18 Best Substitutes for MSG


Wondering what substitutes can be used to replace MSG? 

I got your back. This guide will provide some great alternatives to using MSG in your recipes and how to use them.

Let’s get rolling. 

18 Best Substitutes for MSG

1. Beef Stock

Made by slow-cooking beef bones in water, beef stock acts as a great flavour enhancer like MSG. 

Great for inflammation and joint health, it’s a much healthier option providing a lot of the umami taste that is achieved by adding MSG.  

How to Substitute

You need to add more beef stock than the amount of MSG needed. However, just keep adding as you go for your liking.

Here’s how to cook with Beef Stock –

2. Soy Sauce

Like MSG, Soy Sauce is extremely famous in Asian cuisine and proves to be an effective substitute.  

Made from fermented soybeans, it’s a great source of protein and the salty flavour MSG gives. 

How to Substitute

You should add less soy sauce than the amount of MSG called for. It’s recommended that you start slow and gradually build up the flavor to your preference. 

Here’s how to cook with Soy Sauce –

3. Salt

The most obvious replacement for MSG is salt, easy because of availability and economically efficient because of its price.

While it may not give the same taste as MSG does, the sodium from salt has the same effect on your recipe. It brings out the flavours of the other ingredients.  

How to Substitute

Substitute salt for a third of the MSG content required and work up from there to your liking.

Here’s how to cook with Salt:

4. Parmesan

Ubiquitous in Italian cuisine, this cheese is an excellent source of natural monosodium glutamate due to fermentation.

Parmesan cheese is used to add a savory flavour to pasta and pizzas, which can be remodelled for your recipe too. However, it may not go very well with stir-fries.  

How to Substitute

Keep the rind of your Parmesan Cheese. This way, you can use it to flavor soups and stews.

Here’s how to cook with Parmesan Cheese:

5. Mushrooms

Among all other mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms are known for having an umami flavor similar to because they have the highest content of glutamate.  

These are great for immune health and managing cholesterol levels.

How to Substitute

Roast or sauté the mushrooms before adding them to your dish as this will help enhance the flavor. 

Here’s how to cook with Shiitake Mushrooms:

6. Dulse

Manufactured from a kind of seaweed that has a subtle, chewy, and ocean-like flavor, dulse is a great replacement for MSG. 

It’s a great source of essential vitamins and minerals not found in our daily foods. However, its fishy taste is not a match for all. 

How to Substitute

A 1:1 ratio is best when substituting dulse with MSG for best flavor achievement.   

Here’s how to cook with Dulse:

7. Yeast Extract

A key ingredient in bread and beer, yeast extract is often used to increase the savoriness of a product. 

It’s usually available in local stores, but if not, online stores and breweries are the next best options. 

How to Substitute

Like MSG, yeast extract doesn’t add any extra flavors. It just enhances the tastes of the ingredients you’ve already used. Start with a very small amount and keep adding until satisfied.

Here’s how to cook with Yeast Extract:

8. Herbs

When it comes to increasing flavours, there isn’t a better choice other than herbs.

Dry or fresh, herbs possess flavours that are hard to find anywhere else. 

Dried herbs sometimes have added sodium in them so make sure to check before using. 

How to Substitute

There is no hard and fast rule here. Different dishes will benefit from different mixtures of herbs to taste. 

Here’s how to cook with Herbs:

9. Anchovies

Small, green, and usually prey, these freshwater fishes are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and glutamate.

Though sometimes used fresh, they’re more popularly sold in canned, dried, smoked, or salted forms. 

How to Substitute

A few chopped-up filets of anchovies can add a similar, enhanced flavor as MSG would. Don’t bother yourself with the fishy taste as it goes away once cooked. 

Here’s how to cook with Anchovies: 

10. Oyster Sauce

Oyster sauce has a salty, tangy taste and can easily fancy any Asian food recipe. It’s made from oyster broth that is caramelized until desired texture is achieved. 

This is a great low-calorie ingredient for the same enhanced umami flavour but fewer health sacrifices.  

How to Substitute

Again, no measurements can be made here as different recipes will require different amounts of oyster sauce. Add little as you go.

Here’s how to cook with Oyster Sauce:

11. Cheddar Cheese

Possessing a sharper, more pronounced flavour, cheddar cheese is the most popular hard cheese used in the world, with high notes of protein.

The savoriness this cheese provides is delicious and a great match to replace MSG. The more aged this cheese is, the better it’ll taste.  

How to Substitute

You can never have too much cheese but add as you go, depending on the recipe you’re making. 

Here’s how to cook with Cheddar Cheese:

12. Flavored Oil

Easily available and cheap for the most part, flavoured oil is one of the best replacements for MSG.  

It provides a subtle but obvious flavour to your dish and has different flavours that can adapt well to different dishes. 

How to Substitute

Some of the best oils you can use for similar savoriness are avocado oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil, and even olive oil. 

Here’s how to cook with flavoured oil:

13. Tomato Paste

Tomatoes are a natural source of MSG with a sweet and tangy flavour that pairs well with most dishes. 

Tomato paste is the concentrated version of tomatoes, thicker and richer. It can add a rich and deep taste to your recipe. 

How to Substitute

Tomato paste is usually eyeballed. We suggest starting with it first and using a small amount as you go, especially for recipes that don’t call for it. 

Here’s how to cook with Tomato Paste:

14. Kelp

Another seaweed like dulse, kelp, is rather large and brown in appearance. It’s rich in antioxidants that help fight off diseases.

This is the most versatile type of seaweed, used not only in the food industry but also in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical, and confectionery industries.   

How to Substitute

It has a rich, salty flavor that pairs well in soups and stews as a replacement for MSG.

Here’s how to cook with Kelp:

15. Spices

An easy option to guess, spices can increase and enhance the taste value of any recipe, even desserts. good thing is that they’re available everywhere.  

Cumin and turmeric powder are the two main spices that are used for their distinctive and profound flavours, mostly in Indian cuisine. 

How to Substitute

It is very easy to spoil a dish with an overload of spice. Try sticking to minimal amounts.  

Here’s how to cook with spices:

16. Crayfish

Closely resembling lobsters, crayfish or crawfish have a sweet and salty flavour that is considered a delicacy by many. 

Their consumption helps battle depression, support immune strength, and increase bone health.

How to Substitute

Powdered crayfish is your best bet here, popularly used in Nigerian cuisine. If you get your hands on this, feel free to replace MSG with it in a 1:1 ratio. 

Here’s how to cook with Crayfish:

17. Ogiri

Another popular ingredient in Nigerian cuisine, Ogiri is a flavouring tool made by fermenting oil seeds like sesame and egusi. 

Its benefits include improved eyesight, better digestion, and control over diabetes.    

How to Substitute

Though not easily available, its cheesy taste makes an impeccable replacement for the enhanced and savory flavor of MSG. Start slow if you’re not used to using it. 

Here’s how to cook with Ogiri:

18. Iru

Iru is also another ingredient made by fermenting a specific type of seed: locust seeds. It’s included in many African soup recipes.  

Iru tastes sweet, like chocolate and cheese combined. Though it may not sound appetizing, it works well when used correctly. 

How to Substitute

Iru is not the best substitute but a small amount of it can go a long way in soups and stews, enhancing their flavor as MSG does. 

Here’s how to cook with Iru:


Can I substitute salt with MSG?

Yes, you absolutely can. Salt, like MSG, is a flavor enhancer and brings out the tastes of all your other ingredients well. It is one of the reasons why salt is also used in desserts, though savoriness is unwelcome in that territory. It makes the hidden notes of sweetness stand out better.  

What is a healthy substitute for MSG?

Any food that naturally contains MSG, full-form being monosodium glutamate, is considered relatively healthy. These may include tomatoes, shrimp paste, shiitake mushrooms, meat, poultry, and fish. The list is endless. So try and find non-processed, naturally alternative options having a flavor that would make a great addition to your recipe.  

Is salt healthier than MSG?

That is a tricky question. As a fact, MSG contains ⅔ of the amount of sodium that we find in salt. So if you’re looking to reduce your sodium intake, MSG is the perfect alternative. However, MSG has been rumored to cause many people headaches, chest pain, tingling, nausea, facial flushing, and much more. Although there is no concrete evidence against MSG, I’d recommend sticking to using natural flavors or the substitutes mentioned above.  

Bottom Line

I hope this article has helped you choose the right substitute for MSG!

Please feel free to leave a comment below for any feedback or suggestion you might have. 

And lastly, do share this article with your family and friends as I’m sure it’ll help them if it has helped you! 



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About Irene Clark

Irene is a supermom of 4 kids who always has a smile on her face. She's an amazing dancer - you should see her moves! - and she loves to eat, especially with wine. She also loves pop music and travels across the country with her family and friends.

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