What Actually Is Umami?

By now, you’ve probably heard the term “umami” tossed about on your favourite Food Network Canada shows, but what actually is umami?


With some help from this video from Chef Tiffany Derry of Bobby’s Triple Threat, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about umami.

What is umami?

Umami is one of the five basic tastes or flavour profiles that our palate can pick up on, alongside sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Also known as savouriness, umami is the profile that makes something taste extra delicious and even craveable. The term itself was first used in 1908 by Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda who discovered the chemical basis of this flavour profile — glutamates and nucleotides – and how our taste receptors respond to them. Tiffany Derry describes umami not as a specific flavour, but more as a note that hits when you eat certain things.

Related: These Spicy Bibimbap Tostadas are Loaded with Umami Flavours

How do I add umami to a dish?

Umami occurs naturally in mushrooms, fish sauce, anchovies, cheese, soy and tomatoes, but there are other ways to create this note too. For example, the browning and crispiness created when cooking meat over high heat is umami.

There are several ways you can easily add umami to a dish. Roasting, braising, sauteing and browning are techniques that create umami. You can incorporate miso, bonito flakes or a Parmesan rind to elevate a dish.

Related: Save Those Parmesan Rinds and Make This Umami-Rich Broth

Simply put, umami is the flavour bomb that transforms food from satisfying to crave-worthy and exceptionally delicious.

Check out the full video above for a lesson in umami from Chef Tiffany Derry. See more of Tiffany on Bobby’s Triple Threat on Food Network Canada. Stream Live or On-Demand with STACKTV. Try it free today!