Vegan Sources of Umami

Good cooks will all instinctively know about balancing the tastes; sweet, sour, salty and bitter, but there’s a very important 5th taste, umami, that is trickier to describe. The Japanese translation of ‘umami’ is a delicious savouriness – but how is that different from salty?

I would describe it as a sort of humming background flavour, rich and rounded, associated with broths and meat, but it is also very prevalent in plants. Umami is found in foods that contain a high level of glutamate, a naturally occurring amino acid. Although many of these foods are animal products, it does occur in plant based foods too, so no one needs to miss out on the 5th taste. Here are some plant based ways to get more umami in your life.

Seasoning, Spices & Herbs

Use spices like smoked paprika, cumin and coriander seeds to impart a smokey, meaty umami to many dishes. Toast the spices before adding them to your dish to release the oils and make the most of all that flavour.

Green tea (and black tea) is umami rich, add it as a secret ingredient in your brothy soups and stews for an extra layer of flavour. Try brewing an umami rich broth of green tea, dried mushrooms and dried seaweed. Drain, stir in some miso paste and enjoy with vegetables, silken tofu and noodles.

Nutritional yeast brings umami in a cheesy form, it’s a great replacement for parmesan cheese. Use it to sprinkle over popcorn, risotto, soups or pasta, or whisk it into a vegan cheese sauce.

Mustard, miso, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil…all make brilliant seasonings or marinades to add umami to your vegetables.


Mushrooms, seaweed, tomatoes, onions, garlic, broccoli, beetroot, cabbage, celery and more are all naturally high in delicious glutamates.

Dried vegetables have an even more concentrated supply so think about adding dried mushrooms, tomatoes and seaweed into your dishes for an extra layer of flavour. Tomato puree is another way to get a concentrated dose of umami.

Fermenting or cooking your vegetables in certain ways adds even more umami deliciousness! Read more about that below.

Fermented Foods

Fermented vegetables go far beyond sauerkraut and kimchi. Think about adding miso, soy sauce, wine, dark vinegars, beer, kombucha, mustard, olives, chocolate, coffee, capers…to your cooking. All these mouthwatering fermented foods are mouthwatering for a reason.

Cooking Techniques

The way you prepare a vegetable can markedly affect its flavour. Think about the difference between a boiled Brussels sprout and a roasted one. Roasting, grilling, pan frying, charring, smoking, barbecuing, caramelising…all these techniques will increase that essential umami flavour in your dish.

Toasted or caramelised flavours are so good! Add toasted sesame oil and toasted seeds to your meals for an instant savoury hit.

Sowing the Seeds of Love

These lyrics from ‘Tears for Fears’ may not have been talking about plants, but they do describe activities on the farm this week.

The last seven days have been a stretch on the farm for all sorts of reasons. We are very lucky to have, in every area of our business, strong teams and the farm is no exception.

When you don’t need to ask and yet the lads put in 12-hour days to get the sowing done before the rain you know you have special people. 

In vegetable farming it is about a great many things but right at the top of the list is timing.

Getting the timing right is powerful stuff and the race against the rain in the West of Ireland is always a close call and fraught with uncertainty.

I am relieved that the carrots, parsnips, beetroot, and spinach are all now in the ground. There is more to sow, but the first batches are sown and that has for now stilled the vague buzz of concern at the back of my mind that we will not win the race against the weather.

The first tomatoes, cucumbers and a host of broccolis, cabbages, kales, romanescos and more are all planted and making good progress.

So, we march on, the first weeding is happening the first harvest of new season crops too, our own gorgeous lettuce and spinach, chard, radish parsley and more.

‘Feel the pain, talk about it’ another lyric from the same great song. There has been hard work certainly, pain a little, satisfaction at a job well done for sure. But there is pain in the modern world of food production and we in our own little way we are attempting to set that right.

Although we have been very busy with the work of growing food our care for the land has certainly not been forgotten, the wildflowers, the hedges and wildlife, the trees, the birds and beehives, the pigs and the foxes, the work on those long term valuable investments has already been done in quieter days.

The fruits and benefits of which now we can see.

Every day I am so grateful to be able to do this, I am grateful to you for giving us and our farm the opportunity to thrive.

Your choice to get a box from us is an amazingly positive thing and you should know it is making a difference for you and your families health, and for the health of the planet.

Thank you.


PS: Have you tried our new repeat order system yet? You can set up an order for delivery every week and you can pause it or change it at any time.  So if you need certain things each week why not add them to your regular fruit and veg order and never miss your order deadline again?