Put MSG In Everything, You Cowards

Put MSG In Everything, You Cowards

By now, we should all be completely unafraid of monosodium glutamate, the umami-boosting molecule more commonly referred to as “MSG.” It will not give you headache, it will not make your arms numb, but it will inspire you to eat an entire head of roasted broccoli in one sitting.

Stop Being Afraid Of MSG

If you’re still afraid of the seasoning MSG giving you headaches, you should know you’ve bought into a decades-old myth. Don’t despair! Now that you know the truth, you can go celebrate with a meal at your favourite MSG-using restaurant, or treat yourself to a cute panda-shaped bottle of the stuff.

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As Beth has covered in the article linked right above this sentence, the symptoms of “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” have never been reproduced in a laboratory setting. (If that syndrome sounds pretty racist, that’s because it very much is.) This is great news, because it means we are free to enjoy the combination of sodium and glutamate with wild abandon, not just in Doritos, but in our very own recipes.

Buying MSG is not as easy as buying salt—look for a bottle of Accent in the store or a bag of Ajinomoto online—but it’s just about as easy to use. However, just as with sodium chloride, it can be easy to get carried away with MSG, particularly when you start to realise all the wonderful things you can bring this newfound source of umami to. The key is to take it slowly—1/4-1/2 a teaspoon is usually plenty for any recipe that serves four to six people. (More than that can give your meal an unpleasant, artificial flavour.) For a single serving—or a beverage, which we’ll get to in a moment—start with a pinch, taste, and add more if needed. (I recommend tasting a little bit of it plain, to get a full sense of its kinda meaty, very slightly sweet, and very savoury quality.)

What, exactly, should you add it to? Pretty much any non-dessert item that could use some umami. If you would add soy sauce to it, you can add MSG. If you would add Parmesan to it, you can add MSG. If you think “this could use some fish sauce/tomato paste/nutritional yeast,” you can (and should) add MSG. If you need ideas, I have some:

Tomato sauce

Confession, I have never not messed with Marcella Hazan’s three-ingredient sauce. It’s fine on its own, but I’ve always added garlic, or wine, or fish sauce, or something to give it just a little oomph. This Friday, I added 1/2 teaspoon of MSG, and enjoyed it immensely. (It’s also worth noting that Ofclaire, who has never liked the Hazan sauce, liked it so much he ate the cold leftovers while standing over the sink. Or maybe it’s not “worth noting,” so much as “mildly entertaining.”


Do you want to elevate your garlic bread to mid-level restaurant heights of deliciousness? Sprinkle on a little MSG, just as you would salt. If you’re dealing with a bread stick or biscuit, just brush ‘em with a little butter first so the crystals have something to cling to.


This one is obvious. Sprinkle on a few pinches; toss, taste, adjust as needed.

Boring roasted vegetables

I’m just kidding; roasted vegetables are already very good, but I absolutely inhaled the head of broccoli I dusted with MSG. For every couple of servings, toss the vegetables with 1/8th of a teaspoon of MSG, along with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and salt.

Soups and stews

Half a teaspoon is plenty for most meaty recipes. I particularly like in it tomato soup, chilli, and anything bean-based.

Ground turkey

Yes, you could put MSG in other ground meats, but no meat needs help in the flavour department quite as much as ground turkey. Use 1/2 a teaspoon per pound.

An absolutely filthy martini

To up the savoury quality of an olive-infused martini, add just a pinch of MSG to your ice-filled stirring glass, along with 2 1/2 ounces of gin, 1/2 an ounce of dry vermouth, and 1/4 ounce of olive brine. Stir, strain, and enjoy.

Bland, out-of-season tomatoes

Look—I know I shouldn’t be messing with tomatoes this time of year, but sometimes I’m a big dummy who can’t help myself, and I find myself with a few round, red, flavourless orbs. However, seeing that glutamate is one of the flavours that make tomatoes so good, a little sprinkling of the stuff renders out-of-season tomatoes downright edible, if not totally delicious.

The only thing I wouldn’t recommend you put MSG in or on is sweets. An apple might be ok—apples and Parmesan are very good—but that’s as far as I would push it.

This story has been updated since its previous publication.


  • The author has got to be kidding. True, MGS will not give you a headache nor will it make you numb. What it will do is make you thirsty for hours, and make you feel lethargic. I’ts not just me it everyone I speak with.

    There is a good reason Mono Sodium Glue is not in woolies ! I recommend we learn to prepare tasty food rather than doctoring it up with salt.

    • Firstly, actually, you’re wrong. I’ve purchased MSG from Woolworths before (See: Aromat, from the South African section). It’s great!

      Secondly, MSG is in a multitude of things you eat on a daily basis, Soy Sauce, Parmesan Cheese, Tomato Sauce, Cheddar Cheese, Potatoes and Peas. You must drink a lot of water to keep up with your constant thirst!

      Thirdly, you misunderstand a fundamental element in cooking if you’re not utilising salt when appropriate.

      Fourthly, an argument against something because “me and everyone I speak with” has this reaction, doesn’t make it a valid argument. In fact that’s how anti-vaxers spread their misinformation, relying upon anecdotal or incorrect evidence rather than factual information.

      As for me by your logic, everyone I speak to has no reaction to MSG, therefore it must be perfectly safe! /s

      • Haha… Aromat is awesome… it’s the South African chicken salt.

        Newsflash to the original poster… MSG is in almost everything in Woolworths mate with one of the highest amount being in old Vegemite!

        For anyone that hasn’t seen the new Aussie made seasoning called Umami Bomb… look it up. They unashamedly advertise ‘extra MSG’ added on the back for a laugh. It’s sensational!

    • No, it won’t. I don’t doubt your experiences, but I seriously doubt you have ever done any kind of controlled test which demonstrated that your being thirsty and lethargic was caused by MSG and not something entirely different, whereas lots of experiments have shown that MSG does not cause those symptoms. Are you aware that just eating a high calorie meal can make you thirsty and lethargic for hours? Your body needs water to store the glycogen in your tissues and energy to carry out digestion. If the food is high glycemic index, do you know what effect insulin spikes have on you? The good reason MSG is not in Woolies is because people are afraid of it because they’ve heard it’s bad, so it wouldn’t sell.

      • Why does the media get so offended by people NOT wanting to use msg?? Makes me wonder if they have some kind of agenda with this?? What does it really matter if someone does not want to use msg??

    • What it will do is make you thirsty for hours,

      Salt tends to do that.

      and make you feel lethargic. I’ts not just me it everyone I speak with.

      Anecdotal evidence, always 100% accurate. Who needs proven scientific evidence when you have anecdotal evidence that never has any documented proof to back up their claims!

      MGS will not give you a headache nor will it make you numb.

      No, Metal Gear Solid wont give you a headache.

    • The reason MSG is not in supermarkets is because uneducated loons still think its harmful. Even though repeated scientific studies have shown it is not.

      Supermarkets will stock whatever they can sell. Using them as a reason why MSG is bad is moronic. Woolies does not stock many medications, Does that instantly mean these medications are bad based on the fact woolies does not stock them?

    • Adding appropriate seasoning (salt) is one of the most basic things when preparing tasty food. Watch any professional chef video on Youtube, they ALL add salt.

      Salt does not make you lethargic, it does not make you thirsty for hours unless you are eating mountains of it.

      You are one of the loons who are scared by big words.

  • It’s a trap!!!!
    “it will inspire you to eat an entire head of roasted broccoli in one sitting. “

  • I find it funny, in a world full of allergies and food intolerances, people dismiss other peoples claims that they don’t feel well after eating a food type so abruptly.

    I think in the past when this first was an issue, MSG production may have not been the best quality it was at a time when Chinese food was a booming industry and it was outgrowing supply chains. (impurities, by-products, contamination). Even then the body never reacts well when you fill it with anything in excess, maybe its use in cooking was being abused… like how salt and sugar are now abused in modern food.

    But the biggest issue with MSG is this… its a terrible name.
    If we called salt, sodium chloride all the time, no one would eat it, worse if we called it NaCl you would think Dr Frankenstein would of made it in a lab.

  • Last time I had a very poor reaction to a restaurant feed I hardly slept the enter night. Cold sweats, heart palpitations and yes, thirsty. I don’t drink straight water often, so this and all the symptoms were unusual for me. In the morning my wife said it sounded like her own reaction after eating MSG. I’d never thought about MSG causing such symptoms, but the pork belly and bbq ribs I’d had for dinner were certainly likely to have MSG. I do get headaches and migraines (from sulphites), but not that day.
    Have these other symptoms been completely ruled out? Any ideas on what else caused my poor night’s sleep?

      • Heh heh, I knew someone would take that hook. To clarify, I never wake in the night craving fluids. That night I was up 4 or five times for H2O. Very weird.

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