Whether due to coronavirus, quarantine, or bad weather, being stuck at home (but most importantly, safe at home) can definitely feel limiting and can become dreary.
To avoid menu boredom and provide comfort, this is a good time to experiment with some ways to add savory deliciousness to your home-cooked meals.
Here are 10 foods (or ingredients) that are packed with savory flavor – the delicious umami taste – followed by a few mouth-watering umami recipes that you and your family can be cooking while stuck at home riding out the storm (so to speak).
Stay safe and healthy!
10 Foods (or Ingredients) that are Rich in Umami:
- Seaweed (or kelp)
Sea vegetables such as seaweed, especially kelp (large brown seaweed) and kombu (used in dashi), are high in glutamate, and therefore high in umami.
The high naturally occurring glutamate provides the meatiness that comes with mushrooms. Dried shitake mushrooms are the most umami rich.
Think of fresh tomatoes. As they ripen the glutamate levels rise (very savory). Or think of them when cooked into a simmered sauce, or turned into ketchup, or at their umami-best – sundried. What makes pizza so appealing? – the tomato sauce, cheese, and mushrooms make an umami trifecta!
- Parmesan cheese
The nutty, earthy flavors make Parmesan cheese one of the most umami-inspiring ingredients you can use in cooking and flavoring dishes.
- Fermented fish sauce
The fermentation process breaks down proteins into amino acids, and high quantities of glutamate are produced. Here’s proof that humans have loved umami for centuries: in Ancient Rome, fermented fish sauce called “garum” was used as a seasoning, and was considered as important as wine and olive oil. But if fish sauce is not something you find palatable, consider anchovies instead, especially in home-made Caesar salad sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
- Miso paste
Miso soup comes from miso paste, a rich, pungent ingredient made from soybeans fermented with rice, barley, or rye. It is very concentrated in flavor, and for vegans it is a great way to add umami to just about anything.
- Soy sauce
Soy sauce is a condiment that many people only associate with Asian cuisines. However, it has a multitude of uses, all of which add that savory umami flavor to foods.
Oysters, shrimp, scallops, mackerel, tuna, and sardines are just some fish with natural umami flavor. Seafood naturally contains glutamate in addition to inosinate, an umami flavor compound that occurs naturally, and the two of them combined (glutamate plus inosinate) are synergistic.
Walnuts have been linked with heart health in many studies. People with higher walnut consumption have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, with improved cardiovascular risk factors and lower rates of cardiovascular disease. And, of course, walnuts are very rich in umami!
MSG (monosodium glutamate) – is increasingly used as a flavor enhancer by renowned chefs worldwide to crank up the fifth taste – umami. Glutamate in the form of MSG is the simplest, purest, easiest way to add the delicious umami taste to dishes. For tips on using MSG in cooking and in recipes, click here.
Sodium reduction tip: A mixture of one part MSG and two parts salt is a great way to reduce sodium in a recipe without losing the flavor boost. With this MSG-salt blend you can decrease sodium by 25 percent, compared to using table salt.
Featured Savory Umami Recipes:
More Recipes with Umami Ingredients
“Stuck at home cooking” image (top of page) courtesy of Flickr user mrwalter