The Uncommon Seasoning To Give Mashed Potatoes An Umami Boost

There's nothing quite like a bowl of fluffy, creamy, and buttery mashed potatoes. Perfect alongside sous-vide ribeye steak, BBQ ribs, and roasted chicken, mashed potatoes can enhance meaty entrees with its mild flavors or stand out on its own with a variety of incorporated seasonings. For starters, the food blog Happy Muncher states that chili powder, cumin, and curry powder are all unique options that add depth and complexity to this side dish, as well as herbs like rosemary, basil, and thyme. And if you really want to take your potatoes on a trip around the world, Food For Net suggests sprinkling in some chat masala, turmeric powder, or Cajun seasoning, the latter of which, typically contains a blend of several spices like cayenne, crushed red pepper, and oregano.

But there's one uncommon seasoning that gives mashed potatoes an umami boost, and it's one that you might not expect or have in your pantry.

Used in Chinese, Thai, and Korean cuisines

Monosodium glutamate, aka MSG, is found in many types of condiments, spice blends, frozen meals, and processed meats, per Eco Watch. It's also what makes chips, fast food, and Chinese entrees taste so good, as the source above notes, and is "generally recognized as safe" per the FDA. In fact, this FDA source states that you can find naturally-occurring MSG in cheese, tomatoes, and soy extracts, among many other foods and ingredients.

The Washington Post explains that the use of MSG heightens salty and sour flavors in foods, but by itself, it barely tastes like anything (or rather, as the source states, there are very subtle salty and umami notes that are reminiscent of charred steak, cheese, and mushrooms). When added to foods like tomato sauce, popcorn, and bread, WP explains that MSG suddenly kicks into high gear by providing such foods with a much-needed umami boost, and that goes for mashed potatoes as well. And since one teaspoon of MSG only has 500 milligrams of sodium, it's a solid substitute for salt, which could help to reduce sodium levels without sacrificing flavor, per WP.

For mashed potatoes, Lifehacker suggests adding in one small pinch of MSG at a time until the savory notes really start to shine through. A little goes a long way with MSG and we encourage you to use it when your meals need a boost of umami flavor.