Have you heard of umami? Umami is one of the five basic tastes — the other tastes are sweet, salty, spicy, and bitter. The word “umami” is Japanese and roughly translated, it means “a pleasant savory taste,” but the experience of tasting umami is said to be difficult to describe. It includes sensations such as furriness of the tongue which stimulates the back of your throat and the roof of your mouth, which sounds bizarre, but it’s actually very tasty. Umami makes foods savory and satisfying. You can use spices like cumin, smoked paprika, rosemary, and thyme to help you recreate the taste of your favorite meaty dishes. These Smoky Paprika Beet Burgers With Spicy Tahini Sauce use smoked paprika in the burgers and in the sauce to bring that satisfying umami flavor to the table.
Umami is commonly found in East Asian cuisine. This recipe for Soothing Miso Soup is a homemade vegan version of what would typically be served to you at Japanese restaurants and it gets its umami taste from red miso paste. This Broccoli Rabe Pizza With Carrot-Miso Sauce and Hazelnuts uses a sauce that’s made from steamed carrots that are puréed with garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and miso paste, which gives it its umami flavor. But, umami doesn’t only come from miso! Tomatoes are said to be rich in umami taste.
Whether you’ve heard of umami or whether it happens to be your favorite flavor, don’t miss out on trying these 10 recipes with umami flavor.
1. Baked ‘Fish’ Cakes With Lemon Herb Mayo
These Baked ‘Fish’ Cakes With Lemon Herb Mayo capture a New England vibe while bringing some new flavor to the table. The cakes themselves are made from chickpeas that are processed until smooth, then combined with lemon juice, vegan mayonnaise, salt, and pepper. Nori, Japanese dried seaweed, is torn up and added to the batter along with white miso paste to really let the umami flavor shine through. They’re then baked, not fried, until crispy and golden.
2. Braised Tofu With Baby King Oyster Mushrooms
In this recipe for Braised Tofu With Baby King Oyster Mushrooms, tofu is stir-fried until golden and served in a umami sauce made from soy sauce, sesame oil, and mushroom seasoning with cornstarch as a thickener. It’s garnished with baby king oyster mushrooms and goji berries, both of which are pan-fried in a homemade sauce for added flavor. Serve this comforting dish with a side of fresh rice or noodles of your choice.
3. French Onion Soup With Cheese Toasts
French onion soup is a timeless classic, and this vegan French Onion Soup With Cheese Toasts is just as delicious and satisfying as the original. Caramelized onions simmered in a rich broth with a piece of cheesy toast on top. Soy sauce is added to the broth to give it a satisfying umami taste. The broth is savory, the vegan cheese is melty, and the toasts are perfect for soaking up all that savory goodness.
4. Deconstructed Sushi Bowl
You don’t have to be a sushi chef to create something beautiful! This Deconstructed Sushi Bowl has all the flavors you love served in a bowl. It starts with a bed of sticky sushi rice, followed by avocado and fresh vegetables that are drizzled in a sweet umami sauce. A sprinkle of black sesame seeds for garnish adds just a touch more flavor and creates a lovely presentation. Enjoy this dish for lunch at home, or take it with you to work or school.
5. Seaweed and Tofu Poke
Poke is a traditional Hawaiian dish made of Ahi Tuna. This Seawood and Tofu Poke substitutes the tuna with tofu and adds seaweed for that fishy, savory umami flavor. The tofu is tossed in ginger, lime, garlic, onions, and soy sauce. Wakame, which is a type of kelp, is also included in the dish. Serve this seafood-inspired dish nice and cold.
6. Sriracha Tofu Bagel Sandwich
This Sriracha Tofu Bagel Sandwich is a marriage of bagels and rice paper rolls, arguably two of the best things in the world. It starts with tofu that’s coated in a spicy, creamy, and umami peanut sauce. The softness of the tofu and the spiciness of the sauce contrasts with the crispness of the vegetables. For the bagels, you can use your favorite kind, or just make your own!
7. Creamy Cauliflower and Parsnip Miso Soup
When you’re craving a soup of a different kind, this Creamy Cauliflower and Parsnip Miso Soup should definitely be the menu. In this recipe, cauliflower, parsnips, and a whole head of garlic are roasted in the oven until tender. They’re then combined with a miso broth and puréed into a soup that’s thick, creamy, and flavorful. Topped with oven-roasted mushrooms and garnished with sliced green onions, this soups is as delicious as it is photo-worthy. Serve this with a fresh salad topped with a ginger dressing, or enjoy it on its own as a light lunch.
8. Grilled Eggplant With Ginger Dressing
As the days get warmer, you’ll want to fire up the grill. What better way to kick off grill season than with this Grilled Eggplant With Ginger Dressing. Japanese eggplants are halved and grilled until they begin to brown. They’re then coated with a gingery and umami dressing that complements the creaminess of the cooked eggplant. Serve these eggplants on a bed of freshly cooked coconut, with more vegetables on the side.
9. Chilled Udon Noodles With Wasabi Avocado Dressing
This recipe for light and fresh Chilled Udon Noodles With Wasabi Avocado Dressing combines cooling cucumber, beets, and carrots with soft noodles. It’s then topped with a creamy, spicy, and umami avocado and wasabi dressing. Bring this noodle salad to work, or enjoy it at home with a side of miso soup.
10. Brown Sugar Miso Fiddlehead Ferns
Never heard of fiddleheads? They’re the young, green shoots of ferns that are harvested in the early spring and can be found in farmers markets. They have a mild and nutty asparagus-like flavor. In this quick and easy Brown Sugar Miso Fiddlehead Ferns, fresh fiddleheads are sautéed with sweet brown sugar and umami miso. Pair this with steamed rice and roasted vegetables of your choice for a light spring meal.
There are so many different ways to achieve umami in your plant-based dishes. What’s your favorite way to experience the fifth taste?
Lead image source: Grilled Eggplant With Ginger Dressing