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All about Umami


What makes your mouth water? Chances are, many of the foods you think of have some umami taste! Learn more about the fifth taste and how to add more umami to what you eat.

All about umami

photo of a tongue

Some scientists maintain that there are, in fact, five basic tastes instead of four. This additional taste is called umami, which is a Japanese word that means “good savory taste.” Foods with high umami are fish, shellfish, bacon, mushrooms and soy sauce. Umami is more noticeable when certain foods are combined. Seaweed dashi is a perfect example.

Umami was first proposed as a basic taste in 1908. A Japanese professor Kikunae Ikeda identified a taste while eating seaweed dashi. The taste was not sweet, sour, bitter or salty, so he called it umami. Umami creates a sensation of mouthwatering.

Boost your umami

Try these mouthwatering combinations for more umami:

  • Drizzle soy sauce over vegetables.
  • Add Worcestershire sauce to meatloaf.
  • Add grated Parmesan cheese to meatballs.
  • Add asparagus to a cheese omelet

Umami-filled recipes

Try these simple and delectable dishes!

photo of mushrooms

Shitake mushrooms over rice

Makes about 4 servings.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated (optional)

Add olive oil to a skillet over medium heat. Cook garlic for about 3 minutes or until it is soft.

Add mushrooms and cook until soft, or about 7 minutes. Add ginger and cook for about 1 minute. Add vegetable stock and cook until heated through, or about five minutes. To serve, ladle mushrooms and liquid over a scoop of hot, cooked rice. Add soy sauce to taste.

Miso dressing

  • 1 cup white miso paste
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • ¼ cup green onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated

Put all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until blended well. Toss a tablespoon with shredded lettuce, cabbage and carrots.

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