Why You Should Read The Label The Next Time You Buy Kewpie Mayo

While American kitchens have been stocking Hellman's and Duke's mayonnaise for decades, Japan has been using Kewpie. According to Bon Appétit, Kewpie has a smoother and richer flavor than most of the mayos we use in the states. The strongest difference is a more eggy umami flavor, which is bolstered by its inclusion of egg yolks rather than a whole egg. Kewpie strangely has both a sweet tanginess and savory flavor that is unique to itself. 

As the condiment's popularity has risen, especially from trends like Emily Mariko's viral salmon rice bowl, as Bon Appétit points out, it has become easier to source real Kewpie in the U.S. However, there is a big difference between Kewpie mayo which is made for the Japanese market, and the Kewpie mayo sold in the U.S. The product sold in the U.S. lacks one important ingredient: MSG, which is swapped out for yeast extract.

Look out for the MSG

Okay, here's the deal with MSG. MSG, or Monosodium glutamate, is a "food additive derived from glutamic acid, an amino acid that naturally occurs in many foods," according to GoodRx. MSG enhances the savoriness of food and is commonly found in Asian cooking and food products.

Since the late 1960s, MSG has been plagued by myths of it being bad for the human body. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has repeatedly found MSG to be safe. Momofuku chef David Chang has often spoken out in defense of MSG, saying in a Peachy Keen essay "Countless studies over the years have supported this idea that MSG is safe."

According to Food & Wine, MSG is the reason many ingredients are delicious, including tomatoes, cheese, and edible seaweed, in which it naturally occurs. It is for this specific reason that chefs love using MSG, as it brings an umami taste, which is a "fabulous savory fifth taste." Chefs like Stephanie Izard and David Chang commonly use Kewpie mayo as a "flavor boost" in their dishes.

The real deal is definitely worth tracking down on your next outing for mayonnaise. We're confident you will taste a difference.