wikiHow to Add Umami to Your Cooking

The fifth taste, called umami, or savory flavor, has been used by Japanese cooks for about 1,200 years. The fifth taste is hard to describe, yet unlike salty, sour, sweet or bitter. While the word "umami" is used to describe this taste in most languages, it has also been described as meaty, roasted, earthy or simply "delicious" by Chinese cooks. The taste is created in foods that combine glutamates and nucleotides. Since it has been newly introduced as a concept in western recipes, you may wonder how to incorporate it into your cooking. It is already surprisingly common in many of the ingredients we use in pasta, salad and sauce. There are also many new ways to create this flavor through fermented fish and meat and vegetable extracts. Modern western cooks are just starting to understand and use umami paste and umami flavors in their dishes. This article will help you to add umami to your cooking.


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    Add 4 oz. (113 g) of pungent cheese, like Parmesan, to the top of a pasta dish. There is approximately 0.42 oz. (12 g) of glutamate in 4 oz. (113 g) of Parmesan cheese. It will add a balanced savory flavor to bitter or sweet pasta dishes.
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    Use anchovies to add the umami taste to a variety of dishes. Salty, cured fish are rich in glutamate. For example, the classic Caesar salad places dried anchovies on top of the salad leaves, croutons and dressing to impart extra flavor.
    • You can also make or buy umami butter to place on top of beef steak, poultry or fish. It can be created by combining anchovy paste with butter.
    • You can enhance pasta sauces by adding anchovy paste to tomato paste when producing your homemade pasta sauce. The salt and oil inside the anchovy will boost the vegetable and fruit flavors in the sauce. This is also a great addition to pesto.
    • 4 oz. (113 g) of tomatoes also contain 0.0007 oz. (0.02 g) of glutamate. This is most easily released by the addition of alcohol to the tomatoes. Traditionally, wine is added to a tomato sauce to release the umami flavor; however, it can be done more efficiently and effectively with the addition of vodka.
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    Add soy sauce, fish sauce or seaweed flakes to Asian recipes to activate the umami taste. These store-bought condiments are available in stores in either the condiment or Asian food section. They can be added during cooking or just after.
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    Create the umami taste from making miso soup. Miso soup is made with dashi broth, created by heating water and adding edible kelp and shavings of fermented tuna. You can buy miso soup mix in stores, as the original ingredients are hard to find in western markets.
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    Add cured ham or bacon to any dish to activate the umami flavor. The salt-curing process creates a savory flavor that pairs well with eggs, pastas, sandwiches and many other kinds of recipes
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    Add green peas to a dish to add a natural umami flavor. Green peas contain a high amount of glutamate and they can be added as a side dish or in a casserole to create a natural, low-sodium savory flavor.
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    Add mature or dried mushrooms to a dish to produce the umami flavor. One of the most common ways to do this is to add either white or black truffle oil on top of a dish or in the sauce.
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    Buy umami paste to use in a combination of any number of casserole or pasta dishes. This paste is usually made from mushrooms, tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar and black olives. You can use it in the following ways:
    • You can use umami paste as a condiment. Spread a thin layer on crostini, burgers or sandwiches. You can also mix it into dips and mayonnaise.
    • Rub umami paste onto meat, poultry or fish, just as you would a salt rub. The taste will be incorporated into the meat through the roasting or cooking process.
    • Squeeze a half tsp. or tsp. (2.5 to 5 g) of umami paste into stir fries, casseroles, risotto, pizza sauce, pasta sauce, soup and stew.
    • Squeeze a small amount of umami paste into a heating pan. Add a small amount of white wine and stir well. This will create a sauce that can be added on top of vegetables or meats or used like a bouillon.


  • Many people consider monosodium glutamate to be the easiest way to add umami flavor. It is created from extracted seaweed that is fermented from molasses and sugar beets. It is approximately 12 percent sodium and 78 percent glutamic acid. There is some debate about whether this is truly considered umami and whether it is good for overall health.

Things You'll Need

  • Parmesan cheese
  • Anchovy paste
  • Tomato
  • Vodka or wine
  • Soy sauce
  • Fish sauce
  • White or black truffle oil
  • Green peas
  • Cured pork
  • Umami paste
  • Seaweed flakes

Article Info

Categories: Food and Entertaining