Umami, That’s Good!

Umami Japanese stir fry with noodles and veggies

What does Umami Mean?

Umami is a word coined by Kikunae Ikeda, the Japanese chemist known for his research into the source of savory flavor. The word is derived from “umai” meaning delicious, and “mi” meaning taste. Umami is often defined in the English translation as “pleasant savory taste.”

What are Umami Flavors?

Umami is the term used to describe the fifth sense of taste. The four basic tastes had been identified for a long time; sweet, sour, bitter and salty. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 1900’s that a Japanese chemist by the name of Kikunae Ikeda unearthed the fifth taste that we now know as -- UMAMI. Ikeda’s research led to the discovery of the source of this savory flavor: glutamic acid.

Because of its savory qualities, glutamic acid is processed and used as one of the components in the controversial seasoning MSG, which is used as an additive in certain foods to enhance the flavor.

But don’t get glutamic acid and MSG confused. Glutamic acid itself is not MSG. In fact, it’s a naturally occurring amino acid and a building block of protein that aids in transmission of nerve impulses in the brain.

By seeking out foods that are naturally rich in glutamic acid, you can enjoy rich, savory, umami flavors while avoiding chemical additives.

Umami Foods

There are many umami foods naturally rich in glutamic acid. For example, green tea, shiitake mushrooms and tomatoes. Another excellent example is dashi broth, which is made with kombu and rich in umami flavor. (In fact, it was kombu that inspired Ikeda’s research).

Other foods where you can enjoy that savory flavor naturally include fermented foods, like tamari, miso, and kimchi. Aged cheese such as parmesan are also well-known umami foods.

You can even amp up an old favorite like potato salad by using a savory condiment such as Organic Miso Mustard, which contains 26% chickpea miso.

Miso Mustard Umami Potato Salad
Miso Mustard is the perfect ingredient for adding umami to classic summer dishes, like this savory potato salad.

Umami Ramen

One of the easiest ways to make a delicious umami ramen is to use miso in your broth. Ramen broth recipes vary widely, and often have a vegetable, pork or chicken stock base. To make your broth blast off with flavor try adding three tablespoons of  Traditional Red Miso per quart of liquid to your recipe.

To add miso paste to your broth, first mix the miso paste with warm water and stir until the mixture is smooth. Then add the mixture to your broth. This helps the miso incorporate better into your soup base. (Note: To maintain the integrity of the healthy bacteria in miso paste, refrain from boiling.)

You can also substitute soba noodles for ramen if you’re looking for a buckwheat alternative.

Umami Seasoning

Perhaps the most famous method of adding umami flavor to dishes is the inclusion of MSG. However, many individuals avoid added MSG in their diets, meaning they must find their savory satisfaction elsewhere.

Miso is one of the easiest and most versatile ways to add a savory element to foods. Miso comes in multiple varieties that range in concentration of flavor meaning there’s an option for everything from salmon and sauce to bread and dessert.

Make it Umami with Miso

Miso Master Organic Miso comes in six different varieties for a range of flavors. Here’s a quick breakdown of what to use when.

Short-term Miso Varieties

Our short-term miso is aged for thirty days. This produces a lighter color and milder flavor. Short-term miso is excellent for adding to desserts, baked goods, salad dressings, and vegan cheeses. Our short-term miso varieties are:

Long-term Miso Varieties

Our long-term miso is aged for a minimum of one year. This produces both a darker color and a more concentrated flavor. Long-term miso is exquisite in stews, soups, sauces and marinades. Our long-term miso varieties are:


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