Yes, you can add umami—that is, “meaty” flavor—without adding meat. The key is to use ingredients rich in glutamates and nucleotides, which are naturally occurring amino acids that contribute a savory flavor to food. In this video, Cook’s Illustrated’s executive food editor Keith Dresser and America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country TV shows’ tasting lab expert Jack Bishop share some ideas for adding savoriness to your dishes, without adding meat. (You can find all of their suggestions in your local supermarket, but if you can get your hands on some British Marmite or its similar-tasting Australian cousin, Vegemite, those are great sources of glutamates.)
We use this powerhouse Japanese ingredient to add complex, savory flavor to dressings, sauces, and dishes including broiled salmon, braised potatoes, and sautéed broccoli. Our favorite white miso is Hikari Organic White Miso.
King Oscar Anchovies – Flat Fillets in Olive Oil.
As anchovies age, their flavor develops into the complex, umami-rich product we love. Our favorites are the King Oscar Anchovies – Flat Fillets in Olive Oil.
Kikkoman Soy Sauce
Thanks to its relatively long fermentation time, our favorite soy sauce came across as “rich,” “well-balanced,” and “complex,” with a level of saltiness that was “just right.”