Achieve Seitan Umami

Achieve Seitan Umami

You know about sweet, salty, sour, and bitter, but is your seitan still lacking that certain, something? Give it the power of the 5th flavor sense – umami!

What Exactly is Umami, Anyway?

By textbook definition, umami is a naturally-occurring amino acid known as glutamate which can be found in both meat and vegetables alike. By looser terms, umami is a savory element that can sometimes seem to be lacking in our wheat-meat creations.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

We can’t really talk about umami without also discussing Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). MSG is derived from glutamate, the naturally-occurring amino acid mentioned earlier. This controversial ingredient is umami in a shaker, such as this one from Spice Supreme.

If you’d like to give MSG a try, it’s best to add it to dishes that already have a bit of a savory element as it will further enhance those flavors. All you need is approximately half of a teaspoon per pound of seitan, or the size of a small roast that would serve about 4 people. If using, I typically add it to my wet mix at the same time as the other seasonings.

Regardless of your stance on MSG, you can still find lots of plant-based sources of umami. So check out the list below for some tips to make your beaf taste a little more like beef and your chickun taste a little more like chicken, with no harm done!

Beaf

  • Mushrooms – Typically dried porcini or shitaki evoke the most depth of flavor (and contain the most glutamate), usually ground into a powder form. Adding fresh oyster mushrooms sautéed in oil and steak seasoning can also provide a shreddy texture. Check out this shitaki mushroom powder called Takii Umami Powder
  • Soy sauce/Liquid aminos – With a savory depth and a salty finish, this umami-packed flavor-enhancer also brings a deep color to your beaf.
  • Vegan worcestershire sauce – This rich accompaniment with tart and sometimes bitter/sweet notes makes an excellent companion to anything “beefy.”  Annies Organic is a highly-rated brand, but if you don’t want to buy it – make your own!
  • Marmite / Vegemite – Loaded with glutamate, these 2 powerhouses are about as much savory as you can pack into a teaspoon.
  • Mollasses – Deep in color, rich and sweet. Try adding a little to your beaf wet mix or a little more to a broth. It can also be used in a glaze with broth when basting to help develop a thicker, crispier “skin.”
  • Coffee – A small amount instant coffee in your wet mix can lend a little bitterness to help enhance the depth of your savory. An additional benefit is color.
  • Red wine – A little in your wet mix, a little for your gravy, a little for your pan sauce, and don’t forget a little for the cook!
  • Dried seasonings:
    • Black pepper
    • Onion
    • Garlic
    • Paprika
    • Red pepper flakes
    • Check out this recipe for steak seasoning
  • Herbs:
    • Parsley
    • Thyme
    • Rosemary
  • Fruits/Vegetables:
    • Mushrooms – though dried top the list in umami, many varieties of fresh mushrooms, typically sautéed or roasted, add both a savory element and texture.
    • Tomatoes – high in glutamate, lovely color
    • Onions
    • Garlic
    • Carrots
    • Celery

Chickun

  • Nutritional yeast – High in glutamate and packed with savory flavor, nutritional yeast also packs in lots of B vitamins and protein. It’s light enough in color to include in your wet mix, but makes an even better component to a chicken-style broth.
  • Miso paste – Made from fermented soybeans, miso paste is a strong flavor enhancer that brings both umami and added protein to your chickun seitan.
  • White wine – Probably best used after you’ve mixed your seitan and are ready for the cooking process, but it does a lot to enhance flavor and bring umami your sautées, broths, gravies, and sauces.
  • Dried seasonings:
    • Sage
    • Parsley
    • Thyme
    • Rosemary
    • Majoram
    • Celery seed
    • White pepper
    • Salt – most chicken dishes need added salt since you are not adding soy and typically not too much miso paste.
    • Check out this recipe for Chickun Bullion.
  • Herbs:
    • Sage
    • Parsley
    • Thyme
    • Rosemary
  • Fruits/Vegetables:
    • Onions
    • Carrots
    • Celery
    • Garlic
    • Lemon

Porq

  • Soy sauce/Liquid aminos – Same savory depth and salty finish as with beaf, though for porq I tend to use a little less.
  • Liquid smoke – Most porq dishes benefit from at least a hint of smoke, while with some BBQ styles or bacun, you should go a little heavy-handed.
  • Nutritional yeast – Just as with chicken, it’s a great component that’s high in glutamate and packed with savory flavor, though you might use it a little more sparingly than you do with your chickun dishes.
  • Dried seasonings:
    • White Pepper
    • Onion
    • Garlic
    • Smoked paprika
    • Red pepper flakes
    • Cumin
    • Chili powder
    • Cayenne
    • Brown sugar
    • Check out this recipe for Ribz Rub.
  • Herbs:
    • Rosemary
    • Thyme
    • Oregano
  • Fruits/Vegetables:
    • Mushrooms – For porq, go for the lighter-in-color varieties such as white button or oyster (makes great shreds) either roasted or sautéed.
    • Onions
    • Garlic
    • Peppers – fire-roasted or chipotles bring savory additions, though if you’re worried about color use them as an accompaniment instead of in your mix.

Read more seitan articles here:

Where to Begin?

New to making sietan? Read some quick tips and tricks along with a handful of easy recipes to help you get started!

Is Seitan Healthy?

Learn about the nutritional values of vital wheat gluten and how to get the most protein from your seitan.

“Wash the Flour” Method

The "Wash the Flour" (WTF) method of making seitan from scratch is easier than you might think. Become a master by following these 10 simple steps.

2020-09-08T19:15:57-04:00Flavoring|

About the Author:

I created this website hoping to make it easier for people interested in seitan to be able to find, share, and rate recipes. Through both research and my own experimentation, I hope to answer some commonly asked questions in the "Helpful Tips" section, and you’ll find some of my own recipes here, too. Happy cooking!