Hey there! If you love Mexican food as much as I do, you may be wondering: does Mexican food contain MSG? This common flavor enhancer is found in tons of products, so it makes sense to question if your favorite tacos, burritos, and more have it too.
I totally get it – you just want to make the healthiest choices when eating out. No judgement here! I researched this topic to give you the full scoop on MSG in Mexican cuisine. Get ready for a deep dive into all things Mexican food and MSG.
What is MSG?
First things first – what even is MSG? It stands for monosodium glutamate and is the sodium salt of glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is an amino acid that shows up naturally in foods like cheese, tomatoes, and mushrooms. As a food additive, MSG enhances and intensifies umami flavor, making things taste more savory and delicious without adding extra salt.
Is MSG Bad for You?
There’s a lot of debate around whether MSG is truly harmful or not. Some people do seem sensitive to it and can get headaches or flushing after eating MSG-containing foods. However, most experts say small amounts are perfectly safe for human consumption. The FDA even calls it “generally recognized as safe.” Phew!
Still, everyone is different. You know your body best. While MSG sensitivity is uncommon, pay attention to how you feel after eating foods with added MSG.
Where Can You Find MSG?
MSG hides in more foods than you’d expect! Here are some common culprits:
- Frozen dinners
- Chips and salty snacks
- Fast food
- Bouillon cubes
- Seasoning mixes
- Canned soups
Food manufacturers often use MSG so they can reduce sodium content while keeping food tasty. Sneaky, right?
Does Traditional Mexican Food Use MSG?
The good news is MSG is not traditionally used in authentic Mexican cooking! Here’s the scoop:
- Real-deal Mexican restaurants rely on bold chili peppers, herbs, and spices for flavor – not MSG.
- You won’t find MSG in most dishes at traditional taquerias and Mexican eateries. ¡Qué bueno!
- Ranch dressing served with Mexican food may contain MSG. Be sure to ask!
- Similarly, double check on the ingredient list for bottled salsas and hot sauces.
- Some Mexican
spiceblends could contain MSG too. Read those labels!
The takeaway? Real Mexican cuisine skips the MSG and builds amazing flavor from scratch.
When Does Mexican Food Have More MSG?
Sadly, some Americanized Mexican fast food and Tex-Mex chains do add more MSG to their recipes. For example:
- Taco Bell adds MSG to their ground beef and other items.
- Doritos flavored tacos likely have MSG too.
- Americanized Tex-Mex dishes use more shortcuts and flavor boosters compared to traditional Mexican cooking.
So authentic Mexican restaurants are less likely to use MSG, while fast food Tex-Mex may contain more. Good to know!
Enjoying Mexican without the MSG
Here are my top tips for savoring delicious Mexican meals minus the MSG:
Read Those Labels
Scan ingredient lists and nutrition facts closely for MSG or related additives like hydrolyzed vegetable protein. Knowledge is power!
Ask Questions When Dining Out
Don’t be shy – ask your waiter if specific dishes contain MSG. Many restaurants are happy to accommodate dietary needs.
Cook Mexican Food Yourself
Make your own tacos, enchiladas, and more at home so you control the ingredients. Get recipes from Mexican cooking blogs and experiment with spices.
Focus on Fresh Whole Foods
Build flavor from real ingredients like avocado, lime, cilantro, and tomato instead of bottled sauces with long additive lists.
Vary Your Cuisine Choices
Eat a diversity of cultural foods so you don’t overdo it on Mexican every week if MSG is a concern. Variety is the
Patronize legit family-owned Mexican joints making food from scratch without flavor shortcuts. You’ll taste the difference!
Delicious Mexican Meals Free of MSG
To show you all the flavor potential, here are some drool-worthy Mexican recipes that skip the MSG:
- Fajitas – Grilled chicken or steak with sautéed peppers and onions over corn tortillas
- Tamales – Savory shredded meat or cheese wrapped in masa dough and corn husks
- Carnitas – Slow-cooked pulled pork marinated in citrus and
- Pozole – Hearty hominy and pork stew with chilies and oregano
- Chilaquiles – Crispy tortilla chips simmered in tangy green salsa
- Ceviche – Lime-marinated fresh fish and shrimp
As you can see, you can still enjoy insanely delicious Mexican food without MSG. Stick to fresh, high quality ingredients and authentic cooking methods. Your taste buds will thank you!
FAQs About MSG in Mexican Cuisine
You might still have some questions about enjoying Mexican food while avoiding MSG. Here are some common FAQs:
Are there any health risks from eating MSG in Mexican food?
No major risks have been scientifically linked to consuming small amounts of MSG in moderation. Some people may experience temporary reactions like headaches or flushing. Those with sensitivities may want to avoid MSG.
What traditional Mexican dishes don’t use MSG?
Authentic options like tacos al pastor, chiles rellenos, mole sauce, tamales, pozole, and street cart favorites are traditionally MSG-free. Always check at restaurants though.
What Mexican food chains avoid MSG?
Brands like Chipotle, Pancheros, and Qdoba emphasize fresh prep and shy away from MSG. Local non-chain Mexican spots also typically avoid additives.
How can you order Mexican food if you are sensitive to MSG?
Ask about all ingredients, request no MSG, and customize your order. Avoid packaged ingredients, ask for olive oil instead of margarine, and get salsas and guacamole on the side.
What are signs a Mexican restaurant may use MSG?
Watch for MSG and related terms on menus. Also be wary of Tex-Mex chains focused on fast service and packaged ingredients rather than fresh from-scratch cooking.
What flavor substitutes can you use instead of MSG?
Cumin, chili powder, paprika, onion, garlic, cilantro, cinnamon, and lime all add great flavor to Mexican dishes without MSG!
The Takeaway on MSG in Mexican Cuisine
We covered a lot of ground here! The bottom line is that while some Mexican restaurants and products do contain MSG, you can easily enjoy delicious MSG-free Mexican meals. Just check labels, ask questions, choose authentic spots focused on fresh ingredients, and cook more at home.
This allows you to savor all the fantastic flavors of Mexico without worrying about additives. Now get out there and enjoy some mouthwatering tacos, fajitas, and enchiladas…no MSG required! Let me know if you have any other Mexican food questions.