils that have become ubiquitous in the modern diet & are derived from gmo soybeans & natto made from the non gmo organic Australian grown soybeans I have just bought. I plan to give this a go & have acquired some frozen imported natto to get started (thanks for the thawing info above). I have been making my own kombucha & keffir for a while now so I thought I’d be able to innoculate a batch with a starter from a commercially bought product.
    One detail I wanted to ask about: do the beans really have to be laid out singularly like in your photo. I ask because I was hoping or thinking I could resuse the polystyrene containers that the store bought natto came in as well as the cellophane sheets that lie on top (of course they will be squeeky clean). Do you think that will work?

    1. dragonlife

      It should be alright, but the Japanese always throw away!

    2. Rusty Brown

      Best anti-wrinkle vitamin is vitamin C about 1,000 mg. with each meal. It is the basis for collagen, which is the strong fibrous protein that makes for healthy wrinkle-free skin and robust veins and arteries. My young landlord couldn’t believe it when I told him I had just turned 70 years old. Also great remedy for varicose veins. Check it out!
      I plan to make natto for the K2 for calcium management.

  25. Norman Darlington

    The only natto I can find here is frozen. Will that also work as starter?

    1. dragonlife

      It should, but thaw slowly inside the fridge!

  26. thatumamilife

    Just started soaking my beans! Can’t wait to throw this in a soba bowl with some kimchi!

  27. Wendy Holz

    Here in Australia, cellophane is a gift wrapping paper….could you mean cling wrap (elastic like plastic that stretches)

    1. dragonlife

      Cellophana paper only stretches a little in Japan!

  28. Dennis Lee

    A great and very important recipe for me, i need to ferment soy beans to make them healthy otherwise they are not. But i have a few questions:

    “Carefully pour the fermentation starter (with the natto beans) evenly all over the steamed soy beans.”

    Do the soy beans need to lay in this fermentation starter water? or hardly need to be touched by the water? i dont toss down the fermentation starter water right? but does the water surface need to be as high as the soy beans in the vessel?
    Many thanks for this article.

    1. dragonlife

      Dear Dennis!
      You are most welcome!
      “does the water surface need to be as high as the soy beans “: Yes!
      Don’t hesitate if you need more information!
      Best regards,

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