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How to Add Umami to Your Cooking

In cooking, there are five tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. The term umami, the fifth taste, was coined in 1908 by a Japanese professor, Kikunae Ikeda, but the flavor has been incorporated in food around the world for centuries. Umami adds the meaty, savory quality to many foods, and can be included in home cooking by using a variety of ingredients and flavor combinations.[1]

Using Savory Items

  1. 1Add cheese to pasta dishes and soups. Parmesan has a salty, strong taste that only gets stronger with age. Add it to pasta sauces, either on top of the dish or into the sauce as it cooks, to create a deeper flavor.[2]
    • Add parmesan rinds to soups, like minestrone, to achieve the same effect.
  2. 2Use anchovies to add the umami taste to a variety of dishes. Dried or cured anchovies add a salty, fishy flavor to food, and can be used in many dishes.
    • Make anchovy butter, by combining anchovies and soft butter, to top toast or steaks.
    • Add anchovy paste to pasta sauces to bring out the flavor of the tomatoes and create a more rounded flavor.
  3. 3Use mushrooms. Mushrooms have a lot of natural umami flavor, and it’s even stronger when they’re dried.[3]
    • Add mushrooms to pasta sauce. Chopped or sliced, cooked mushrooms work in white or red sauces.
    • Use dried mushrooms in soups. Add porcini or shiitake mushrooms to soups or ramen to bring out the most flavor.
  4. 4Put tomato paste in your soups and sauces. Like mushrooms, tomatoes have natural umami flavor, as well as sweetness. Tomato paste is a thick, concentrated source of tomato flavor, and a little goes a long way. Add a bit of tomato paste in tomato soup, beef stews, pasta sauces, or even gravy.[4]
  5. 5Add kombu to broths. Kombu is a type of kelp, used often in Asian soups to make the base broth. Boil a few pieces of kombu, or other seaweeds, to add an earthy, fishy umami taste to soups and broths.

Part2Using Umami Sauces

  1. 1Use Worcestershire sauce in your cooking. Made with anchovies, molasses, vinegar, and tamarind, Worcestershire sauce is a great way to add umami to lots of dishes. Add it to soups, pasta sauces, and marinades.
    • Add it to a marinade for beef or chicken to bring out the meaty, savory flavor of the dish.
    • Add a bit of Worcestershire sauce to pasta sauces to create a similar effect to parmesan.
  2. 2Use a fish broth when making soups. Dashi is a broth used often in Japanese cooking that uses kelp and fish to create the umami taste. Combine dried kelp and bonito flakes in a pot of water, and cook until the water takes on the flavors.
    • For other variations, combine dried kelp and dried anchovies in a pot of water. Some use dried shiitake mushrooms, the white part of green onions, or daikon radish, as well.[5]
  3. 3Add soy sauce to the dish. Soy sauce is created by fermenting soybeans, which brings out the natural umami taste of the soy. Add about a tablespoon of soy sauce to stir fries and fried rice to create the salty, savory taste you want. Substitute soy sauce in if you have no cheese or Worcestershire sauce for pasta recipes.
  4. 4Use fish sauce. A strong, concentrated condiment, fish sauce is made with salt, sugar, and fermented fish. Use it as a dipping sauce, or in stir fries and other dishes.[6]
    • You can also use oyster sauce, which is a thicker sauce made with oysters instead of fish.
  5. 5Add miso paste. Like soy sauce, miso paste is made by fermenting soybeans, but there are hundreds of variations, all with their own taste. Add a tablespoon of miso paste to sauces and soups, or try it in dressings or on its own in broth.[7]

List of Umami Ingredients and Sample Recipes

Ingredients to Add Umami to Your Cooking

Umami Recipe: Braised Tofu with King Oyster Mushrooms

Umami Recipe: Macaroni and Pancetta

Community Q&ANew! Make a stranger’s day. Answer a question.

  • QuestionHow do I make umami paste?Community AnswerThere’s no such thing as an “umami paste” like there is no “salty paste” or “sweet paste”. You can enhance the umami in your food a lot if you add these ingredients or use MSG in your cooking.Not Helpful 0Helpful 2
  • QuestionWhere can I buy umami? Can I put it in a salad?Community AnswerYou can buy Umami paste in Waitrose, and it can be added to a salad dressing or mayonnaise to add to a salad.Not Helpful 7Helpful 10
  • QuestionWhere can I buy umami paste in southeast Florida?Community AnswerLook up “Asian markets” or “Asian grocery stores” near you. If you live in Miami or Broward there are a lot, but you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding one no matter where you are.Not Helpful 2Helpful 1

Unanswered Questions

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  • Balance out a strong umami taste with sugar: add sugar, to taste, to your dishes as you’re cooking them, to round out all the flavors.
  • If you’re vegetarian or vegan, try including nutritional yeast in your recipes, to add a cheesy, salty umami taste.

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Article Info

This article was co-authored by our trained team of editors and researchers who validated it for accuracy and comprehensiveness. Together, they cited information from 7 references.

Categories: Food and Entertaining

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Español: usar umami en las comidas

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