If you’ve ever looked up ingredients and seasonings that can help to enhance the flavor of savory foods including different types of meat, fish, and soups, there is a good chance you have come across accent seasoning which has grown in popularity tremendously within the cooking world over the last few years.
With that being said, while it’s becoming a lot easier to find this added ingredient in food stores and online, it’s not always clear exactly what it is and what the best ways to use it are.
To clear things up, here is everything that you need to know about accent seasoning so that you can decide whether it’s worth picking up and using in your own recipes.
What Does Accent Seasoning Do?
Accent seasoning is a type of food seasoning that is most commonly used on savory foods including meat and fish, and while the white crystal-like appearance can make it look very similar to salt or sugar, the main difference is that it contains a primary ingredient called Monosodium Glutamate (MSG).
MSG helps to “wake up” the flavors of the food that you apply it to by enhancing our own taste buds, so while it doesn’t have a distinct taste of its own, it will greatly enhance the natural flavor of other foods, making them a lot more appetizing and better suited to certain recipes.
In fact, accent seasoning has actually been somewhat of a secret ingredient of many chefs for many years, and it is only recently that people have begun using it in recipes of their own.
How Does MSG Work?
MSG is an incredibly peculiar and unique flavor enhancer because of the way it works.
Essentially, MSG activates our taste buds, specifically the ones that react to glutamate which is an amino acid that can be found in most savory foods.
Therefore, by enhancing our sense of taste to these foods, it means our tongue can register their flavor much more effectively, even if the food in question is mild or very light in taste such as a chicken salad or any type of white fish (see also “Best Rockfish Recipes“).
Because the glutamic acid in MSG is exactly the same as that within savory foods, it means that we cannot differentiate between the two, although it will make the natural flavors a lot more potent.
It should also be noted that MSG actually does naturally appear in several types of food including tomatoes, shellfish, walnuts, cheese, anchovies, and cured pork which is why these foods can taste quite strong.
Best Food To Prepare With Accent Seasoning
As mentioned previously, you are going to want to be using accent seasoning with savory foods.
Some of the most common types of food that will benefit greatly from being paired with accent seasoning include:
You won’t even have to worry about what types of these foods you use since the MSG contained within the accent seasoning will respond to all of them equally.
The best time to sprinkle some of this powerful seasoning over your food is when you’re preparing a special meal for a few guests, or as part of a seasonal feast such as for Thanksgiving when you want the flavor of the meat to pop out as much as possible.
How Much Accent Seasoning Should You Add?
Accent seasoning is very highly concentrated, so you won’t need to add much at all to feel the full effects of it.
The rule of thumb is to try and use half a teaspoon of accent seasoning for every four servings of food.
This may seem like a fairly small amount, but because of the way that the MSG works within accent seasoning, it is more than enough to allow the flavors to become enhanced by a tremendous amount.
Why Is Accent Seasoning Controversial?
While it has been used for many years, especially in high-quality restaurants, there has always been some controversy surrounding the use of accent seasoning, primarily because of our lack of full understanding of how it works.
While most people will be able to consume this seasoning perfectly fine, there are still some people who have experienced negative reactions from consuming it including headaches, nausea, chest pain, vomiting, and a numb feeling in the body.
Despite it being known that some people will have this type of reaction to accent seasoning, researchers have yet to find a clear link between MSG and these symptoms, making it very difficult to understand why it happens, and more specifically, what ingredients within the seasoning are causing these problems.
These types of reactions have been called the MSG symptom complex, and they have raised a debate on whether accent seasoning should even be used at all, especially when there are plenty of alternatives that don’t seem to encourage these reactions.
With that being said, while these side effects are not deadly or life-threatening, they can be very uncomfortable and unpleasant in the short term, so if you do experience any of them, it can be worth avoiding accent seasoning in the future.
How Is Accent Seasoning Made?
While accent seasoning is a very common ingredient that many restaurants will use in order to make each and every meal taste as delicious as possible with all the natural flavors bubbling to the surface and really standing out, it can actually be made very easily at home too.
- 3 Tbsp Chili Powder
- 1 Tbsp Thyme
- 1 Tbsp Sweet Basil
- 1 Tbsp Bay Leaf
- 3 Tbsp Black Pepper
- 5 Tbsp Cayenne Pepper
- 3 Tbsp Garlic Powder
- 26 Oz Table Salt
- 3 Tbsp Onion Powder
Once you have all the ingredients ready, making accent seasoning is very simple and is well worth doing for how much it enhances a meal and makes it a lot more memorable, especially if you’re preparing food for other people.
All you need to do is mix all of these ingredients in a blender, except for the salt, for just a minute or two before then adding in the salt right at the end until the mixture takes on a uniform color.
Alternatives To Accent Seasoning
When it comes to enhancing the natural flavor of savory foods, it’s hard to find anything that works better than accent seasoning, though with that being said, there are still plenty of alternatives that do a good job in making a dish taste a lot more vibrant and delicious on the taste buds.
If you have experienced any of the side effects from consuming accent seasoning before, or if you are worried that you may have a bad reaction to it when trying it for the first time, it can be a good idea to use an alternative instead, and the good news is there are plenty to choose from.
Here are some of the best ingredients that work as substitutes for accent seasoning.
Accent seasoning does admittedly combine many different spices into one in order to allow the MSG to work as it should, so if you don’t have all these ingredients at hand, or if you just want something that doesn’t require any preparation at all, using a powdered spice is the next best thing.
This is also a great way to enhance the flavor of savory meals without adding any MSG to the recipe.
Part of the beauty of adding powdered spices individually rather than putting them together for accent seasoning is you also get more control over the type of flavor you want to add to your food, so if you add cumin for example which is one of the most popular variants, your food will have a much more earthy and warm aroma that mixes elegantly with the natural flavors.
Paprika is another popular powdered spice that is known for being sweet but can also be very spicy depending on the type that you buy.
Onion powder on the other hand is very concentrated and quite sweet in its aroma, meaning it will enhance the taste of any meat you use it on immensely while also adding in just a hint of sweetness.
Just like powdered spices, there are plenty of variants of salts that can be used for seasoning food that are perfect for elevating the flavor of savory dishes and allowing them to taste much more prominent.
If you want salts that are going to make your food taste richer so that the flavors are a lot deeper, Korean bamboo salt and Himalayan salt are good examples, however, there really is a salt to fit any type of flavor you can think of.
Whether you want something to make your food taste a little more smoky like with Kala Namak salt, or if you want to make a dish a little spicier with Indian black salt, there are plenty of options to experiment with.
Bouillon powder is a type of natural food enhancer that is actually very similar to accent seasoning in the way it works and the type of food it pairs best with, however, the main difference is it contains no MSG.
This powder is packed full of a combination of flavor enhancers, sugar, salt, and a few other ingredients to act as a natural enhancer that is most often used on chicken and meat dishes, along with soups and casseroles.
Accent seasoning is one of the best ingredients you can use to allow the flavor of your recipes to stand out a little more, however, if you do feel any side effects while eating it, there are still many alternatives you can choose from.