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Umami: The one most misunderstood

Umami: The one most misunderstood

What this is: A look at the pairing possibilities that have that little something extra

Who it’s for: Anyone who loves exploring the depth of flavor possibilities.

The Umami Flavor Profile 

If you are old enough to remember the obsolete “food pyramid” then you may be old enough to know that flavors used to fall into sweet, salty, spicy, and bitter, with no umami to be found. But we know better now. We like to say that Umami is that little something extra that is hard to describe, but you know it when you taste it. Think truffle or roasted vegetables, miso soup or soy sauce glazed brussel sprouts. And we aren’t the only ones who love umami— cheese does, too!

This Category includes

  • Charcuterie - meats and salami
  • Truffles
  • Soy sauce
  • Miso
  • Added Herbs
  • Caramelized onions

Cheeses it pairs with

Wines it pairs with

  • Sparkling (Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, Lambrusco)
  • Sweet White (Riesling, Gewürtztraminer, Muscato, Chenin Blanc)
  • Rosé (Grenache, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Syrah)
  • Light Red (Pinot Noir, Gamay)
  • Medium Red (Merlot, Malbec, Chianti, Nebbiolo)
  • Bold Red (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Bordeaux, Tempranillo)
  • Dessert (Port, Sauternes, Ice Wine, Sherry)

Favorite Mixed Flavor Profile pairings:

  • Umami + Sweet → Rosemary Shortbread
  • Umami + Sweet → Onion Jam
  • Umami + Salty → Truffle Chips

Favorite umami pairing combos

  • Pepperoni crisps dipped in Harbison Cheese
  • Rosette de Lyon and Brebis Rousse d’Argental
  • Chex mix and anything smooth&melty
  • Burrata with truffle salt and balsamic vinegar on grilled bread

Unexpected umami pairing combos

  • Prosciutto-wrapped pickled peaches
  • Jamón Potato chips and Raclette
  • Willoughby cheese and Bjorn popcorn with nutritional yeast

On a cheese board

If you’re a meat eater, the easiest way to add umami to your cheese board is to pile on some charcuterie—get a two-fer with some truffle salami! If you lean away from meat, think about things like onion jam, anything soy glazed, even mushroom jerky! Depending on what you pick here you may be reaching for a bowl or folding salami into fun shapes. 


Umami is hard to describe but amazing to taste, look for it in roasted, glazed, truffled, and herbed foods. 


Scour your Pinterest recipes for ideas with umami. Consider using them on your next cheese board. Can the recipe you’ve found be served room temp instead? Can you cut it smaller? Put it on skewers, or just toss it in a bowl. Umami as a flavor profile is worth the work for the rewarding look on your guests faces when they experience that “something special” on your next cheese board.


Click the icons to download a pdf of this lesson and our two handy guides: How Cheese is Made and Cheese and Pairing Types.

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