Can MSG or Soy Sauce Replace Salt in Breadmaking?

While baking over the years I’ve tested various ingredients and their effects on bread dough. Most of those tests can be found in the Principles of Baking playlist on my channel. Some were my ideas, and some were suggested and requested by viewers. Usually, the ingredients tested were already commonly used in breadmaking.

Some time ago someone asked if they could use MSG instead of salt in bread dough. I put it on my list, ordered some MSG, but later forgot about it. Whilst going through my baking cupboard one day I came across the pack of MSG and finally decided to give it a go. And after seeing that I have a bottle of soy sauce in the fridge I decided to test that out too.

What is MSG?

MSG aka monosodium glutamate is a flavour enhancer which is naturally found in some foods like tomatoes and cheese. It adds umami flavour to food. Umami is the fifth basic flavour after sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. It’s kind of like the balance between all the flavours. Soy sauce also adds umami.

Regular salt contains around 38% sodium while MSG only contains around 12% sodium. Soy sauce contains around 17% sodium.

Salt is also a flavour enhancer. Pretty much everyone consumes too much salt. Even when we think that we don’t, most of the time we do. I am quite conservative with my salt use, and I track my intake. It does not take a lot to go over the daily recommended limit which 6g (0.21oz) of salt.

We can calculate the amount of sodium in salt by using the given percentage above. 6 x 0.38 = 2.28. Sometimes you’ll see 2.3g (0.081oz) as the recommended daily limit which can be confusing. The larger number refers to salt and the lower number refers to pure sodium. 6g salt (0.21oz) and 2.3g (0.081oz) sodium are the same thing.

Using MSG as a replacement may seem like a good option since it only contains 1/3rd of the sodium. That was also the reason why I was asked to make this video.

The test.

For the purpose of the test, I simply replaced the salt in a dough with MSG at a 1:1 ratio. I calculated the required amount of soy sauce according to its sodium content and subtracted some of the water in the dough to account for the water content in the soy sauce.

Salt has a tightening effect on gluten. Without salt the dough becomes more extensive and less elastic which can be beneficial in some cases and detrimental in others, but it’s just something to be aware of. Since the MSG only has 1/3rd of the sodium compared to salt it made the dough feel slack and the loaf did not rise as well upwards, instead spreading out sideways.

The recipe formulas –

MSG: 200g (7oz) white bread flour; 4g (0.14oz) instant dry yeast; 4g (0.14oz) MSG; 130g (4.6oz) water.

Salt: 200g (7oz) white bread flour; 4g (0.14oz) instant dry yeast; 4g (0.14oz) salt; 130g (4.6oz) water.

Soy sauce: 200g (7oz) white bread flour; 4g (0.14oz) instant dry yeast; 23g (0.8oz) soy sauce; 110g (3.9oz) water.


The results.

For me, the main goal was taste. First, I sampled the regular bread made with salt to then compare the other two to it. Taking a bite out of the MSG bread I was quite surprised. I thought it would at least be similar to regular bread, but the MSG made the bread not taste like bread at all. There is no way I would ever use this in bread dough. Perhaps a mix of MSG and salt would work, and if you really need to decrease your salt intake for heath reasons, then perhaps that would be an option. But in that case, you could just look at what you’re eating throughout the day and adjust the sodium in everything to decrease your intake. That would make more sense than mixing weird stuff into your bread dough.

As for the soy sauce, it kind of worked. The bread had proper seasoning, the colour was nice, and the soy sauce flavour was ok. On its own though it did add a little bit of bitterness, so I would not use it in a regular lean white bread dough. Of course, it has nothing to do with lowering sodium, but at least it can replace salt in some way.


Practical use.

So, I decided to create a recipe using soy sauce and balancing the flavour with other ingredients to get an interesting bake in the end. Coffee custard, soy sauce buns is what I came up with.

Adding some butter, dark brown sugar, and vanilla paste to the dough mellowed out the slight bitterness of the soy sauce. The coffee custard worked well because it too had a slight bitterness to it but balanced with sweetness from sugar it was a nice addition to dough base. Finally, I decided to add some desiccated coconut because coffee and coconut work well together. This is a recipe I came up with in a few minutes just by looking at the random stuff I had at home.

You could use soy sauce in various other recipes especially savoury ones like steamed buns with some kind of meat filling or some savoury doughnuts perhaps.

For the dough

100g (3.5oz) water

2g (0.07oz) instant dry yeast

23g (0.8oz) soy sauce

15g (0.53oz) brown sugar

15g (0.53oz) butter

5g (0.17oz) vanilla paste

200g (7oz) white bread flour


For the coffee custard –

100g (3.5oz) milk

25g (0.9oz) white sugar

10g (0.35oz) butter

0.5 egg

10g (0.35oz) cornstarch

3g (0.1oz) instant coffee


To finish –

0.5 egg for glazing

Desiccated coconut


  1. Make the custard. Combine all ingredients in a small pan and set it on medium-high heat. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes or until thickened. Cover and leave to cool down.
  2. Make the dough. Combine all the ingredients except the flour. Mix well. Add the flour and mix to a dough. *Desired dough temperature 25C (77F). If your dough is warmer, then it will ferment more rapidly. If it is cooler, then it will take longer. Adjust fermentation time accordingly.
  3. Cover and ferment for 45 minutes.
  4. Ferment for 45 minutes.
  5. Divide into 4 and shape into balls.
  6. Proof for 1 hour.
  7. Shape, brush with egg, and sprinkle with coconut. Fill with custard.
  8. Bake at 170C (340F) fan on for 20 minutes.

Skolebrod recipe –

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