‘Umami’ is the savory taste of amino acids and nucleotides, which occur naturally in protein-rich foods.
It is one of the five basic tastes, along with:
The word ‘umami’ derives its meaning from the Japanese words ‘umai’ (delicious) and ‘mi’ (taste).
|Umami Component||Free (Unbound) Form||Salt Form||Bound Form|
|Amino Acid||Glutamic Acid||Monosodium glutamate||Protein chain|
|Nucleotide||Inosinic Acid||Disodium inosinate||DNA molecule|
Taste buds register the ‘umami’ taste when they detect free (unbound) amino acids and nucleotides or their salt forms.
However, when amino acids merge into protein chains or nucleotides form DNA molecules, they lose their savory taste.
Role of Umami Ingredients in Cooking
Umami ingredients make foods more ‘meaty’ or ‘savory’. This enhanced flavor can reduce the sodium quantity without sacrificing flavor.
How to Enhance Umami Taste
Enhancing dishes with umami flavors requires increasing the free amino acid and nucleotide content.
The breakdown of large proteins into smaller proteins or flavorful amino acids. Techniques to speed up proteolysis can make food more tender and tastier.
More info on proteolysis increases umami taste by breaking down proteins into amino acids.
But since proteolysis is requires higher temperatures or time. adding umami ingredients may be a more practical approach.
There are many forms of umami ingredients, from fresh foods, produce, to commercially available spices, or aged/fermented foods.
While food manufacturers may already include umami additives, most of them are also readily available.
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Disodium inosinate
- Yeast Extract
- Nutritional Yeast
Animal-Based Umami Proteins
Plant-Based Umami Ingredients
- Tomato products
Fermented Umami Ingredients
- Aged cheese
- Soy sauce
- Fish sauce