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Credit: Photo by Jacob Fox / Food Styling by Greg Luna / Prop Styling by Stephanie Hunter

Umami, the satiating, savory "fifth taste," is what gives ingredients like dashi, chicken bouillon, fish sauce, and Parmesan cheese their power to satisfy. But where does umami fit in a changing culinary landscape where more people are leaning into the power of plants? A new generation of makers is answering that question by deriving umami from vegetables and mushrooms to create robust vegan sauces, sprinkles, and soup bases. Our editors put this new wave of plant-based flavor boosters to work in our home kitchens; here are our favorites. 

Yondu

Soybeans go through a 100-day triple fermentation process and are then blended with vegetables to make this concentrated, salty, umami-rich vegetable stock. We liked using it in place of salt or meat-based stocks in soup, and a few drops deepened vegetable stir-fries and salad dressings. It's a wonderful replacement for bouillon cubes, oyster sauce, and dashi.

Ocean's Halo Vegan Fish Sauce

Whether you know it as nam pa, patis, tik trei or nuoc nam, fish sauce is a vital ingredient in many Eastern and Southeast Asian cuisines. Making traditional fish sauce involves a lengthy, three- to 12-month fermentation process—as salt breaks down the fish, the separated liquid is drawn off to yield fish sauce. But what if you want that umami without the fish? Ocean Halo uses dried kelp and mushroom powder to bolster their vegan "fish sauce." While the distinct flavor of fish sauce cannot truly be replicated, there is no lack of flavor in this warm, earthy condiment, which adds oomph to stir fries, curries, and noodle dishes.

Megachef Mushroom Sauce

Megachef captures the mouthwatering essence of their premium oyster sauce with this vegan, mushroom-based version. To mimic the umami that would typically come from the low and slow process of simmering oysters, Megachef smokes shiitake mushrooms using teak wood and then slowly simmers them with raw brown sugar and salt to make a rich and viscous sauce with a slight touch of sweetness—the perfect marriage of sweet and savory.

Lahtt Vegan Chili Oil Sauce

Twist off the lid of this condiment and your nose is greeted with a sweet and smoky plum-like aroma with a touch of heat that gets your mouth watering. Founder Maxine Lau's recipe is a new take on shacha sauce, a popular Taiwainese condiment used to add umami to soups and marinades. Shacha is traditionally made with a mixture of garlic, chiles, dried fish, and dried shrimp, but Lau swaps the seafood for fermented black beans and dried shiitake mushrooms, giving an earthy aspect to her savory sauce. The result is the perfect plant-based homage to her heritage. Lahtt is Cantonese for "hot," and this oil certainly makes our hot list. Use it for your dumpling dipping delight, a simple weeknight marinade, or as an all-in-one level-up to your stir fry game.

Muso Sprinkling Furikake Seasoning

Before the everything bagel seasoning pop culture craze, there was furikake. It's an over 100-year-old Japanese seasoning, thought to be originally created out of a pharmacist's concern about a lack of calcium in the Japanese diet. Dried salted fish flakes, which are high in calcium, presented a solution to the problem, and with the addition of sesame and herbs, this condiment became a staple seasoning in Japanese cuisine. While this furikake skips the fish flakes, Muso's commitment to balance and health through macrobiotics continues to honor the tradition of combining great taste with what's good for you. Select from colorful flavors like umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums), nori, and yuzu to add some razzle dazzle to your next meal.