The Umami Ingredient That Gives Soup A Flavor Blast

Soups are inherently cozy with warm broth, hearty vegetables, and maybe some noodles, pasta, or dumplings. But sometimes your go-to bowl could use a bit more oomph in the savory department. You may have perfected balancing flavors like salty and sweet in your soup, but have you considered adding umami? Disregarding umami, the fifth taste, when creating your homemade soups is a huge missed opportunity for what could be your most delectable bowl yet.

But how do you incorporate umami into your soup? Many ingredients contain the amino acid glutamate, which creates an umami flavor. But there's one "secret weapon" umami ingredient that can richly deepen the flavor intensity of your soup: shiitake mushroom powder. You don't even need fresh shiitake mushrooms to get the job done. Include shiitake mushroom powder in your pantry staples alongside your other essential powdered seasonings and you can add a hit of umami to your soups anytime.

Using shiitake mushroom powder in your soups

If you're not usually a fan of shiitake mushrooms themselves, you can still incorporate the powdered version. The powder cuts straight to the umami taste, leaving most of the shiitake-ness behind. It's a simple shortcut to a blast of umami flavoring, and your soup will benefit whether it's meaty or entirely plant-based. But when using shiitake mushroom powder, it's important to keep in mind how it can change your soup's texture and appearance. 

Shiitake mushroom powder works best in thick, creamy soups. The powder is thick, which creates a bit of cloudiness in the broth. So, if your aim is a broth that's pure and clear, keep in mind that shiitake mushroom powder could sully it, turning the soup a murky gray. But when it comes to creamy broths, shiitake mushroom powder will dissolve well. And all it takes is about a teaspoon to heavily transform the soup.

More clever uses for mushroom powders

While shiitake mushroom powder brings intense umami right up front, other mushroom powders are more subtly flavored while still adding a dash of umami to your soups. For a lighter umami, consider porcini mushroom powder. This mushroom powder is more delicate and is commonly used in Italian cooking, making it a great umami ingredient for upgrading your pasta sauce. Note that the taste of your dish will change based on the kind of mushroom powder that you use.

In addition to elevating soups and sauces, don't underestimate mushroom powder as your secret ingredient when seasoning meats. Mix it with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, or use it on its own for a finger-licking dry rub. Mushroom powder shines when used on grilled meats since heat brings it alive. Let it sizzle on meats, vegetables, or slowly cook it in your soups for a blast of flavor that pays off.