Maggi Seasoning: What It Is & How to Use It
Learn why this concentrated liquid seasoning is a global phenomenon, deepening savory flavor in everything from noodles and rice to stir-fries, soups, eggs, and more.
Maggi Seasoning isn’t just a flavor booster, it’s a culinary thread that connects kitchens from North America to Europe to Asia to Africa.
In Vietnam, it’s essential in stir-fries such as Bò Lúc Lắc (Shaking Beef). Polish cooks often add a dash to homemade sausages and goulash. In Mexico it enhances pozole, fillings, and salsa. In Sri Lanka, it’s a secret weapon in seafood and dal. Senegalese cooks add it to stews like chicken yassa. And these applications are just the tip of the iceberg.
The little brown bottle emblazoned with an iconic yellow-and-red label is ubiquitous in kitchens worldwide because its concentrated, salty-savory liquid blends seamlessly into virtually any food while amplifying the notes of other ingredients.
WHERE DID MAGGI SEASONING COME FROM?
Maggi Seasoning was invented in Switzerland in 1886 by culinary entrepreneur Julius Maggi. His goal: to make cooking more convenient and inexpensive for the legions of women heading off to work in factories. Just a few dashes of the liquid could add complex, savory flavor to food—even without meat or long cooking.
Home cooks and professional chefs alike immediately embraced the seasoning (Auguste Escoffier became a fan), and its popularity quickly spread far beyond Switzerland. Multinational conglomerates eventually took notice, and by 1947 Nestlé had acquired the brand, which had grown to encompass bouillon, dehydrated soups, and more.
WHAT’S IN MAGGI SEASONING?
This dark coffee-colored liquid is vegetarian. According to Nestlé, formulations vary slightly to cater to local tastes. But the seasoning’s backbone is always umami. Glutamate, the umami-tasting amino acid, is always present, either in the form of MSG or hydrolyzed protein, and complementary nucleotides, like inosinate, amplify that savor.
VARIETIES AROUND THE WORLD
Nestlé wouldn’t divulge just how many different formulations of the liquid seasoning exist, but communications manager Erin Abey told us the product is sold in more than 15 countries.
In the United States, at least five versions are distributed: Maggi Jugo, made in Mexico; Maggi Seasoning, made in China; and three others manufactured in Germany: Maggi Arome, Maggi European Seasoning, and Maggi Hot and Spicy. Maggi Jugo and Maggi Seasoning are the most popular formulations sold in the U.S.
WHAT DOES MAGGI SEASONING TASTE LIKE?
In the test kitchen, we tend to stock the China-manufactured Maggi Seasoning. Our tasters described this formulation as having an intriguing layer of “funky, fermented flavor” hinting at “oil-cured olives” and “fermented black beans.” Our senior science editor, Paul Adams, who keeps Maggi Jugo on hand for micheladas, likened this Mexican version to “deglazed fond: caramelly, salty, vinegary, and savory, in that order of prominence.”
HOW DO YOU PRONOUNCE MAGGI?
According to the Nestlé website, the exact pronunciation depends on the country: “In the US, we pronounce it with a ‘hard g’ as in ‘magnet’, but in some countries, it’s pronounced with a ‘soft g’ as in ‘magic.’”
WHEN AND HOW TO USE MAGGI
Almost anything that could use some savory oomph can benefit from Maggi Seasoning. Add it to soups, stews, stir-fries, noodle dishes, scrambled eggs, hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise, and even Bloody Marys and dirty martinis.
If you’re using it as a final seasoning in dish, start with a dash. If you’re incorporating it during cooking, a few teaspoons or even more may be appropriate, but you may want to reduce the salt.