BBQ Natto with Shrimp


Japanese food is one of my favorite cuisines. Growing up in Texas, I also cultivated an appreciation for BBQ sauce. Today we're doing a fusion dish. Call it New American meets Japanese: BBQ Natto with Shrimp. (Thanks to my friend mylkqueen on Twitter for this recipe.)

What The Heck Is Natto, and Why Should We Eat It?

Natto is a traditional food in Japan. It is made from fermented soybeans, which is the only way we should be eating soy (unfermented soy is bad for you). In Japan, natto is usually consumed as a breakfast food, with rice and miso soup.

Natto has more vitamin K2 than any other food. Natto, weighing in at 1103 micrograms of vitamin K2 per 100 grams, has almost 3 times more K2 than the second best source, goose liver pâté (369 micorgrams per 100 grams). The third best source, hard cheese, contains only 76.3 micrograms of vitamin K2 per serving.

Why Do We Need Vitamin K2?

According to Chris Masterjohn, PhD candidate in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Connecticut:

In 1945, Dr. Weston Price described “a new vitamin-like activator” that played an influential role in the utilization of minerals, protection from tooth decay, growth and development, reproduction, protection against heart disease and the function of the brain. Dr. Price died before research by Russian scientists became known in the West. These scientists used the same chemical test to measure a compound similar to vitamin K.

A growing body of published research confirms Dr. Price's discoveries, namely that vitamin K2 is important for the utilization of minerals, protects against tooth decay, supports growth and development, is involved in normal reproduction, protects against calcification of the arteries leading to heart disease, and is a major component of the brain.

Vitamin K2 works synergistically with the two other “fat-soluble activators” that Price studied, vitamins A and D. Vitamins A and D signal to the cells to produce certain proteins and vitamin K then activates these proteins.

Vitamin K2 plays a crucial role in the development of the facial bones, and its presence in the diets of nonindustrialized peoples explains the wide facial structure and freedom from dental deformities that Weston Price observed. Source

In other words, if you can get your kids to eat this, and if you can eat it when pregnant/nursing, you may be able to spare them from having to wear braces. But it's not just about saving money on the orthodontist. With naturally straight teeth, a wide palate and properly developed bones come many other gifts: freedom from snoring, wide hips for easy childbirth, and the list goes on.

To read more about the overall health benefits of proper bone formation, read this fascinating article by my dentist, Dr. Raymond Silkman: Is it Mental or is it Dental? Cranial & Dental Impacts on Total Health.

Vitamin K2 is not just for kids. It is also really important for older adults to prevent osteoporosis. A recent study published by the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) has shows that increased intake of vitamin K2 may reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 35 percent. Read more about that study and other benefits of vitamin K2 here.

But How Does It Taste?

Many Americans don't like natto. They say it smells like stinky cheese, and has a weird gooey, stringy consistency. I was pleasantly surprised when I tried it. There was no stinky smell (and, being a lover of stinky cheese, I know stink) and the texture, while a little different, was not offensive.

But even if you do find the natto to be a little stinky, the BBQ sauce will effectively disguise that. The texture is what it is — I can't help you with that. You'll have to work to expand your palate and broaden your horizons a bit. As Katie Bettendorf would say, “Grow up!”

My toddler loved this dish. She devoured the whole thing — ate every last bite. I actually added the shrimp to the dish in case she didn't like the natto, but guess what? She ate the shrimp last!

She enjoyed using her pincer grasp to pick up the beans and seemed to have fun with the stringiness. I loved it, too, and so did my husband. This is a man who will not eat most liver or organ meats, nor will he eat stinky cheese (says it “smells like feet”), so I was thrilled that he loved the natto. I'm so inspired by natto that I want to write a whole cookbook full of natto recipes.

Where To Buy Natto

You can find natto in most Japanese grocery stores. You have to be very careful though because most of the natto they sell contains MSG. Read the ingredients, and be sure to buy one without “seasoning sauce”. I found two brands of natto that don't have MSG added: Shirakiku and Miyako.

After I bought my natto, I read (in the comments of the article sourced above) that Japan is now buying our crappy American GMO soybeans and using them to make natto. Sigh…

However, you can find organic non-GMO natto. Ask for help at your Japanese market, since the packages will not necessarily say organic. I read online that if it's organic, it will have the JAS OMIC seal on the package. (I looked at my packages and unfortunately the do not have the seal.)

If you can't find natto at a local store, you can also ferment your own. Just buy organic soybeans and the natto culture (available online). Natto also freezes well, so if you find a source to buy organic natto, you can buy a bunch and freeze it.

One other thing (this may aid you in getting over any issues you may have with unfamiliar, gooey, stringy, potentially stinky foods): natto is very economical. You'd have to eat three times as much goose liver to get the same benefits. The 7 ounce package of natto I bought was only $2.00 — or about .50 per serving. Compare that to foie gras — to get the same amount of vitamin K2, you'd have to spend over $15 per serving. (This is not to denigrate foie gras. It's one of my very favorite foods. I will be posting a recipe for seared foie gras sometime in the near future.)

And a final note: I don't recommend eating natto frequently. Yes, it's economical and the very best source of vitamin K2, however, it is still a soy product, albeit a fermented one. Nonetheless, soy should not be eaten in large amounts even if it is fermented. The fermentation breaks down the phytic acid and helps make the soybeans more digestible, but it does nothing for the large quantity of isoflavones in soy, which really messes with your hormones. For this reason, it's best to eat natto sparingly — not every day.

BBQ Natto with Shrimp

Makes 2 servings


Rice (1 cup) — I used sushi rice but you can use brown rice
Homemade barbecue sauce ( 1/4 cup)
Natto (2 containers)
Green onions (2)
Raw egg yolks (2) — use eggs from pastured chickens
Butter or lard (1 TBS) — where to buy butter
Fresh or frozen shrimp (6)


[easyazon_link identifier=”B001G8Y33K” locale=”US” tag=”cheeseslave0e-20″]Rice Cooker[/easyazon_link] — make sure you get one without a Teflon bowl; I use the [easyazon_link identifier=”B001G8Y33K” locale=”US” tag=”cheeseslave0e-20″]VitaClay Rice Cooker[/easyazon_link]


1. Cook the rice in a rice cooker or on the stove.

2. Prepare the barbecue sauce. (Click here for recipe.)

3. Peel and devein the shrimp. Dip the shrimp in BBQ sauce and set on a plate.

4. Add minced green onion and raw egg yolks to remaining BBQ sauce and stir to incorporate. Set aside.

5. Heat butter or lard on medium heat in a cast iron or stainless steel skillet.

6. Add the shrimp to the pan and cook a few minutes on each side — until pink and cooked through.

7. Remove from heat and set aside.

8. When the rice is ready, stir the natto with a fork or chopsticks for 30 seconds or so, until it is stringy and foamy. Stir in the barbecue sauce/green onion/egg yolk mixture.

9. Serve the rice in bowls, topped with the natto.

10. Arrange the shrimp on top of the natto.

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Ann Marie Michaels

I have 25 years of experience in digital and online media & marketing. I started my career in Silicon Valley and Los Angeles, working at some of the world’s top ad agencies. In 2007, after my first child was born, I started this little food blog which I grew to over 250K monthly unique website visitors and over 350K social media followers. For nearly 15 years, I've helped my audience of mostly moms and women 25-65 cook for their families and live a healthier lifestyle.

 The year after I started the blog, I founded a blog network in the health & wellness space called Village Green Network. I started the company on my coffee table and bootstrapped the business to over $1.3 million in annual revenue within 5 years. During that time, I helped a number of our bloggers become six figure earners. After being censored on almost every social media platform for telling the After being censored on almost every social media platform from Facebook and Instagram to Pinterest and Twitter, and being deplatformed on Google, I am now deployed as a digital soldier, writing almost exclusively about politics on my blog Because who can think about food when we are fighting the second revolutionary war and third world war? Don't worry, there will be more recipes one day. After the war is over.

30 thoughts on “BBQ Natto with Shrimp

  1. I’ve never tried nato, but I certainly like shrimp and I’d like to try making my own barbecue sauce, so this looks like a great recipe to try.

    What a shame that Japan is sending us back our own GMO products. It reminds me of pesticides that are illegal to use here, but are manufactured here and sold to countries that use them on the food that they sell to us.

    The need for braces is an interesting (and disappointing) topic. I have yet to read Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, but I know the gist of it and have read Pottenger’s Cats which shows a similar type of facial structural deformity in cats fed cooked food instead of raw food. Looking at how many people have improper bites, crooked teeth, TMJ, and facial structures that aren’t evenly segmented, it’s an obvious and depressing sign of what we’re doing to ourselves with our modern eating habits.

  2. we don’t have any japanese groceries where i live, does anyone know if can i find natto at whole foods?
    and yes, i would love some more recipes with natto, especially for my 4 yo’s teeth problems. thank you!

  3. I tried natto for the first time at a small Japanese restaurant in Waikiki last fall. I guess I am “most American” as I didn’t care for it at all. However, I’m also from Texas, so perhaps dousing it with BBQ sauce would help with the flavor, but what about that icky, gooey texture?

    Chef Gwen’s last blog post..Happy 1 Year Anniversary…

  4. Chef Gwen,

    The gooiness of natto is an acquired taste that most Americans are not used to. In other words, you need to work to expand your palate. Another way to say this is you have a food phobia due to underexposure. Said another way, ignorance breeds contempt.

    According to Vogue food editor (and one of my favorite authors), Jeffrey Steingarten, most food phobias can be successfully eradicated by sampling the food 8-10 times.

    Read his excellent book, “The Man Who Ate Everything” — the introduction is available online:


    “Scientists tell us that aversions fade away when we eat moderate doses of the hated foods at moderate intervals, especially if the food is complex and new to us… Exposure works by overcoming our innate neophobia, the omnivore’s fear of new foods that balances the biological urge to explore for them…. Most parents give up trying novel foods on their weanlings after two or three attempts and then complain to the pediatrician; this may be the most common cause of fussy eaters and finicky adults–of omnivores manqués. Most babies will accept nearly anything after eight or ten tries.”

    Read the book (or at the very least, the introduction) and then eat natto 7-9 more times. Then report back.

  5. This recipe is so nutritious. Vitamin D from the shrimp and lard if its pastured, raw fats and nutrients from the two raw egg yolks, Vitamin K2 from the natto (plus a fermented food!), and the ingredients in the homemade BBQ sauce are great such as the apple cider vinegar and the raw honey. Lots of enzymes.

    I am so glad to hear that your baby loves this. Kids are usually a lot more accepting of food than adults will often allow them to be. I used to work at a cheese shop and I would have kids and babies who loved olives, but there parents not so much. Fussy adults! I am pleased that your allowing your child lots of options, and healthy fare at that. She’ll appreciate it for a lifetime.

    Jason’s last blog post..Raw Milk Brings Improvements

    1. This is so true. I almost gave up on feeding my baby traditionally when she wouldn’t take egg yolk after half a dozen times. And it seemed that no one on the traditional food blogs was talking about how to get a baby to accept such a strongly flavored food. Well, when I finally read somewhere (I don’t remember where and I’m pretty sure it was in the comments) that most babies need to sample it 10-12 times before they can handle the strong flavor of the yolk, I just kept giving it to her but not expecting her to eat the whole thing. After just a few more times she was taking it & eating all of it with no problem. She now eats any meat, pretty much any lacto-ferment (she LOVES sauerkraut & dilly beans), will eat unique cheeses & I can get her to at least try almost anything. She has tried (against my wishes & outside of my control) some grains, but it is certainly not a significant part of her diet yet. But I know she’ll accept those. We’re still working on getting her to eat some fruit like strawberries, but I’m pretty sure it is just the large & sour commercial strawberries she is opposed to. I don’t “love” strawberries (at least not the monstrosities you find at the supermarket) & never really have, so I’m sure that has something to do with it. Anyway, kids really do accept things easier than adults. Even my friends & siblings that complain about how picky their kids are have no idea the variety of flavors I’ve gotten them to eat. My nephew always asks me for dilly beans and when we were visiting some friends (whose kids do not eat very well at all) they ate my 4 jars of sauerkraut in less than 5 days- and that was when I was trying to limit it.

  6. Karen – I doubt you will find natto at Whole Foods.

    Google “natto culture” and you will find some online sources for the natto culture. Then google “how to make natto”. Then all you need is some organic soybeans.

    It doesn’t look too hard. If I can’t find organic natto locally, I’m going to be making it myself — and will post the recipe when I do.

  7. Vin –

    You can actually read Dr. Price’s whole book online here:

    It’s a fantastic read — I highly recommend it.

    And the photos are amazing. Looking at all those traditional people with perfect teeth really makes you wonder!

  8. Jason –

    Thanks so much for your compliments. I really appreciate them!

    I work very hard to expose my daughter to novel foods (see comment above about Jeffrey Steingarten’s book, “The Man Who Ate Everything”).

    I got her hooked on raw oysters at a young age. Now, at age 2, she can put back a dozen oysters in one sitting! She also likes dried anchovies and pickled herring.

  9. Thanks for posting all this information. I am currently in the process of trying to reverse a small cavity. I have been taking Krill oil and butter oil along with pastured eggs/beef/chicken and grass fed raw butter and all the other Nourishing Traditions type foods. It looks like I need to add Natto to the list though. What is amazing to me is that back when I was a vegetarian and was reading all the veggie books they kept saying how we needed to eat more soy like the Japanese so that we could be healthy like them. What they failed to mention however was the fact that the soy that the Japanese ate was fermented and was completely different than the soy cheese/soy ice cream and soy milk that these people wee touting as health foods.

    Christy’s last blog post..Camping, Cabinets, Chicks and Construction

  10. Wow, this recipe looks awesome. My DH and I tried limburger cheese the other day and loved it (it does not taste at all like it smells), so I think this will be next. My 4 year old also liked the cheese, so I have hope for this as well….now if only I could get her to eat the “sour” pickles!

  11. Wow! Thank you for this. I love me some Natto, and never thought to make it like this, I just gobble it up right out of the little styro bowls it comes in!
    Also, never thought to look for MSG, just assumed that it was an all natural product. I’ll look closer in the future. Since I have all these ingredients on hand, I have lunch plans for tomorrow!
    Thanks again, and keep up the good work on your great site!
    Lisa (MsFitUniverse)

    Lisa D.’s last blog post..Wordless Wednesday~Transfat or Plastic?


  13. Hi~

    This sound very interesting. I am slowly learning to eat things and introduce them to my children. Unfortunately, we have been rather picky until recently. But we are “expanding our palates” and are very excited with some of our new finds. I will definitely give this a try.

    Question … I’ve got some soybeans stored from the y2k debacle (don’t ask : / ) … anyway, they are at about 10 years old but in fine condition. Until we found out about fermenting soy we were making soy milk and soy nuts. I don’t think they are organic – but being ~10 years old I’m wondering if the GMO thing is an issue? Would you use them?? Thanks!

  14. Hi. I wanted to share this link. It looks like a source of organic, non-msg natto.

  15. I found your blog through Kelly the Kitchen Kop – just recently found that too. I read Nourishing Traditions about 4.5 years ago and have been trying to incorporate that style of eating.

    I nearly laughed out loud when I read your recipe. I lived in Okinawa for three years and tried Natto and could hardly stand it. Of course it didn’t help that I was newly pregnant and everything sort of made me feel quesy. Not sure that I will try this recipe soon, but I won’t rule it out:)

    I agree with the info on intoducing a food more than once. My kids were eating sushi very young and enjoying their seaweed sprinkled Chicken Teriyaki (at a restaurant) a lot more than their mama.

  16. Jessie,

    I came here to bemoan how I went to three stores yesterday searching for natto without MSG.

    Whole foods – nada natto
    Natural Foods Warehouse – nada natto
    Big Asian supermarket – natto with msg

    THANK YOU for your post and link!!!


  17. Once again you cease to amaze me. I love this article! It seems like a US based organic natto producer needs to be created…anyone?


    Thank you very much for your information of Natto. It is good for us,too!
    We are Natto company in Japan that focuses on the research and development,
    manufacture,and marketing natural products.
    We developed Natto dry powder.
    If you want to have information this,please contact us.

    Best regards

    From shikaya

  19. You sure are broadning my scope. I have never heard of Natto. I learned a ton from your post. Thanks so much.

  20. that looks so good! I don’t think I’m ready to ferment my own yet. And no Japanese store here, unfortunately.

  21. Natto is one Japanese food I never really got into during my 13 years of living in Japan. I only had it a few times. It’s much more popular in Kansai (the southern area of the main island, centering around Osaka and Kyoto) than in Kanto (the area around Tokyo), where I spent most of my time. Japanese lore says to eat natto for beauty. The best way to eat it that I ever tried is in temaki-zushi, or hand-rolled sushi. Mixed with minced green onion, ginger and even chopped toro (fatty cut of tuna). And a little shoyu (soy sauce). Now that was tasty. I’d love to try this way sometime.

  22. When I was in Japan, the Japanese people told me even they don’t eat Natto. It’s a specific regional thing, and if you say to a Northerner “You smell like Natto.” it’s a SERIOUS insult in Japan. …I tried eating it. I didn’t like it plain. But I bet your BBQ shrimp recipe improves it substantially.

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