The Umami-Rich Ingredient To Elevate Salted Caramel Sauce

Pick almost any dessert and we'll bet it goes great with salted caramel. This thick, gooey concoction has elements of fat, sweetness, and saltiness, and when you consume it, endogenous opioids, chemicals found in the brain, become unleashed, per Independent. The source further explains that hedonic escalation then tends to occur, which, in layman's terms, means that your cravings for salted caramel go way up. Take that, hot fudge.

If that's not enough, Barry Callebaut states that caramel is the epitome of indulgence. Its golden colors can be lightened or darkened, and its flavors can take on a different personality. It's also associated with nostalgia and familiarity since many people grew up eating it. And, with additions like sea salt and a touch of smokiness, caramel has somehow managed to blossom while staying true to its roots.

Speaking of flavorful variations, you've likely come across quite a few that go beyond salted caramel. According to Craftsy, you can enhance caramel with coffee, molasses, reduced champagne, or chili. Or, you can use the following ingredient for an umami boost that takes caramel to a whole new level.

Grab some miso

Miso, along with fish, tomatoes, and soy sauce, contains an amino acid known as glutamate, per Miso Tasty. Glutamate is associated with umami, which is one of the five tastes we can detect, aside from salty, sweet, bitter, and sour flavors, via Ajinomoto. The latter source goes on to explain that umami-rich foods have meatiness and depth to them, which tend to make our mouths water for more. And if there's a lot of glutamate in said umami-rich food, these benefits only go up (per Miso Tasty). Fortunately, in the case of miso, its glutamate levels are off the charts, especially when compared to all of the other amino acids it contains, as explained by the Umami Information Center.

Now that it's been established that miso is packed with glutamate, and thus, umami, how does this relate to caramel? Well, as Food52 mentions, elements of earthiness, saltiness, and savoriness are produced when miso is added to salted caramel, which make the caramel even more irresistible. And, since there's an umami-forward aspect to miso caramel, you're going to get that same level of depth that creates a salivating response, as mentioned by Ajinomoto.

Aside from the obvious, which is using this new finding on dessert, Food52 suggests broiled chicken thighs, ribs, and carrots as tasty pairings. Use it as a baste, a glaze, or a drizzle for anything you can imagine. And if you're skeptical, start with a small amount and see how it tastes!