ABSTRACT: Umami plays an important role in the flavor of many cheese varieties. The purpose of this study was to identify the compound(s) responsible for umami taste in Cheddar and Swiss cheeses. Four Cheddar and 4 Swiss cheeses (two with low umami intensity and two with high umami intensity from each type) were selected using a trained sensory panel. Monosodium glutamate (MSG), disodium 5′-inosine monophosphate (IMP), disodium 5′-guanosine monophosphate (GMP), sodium chloride, lactic acid, propionic acid, and succinic acid were quantified in the cheeses instrumentally. Taste thresholds (best estimate thresholds, BETs) were determined for each compound in water. Subsequently, a trained descriptive sensory analysis panel evaluated each compound in odor-free water across threshold concentrations to confirm that the thresholds were based on umami and not some other stimuli. Model system studies with trained panelists were then conducted with each compound individually or all compounds together. Comparison of analytical data and sensory thresholds indicated that IMP and GMP thresholds were 100-fold higher than their concentrations in cheese. All other compounds contributed some umami taste within their concentration range in umami cheeses. Sensory analysis of model cheeses revealed that glutamic acid played the largest role in umami taste of both Cheddar and Swiss cheeses while succinic and propionic acids contributed to umami taste in Swiss cheeses. Knowledge of the key compounds associated with umami taste in cheeses will aid in the identification of procedures to enhance formation of this taste in cheese.