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Ingredients

Use MSG to Boost the Seasoning Power of Your Salt

MSG turns plain salt into an umami powerhouse. 
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Published Mar. 6, 2023.

Seasoning food with salt makes its flavor pop. But seasoning with MSG ramps up savory flavor in a way that nothing else can.

What Is MSG?

MSG, short for monosodium glutamate, is the sodium salt of glutamic acid—the amino acid that’s responsible for the super-savory, mouth-filling taste we know as umami. Glutamic acid occurs naturally in loads of everyday foods, such as Parmesan cheese, tomatoes, soy sauce, and anchovies; MSG is a key seasoning in popular snacks like Doritos, and is also sold as a seasoning (both coarse and fine grinds) in supermarkets, Asian and Latin markets, and online retailers under brands such as Ac’cent. (For information about the history and safety of MSG, check out Dan Souza’s and J. Kenji López-Alt’s discussion in this episode of “What’s Eating Dan?”)

What Does MSG Taste Like?

If you taste a pinch of MSG, you’ll find it tastes mainly savory and only faintly salty—which makes sense, since it contains only one third the sodium of salt. But its glutamate provides a boost of umami, making food taste fuller, gutsier, and more satisfying.

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How to Season with MSG 

MSG works best on foods that are already savory, and because a little goes a long way, we don’t recommend simply sprinkling it on its own over food. Instead, incorporate it into applications like vinaigrettes, soups, stews, and gravy, where it will give their savoriness a real boost. 

Here are some guidelines:

For vinaigrette: Use ⅛ teaspoon per ¼ cup

For soups, stews, gravy: Use ⅛ teaspoon per cup

How to Make an MSG Seasoning Mix

Combining MSG with salt turns it into a flavor-boosting garnish for everything from steak, chicken, and fish to sliced tomatoes, roasted vegetables, French fries, and popcorn. Any food that could use an umami boost.

Formula: 1 teaspoon finely ground MSG + 2 tablespoons kosher salt

Combining MSG with salt turns it into an all-purpose seasoning for any food that could use a savory boost. Keep a shaker of the mix on hand to season everything from steak to tomatoes, roasted vegetables, French fries, and popcorn. Any food that could use a quick umami hit. 

Formula: 1 teaspoon finely ground MSG + 2 tablespoons kosher salt

Pairing MSG with salt is also a good way to get comfortable using this product: By using the mixture to season, instead of plain salt, you automatically include a little MSG whenever you’re seasoning. It’s a great way to learn how MSG can be effective.

Bonus: By making your salt more satisfying, you can use less of it to season everything, and cut your sodium intake. 

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