Umami was finally validated in 2001 as a fifth basic taste when two researchers at the University of Miami Medical School successfully identified receptors for it on the tongue. It’s that savory, round flavor that occurs naturally in lots of foods—tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and some nuts.
In cooking, there are a variety of ways to add umami. Here are a few of our favorites.
It’s the acronym for monosodium glutamate. It’s totally safe to eat—despite some claims over the years. Also, it’s delicious.
Onion powder shows up in everything—if you’ve ever eaten a canned soup, it’s extremely likely it has onion powder in it. It’s often more onion-y tasting than an actual onion and adds a serious depth of flavor to whatever you’re cooking.
It’s more coarsely ground than garlic powder so it’s actually a better substitute for fresh garlic than the powder. It doesn’t clump and mixes better in salad dressings and seasoning rubs and more.
Like soy sauce, tamari is made from fermented soybeans—but it’s more traditionally Japanese and it’s much thicker than soy sauce. It’s also packed with umami that’s released in the brewing process.
Everyone’s using nutritional yeast these days—people love it for it’s almost cheese-like savory flavor. It’s a great way to add a kick of umami to salads and vegetables or pasta or whatever else you might typically add grated cheese to.
You can buy dried mushrooms and make mushroom powder yourself—you can also buy it already pulverized. It adds an instant depth of earthy, round flavor to whatever you’re cooking.
We independently select all of our editorial products. If you buy something through our links, Momofuku may earn an affiliate commission.