Does Mexican Food Have MSG?

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a common flavor enhancer found in many foods. If you love Mexican cuisine, you may be wondering – does Mexican food contain MSG? Let’s explore this topic and learn how to enjoy the flavors of Mexico while making informed choices.

What is MSG?

MSG is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, an amino acid that occurs naturally in foods like tomatoes, cheese, and mushrooms. As a food additive, MSG enhances umami flavor and makes food taste more savory without adding extra salt.

Is MSG Bad For You?

The science is mixed when it comes to MSG safety. While some people do appear sensitive to MSG and report reactions like headaches, most experts consider small doses completely safe. According to the FDA, MSG is “generally recognized as safe.”

Where is MSG Commonly Found?

MSG can be found in:

  • Canned soups
  • Frozen dinners
  • Fast food
  • Chips and snacks
  • Seasoning mixes

It’s often used in processed foods to boost flavor. MSG allows companies to cut back on salt while making food taste more appetizing.

Does Traditional Mexican Cuisine Contain MSG?

Authentic Mexican cooking relies on herbs, spices, and chili peppers – not MSG – for flavor. In traditional Mexican restaurants, MSG is rarely used.

However, there are a few exceptions:

  • Ranch dressing is a popular condiment served with Mexican food. Store-bought ranch dressing sometimes contains MSG.
  • Salsas and hot sauces may have MSG, especially bottled, commercially-made varieties.
  • Mexican seasoning mixes could contain MSG as an ingredient. Always check the label!

When is MSG More Common in Mexican Dishes?

Fast food chains and Tex-Mex restaurants in America often use more MSG in their Mexican-inspired dishes. For example:

  • Taco Bell has added MSG to their ground beef and other menu items.
  • Doritos flavored tacos from Taco Bell or other chains likely contain MSG.
  • Americanized Tex-Mex dishes use extra flavor boosters and shortcuts.

So traditional Mexican food is less likely to have added MSG, while Americanized Tex-Mex may contain more.

How to Enjoy Mexican Cuisine While Avoiding MSG

Here are some tips if you want to limit MSG intake from Mexican food:

Check Labels on Packaged Foods

Read the ingredient list and nutrition facts. Watch for MSG, monosodium glutamate, or ingredient names like hydrolyzed vegetable protein and autolyzed yeast extract.

Ask About Ingredients When Dining Out

Don’t be afraid to ask if menu items contain MSG. Many restaurants will happily accommodate dietary needs.

Stick to Whole Foods

Focus on dishes made with fresh produce, herbs, spices, and unprocessed ingredients. Avoid packaged foods with long ingredient lists.

Make it at Home

Cooking Mexican recipes yourself allows full control over ingredients. Rely on natural flavor from spices, not MSG powders.

Look for Signs of Authenticity

Traditional sit-down restaurants are less likely to use MSG than fast food chains. Seek places using high-quality ingredients.

Try Different Cuisines

Branch out beyond Mexican food occasionally if you are concerned about MSG exposure from certain dishes. Variety is key.

Delicious Mexican Meals Without MSG

These flavorful recipes avoid added MSG, allowing the natural flavors to shine:

Shrimp Ceviche: Marinated shrimp, lime juice, onion, tomato, cilantro

Chicken Fajitas: Grilled chicken, peppers, onions, corn tortillas

Chili Colorado: Beef simmered in ancho chili sauce

Pico de Gallo: Fresh chopped tomatoes, onion, cilantro, lime juice

Chicken Mole: Chicken in a sauce of chilies, spices, fruit, nuts, chocolate

Fish Tacos: Grilled fish, corn tortillas, shredded cabbage, avocado

The Bottom Line

MSG is unlikely to be present in authentic Mexican cuisine. But fast food Tex-Mex may contain more. By reading labels, asking questions, and cooking fresh Mexican recipes at home, you can avoid MSG while still enjoying incredible flavors.

Focus on making informed choices, varying your diet, choosing restaurants wisely, and relying on natural ingredients. This allows you to reap the benefits of Mexican food minus the additives. ¬°Buen provecho!

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Bill Kalkumnerd
Bill Kalkumnerd

I am Bill, I am the Owner of HappySpicyHour, a website devoted to spicy food lovers like me. Ramen and Som-tum (Papaya Salad) are two of my favorite spicy dishes. Spicy food is more than a passion for me - it's my life! For more information about this site Click

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