I heard mushrooms have an umami taste. What does that even mean?

by Dan
(Marfa, TX)

Pan Roasted Shiitake mushrooms

Pan Roasted Shiitake mushrooms


I’m vaguely familiar with the word “umami”. Mostly I hear it when people talk about Asia food. But I don’t really ‘get it’. Is it a taste I can actually identify, like sweet or sour?

And now I’m reading that mushrooms have an umami taste. Is that true? If so, what can I expect or look for? How can I find this taste in mushrooms?


What is umami?

It’s one of the core five tastes.

Sweet, sour, bitter, salty… and umami.

When we think of umami, we often think about savory things like salted broths and grilled steak.

But mushrooms? Do they taste like that? Are they a good source of umami?

The answer to both of these questions is YES!

For a long time, it was believed that mushrooms didn’t have much of an umami flavor. This all changed when researchers discovered that the compounds in mushrooms known as glutamic acid and 5-lipoidic acid are the same compounds that give seaweed, soy sauce, and Parmesan cheese their umami flavor.

To cook mushrooms to maximize their umami flavor, first, you’ll want to sauté them in a dry pan to bring out their liquid. Then, you can either simmer the mushrooms in a broth or liquid to make a very flavorful sauce. Alternatively, you can roast mushrooms with a bit of salt and oil to get a crispy, umami-rich topping.

One last thing… its their umami flavor that makes mushrooms popular as a meat substitute. With both beef and mushrooms having that umami taste, it’s only natural that companies looking to create meatless burgers will turn to mushrooms as one of their main ingredients.

I hope this answered your question! And if you're into cooking we have a whole page devoted to mushroom recipes.

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