What is considered umami?

Umami is the salty or meaty taste of food. The first, glutamate, is an amino acid found in vegetables and meat. Umami, also known as monosodium glutamate, is one of the fifth major flavors, including sweet, sour, bitter and salty.


means “essence of delight” in Japanese, and its flavor is often described as the meaty, savory treat that deepens flavor.

People test umami through taste receptors that normally respond to glutamates and nucleotides, which are widely present in meat broths and fermented products. Glutamates are commonly added to some foods in the form of monosodium glutamate (MSG), and nucleotides are commonly added in the form of inosine monophosphate (IMP) or guanosine monophosphate (GMP). Since umami has its own receptors rather than arising from a combination of traditionally recognized taste receptors, scientists now consider umami to be a distinct flavor. Foods that have a strong umami flavor include meats, seafood, fish (including fish sauce and canned fish, such as Maldivian fish, katsuobushi, sardines and anchovies), tomatoes, mushrooms, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, meat extract, yeast extract, cheeses and soy sauce.

Borrowing from Japanese (), umami can be translated as a pleasant salty taste. This neologism was coined in 1908 by the Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda based on a nominalization of umai () delicious. The compound (flavored with honey ()) is used to give a more general feeling that a food is delicious. There is currently no English equivalent of umami; however, some close descriptions are fleshy, salty, and broth-like.

Umami is the fifth flavor along with salty, sweet, bitter and sour. The Japanese translation for umami is pleasant, salty or delicious. Umami is a word used to describe rich and salty foods with a certain je ne sais quoi. Just like you think of sugar when you think of sweetness, food experts think of glutamate when they consider umami.

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