Increasing the level of glutamate in a recipe, during cooking or processing, is a simple and effective way to increase the umami taste and balance.

Because free glutamate has a unique affinity with the umami taste receptors on the tongue, glutamate is the purest source of umami taste.

As foods ripen, the levels of free glutamate increase resulting in a richer, more flavorful taste. This is why foods naturally high in glutamate when ripe or mature, such as tomatoes, cheese and mushrooms, are used to enhance the taste and balance of savory recipes. Glutamate-rich stocks or condiments, including MSG (monosodium glutamate), can also be used to increase umami.

MSG Enhances Good-Quality Food

While MSG in food harmonizes well with salty and sour tastes, it contributes little or nothing to sweet or bitter foods.

Results of taste panel studies indicate that a level of 0.1 to 0.8 percent monosodium glutamate by weight in food provides optimum enhancement of the food’s natural flavor. This is within the range of glutamate that naturally occurs in foods. Approximately one-half teaspoon of MSG is an effective amount to enhance the flavor of a pound of meat or four-to-six servings of vegetables, casseroles or soup.

MSG in Food is Self-Limiting

MSG in food is self-limiting — once the proper amount is used, adding more contributes little, if anything, to food flavor. Overuse, as with many other seasonings and spices, may cause some foods to have an undesirable taste. There is simply no substitute for wholesome, quality food and good cooking techniques. MSG makes good-quality food taste better, but will not improve the flavor of poor-quality food.

Learn More: Helpful hints on MSG in cooking 

MSG in food