5 BEST MSG Substitutes in Recipes

Have you ever heard of Monosodium Glutamate or MSG?

It’s one of those food ingredients that can create the most scrumptious flavours in your cooking, but at the same time, it can also cause confusion and consternation.

As a food journalist and professional chef, I’ve heard countless debates over how to use MSG, not to mention whether or not it is a harmful ingredient.

In this article, we’ll discuss how you can cook with MSG and what the top five substitutes are if you’d rather leave it out.

So buckle up, and let’s find out about this contentious flavor enhancer.

What is MSG?

MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a food additive derived from glutamate, an amino acid found naturally in many foods like tomatoes and mushrooms.

It’s used to enhance the flavor of processed food as it adds an umami taste that can’t be replicated with other seasonings.

When added to dishes, MSG augments the texture and makes it more creamy and savory in nature.

Many Asian cuisines take advantage of MSG to create unique flavor profiles.

In Japanese cuisine, MSG is often paired with soy sauce for its unmistakable tang.

For those looking for a healthier alternative to MSG, you can use garlic powder for similar results but with a milder taste profile.

All things considered, it doesn’t matter what type of cuisine you’re preparing–MSG is ultimately an effective weapon against blandness.

5 BEST MSG Substitutes in Recipes

If you’re looking for a tasty way to add umami flavor to your favorite recipes without using MSG, look no further.

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Here are five of the best MSG substitutes in recipes that are sure to tantalize any palate.

1 – Beef Broth

Beef broth is an exceptionally versatile ingredient with complex flavors ideal for soups and stews.

An umami-bomb of yumminess, it packs a flavor punch particular to beef with its distinct natural taste that cannot be matched.

This hearty broth is surprisingly light when cooked for longer periods, with the fat separated and giving it a thinner texture than traditional stocks.

For added depth in lieu of MSG, you can include beef broth in casseroles or even use it while cooking rice.

Unlike most retail versions, homemade beef broth can be personalized by adding ingredients such as bay leaves, garlic, or fresh parsley to bring out its unique flavor profile.

2 – Nori

Nori is an incredibly versatile seaweed that has existed in the kitchens of Japan for centuries now.

Its name “nori” comes from its distinctive taste – no-ri, meaning ‘the flavour of the sea’.

It’s usually found dried and reconstituted in sushi restaurants across the world, and it can have a variety of flavors depending on how it’s processed and cooked.

Its texture is light and sticky, making it a wonderful flavoring agent to use in many dishes.

Nori can be used as a direct substitute for MSG, as it gives off a similar umami flavor – making any dish deliciously savory.

Whether you’re cooking tempura or just sprinkling some over-plain rice, its salty-sweet profile adds another layer of complexity to any meal.

3 – Soy Sauce and other Commercial Sauces

Adding flavor to meals can be challenging, but commercial sauces such as soy sauce offer just the right kick to many dishes.

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Soy sauce is dark and salty, usually made from a mixture of fermented soybeans, wheat flour, and salt.

A number of additives are often included in the recipe too.

While soy sauce is incredibly useful in Asian-style dishes, other commercial sauces can also make great substitutes should they not be available.

A popular MSG-free alternative is a combination of chicken broth and oyster sauce, which delivers the same savor and is still impactful on any dish when used correctly.

Taste-wise, these commercial sauces provide enhanced flavor, making them invaluable options for cooks both at home and professionally.

Perfect for noodles or as a dip for sushi rolls, you can even use these versatile condiments to spruce up your favorite dishes with very little effort involved.

4 – Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms have been a dependable culinary staple for centuries.

In Japan, these earthy-flavored mushrooms are highly prized and often used in the country’s robust variety of traditional dishes.

Shiitakes have an unmistakable flavor that brings a deep taste and texture to any food it touches.

Its umami influence is often sought after in lieu of monosodium glutamate (MSG).

Their versatility allows them to be cooked in various ways, from simmering in soups, sautéing with veggies, or adding marinades or salad ingredients.

The chewy texture gives dishes a depth that few other plant-based alternatives can match.

All this makes shiitake mushrooms not just tasty but also a great source of nutrition and essential nutrients like copper, iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.

5 – Anchovies

Anchovies are a type of small fish usually found in saltwater regions of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

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Salty, savory, and incredibly delicious, anchovies come in tin cans and jars packed with oil and herbs.

They have a unique flavor that brings umami to many recipes.

While anchovies may be intimidating at first because of their distinct taste, they can easily be incorporated into many dishes, adding their salty-sour profile to complement vegetables, meats, and grains.

Furthermore, as an alternative to MSG (monosodium glutamate), which has become controversial for some due to its potential health risks, anchovies can add depth and complexity of flavor to any dish without worry.

Even better? Your guests won’t even know they’re there.


In conclusion, when looking to make delicious meals without the use of MSG, there are a variety of excellent substitutes that can be used.

Nori, soy sauce and other commercial sauces, shiitake mushrooms, and anchovies all offer umami-filled alternatives to MSG that will enhance the flavor profile of any dish.

Whether you’re a home cook or a professional chef, these options can be used to take any recipe to the next level.

So the next time you’re looking for an MSG-free solution, look no further – your perfect substitute is just a few ingredients away.

5 BEST MSG Substitutes in Recipes

5 BEST MSG Substitutes in Recipes

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes


  • 1 – Beef Broth
  • 2 – Nori
  • 3 – Soy Sauce and other Commercial Sauces
  • 4 – Shiitake Mushrooms
  • 5 – Anchovies


  1. Choose a preferred substitute from the provided list.
  2. Follow the cooking instructions for the selected substitute.
  3. Use the correct proportion of ingredients when preparing the substitute.

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