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The Fifth Taste

Feb 05, 2018

Playing on the theme of umami, also known as “the fifth taste”, which is a flavor sensation commonly described as rich, savory, and pleasant—a natural form of monosodium glutamate (MSG). Many chefs and skilled home cooks leverage ingredients which are high in glutamates, to enhance and fortify many dishes they prepare—a trend we are seeing take off in the culinary landscape. Some of the ingredients outlined below are examples of items which have high levels glutamates, AKA “Umami Bombs”:

  • Tomato paste
  • Garlic
  • Peppers
  • Anchovy paste
  • Black olives
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Mushrooms (especially porcini)
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Wine vinegar

The end result yields a product that is highly nuanced, by mimicking a wide variety of complex and layered flavors.

Many of the products that Custom Culinary® has available in our branded portfolio provide simple operational solutions for adding a ton umami flavor to dishes. Below is a quick highlight of some of my favorite ways to incorporate them into culinary applications:

Sundried Tomato Pesto: A contemporary Mediterranean blend of sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, basil and oregano that brings a uniquely authentic flavor to pasta dishes and flatbreads.

Wasabi Ginger Ponzu: A versatile glaze-style sauce made from lemony ponzu soy sauce, fresh ginger and just the right balance of wasabi horseradish, which can be used to season anything from salad greens to sashimi.

Savory Roasted Vegetable Base: Authentic caramelized sweetness of roasted vegetables combine for a well-balanced and blended vegetable base, providing unprecedented menu versatility—can be used as the foundation for broths/soups or as a seasoning for hummus and spreads.

Southwest Flavor Concentrate: A traditional Southwestern blend of chipotle and jalapeno peppers, red peppers, onion and garlic—simply add to taste in your signature sauces, soups, dressings, spreads, entrees, sides and more.

Parmesan Alfredo Sauce: A gluten free alfredo sauce made with fresh milk, cream, with fresh parmesan cheese, and a mild pepper note—perfect for as a sauce for pasta or baked in a casserole application.

So many creative options and opportunities to incorporate a ton of flavor, without leading with salt or fat—with this intensity of flavor also comes additional nutritional benefits. Feel free to experiment with familiar platforms, paired with unusual flavors—or leverage these flavors in healthy cooking applications such a steaming or poaching. However you end up using these ingredients, feel free to explore and experiment with these flavor-packed bombs!


Harness the power of umami to create menu items that are savory, craveable and rich in complex flavor. Commonly referred to as the fifth taste, umami describes the mouthwatering “meaty” quality of such ingredients as aged cheeses, roasted tomatoes and mushrooms, miso, soy and fish sauce. The flavors we perceive as umami indicate the presence of glutamates (amino acids) and ribonucleotides in that particular ingredient. While low levels of these compounds occur naturally in many raw foods, cooking techniques that break down proteins and glutamic acid intensify the effect of umami. And because umami counterbalances saltiness, operators can incorporate umami-packed ingredients as a way to create healthy, delicious dishes that are lower in sodium and calories.

Sun-dried tomatoes. Roasted mushrooms. Bacon and onion jam. These are just some of the ingredients that bring the “wow” factor of umami to dishes across your menu. Get inspired with our on-trend recipes!

  RECIPES featuring Custom Culinary®  branded products

Cheese Tortellini with Prosciutto Alfredo Pesto
Bold flavors shine in this creamy pasta dish, bringing an unexpected element of sun-dried tomato pesto to the forefront. View recipe

Bacon, Onion and Fig Croque-monsieur
This take on the classic French sandwich showcases our versatile Gold Label Bacon Onion Marmalade. View recipe

Garlic Grana Padano Chicken Wings
Put an elegant spin on the game-day staple with these seasoned grilled chicken wings. View recipe

Pulled Pork and Bacon Waffles with Wild Mushroom Red Eye Gravy
Capitalize on the savory waffle trend with this unique breakfast or brunch dish. View recipe

  MENU INSPIRATION featuring Custom Culinary®  proprietary products

Roasted Gochujang Wings
Double-fried chicken wings are dressed in savory, spicy Custom Culinary® Gochujang and Yellow Miso Sauce and topped with fried sliced garlic and green onion. Served with additional gochujang-miso sauce for dipping.

Pasta Puttanesca
Al dente spaghetti tossed in a rich Custom Culinary® Tomato and Kalamata Olive Jam, finished with freshly ground black pepper and grated Parmesan.

Savory Porchetta Sandwich
Pork belly rubbed in Custom Culinary® Black Garlic and Balsamic Vinegar Glaze and herbs, then rolled, roasted and thickly sliced, served on toasted ciabatta with shaved ricotta salata, sautéed broccolini and a cherry mostarda.

Pork Bolognese Flatbread
Herb-brined pork shoulder, braised in Alfredo sauce, then pulled and piled on crispy flatbread with fresh fennel, roasted grapes, chopped Italian parsley. Finished with a Custom Culinary® Black Truffle and Honey drizzle.

 From savory bases to completely customized glazes and sauces, we offer a wide range of products  that bring complex umami flavors to your menu items with ease. 



  • Black Garlic and Balsamic Vinegar Glaze
  • Kalamata Olive and Tomato Jam
  • Gochujang and Yellow Miso Sauce
  • Black Truffle and Honey Spread
  • Sweet Corn and Parmesan Spoonbread 

*Products are customized; please contact your Custom Culinary® representative for more information. 

In his latest blog post, Richard Reilly, CEC, AAC gives a rundown of the most  umami-packed ingredients, along with his favorite Custom Culinary® products that can help you capitalize on the trend. Read more

FlavorIQ® from Custom Culinary® is a revolutionary approach to product development. Our four-step process delivers fast, intelligent menu innovations to meet your needs. Click here to learn more about Custom Culinary® and FlavorIQ®.

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