What Does Umeboshi Taste Like?

As a home cook who has spent some time living in Japan, I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing a wide array of unique and flavorful ingredients. One such ingredient that left a lasting impression on me is Umeboshi.

The first time I tried it, I didn’t like it. But after trying different dishes, it grew on me, and now I love it! So, what does Umeboshi taste like?

Imagine biting into a small, wrinkled plum and being hit with a wave of sourness, followed by a tangy punch and a hint of saltiness. It’s a flavor that can truly awaken your senses and best not to eat alone.

These Japanese pickled plums are common in Japanese households, often served as a side dish or used as an ingredient in various recipes. How can you use it in your home? Let’s dig in below!

How Do Umeboshi Taste?

When you first taste Umeboshi, you might be shocked by its intense flavor. It’s like a rollercoaster ride for your taste buds, starting with a sharp sourness that makes your mouth pucker. It’s the high citric acid content in the plums, which gives them their distinct sourness.

What Does Umeboshi Taste Like

Following the initial sour punch, a wave of saltiness washes over your palate. This salty tang results from the pickling process, where the plums are soaked in a brine solution. The combination of sour and salty creates a unique flavor profile that’s both challenging and intriguing.

But don’t let the initial intensity deter you. As you continue to eat, you’ll start to notice a subtle sweetness that balances out the sour and salty notes. This complex interplay of flavors is what makes Umeboshi a truly unique ingredient in Japanese cuisine.

Varieties Of Umeboshi

Umeboshi comes in various forms, each with its unique taste profile. Here are a few of the most common varieties:

  • Shiso Umeboshi: These are pickled plums flavored with shiso leaves, giving them a vibrant red color and a slightly minty flavor that complements the sourness of the plums.
  • Honey Umeboshi: A sweeter variety, these umeboshi are pickled with honey. The added sweetness helps to balance the sour and salty flavors, making them a great choice for those new to umeboshi.
  • Katsuobushi Umeboshi: These umeboshi are flavored with katsuobushi, or dried bonito flakes. The result is a unique umami flavor that adds depth to the sour and salty taste of the plums.

Comparing Umeboshi With Other Fruits

Umeboshi are quite unique, but let’s see how they compare to some other fruits:

  • Apricots: While apricots are sweet and slightly tart, umeboshi is much more sour and salty. Umeboshi’s texture is softer and more wrinkled than that of apricots.
  • Olives: Olives and umeboshi share a similar salty flavor due to both being pickled. However, umeboshi have a stronger sour taste and a softer texture than olives.
  • Pickles: Like pickles, umeboshi are preserved in a brine solution, resulting in a salty flavor. However, umeboshi is much more sour and has a unique fruity undertone that pickles lack.

Do Umeboshi Taste Good?

If you enjoy bold, intense flavors, you might find Umeboshi quite enjoyable. The combination of sour, salty, and a hint of sweetness creates a unique flavor profile that can add a punch to any dish.

umeboshi japanese lunch box bento

However, the initial sourness can be quite strong, and the saltiness can also be overwhelming if you’re not used to it. But don’t be discouraged! Umeboshi is an acquired taste, and many people who didn’t like it initially have grown to love it.

umeboshi onigiri rice ball

In my experience, umeboshi are typically eaten as an ingredient in onigiri (rice balls). But they are used in savory dishes as well.

In terms of freshness, Umeboshi is pickled and preserved, so they can be enjoyed all year round. And you can store Umeboshi in the refrigerator to keep them fresh.

Unless you live in Japan, it’ll be nearly impossible to get fresh umeboshi, but since they are preserved products, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference.

An interesting note is that the plums are usually picked when they’re fully ripe, which is when they have the highest citric acid content. This is what gives Umeboshi its distinctive sour taste.

What Does Umeboshi Look Like?

Umeboshi are quite distinctive in appearance. They are small plums, usually about the size of a cherry, and have a wrinkled, shriveled texture due to the pickling process.

what umeboshi looks like

The color of Umeboshi can vary from light pink to a deep, reddish-purple, depending on the variety and the ingredients used in the pickling process.

Outside of  Japan, Umeboshi is usually sold in jars or vacuum-sealed packs. They’re often stored in their own pickling liquid, which helps preserve their flavor and freshness. When choosing a pack of Umeboshi, make sure the seal is intact, and the plums are fully submerged in the liquid.

If you happen to be in Japan, you can often find them in containers with clear plastic lids and no liquid. Look for plums that are plump and have a vibrant color. Avoid any Umeboshi that have spots of mold or a strange odor, as this could indicate that they’re not fresh.

Does Umeboshi Have Seeds?

Yes, Umeboshi contains a hard pit in the center, similar to other stone fruits like cherries or apricots. The pit is not edible and you should remove it before eating or cooking with Umeboshi.

The presence of the pit is something to be aware of when you’re enjoying Umeboshi. Whether biting into a whole plum or eating a dish containing Umeboshi, remember to be careful not to bite into the pit. It’s quite hard and could damage your teeth if you’re not expecting it.

How To Use Umeboshi

Recipes with Umeboshi

Umeboshi can be used in a variety of recipes to add a unique flavor. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Umeboshi Onigiri: This is a classic Japanese snack where rice is shaped into a triangle or ball and filled with umeboshi. The sourness of the umeboshi pairs perfectly with the mild flavor of the rice.
  • Umeboshi Pasta: This might sound unusual, but the tangy flavor of umeboshi works surprisingly well in pasta dishes. Simply toss cooked pasta with chopped umeboshi, olive oil, and some pickling liquid for a quick and flavorful meal.
  • Umeboshi Dressing: Blend umeboshi with olive oil, rice vinegar, and a touch of honey to make a unique salad dressing. The umeboshi adds a tangy punch that livens up any salad.

Side Dishes with Umeboshi

Umeboshi also makes a great addition to side dishes. Here are a few ideas:

  • Umeboshi Cucumber Salad: Slice cucumbers thinly, sprinkle with salt, and let sit for a few minutes. Rinse, then toss with chopped umeboshi and a splash of soy sauce. The crispness of the cucumber contrasts nicely with the soft umeboshi.
  • Umeboshi Pickled Radish: Slice radishes and mix with chopped umeboshi and a bit of the pickling liquid. Let sit for a few hours to allow the flavors to meld. This makes a tangy, crunchy side dish that’s perfect with grilled meats.
  • Umeboshi Rice: Mix cooked rice with chopped umeboshi for a simple, flavorful side dish. The umeboshi gives the rice a lovely pink color and a tangy flavor that’s sure to be a hit.

Umeboshi FAQs

What does umeboshi taste like?

Umeboshi, or Japanese pickled plums, have a distinctive taste that combines sour, salty, and a hint of sweetness. The initial taste is quite sour, thanks to the high citric acid content of the plums. A salty tang from the pickling process follows this. As you continue eating, you might notice a subtle sweetness that helps balance the intense flavors.

What are the health benefits of umeboshi?

Umeboshi are considered a superfood in Japan and are known for their various health benefits. They are rich in antioxidants and are believed to aid in digestion, help prevent fatigue, and promote liver health. They also have alkalizing properties, which can help balance the body’s pH levels.

How is umeboshi used in Japanese cuisine?

In Japanese cuisine, umeboshi is often served as a side dish with rice or used as a filling in onigiri, which are rice balls wrapped in seaweed. They can also be chopped up and added to salads, used to flavor pasta dishes, or blended into dressings and sauces.

What is the nutritional content of umeboshi?

Umeboshi are low in calories and fat but high in sodium due to the pickling process. They also contain small amounts of potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber. However, it’s worth noting that umeboshi are typically consumed in small quantities due to their strong flavor.

How is umeboshi made?

Umeboshi are made by pickling ume plums in a brine solution, often with shiso leaves for added flavor and color. The plums are harvested when fully ripe, which is when they have the highest citric acid content. After pickling, the plums are dried in the sun, which gives them their characteristic wrinkled texture.

My Tasty Thoughts

As a home cook who has had the pleasure of living in Japan, I can tell you that Umeboshi is one of those ingredients that leaves a lasting impression. Its intense sourness, balanced by a salty tang and a subtle sweetness, creates a flavor profile that’s unlike anything else.

From onigiri fillings to pasta sauces and salad dressings, Umeboshi is a versatile ingredient that can add a unique twist to various dishes. Remember, the world of food is full of surprises; sometimes, the most unexpected flavors leave the most lasting impressions.

About Justin Micheal

Hey, I’m Justin and the home cook behind Food Meets Flavor. I have a passion for cooking and making food delicious. So, I started this blog to help others understand what different types of food taste like and how to make everyday meals taste even better.