7 Vegan Flavor Enhancers To Give The Needed ‘Oumph’ Depth To Your Plant-Based Meals
The one thing that is often lacking in vegan cooking is savory depth and body.
Which can be explained by a lack of umami, the fifth basic taste after salt, sweet, sour and bitter. The somewhat elusive taste of umami can be described as meaty and brothy.
Going vegan and removing meat and animal products from cooking removes major sources of umami, savory depth as well as body. Substituting meat with lentils or beans in a stew and expecting the exact same results will leave you rather disappointed. If you want to cook some really good vegan food, it becomes necessary to compensate for the lack of umami and body by using other methods. And it definitely is possible if you have knowledge of what plants provides umami.
Here are 7 products that you can include in your vegan cooking endeavors to add that needed ‘oumph’, layers of flavor and savory depth.
Soy sauce is made by fermenting a paste of soybeans, grain and brine.
There are a wide variety of different soy sauces but what they all have in common is a deep salty umami flavor.
A splash added to whatever your cooking will add some serious savory depth and is an excellent addition to stews and casseroles.
Light soy sauce, or Japanese soy sauce, could be used when you don’t want the soy to be very prominent but still add flavour.
The darker and thicker types of soy sauce, or Chinese soy sauce, has a much richer flavor and will add heaps of color and umami. Works perfectly when making some type of veggie pattie or vegan meatballs.
Tomato puree adds a really rich and almost meaty flavor.
Important to remember is to fry the tomato puree for a couple of minutes so as to take the edge of the rawness and instead bring out and develop the sweeter notes.
A tablespoon or two goes really well in stews and casseroles, for example a lentil bolognese, but again do make sure to add it in when you’re frying the onion and give it some time to cook.
Vegetable stock is a brilliant idea because it essentially is a distilled serum of various vegetables and adds a tremendous amount of flavor.
Usually I advice avoiding the stock cubes because they contain oil and other dubious ingredients. Try and find one with a clean ingredient list or make your own.
Using vegetable stock as liquid instead of water makes a really big difference in recipes. As an example lentils cooked in vegetable stock instead of water taste a whole lot better.
Actually I’d advise to use vegetable stock in most cases when a recipe asks for liquid to be added as it adds such a flavour-punch and body.
Liquid aminos is a protein concentrate based on soy beans.
It is very similiar to soy sauce and can be used in the same fashion to add savory depth and umami flavour. However, contrary to what the name suggests, I wouldn’t rely on this product for protein as it contains 0.5 grams per teaspoon.
Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning made from fermented soy beans and salt. Often other ingredients such as rice or barley are added as well.
White miso has a sweet and mild taste of umami while dark miso has a much stronger taste. Obviously one way to use this seasoning is in a traditional miso soup but it could just as readily be used anywhere where you want more umami and body.
Mushrooms have an earthy flavor and are a natural source of umami.
Dark mushrooms are even more potent in this regard. Shiitake mushrooms, porcini mushrooms and portabello have a very deep earthy umami flavour and can be added to any dish where you want more body.
A great way to use dried mushrooms is to add hot water and let sit for a while. Voila, you have a broth that will add tremendous amount of savory depth and can be added to whatever you’re creating in the kitchen.
I hope this gave you some ideas on how to take your vegan cooking to the next level!
Dea is passionate about pursuing gentle, pure living in all its forms. She’s a veg and fruit foodie, who loves to explore the healing properties of plant-based foods and then fully indulge in their sun-filled taste. She believes that “In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”