Umeboshi- those salty pickled wrinkled balls that must be some kind of fruit... they're intimately familiar to Japanese and have been gaining popularity in the U.S. as well. They have health benefits, and taste great too!
Our editors searched Japanese e-commerce sites such as Amazon, Rakuten, and Yahoo! Shopping for the best umeboshi available online. We then picked out the most popular pickled plums and tasted them.
We focused on 2 things:
We then ranked the products and put what we learned into a buying guide to help you choose the best Japanese salt-pickled plums available online.
After working at an Italian restaurant for six years, Akiko Kazama changed careers and began working at a cooking school before going independent. Akiko then helped launch cafes, catered for events, and supervised cooking for online media outlets and magazines. In 2013, she established her own cooking school, Kitchen Studio Ningyocho Kitchen, which primarily focuses on home cooking. In recent years, she has been active as an expert in taste testing, cooking utensils, and cooking appliances, and is familiar with a broad range of fields related to food.
mybest US' editing team consists of experienced members who have backgrounds in writing, editing, translation, and more. We are dedicated to researching what makes a product or service the best to users in the US in order to create top-quality articles. From skincare, to kitchen appliances, and to DIY supplies, our mission is to find the best ones for you.
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Table of Contents
Umeboshi are Japanese plums that are purported to have numerous health benefits. Often eaten together with rice, traditionally, they have been used to treat everything from an upset stomach to the common cold. One thing we can say for certain is that they contain large amounts of citric acid, which does have good effects on the body.
Citric acid can help you recover from fatigue and stiff muscles. When waste accumulates in muscle tissue, you can get cramps and tiredness. Citric acid promotes the metabolism of fats and sugars and helps reduce these effects. We recommend eating one umeboshi per day as part of your health regimen.
We recommend considering three things when choosing umeboshi.
Although in English we just say "umeboshi," there are actually three types depending how the plums are prepared.
Umeboshi (梅干し) means dried plums. They're made only with plums and salt and characterized by their strong, salty flavor.
If you want a traditional taste with no additives, look for these. Since the preparation method is extremely simple, very few nutrients are lost. However, due to their production method, they can have a salt content as high as 20%, so they're not appropriate for people worried about sodium intake.
Flavored umeboshi (調味梅干し）are partially desalinated as part of the production process. These are the most common type on the market today.
Some of the salt is removed with water and the plums are then marinated either in honey, blueberries, or apple vinegar, to name a few. The result is an umeboshi with a salt content of about 3-10% which is lightly pickled and not too sour. Some of the nutrients may leach out during preparation, and there may be preservatives or sweeteners added. These also need to be stored in a refrigerator.
Umezuke (梅漬け) are plums that are not dried in the sun like the other plums. Instead, they're pickled with salt from unripe green plums right after they're harvested.
They have a crispy, crunchy texture and look very different from other umeboshi. They retain all the nutrients of the fruit, and often have calcium from eggshells used in the pickling process. The salinity is usually around 10%. They're good as snacks and on top of bento rice.
The texture, size, and characteristics of the umeboshi will vary depending on which type of plums are used. All of the plums listed in this article are Nanko Ume (南高梅) plums from Wakayama Prefecture, Japan's largest producer of plums. Plums from Wakayama prefecture are known as Kishu-Ume (紀州梅), and have several varieties.
Although not featured in this article, other famous umeboshi plums from other regions include:
Umeboshi plums are delicious by themselves, but are surprisingly versatile, and can be eaten alongside a wide array of other foods, and can add a nice extra depth to your dishes. Umeboshi that balances sourness and saltiness well can fully draw out the sweetness of rice.
If you live in Japan or have Japanese colleagues or customers, you probably know the importance of giving gifts. Food and drinks are absolutely the most popular gift items. But don't just get umeboshi from the grocery store and wrap them yourself! That would be a social faux pas. You may get a pass if you're not Japanese, but if you really want to impress the recipient, do it right.
Individually-wrapped plums convey a sense of care and quality. There are variety packs available with several different flavors, from sweet to salty. If you're not sure which to choose, go with the store's recommended popular gift box.
If you're looking for umeboshi for gifting purposes, check Japanese e-commerce sites like Amazon Japan for other individually-wrapped plums that didn't make it to this list.
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Kishu Nanko Umeboshi Inakazuke Low Sodium
A Soft and Fluffy Umeboshi With a Well-Balanced, Classic Taste
Shokibai Honey-Flavored (Kiwami)
Harmonious Sweet and Sour Flavors
Yorokobi no Baishaku
Large Plums With a Refined Shiso Flavor
Kodo no Umeya
Premium Large Nanko Plums
Fragrant and Appetizing Plums
Umeboshi With Substantial Meat and Rich Flavors
Kishu Goju Goman Goku
Meaty and Filling Plums With a Strong, Fruity Sweetness
Kishu Nanko Plums Marinated in Honey for Thirty Days
Sweet and Filling Umeboshi
A Unique Umeboshi for Spicy Food Lovers
Nakata Foods' Kishu Nanko Umeboshi Inakazuke Low Sodium is a low-sodium flavored umeboshi made using A-grade Kishu plums, flavored with shiso and bonito flakes.
As the plum itself is fairly large and meaty, it has satisfyingly fluffy and soft skin. Although it might taste a bit salty, it has a prominent sourness that will surely stimulate your appetite with its classic flavor.
Moreover, this umeboshi got high scores thanks to its ability to draw out the sweetness of rice when eaten together, as well as for its strong shiso flavor.
Shokibai's Honey-Flavored (Kiwami) features prime Kishu Nanko plums flavored with honey.
These plums are really big and are flavored to have roughly 8% sodium. These large, meaty plums are incredibly satisfying, and balances sourness, saltiness, and sweetness all at a high level, creating a deep flavor.
It has a pleasant aftertaste and doesn't have any odd flavors, so this is an umeboshi that can be enjoyed daily.
Baiou-En selects soft, large, ripe Kishu Nanko plums averaging 2 inches in diameter and with small pits for its Yorokobi no Baishaku. These plums are then dipped in a shiso marinade to absorb extra flavors.
These plums have a substantial size, and the flesh was incredibly filling. These plums are individually wrapped and packaged in a wooden box for extra luxuriousness.
It balances sweetness, sourness, and saltiness well, and the additional elegant shiso flavors further draws out the natural deliciousness of the plums. Furthermore, its sourness and saltiness matched excellently with rice, again drawing out the sweetness of each grain.
Kodo no Umeya's Premium Large Nanko Plums are free of artificial preservatives to make full use of the natural flavor of its Nanko plums. Selecting only fully-ripened plums, this umeboshi has a prominent plum flavor with mild sourness.
These large and plump plums have plenty of flesh, making them incredibly filling. They also balance sweetness and sourness well, making for a mellow flavor with no peculiarities. We can proudly say this umeboshi is one that you can eat daily without getting tired of it.
Sakanao's Takara Ume uses fully-ripened Kishu Nanko plums that are dipped in honey. Made with less sodium, the combination of the natural sourness of the plums and the sweetness of honey makes for a harmonious, mellow flavor.
While not the largest plums, they had plenty of meat on them. Furthermore, the plums were seasoned heavily, making them enjoyable by themselves.
However, it did have a fruity sweetness that some might find peculiar. Since it's so rich in flavor, it does go well with rice, but the sweetness of this umeboshi may overpower other flavors.
Kawamoto Foods' Kishu Goju Goman Goku only uses Kishu Nanko plums hand-picked by umeboshi craftsmen. Using kelp extract for its marinade, this umeboshi has mild flavors.
The plums themselves are thick and meaty. In terms of flavor, they have a strong sweetness that makes it easy for those who aren't fond of the sourness in umeboshi to eat while still retaining a solid sourness and saltiness.
However, its fruity aftertaste may be too sweet to eat with rice, so you might want to enjoy this umeboshi by itself.
Seijo Ishii only uses A-grade Kishu Nanko plums for their umeboshi. Using only salt, shiso, shiso extract, and honey for its marinade, this umeboshi is free of any artificial flavoring.
Although the plums aren't particularly large, they're packed with meat and offer a satisfying experience. Its mellow, sweet, and neutral flavor makes them easy to eat.
That being said, its inoffensive flavor means that it's slightly lacking in saltiness, with its sweetness standing out more. When eating together with rice, it's not exactly a match made in heaven, but we recommend this to those who crave sweet umeboshi that can be eaten by itself.
Koyama Farm's Spicy Umeboshi features Kishu Nanko plums marinated with red chili peppers, adding spiciness and flavor.
These plums aren't particularly large, but they have plenty of meat. The spiciness of this umeboshi makes it great paired with alcohol or as a side dish.
However, its spiciness overpowered the natural plum flavors. If you're a huge fan of plums, this may not be for you, but if you want to try something new, this may be something to consider.
How did we find out which umeboshi were the most delicious? We tasted them! We had Japanese testers as well as our expert test the umeboshi for their deliciousness and satisfaction and then gave each product a score out of five.
Depending on the umeboshi, they can be more sour, salty, or sweet. A good Japanese umeboshi plum should have a balance of these qualities.
Ume plums are naturally sour, and salt is used to pickle and make them edible. Occasionally, umeboshi can be sweetened with honey. Finally, they should be relatively filling, not just a light nibble- you'll usually eat just one, so one should be satisfying enough.
We asked culinary researcher Akiko Kazama, as well as a total of six Japanese men and women from the Japanese mybest editorial team to taste the umeboshi to evaluate their deliciousness.
Deliciousness was rated on a five-point scale, based on two factors: whether our testers wanted to eat it by itself every day, and how delicious it was when eaten with rice. The final rating for each umeboshi was decided based on the overall score given.
Generally, plums with a thick and soft pulp, such as Nanko plums, which are the most popular brand of plums in Japan, are favored. However, the size and amount of pulp a plum has can greatly differ depending on the brand.
For this text, we had culinary researcher Akiko Kazama test the plums for how satisfying a single plum was, based on how much pulp they had.
There are many ways to enjoy umeboshi. Some are great to eat whole on their own. They're good on top of rice or in ochazuke (white rice in green tea or broth.) Here's an easy recipe you can try! It's great for summer days when it's too hot to eat, as the faint acidity will stimulate your appetite.
Making Japanese dishes can be intimidating because of unfamiliar foods. But that's no excuse anymore, because we're here to help you buy and use the best Japanese foods and ingredients!
No. 1: Nakata Foods | Kishu Nanko Umeboshi Inakazuke Low Sodium
No. 2: Shokibai | Shokibai Honey-Flavored (Kiwami)
No. 3: Baiou-En | Yorokobi no Baishaku
No. 4: Kodo no Umeya | Premium Large Nanko Plums
No. 5: Sakanao | Takara Ume
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