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The 5 Best Substitutes for MSG

Do you know what msg is? You might not recognize the name, but you almost certainly know it by its other common name: monosodium glutamate.

MSG is a flavor enhancer that’s often used in Asian cuisine, and it’s become a controversial ingredient in recent years.

Some people claim that MSG can cause headaches and other adverse health effects, while others say no scientific evidence supports these claims.

Regardless, it’s best to be familiar with its usage and potential alternatives.

Hence, it’s no wonder why people search for an MSG substitute.

It’s important to note that there is no single substitute that can completely mimic the flavor profile of MSG, but there are several ingredients commonly used as substitutes.

In this article, we will explore the flavor of MSG and discuss some common substitutes.

What is MSG?

what is msg

MSG is short for monosodium glutamate, and it’s a flavor enhancer that’s often used in Asian cuisine.

While msg has a savory flavor that can enhance food taste, some people find it to be too strong or unpleasant.

It has a unique taste that is both salty and umami; hence it is used to enhance food flavor.

It is commonly added to soups, sauces, and fried foods, but msg can also be found in many types of packaged snacks like chips, crackers, and cereal.

People that are sensitive or ‘allergic’ to msg may experience numbness inside their mouth after eating it.

This is not harmful but can be uncomfortable.

Some people do not like to cook with msg because it is a flavor enhancer rather than a basic ingredient.

However, there are many benefits to cooking with msg.

Firstly, cooking with msg allows food to be more flavorful – without adding salt or fat.

It is used in many restaurants to reduce the amount of salt and oil added to food.

This means less fat, cholesterol, and sodium.

Secondly, cooking with msg results in more affordable meal options.

As msg functions as both a flavor enhancer and salt substitute, there is no need to buy onions or garlic to add more flavor and saltiness to a dish.

Thus, cooking with msg can be seen as both cost-effective and healthy.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Msg

There is no perfect substitute for msg – because it has such a unique taste (salty, umami).

However, you can use other ingredients or spices to substitute msg and achieve a similar result.

1 – Soy Sauce

soy sauce

Soy sauce is perhaps the most obvious substitute for msg in Asian dishes, but it’s also an ingredient commonly added to many other types of food.

It can be used mainly in soups, salads, and rice dishes.

While soy sauce does have its flavor, you may want to use it in moderation or combine it with other ingredients.

Soy sauce is typically fermenting soybeans, wheat, salt, and water.

The flavor is often enhanced with yeast or Aspergillus oryzae.

Other varieties are also available that include spices like garlic, onion, or other flavors.

The most popular types of soy sauce are contemporary Japanese shoyu, traditional Japanese tamari, and Chinese Lao chou.

2 – Fish Sauce

fish sauce

Fish sauce is often used in Asian dishes and has a very distinct flavor that may be too strong for some people.

It’s typically extracted from fish and salt and then allowed to ferment.

The fermentation process takes quite a while, sometimes up to six months.

The result is a very strong, salty, and savory flavor.

Fish sauce can be used in soups, rice dishes, or marinated meat.

It may also be added to stir-fries at the cooking process’s end.

For example, it would not be well suited to add fish sauce right away when making a vegetable stir-fry.

Fish sauce is also available in various flavors, depending on what fish it’s extracted from and the method that’s used.

For example, the flavor will be different if you’re using anchovy fish sauce instead of another type like tuna.

3 – Beef Stock

beef stock

Beef stock is another nutritious substitute for msg.

Not only does it have a very rich, beefy flavor, but it’s also packed with salt.

This makes it an ideal addition to soups, stews, and other dishes.

It’s important to note that beef stock can be quite high in fat and cholesterol – so you’ll want to keep this in mind when making additions to dishes.

Beef stock is typically prepared by boiling beef bones and then simmering them with other vegetables like onions, carrots, and celery.

This will also give the flavor of the vegetables into the stock, which makes it ideal to use as a vegetarian ingredient.

4 – Cheese


Finally, cheese can also be a great substitute for msg in some dishes.

It has a salty flavor and can add an ooey-gooey texture to dishes.

For example, you could add grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano to rice or pasta dishes.

Furthermore, this type of cheese will also add a distinct flavor.

Therefore you’ll only want to use it in moderation or combine it with other ingredients like vegetables or herbs, for example.

Cheese is made by curdling milk using bacterial cultures (or rennet).

This causes the proteins and fats to separate, giving it a consistency that we’re all familiar with – think of a slice of cheese or block of feta.

However, different types of cheese have varying levels of fat and salt – so be sure to read the label when you’re looking for something particularly high in either one.

5 – Dulse


Dulse is one of the best ingredients to use as an MSG substitute.

It’s dried seaweed (a type of algae) and has a very strong, salty flavor.

It’s also rich in minerals that are good for your health – including potassium, iron, and copper.

Dulse can be used raw or fried to add additional texture to dishes.

It’s best to rehydrate it by soaking in cold, salted water before using it.

Dulse has a very distinctive flavor and can enhance the taste of dishes like soups or salads.

It also works well with seafood – so you could combine it with mussels or clams, for example.

It’s important to note that dulse is quite high in sodium and fat – so you’ll need to consider this when using it.


MSG is often used as a flavor enhancer in Asian dishes.

However, many people are sensitive to this ingredient and have adverse reactions when they eat it.

Fortunately, there are several alternatives that you can use instead – fish sauce, beef stock, cheese, and dulse are all good choices.

These ingredients are not only good for your health but can taste even better than msg.

Furthermore, they don’t contain any of the negative side effects of using MSG.

So go ahead and try these ingredients next time you’re cooking Asian-inspired dishes – you may find that you love them.

Yield: 4 Servings

The 5 Best Substitutes for MSG

The 5 Best Substitutes for MSG
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes


  • Soy Sauce
  • Fish Sauce
  • Beef Stock
  • Cheese
  • Dulse


  1. Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  2. Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.
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