BACKGROUND: Older hospital patients are considered to be at risk of malnutrition due to insufficient dietary intake. OBJECTIVE: To determine whether taste enhancement, using ingredients naturally high in umami compounds, increases preference and consumption of a meal by older hospital patients. METHODS: 31 patients (65–92 years) on elderly care wards in a UK NHS Trust hospital took part in a single-blinded preference and consumption study. They tasted two meats (control and enhanced, presented in balanced order) and stated their preference. At lunch, control and enhanced cottage pie and gravy were served concurrently; patients were asked to consume ad libitum and intake was measured. RESULTS: Taste enhanced meat was significantly preferred (P = 0.001). Although mean consumption was higher for the enhanced compared to control meal (137 g versus 119 g), with higher levels of energy (103 kcal versus 82 kcal) and protein (4.6 g versus 3.4 g) consumed; differences were not significant. CONCLUSIONS: Natural ingredients rich in umami taste compounds can successfully be used to increase preference of meat based meals by older hospital patients. Larger trials are needed to determine whether such increases in preference can significantly increase consumption.