MSG is a useful tool to make food taste better, and you can easily and safely use it in your home cooking everyday.
What is MSG?
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer. This means that MSG doesn't have much flavor on its own, but enhances the flavor of foods it is added to. Specifically, it is known to enhance savory or umami flavors.
MSG as a chemical is simply the amino acid glutamate bound to a sodium ion.
The amino acid glutamate is present is many other foods foods that we eat every day. Foods that are savory or umami are particularly high in glutamate.
Sodium is also present in all foods, often in the form of salt.
Is MSG Safe?
MSG has had a bad reputation for many years. It has been controversial in the past due to the "MSG Symptom Complex".
This so-called syndrome includes a series of anecdotal reactions that some have associated with eating MSG containing foods including:
- Pressure or tightness in the face
- Numbness, tingling or burning in the face or neck
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pain
Researchers have found absolutely no scientific evidence linking MSG to these, or any other symptoms.
The FDA has classed MSG as a food additive that is "generally regarded as safe". It is present in many common grocery store items like chips, canned soups, frozen foods, and seasonings.
Our body cannot distinguish the difference between the glutamate in MSG and the glutamate found in other foods and treats them both the same way. The same goes for the sodium component of the MSG.
MSG is safe for everyone to consume, including children and pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Why Should I Use MSG at home?
Simply put, MSG makes food taste better, including the foods you make at home!
How Do I Use MSG at Home?
Using MSG at home is easy! Once you know how best to use it, it doesn't even take any more thought than simply measuring out salt. But first, you need to buy some.
Where can you buy MSG?
I did have difficulty finding it when I bought some a few months ago due to supply issues. Note that Bulk Barn in Canada typically stocks it (it was sold out when I tried). I ended up finding it at H-Mart, and bought the last bag they had in stock.
Note that if you can't find it locally, it's also widely available online.
How much MSG should I use in my recipe?
Just like with salt and other seasonings, you want to use the right amount of MSG in your cooking. Unfortunately, there is lots of conflicting information on how much is the right amount of MSG to use.
When I first started cooking with MSG, I just added a small amount on top of the other seasonings (including salt) that I added to my recipes. Then I came across a recommendation that made things much easier:
Replace ⅓ of the salt in your recipe with MSG.
For example: in a recipe that calls for 1 teaspoon of salt, you'd use ⅔ teaspoon of salt, and ⅓ teaspoon of MSG. Unfortunately, the measurements don't always work out so perfectly, but there's an easy solution!
Make a jar of salt-MSG mixture. In the jar, add 2 parts salt and 1 part MSG and mix well.
Use this mixture anytime you want to cook with MSG. Simply follow the recipe and use the recommended amount of salt but replace it with your salt-MSG mixture. You'll be adding the recommended salt-MSG ratio.
Note that you'll also want to keep some plain salt on hand because you don't want to add MSG to all the foods you make (see below).
Which foods should I add MSG to?
MSG really only enhances the flavor of foods that are supposed to be umami or savory, including the following:
- soups and stews (including homemade stocks and broths)
- pasta sauce or other tomato based sauce
- roasted vegetables
- salad dressing
Using MSG in sweet foods or baking will have no benefit, so make sure you use plain salt in those recipes.
Try using MSG in these Recipes!
MSG Salt Mixture
- 2 parts kosher salt
- 1 part MSG
- In a jar, add 2 parts kosher salt and 1 part MSG. Shake well to mix completely.
- Use this mixture to replace the recommended amount of salt in recipes for savory foods like meats, vegetables, soups and stews, casseroles, sauces, etc. Don't use in desserts or other baked goods, and instead use regular salt.
Nutrition Disclaimer: I try my best to make sure the nutrition information I provide is accurate to provide you with the best information possible. However, due to ingredient discrepancies and other factors, the above nutrition information should be considered an estimation only.