I can't read in local language and was looking to buy some salt, so I went to local shop picked up what looked like it (white crystals in plain plastic bag without much colour and decoration). I tasted it and it did have 'salty' feel to it, so I bought it... I then went home and ran EAN barcode check and it turned out to be monosodium glutamate (MSG).

I am to lazy to go back to shop and willing to compromise on taste this time...

Can I use monosodium glutamate instead of salt?

  • How are you going to use it?
    – John Feltz
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 3:02
  • @JohnFeltz throw it in water and cook some noodle like things, also rub chicken drumsticks in it with spices. Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 3:03
  • 1
    It is completely different from salt. See Monosodium glutamate.
    – user3169
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 6:06
  • Use salty ingredients that you already have ... soy sauce, brined pickles.... Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 9:02

3 Answers 3


Sure you can. It will not taste salty, but it also will not taste bland, it will have a "seasoned" taste. Will you like it that way, or miss the salt? That's not something we can predict (or you, for that matter, if you have not tried it before). You have to taste it so you can know if you personally enjoy eating saltless, umami food.

When trying, make sure that you are using very small quantities. Measure in knifetips, not in teaspoons, add one at the time and stir well. You can easily overdo it, and there is no way to go back. Pay speciall attention to the feeling of "It's not good yet" - it can come from "not enough seasoning" or from "not enough salt", in the second case adding more MSG won't help.

  • 1
    Hi rumtscho, exactly what I did, reasoning was if I ruin it by using MSG instead of salt, I have to go to shop, or I have to go to shop get some salt... It didn't came out exactly 'salted' but it did have that additional flavour, so I was quite happy with outcome. One additional thing to note it enhances flavour more than salt so put only about half the amount of salt I would put into pot. Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 11:34

The simple answer is no. The mouth feels five distinct flavours. Salty (from salt) is one of them. Umami (from MSG) is another.

They are not the same flavour at all, and cannot be directly substituted.

Also, MSG is not hygroscopic in the way salt is. It won't "pull the water out of" meat or vegetables the way that salt does.

  • 3
    While to a certain extent the notion of 5 (or maybe 6) distinct flavours is true, in reality it isn't quite as clear cut as that. Salt flavour is triggered in varying ways not just by sodium chloride (ie table salt) but also by other chlorides (eg potassium chloride, often sold as low sodium salt) and other sodium compounds (eg sodium acetate, the flavour in salt and vinegar crisps). I don't know about MSG specifically but would be surprised if it didn't trigger salt receptors to at least some degree.
    – Jules
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 8:54

Some time has passed and you might have already bought salt but maybe consider this next time. In dry-pan frying you can use lemon juice. If for example you are frying thin cuts of meat (works on chicken) you can squeeze some lemon juice directly into the pan. You can immediately smell the saltiness. Otherwise, you can salt through sallty condiments such as soy sauce and others. Hope this helps :)

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