What is Umami Seasoning?
The umami flavor may be mysterious to some of us. Here is umami explained. We may be more familiar with the four types of tastes on our tongue which included salty, sweet, sour and bitter. Umami is that savory flavor many of us are craving, especially when we move towards a plant based diet.
How Would You Describe Umami Flavor?
I was more than a little surprised when I heard that we actually have an ability to taste umami! The word “umami” is a Japanese term which means “pleasant savory taste”. It also may be described as a meaty taste. Meat broths, fermented foods, meats and fish, especially if they are smoked, have an amino acid called glutamine which give us this rich flavor. Condiments like soy sauce, fish sauce and the Australian favorite “Vegamite” are other ways people can get their taste for “umami”. I love the description in this article in The Spruce!
Food companies have discovered long ago that we had the craving for savory even before most of us had a name for it because they realized that monosodium glutamate or MSG which is a food additive had a savory flavor and enhanced the flavor of many foods. MSG is a controversial thing because many times it is not always labeled in processed foods and there are health concerns when this is added to so many foods including excess sodium in the diet. Some people also feel that they are intolerant to it.
A little flavoring fact that is a little off topic from umami that I wanted to share with you is if you want to decrease excess saltiness or sweetness in foods, is to add a little vinegar, lemon juice for a little sourness to balance it. You can also add walnuts or lemon rind for a little bitter that can provide additional interest and balance to foods.
How Do You Add Umami Flavor?
Plant Based Foods with Umami Flavors
Here are some of my favorite ways to get the “umami” flavor without the meat, meat broth or MSG! You will also see how to add umami flavor to vegan meals! I also have included a few of my favorite savory plant based umami dishes!
Many people may be surprised to learn that there are umami vegetables! Mushrooms have the ultimate vegetable meaty flavor! They are delicious almost everywhere. You can grill one for a sandwich, add to a stir fry, pasta or risotto. Here are some other plant based umami recipes Roasted Mushroom Potato Squash and Pepper Over Grits and Mushroom Tempeh Lo Mein
It is no wonder that I love tomatoes so much! They have a savory flavor! This flavor is even more pronounced when they are grilled or roasted. Or even more when they are concentrated like a sundried tomato or a tomato paste.Whether it is on a sandwich, a pasta, a soup and many other recipes, this little fruit has a little umami flavor going on. Here is recipe using tomatoes Grandma Ida’s Famous Vegetable Soup
3. Chinese Cabbage
It is no wonder that most of us love stir fries! They have an extra special savory flavor when they include bok choy. Substitute it for regular cabbage in a variety of recipes. Here is a delicious one to try it Kale Cabbage and Apple Slaw
Many of us enjoy the umami flavor of spinach and because it is less bitter it may be a favorite green for many of us. I love it in salad, lasagna and on a pizza. Check out some other recipe ideas where they taste great also Tempeh Sweet Potato Spinach Burrito and Spinach Beet and Walnut Salad
The little bit of bitterness, saltiness, sweetness and savory of celery make it a very flavorful vegetable to add to recipes like stir fries, soups and grains.
6. Green Tea
Green tea has always tastes a little bitter to me and there is a flavor that I could not describe. Could it be a savory flavor? I learned from my friend Jessi from Asheville Tea Company that I could be steeping it a little too long. There are lots of different green teas to try to explore the taste of umami!
I love the sweet flavor of carrots but it may be the “umami” flavor that keeps me coming back for more in soups, stir fries and even pasta dishes. Here is a recipe to use them Thai Broccoli Salad .
8. Parmesan Cheese
Adding a sprinkle of parmesan cheese to your favorite veggie recipes can give your foods an added savory flavor. This Creamy Parmesan Dressing is a great way to get a taste of umami!
Potatoes are America’s favorite vegetable! We just love its savory taste! Try my Southwestern Potato Salad for a great plant based taste of umami flavor.
10. Fermented Foods
Fermented foods like tempeh, soy sauce, miso, sauerkraut, pickles, olives, ect has a savory flavor that many of us love! These Plant Protein Bowls are full of savory, umami flavor and there are many more recipes on the blog with tofu and tempeh.
11. Caramelized Onions
The caramelized flavor tastes savory to me! There is a flavor change when onions get soft and begin to brown, there is a sweetness there but I also taste the umami.
12. Roasted Eggplant
To me eggplants really do have a smoky, savory, savory taste. Roasting an eggplant is my all-time favorite way to eat it unless I grill it! Try this savory eggplant and potato dish Grilled Roti with Eggplant and Potatoes to get your daily dose of umami!
13. Lentils and Field peas
Brown lentils (not the red ones) and field peas have a “savory and umami” flavor when added in a soup or salad, they are also high in protein too! These lentil tacos have a delicious, savory flavor!
14. Nutritional Yeast
When I was a kid, I watched my grandmother add Brewer’s yeast to her foods and when my son followed the vegan diet, I purchased my own! These yellow flakes give foods a rich, savory flavor. It is a great source of B vitamins and often is supplemented with vitamin B12 . It can be added to potatoes, sauces, gravies, tofu or tempeh to give it a nutty almost cheese-like flavor.
Here is a plant based vegan parmesan cheese that can be used to top pizzas or pastas to give you a chance to give nutritional yeast a try!
Beets especially when they are roasted or grilled give foods a savory, umami flavor on many of our palates. This recipe with roasted beets makes this risotto full of umami!
16. Sea Vegetables
Sea vegetables not only provide a taste of umami flavor to meals but they also provide a variety of nutrients. The Guide to Seaweeds and Sea Vegetable Recipes below has a lot of great seaweed facts and some creative recipes using it also!
17. Roasted Nuts
Roasted nuts taste delicious and they also boost the flavor of umami! Here is a great tutorial how to do it! Below is a great pizza recipe with arugula, pear, blue cheese with toasted walnuts, what is not to love with that combo?
Learning to add a savory depth to meals is an important part of making our healthy meals tastier and more appealing. I would love to hear how you have added umami to your healthy menu ideas! There are lots of was to make plant based umami flavored foods. Working with a registered dietitian nutritionist can help add a little more interest to your meals and improve your eating habits. I love to help others create their own delicious meal plan! You can find out a little bit more about me here!