What is umami?
Umami is the core fifth taste. Scientists identified umami taste receptors on the human tongue in 2002 (alongside the sweet, sour, bitter, and salty taste buds). Meaning that umami is an inherent taste universally enjoyed.
Umami is found in our everyday food
To get technical, umami is the taste of glutamate, an amino acid that is one of the building blocks of protein. Glutamate occurs naturally in the human body and in many delicious foods we eat every day, including, but certainly not limited to, aged cheeses, cured meats, tomatoes, mushrooms, salmon, steak, anchovies, green tea—and the list goes on.
Characteristics of Umami Taste
Umami taste spreads across the tongue, lasts longer than other basic tastes and provides a mouthwatering sensation.
Umami is Easy to Achieve
Whether intentionally or unintentionally, we often add umami whenever it seems like something is missing in our food. Cooking with ingredients rich in glutamate will round out the flavors in any dish. Umami boosters great to stock your pantry with include ketchup, miso, truffle oil, ranch dressing, and soy sauce, to name a few. Proteins like pork, beef, fish, and shellfish make strong umami foundations and vegetables like tomatoes, mushrooms, and seaweeds are also high in glutamate (umami). And for the purest form of umami, sprinkle a dash of monosodium glutamate (MSG). Add any combination of these glutamate-rich ingredients and you’ve got an umami bomb!
Salt Reduction with Umami
Umami can not only enrich our diet, but also contribute to solving global health issues. Sodium chloride, or table salt, is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease. The World Health Organization has established a goal of reducing average salt intake by 30%. The use of monosodium glutamate, or MSG, the main component of umami seasonings, may be the key to reducing sodium content without sacrificing taste.