Umami is a relatively new concept in the West, but in Japan, where the taste was first identified over a century ago, it’s long been an essential dimension of cooking. Simply replacing plain salt with this Umami Seasoning Salt will amplify the savory taste in any dish you cook. This easy way to make any dish taste more delicious has made this an indispensable ingredient in my pantry.
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Why This Recipe Works?
- By taking advantage of the synergy of ingredients rich in glutamate and GMP, this umami seasoning blend creates more umami than the sum of its parts.
- Grinding the ingredients into a fine powder and mixing them with salt makes it easy to use this all-purpose seasoning in almost anything as a substitute for plain salt.
Ingredients for Umami Seasoning
- Konbu – Konbu is the Japanese word for kelp, and in Japan, it is harvested, dried, and aged to make soup stocks such as dashi. It makes such a potent addition to this umami seasoning because konbu is a rich source of an amino acid called glutamate. Not all konbu is the same, so if you can find it, I highly recommend using konbu from the Rausu area of Hokkaido, Japan. The konbu from this region is thicker and has a very meaty flavor that works well with this seasoning salt.
- Dried Shiitake Mushroom – Mushrooms contain a nucleic acid called guanosine monophosphate (GMP). Dried shiitake mushrooms are a particularly rich source of GMP, with a much higher nucleic acid concentration than fresh shiitakes. If you can’t find dried shiitake mushrooms, other dried mushrooms like porcini are another excellent alternative.
- Salt – There’s no need to get fancy here. I used regular table salt, but you could do this with kosher salt, sea salt, or finishing salts like fleur de sel. You could also omit the salt and just use the umami powder on its own, but I find it more convenient to mix this with salt because you can substitute this one ingredient into any recipe. The umami powder alone(without the salt) tends to clump up in a humid area, so if you don’t plan to mix it with salt, I recommend storing the powder with a desiccant to keep it from caking.
How to Make Umami Seasoning Salt
The first thing you need to do is turn the konbu and dried shiitake mushrooms into powder. One option is to break them into small pieces and add them to a spice grinder, blender, or food processor. Then you can run the machine until you have a fine powder. Another option is to use a stone mortar and pestle.
Once you have a very fine powder, you can just stir the umami powder with the salt to make the seasoning salt. If you plan to use the salt to sprinkle on foods like popcorn, potato chips, or French fries, you may want to grind the granules of salt into a finer powder as well to help it stick better.
As long as you keep the salt in a cool, dry place, the seasoning salt will last for years (but hopefully, you’ll find so many uses for it, that you’ll use it all up in a matter of weeks).
Variations on Umami Seasoning Salt
I like to keep this seasoning salt neutral so that it can be used in various dishes, but you can mix in other herbs and spices to transform it into a variety of different spice blends. Here are just a few ideas:
- Curry – Mix in some curry powder.
- Italian seasoning – Add some black pepper, garlic powder, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, and thyme.
- Lemon Pepper – Add dried lemon zest and black pepper
- Taco Seasoning – Add some chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper.
How to use Umami Seasoning
This Umami Seasoning Salt can be used in any savory dish as a substitute for regular salt. Use it to season steaks, veggies, chicken, pork, hamburgers, or salmon. Add it to soups, sauces, stews or rice. Sprinkle it on salads, eggs, broccoli, or potatoes. Or use it as a condiment on snack such as nuts, popcorn, or avocado toast. It also works great in the recipes below:
Umami is the fifth taste that’s often referred to as savory, alongside salty, sweet, sour, and bitter. Humans have taste receptors in our mouths that can sense the presence of certain amino acids and nucleic acids in foods that we eat, and they register in our brains as umami. If you wanna learn more about umami, check out my What is Umami post.
This Umami Seasoning is a seasoned salt that includes ingredients rich in glutamate and GMP. This results in a synergy that gives any food you season with this salt the taste of umami. A couple companies (like Trader Joe’s) are making packaged seasonings that combine a variety of umami-rich ingredients to make umami powder, but it’s super easy to make at home with this recipe.
You can use this umami salt as a 1:1 substitute for salt in any recipe. Since the other ingredients displace some of the salt, you’ll end up with less salt in your food, but it will still be flavorful, thanks to the boost in umami. If you feel like the food is not sufficiently salted, just add a little extra seasoning.
I can’t vouch for commercially available seasoning blends, but this recipe is vegan and vegetarian friendly.
- 5 grams konbu
- 3 grams dried shiitake mushrooms (stems removed)
- 150 grams salt (~1/2 cup)
- Break the konbu and shiitake mushrooms into small pieces and add them to a spice grinder, blender, or food processor. Run until the ingredients have been ground into a fine powder.
- Pour the mixture into a bowl with the salt and mix to combine.
- Store the umami seasoning salt in a sealed container.