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All About Umami

What do seared steak, tomato paste, sautéed mushrooms, and Parmesan cheese have in common? Umami. The so-called fifth taste—along with sweet, salty, sour, and bitter—umami is the complex savoriness that makes foods from shrimp to gravy to pizza so mouthwatering.  

Often described as “meaty,” umami-rich foods are just, well, delicious. Umami is a Japanese word that literally means “pleasant savory taste,” and it’s present in a range of ingredients from around the world, including many you likely have on hand

One reliable umami go-to: Worcestershire sauce. A must-have in Caesar salad and marinades, pantry-friendly Worcestershire combines salty, fruity, and earthy flavors for a mega hit of umami. Sun-dried tomatoes are another convenient source of umami complexity. While ripe tomatoes also have umami, the intensely concentrated flavor of sun-dried tomatoes makes them an umami secret weapon. And the lunchtime favorite BLT? You guessed it: savory, meaty, salty bacon is an umami powerhouse, too. Here are some more recipe-ready sources of umami to keep in the pantry or fridge to boost the flavor of whatever’s on the menu. 


We love Parmesan grated over pasta, salad, roasted veggies, beans, grains, popcorn, in fact, just about anything. But did you know the rind is also full of umami flavor? Store leftover Parmesan rinds in the freezer and toss them in soups and sauces for extra savory depth (just remember to fish them out before serving!). 

White Bean Soup with Greens and Parmesan 

Savor the richness of this nutrient-packed kale soup—a hearty option for lunch, dinner, or a satisfying afternoon pick-me-up. Enhanced with the savory umami kick of Parmesan, each spoonful is a simple delight that’s big on flavor.

Celery and Herb Salad in Caesar Dressing

A Caesar dressing adds umami-packed flavors to celery and herbs. It’s a great way to expand a salad’s depth of flavor. 


There’s a ton of umami in every tiny tin! When used in moderation, anchovies bring a salty, savory flavor to the party without leaving a fishy flavor. Sauté a couple of chopped anchovies with aromatic vegetables like garlic and shallots when you’re making a beef stew or pasta sauce or finely mince and incorporate into dressings for a rich foundation of flavor. You probably won’t even know they’re there.

 Linguine with Anchovies and Shallots 

Elevate your weeknight pasta with the bold trio of caramelized shallots, anchovies, and a hint of spicy red pepper. The combination is far from overpowering, instead leaving you with a luscious pasta dish that doesn’t require a lot of work.

Coriander-Rubbed Chicken with Salsa Verde

This simple variation of roast chicken showcases a flavorful rub of earthy coriander and a zesty Italian-style salsa verde featuring parsley and capers. The anchovies in the sauce add a rich umami taste that enhances every mouthful.


An essential part of many popular Asian cuisines, soy sauce is umami in a bottle. A small amount adds unmistakably rich, savory flavor to all kinds of meat, seafood, and veggie dishes. Try adding it to marinades, sauces, and braising liquids. Avoiding gluten? Look for tamari, a wheat-free soy sauce variety (just make sure it is labeled gluten free).  

Soy and Honey Pork Chops 

Upgrade your pork chops with a game-changing sauce featuring the dynamic trio of honey, soy, and nutty sesame oil. The umami punch from soy turns each bite into a flavor masterpiece, giving your lean pork chops a serious upgrade that’s short on words but big on taste. 

Grilled Cucumber Salad with Spicy Soy Vinaigrette

Elevate your cucumber game by grilling them—trust us, they’re delicious! Tossed with an umami-rich soy sauce and spicy sriracha vinaigrette, this mild veggie becomes an unexpected star.


Whether dried, fresh, or cooked, mushrooms are another umami explosion. With an earthy smell and meaty texture, button and portabella varieties make an especially satisfying addition to meat-free dishes. 

Pork Chops Smothered in Mushroom Gravy 

Savor pork chops in a rich, umami-packed sauce featuring meaty mushrooms and velvety sour cream. It’s comfort food with a flavorful twist. 

Five Spice Braised Chicken and Mushrooms 

If you find oyster mushrooms at the supermarket, try this Asian-inspired dish. The addition of oyster sauce (a thick, umami-rich condiment that usually does not contain oysters and is widely available) supplies another umami boost.


More than French fries’ best friend, ketchup is a versatile ingredient brimming with umami. In fact, the complex flavor of this popular condiment includes sweet and sour tastes, as well as umami.  A must-have for barbeque sauce, ketchup lends umami to all kinds of glazes and sauces. It also brings out the beefiness of meatloaf, meatballs, and burgers.   

 Boston Baked Beans 

Embrace the ease of a slow cooker for this classic side, where molasses, bacon, and the umami richness of ketchup join forces. It’s an easy shortcut to flavor, without the fuss.

 Burgers with Special Sauce

Give your classic burgers a tasty twist with our special sauce. Adding the sauce to your burger topping lineup is a quick way to add a boost of umami, thanks to the flavors from the ketchup.

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