Sweet Umami Shrimp Salad (Paleo, Whole30)


Humans can recognize five basic tastes: sweet, bitter, sour, salty, and umami. Umami was discovered by scientist Dr. Kikunae Ikeda, and the Japanese word is based onuami  (delicious or savory but not meaty) and mi (taste). In practical terms, it’s that almost undefinable thing that makes certain foods so irresistible. It’s no coincidence that umami and yummy sound so similar.

This salad hits all the basic tastes and comes together super fast, so you can get your umami on as quickly as possible. Leftovers hold up great so tonight’s dinner can become tomorrow’s lunch, too.

Sweet Umami Shrimp Salad

Serves 2-4 | Total time: 35 minutes | Whole30 compliant

  • 2 cups water

  • 1 clove garlic

  • 1 lemon

  • 1 tablespoon salt

  • 2 pounds raw shrimp (any size)

Umami Mayo:
  • 1 garlic clove

  • 1 large egg yolk

  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup light-tasting olive or avocado oil

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce

  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 2 cups red seedless grapes

  • 3 stalks celery

  • 4 scallions

  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves

  • 1/3 cup walnut or pecan halves

  • 1 head butter lettuce

  • 1/2 small red onion

  • 1 seedless cucumber

  • handful fresh chives


Cook the shrimp. Place the water in a medium saucepan or skillet over high heat. Smash and peel the garlic clove, cut the lemon into wedges, and add them to the pot, along with the salt; bring to a boil. Add the shrimp to the pan, stir, and bring it back to a boil, then immediately turn off the heat and cover the pan. Let the shrimp sit undisturbed in the hot water 10 minutes, then remove from the hot water and rinse under cool running water.


Make the umami mayo. Smash and peel the garlic clove and place it in a pint-size Mason jar. Add the egg yolk, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the lemon juice, fish sauce, ginger, salt, and pepper to the jar. Whirl with the stick blender until puréed. With the blender running inside the jar, add the remaining 1/2 cup oil and blend until smooth.


Prep the fruit. Cut the grapes in half and place in a large mixing bowl. Thinly slice the celery and scallions; add to the bowl. Coarsely chop the parsley and walnuts, then add them to the bowl.


Prep the veggies. Wash the lettuce and pat it dry; thinly slice the red onion and cucumber. Set aside.


Bring it together. When the shrimp are cool, add them to the bowl with the fruit and nuts. Add mayo to your liking—start with 2-3 tablespoons—and toss gently to combine.


To serve, arrange the lettuce, red onion, and cucumber on serving plates. Top with shrimp salad and sprinkle with chives.

You Know How You Could Do That?

Replace the shrimp with poached or roasted chicken, or with three cans of tuna.

Cookup Tips

Make the umami mayo and cook the shrimp in advance, then store separately in airtight containers in the fridge. When it’s time to eat, cut the fruits and veggies, and assemble the salad.

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