What is Umami?

Umami; alongside salty, sweet, sour and bitter; is one of the basic tastes. Associated with "savouriness", the term was coined in Japan in the last century, but it can be found in lots of cuisines. But what's the hype? It's been said that incorporating umami into the vegan diet can help one in making the transition from omnivore to herbivore:

Need some inspiration on ways to incorporate umami into the vegan diet? Here are a few:

  • Mushrooms
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Miso paste
  • Nuts
  • Avocado
  • Olives
  • Seaweed

    Grilled Aubergine With Ginger Dressing (courtesy of One Green Planet)

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 Aubergine With Ginger Dressing. Aubergines 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.


  • 6 aubergines
  • 2-3 spring onions
  • 2-inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • 1/2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 2-3 red Thai chilis
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for cooking
  • 1 cup coconut rice, cooked

  1. Halve the aubergines length ways and place them cut side down under a grill on medium-high heat. Brush thoroughly with olive oil and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the skin is starting to brown and crackle. Flip over, brush the cut sides with olive oil, and grill for a further 6-8 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, make the sauce in a bowl by whisking together the sesame oil, mirin, tamari, and rice wine vinegar. Finely grate the ginger, add it to the sauce, and stir to combine.
  3. Finely slice both the spring onion and the red chili.
  4.  Divide the coconut rice between three bowls. When the aubergines are ready lay them atop the rice bowls, cut side up. Drizzle with the sauce and finish off by sprinkling over the sesame seeds and thin slices of chili and spring onion.

Another delicious recipe to try: Sriracha Tofu Bagel Sandwich (courtesy of One Green Planet)

This recipe is a marriage of bagels and rice paper rolls, arguably two of the most delicious 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!

Ingredients for the sandwich

  • 1-2 bagels
  • Oil, for frying
  • 1 10-ounce block of tofu, sliced length ways
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1 ripe mango cheek, finely sliced
  • 1/4 red cabbage, finely sliced
  • 2 small radishes, finely sliced
  • A handful of spinach
  • A handful of bean sprouts
  • 6 tablespoons peanut satay sauce (recipe below)
  • A handful of coriander
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Ingredients for the sauce

  • 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons smooth, natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoon coconut milk
  • 1 small of fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1 medium clove of garlic, finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon ketjap (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce/tamari
  • Lime juice from 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha/hot sauce
  • Salt, to taste
  • A generous amount of tellicherry pepper
  • A pinch of ground coriander
  • A pinch of ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon palm sugar, finely grated

Instructions to make the sauce

  1. To make the sauce, combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Instructions to make the sandwich

  1. Heat oil in a pan, add the tofu, and cook until slightly browned. Add the Sriracha and lime juice and toss. Season with salt and place aside.
  2. Cut the bagels in half and toast on a medium hot pan, until slightly browned. Place the bottom half on a plate and arrange the red cabbage, mango, spinach, radish, bean sprouts, and coriander on top, seasoning with salt and pepper in between layers.
  3. Top with the tofu and cover with a few tablespoons of peanut satay sauce and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Top with the other half of the bagel and serve.

Get in touch

What do you think about umami? Do you agree that the above ingredients are a good source of umami for vegans? Do you have any recommendations to add to the list? Let  me know your thoughts. As a private/personal chef and food consultant/ food developer working across Leicester and the surrounding regions, I love nothing more than to talk about all things foodie so get in touch today!