The Rich Ingredient That Gives Canned Baked Beans A Punch Of Umami Flavor

Baked beans in skillet
Baked beans in skillet - Bhofack2/Getty Images

There are many words to describe canned baked beans, such as simple, easy, comforting, and familiar, but intriguing and captivating? Probably not, especially after you've had them one too many times. Fortunately, all it takes is an umami twist to change this, and soy sauce is the key ingredient to make the magic happen. Adding soy sauce to baked beans may sound a little odd at first, but you'll change your mind once you give it a try.

It's not without reason that soy sauce is so beloved across Asia, and in recent years around the globe as well. An umami powerhouse, it lends a complexity good enough to take almost any food up a notch. In canned baked beans, its rich depth of flavor highlights the savory, earthy qualities that are already present in the beans. Along with that is its ability to temper any sweetness in the sauce with its mild acidity. It also has its own subtle sweetness, that lingers at the back of the palate, particularly if you use a dark, thick soy sauce. These nuances come together seamlessly, giving you a bit of everything on the flavor spectrum in one dish.

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Soy sauce and soy beans
Soy sauce and soy beans - Kuppa_rock/Getty Images

A little goes a long way with soy sauce, so go in with a light hand. If you want to tone down the saltiness, we recommend using low-sodium soy sauce or diluting the normal variety with water. No matter what kind of soy sauce you use, a tablespoon for a can of beans is enough to impart umami flavor. Start with that minimum amount and adjust other seasonings as you cook.

To further emphasize the umami intensity, you can also include hoisin and Worcestershire sauce in the mix when heating your beans. Barbecue sauce is another fantastic ingredient to add, especially for infusing the dish with tangy, subtly spicy notes. You may prefer mustard for this, although this condiment hinges more on the peppery side. If you want to play up the sweetness of canned beans, on the other hand, with a darker sweetness to counteract the soy umami, include a few spoonfuls of brown sugar, dark molasses, or maple syrup. Alternatively, use tomato puree along with the soy for a thick, luscious texture and cozy taste that amps up the comforting element of canned baked beans.

As for adding in spices, smoked paprika and garlic powder are great starting points for kicking the flavor of beans up a notch without altering the umami base of the soy. Sprinkle in dried cumin or thyme as well. Just a few pinches are enough to give the dish an aromatic undertone.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.