A Pinch Of MSG Is Key For Umami-Packed Homemade Pickles

One of the beautiful things about making pickles at home is that you have complete creative control over what ingredients go into your brine, which lets you add some truly unique additions that can really up the flavor of your pickles. One ingredient that can bring a savory depth to your next batch is MSG (monosodium glutamate), a flavor enhancer that is frequently found in processed and canned foods. MSG is also commonly used in Asian cooking to add depth.

MSG is a pure umami flavor, which works to enhance the other flavors around it by making your mouth water. MSG also works as a salt replacement for your pickles, providing the taste enhancement you'd traditionally get from salt. MSG is said to have a meaty flavor to it, similar to the taste of parmesan cheese. MSG won't overpower any of the other flavors in your pickle brine and you just need to use a small amount to get the desired effect. MSG has gotten a bad reputation over time, being labeled as unhealthy. But in small increments, MSG is completely safe.

Adding MSG to your pickles

You can add MSG during the brine-making phase of your pickle process. MSG will dissolve into the brine, making it a super simple ingredient to add. You can play around with additional add-ins to your pickling mixture to see how the addition of MSG highlights the flavors. Garlic cloves can give your pickles a subtle garlic flavor, and with MSG, those earthy, savory sensations that make garlic so great are further accentuated. Spices like whole peppercorns or fennel also receive a major flavor boost from MSG.

Whole-grain mustard or mustard seeds are also great ingredients to use alongside MSG. Mustard has a natural subtle spice and a rich flavor. MSG brings out more of that richness, making for flavorfully complex pickles. MSG will go better with pickles that focus on herb-forward or spice-forward flavors. While sweet pickles are delicious, MSG truly shines when paired with savory ingredients.