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BEST MSG Substitutes + 3 To Avoid

I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of MSG powder substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion.

Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry swap, or want a substitute that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.

Dried mushrooms are the best natural substitute for MSG powder. Condiments like fish sauce or soy sauce are also great. Or you can use pantry staples like nutritional yeast, Marmite, or parmesan because they contain lots of umami.

Ready? Let’s jump right in.

The experiment

I made small batches of béchamel sauce to test different MSG substitutes. 

MSG powder is the purest form of umami. It doesn’t taste of much on its own, but it brings a delicious umami kick when you use it and helps enhance the other flavors.

MSG get’s a bad rep, but not all of it is fair! Lots of  myths have been debunked about it over the years. 

But if you’re looking for a natural source of umami other than MSG, there are loads of great substitutes! 

Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:

SubstitutesHow to SubstituteVerdict
Dried Mushroom PowderReplace in a 1:1 ratio10/10
Bouillon1 tsp MSG = ¼ bouillon cube or 1 tsp of bouillon granules9/10
Fish Sauce / Umami-rich CondimentsReplace with half the amount9/10
Nutritional YeastReplace in a 1:1 ratio8/10
Yeast extractReplace in a 1:1 ratio8/10
AnchoviesReplace in a 1:1 ratio7/10
Miso pasteReplace in a 1:1 ratio7/10
Parmesan rindsUse a chunk of rind7/10
Salt and HerbsReplace in a 1:1 ratio6/10

Common uses of MSG powder 

Here are some popular ways to use MSG powder and the best substitutes for those situations:

  • For vinaigrette, sauces, and marinades: Try using mushroom powder, fish sauce, nutritional yeast or salt and herbs. 
  • For soups, stews, and broths: Try using mushroom powder or broth, fish sauce and other condiments, nutritional yeast or yeast extract. Anchovies are also a great option, but you’ll need to chop them up before using. 

Dried mushrooms

Mushrooms aren’t just for pizza toppings, my friends. They’re filled to the brim with umami goodness, making them a natural alternative for MSG powder. 

And the umami flavor gets even more concentrated once they’re dried.

You can use dried mushrooms in two different ways, depending on what suits your dish.

You can rehydrate the mushrooms and use the resulting water to replace stock in your recipe. 

Or you can blitz the dehydrated mushrooms into a fine powder, and voila, you’ve got your very own homemade MSG powder. 

This is what I did for my sauce and it worked like a charm. The powder is just as handy as the real deal and completely natural. Now that’s what I call a win-win!

Psst… you can find ready made mushroom powder quite easily in grocery stores.

How to substitute: replace MSG in a 1:1 ratio with dried mushroom powder.


Bouillon is an easy swap for MSG that you might already have in your pantry!

The powder is typically diluted in water to create broth, but did you know you can just throw a cube straight into your dish to enhance its flavor?

Beef bouillon has the strongest flavor and is the best replacement for MSG. But chicken or vegetable bouillon are also fine.

Som bouillon cubes may actually have MSG as an ingredient, but it’s not standard.

How to substitute: replace 1 tsp MSG with ¼ bouillon cube or 1 tsp of bouillon granules. 

Fish sauce or soy sauce

Don’t let the name scare you away – fish sauce is one of those secret weapons that can take a dish from good to great. 

Yes, it’s got a strong smell and it’s salty as the sea, but it’s also loaded with that umami flavor we’re after.

And you only need a few drops.

I was hesitant to try fish sauce with my béchamel sauce at first, but boy was I surprised. It gave my sauce a delicious savory flavor. 

And fish sauce isn’t the only condiment you can use. There are LOADS of options… you’ll 100% have one of these in your pantry.

  • Soy sauce – everyone knows soy sauce. It’s salty and moreish, but won’t bring quite as much depth as MSG. You also need to be careful not to add too much, or you food can get overly salty. Try other options like liquid aminos, coconut aminos, or tamari if you want to keep your dish gluten-free. 
  • Worcestershire sauce – this is made with a base of vinegar, but with additions like anchovies and tamarind. It has a tangy flavor with lots of umami goodness. But it’s pretty potent, so don’t add too much.
  • Maggi liquid seasoning – this is like soy sauce in steroids. It’s delicious and very addictive. A few drops is all you need. 
  • Oyster sauce – this is made from oyster extract but doesn’t taste fishy. It has a salty-sweet flavor that works well with Asian dishes. And of course those deep savoury notes like MSG.

How to substitute: replace MSG with half the amount of fish sauce or other umami-rich condiment.

Nutritional yeast

This secret ingredient is loved by vegans for its cheese-like flavor, but is also a fantastic substitute for MSG. 

Fun fact: It contains the same chemical compound as MSG, which means it has just as much umami punch.

But because of the cheesy, nutty flavor of nutritional yeast – it won’t work in every dish.

It was great in my creamy béchamel sauce, but might not fit in so well in a stir fry.

I’ve also tried sprinkling these flakes over roasted veggies and they were delish! It’s great with fries and popcorn too.

How to substitute: replace MSG in a 1:1 ratio with nutritional yeast.

Yeast extract

Who would have thought that the trusty old Marmite or Vegemite you smear on your toast could serve as an excellent MSG substitute? 

Yes, you heard it right. This familiar kitchen staple is brimming with glutamates that’ll lend a robust umami flavor to your dish.

But remember, with great flavor comes great responsibility. 

Yeast extract is high on the salty scale, so you only need a little to do the job. Don’t go overboard, or you’ll have a salt fest instead of a flavor fest.

You can even try mixing it with other substitutes like anchovies or nutritional yeast for a whole new level of flavor.

How to substitute: replace MSG in a 1:1 ratio with yeast extract.


It’s time to bring out those tiny tins of anchovies hiding at the back of your pantry. 

These little fellas pack an umami punch that stands tall against MSG.

All you need to do is chop them up and stir them into your dish. They’ll melt away, leaving behind an intense flavor that no one will be able to trace back to anchovies.

I promise there’ll be no fishiness. In fact, I can prove it. Did you know that anchovies are a key ingredient in Caesar salad dressing?

You’d never be able to guess, right?!

How to substitute: replace MSG in a 1:1 ratio with chopped anchovies.

Salt and herbs

If you’re in a real pinch, look no further than a classic combo of salt and herbs.

Sure, this isn’t the flashiest alternative, but salt is well known for being able to amp up the flavors in a dish.

You can even play around with seasoned salts or garlic salt for an extra boost. 

I went the fancy route and used truffle salt for my béchamel and it tasted like it came straight out of a professional kitchen! 

Herbs are also perfect for giving you dish a little boost if you think it’s missing something.

How to substitute: replace MSG in a 1:1 ratio with a mixture of salt and herbs.

Miso paste

Miso paste is a great way to add a salty, funky kick to your dishes.

White miso is the mildest, with a subtle sweet note and will work better with Western dishes.

While red miso is the saltiest and funkiest and best for dishes with lots of other bold flavors.

Pro tip: with the leftovers, make a miso butter to spread on fresh bread. I tasted this once in a restaurant and I couldn’t get enough!

… must have been the umami.

How to substitute: replace MSG in a 1:1 ratio with miso paste.

Parmesan rinds

I love a sustainable alternative!

Parmesan cheese is loaded with umami, rinds included! So instead of chucking the end of your parmesan block out, keep it in your fridge (it’ll last for ages).

Then next time you’re making a soup or a stew, chuck a bit of rind in there while it’s simmering.

The rind will ‘melt’ and infuse your food with deliciousness. Then fish the rinds out just before serving!

You can also boil the rinds in water and use the stock as a base. 

How to substitute: replace MSG with a chunk of parmesan rind.

Other substitutes to consider

The suggestions above are my top MSG substitutes, but the list doesn’t end there. Here more alternatives you can consider, most of which are naturally rich in umami: 

  • Beef broth – this is an intensely meaty flavor thanks to the natural umami from the beef and bones. You can use this as a base for saucey dishes. And if you don’t want too much beef flavor, dilute it with water or a lighter broth (chicken, dashi, or vegetable).
  • Smoked dulse flakes – dubbed  as the bacon of the sea, these seaweed flakes have a salty, briny flavor and lots of glutamates that’ll add depth to your dishes. Grind them into a fine powder and sprinkle them straight into whatever you’re cooking. 
  • Kelp – also known as kombu. This seaweed is typically used to make the classic Japanese stock dashi, which you can use as a base for your soups and stews.
  • Tomato paste – has lots of natural glutamates that give it a prominent umami kick. But to get the most out of it, try Bon Appetit’s hack –  caramelizing it in oil first before deglazing it with water or stock. Of course, it will also impart a tomato flavor!
  • Leave it out – If all else fails, or you’re not a fan of these substitutes, you can just skip the MSG. It’s a flavor enhancer after all, and your dish will still turn out great as long as you stick with the rest of your recipe.

Substitutes to avoid

I saw some blogs suggesting you could use things like garlic, chili powder, or even cumin to replace MSG.

MSG is a flavorless enhancer, not something that directly adds flavour. While these three suggestions will all add a lot of flavor, while possibly overpowering the other ingredients in your dish.

They also don’t have any umami.

BEST MSG Substitutes

I tested loads of MSG powder substitutes to find the best one.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Ingredient
Cuisine: Asian
Keyword: msg substitutes, substitutes for msg
Prep Time: 7 minutes
Total Time: 7 minutes
Servings: 1 person
Calories: 1kcal


  • 1 tsp dried mushroom powder
  • 1 tsp bouillon granules, or 1/8 bouillon cube
  • ½ tsp fish sauce or other umami-rich condiments
  • 1 tsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp yeast extract
  • 1 tsp chopped anchovies
  • 1 tsp salt and your choice of herbs


  • Cook your meal according to the recipe.
  • Add your chosen MSG powder substitutes at the appropriate cooking time.
  • Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.


Serving: 1tsp | Calories: 1kcal

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