Umami This, Umami That

Umami is the fifth and easily forgotten taste, after sweet, sour, salty, and bitter.  Umami describes the savoriness, the depth of a dish.  In Japanese, umami means delicious.  Umami is responsible for the use of MSG (monosodium glutamate) as many foods with umami naturally contain high levels of the amino acid L-glutamate.  If your whole food plant based diet seems to be lacking “oomph”, make sure you’re including ingredients that contribute to umami:

nutritional yeast (Cheez, Orange Cheez, fat free Brown Gravy, Gravy, Chicken-like Seitan)

fermented foods like miso, sauerkraut, tamari

ripe tomatoes or better yet, concentrated versions like sun-dried tomatoes or tomato paste (Mediterranean Pasta, Tomato Pie, BLTA Salad, Oat Loaf, Shortcut Gazpacho, Pasta Fagioli)

mushrooms or better yet, dried mushrooms (Spaghetti with White Beans, Mushrooms & Artichokes, Cream of Mushroom Soup, Green Bean Casserole)

olives (Panzanella)

vinegars, balsamic vinegar reduction sauce (Sautéed greens topped with quinoa, sweet potato steaks, and balsamic reduction sauce, pictured right)Sweet_Potato_Steak

umeboshi plums, ume plum vinegar

toasted nuts and seeds (Sautéed Kale with Raisins and Pine Nuts)

avocado (Black Eyed Pea Salad, Massaged Kale Salad, Wraps, MYO Pasta Salad, Easy Guacamole, Three Bean Salad, Black Bean Mango Salsa)

seaweed and sea vegetables like nori and kombu (Sushi for Two, Wraps)

asparagus (Grilled Vegetables)

smoked paprika

caraway seeds (no umami themselves but bring out the umami in cabbage and potatoes) (Irish stew)

toasted cumin

Chinese fermented black beans

There are also cooking methods that bring out the umami in foods.  For example, roasting, caramelizing, browning, and grilling all bring out the umami in any foods because they free L-glutamate from protein.

Intentionally including more foods with umami into your diet can help ease cravings and also aid in the transition to veganism as meat and cheese both have intense umami flavor.