Does Olive Garden Use MSG In Any Of Its Dishes?

Despite the fact that the FDA has verified that it's perfectly safe to consume and scientists have debunked its adverse health effects, MSG still has somewhat of a negative reputation. The truth is that MSG occurs naturally in everyday foods like walnuts and soy sauce; it's also added to popular food products like bacon, potato chips, and instant noodles. Major restaurant chains such as McDonald's have also admitted to adding the flavor enhancer to certain menu items. However, that's not the case at Olive Garden.

Contrary to claims from customers and former employees, Olive Garden food doesn't actually contain MSG. The restaurant confirmed on its website that it's not an ingredient in its recipes and noted that any products from outside suppliers, such as the iconic breadsticks, do not contain the additive either. So if you're wondering why your fettuccine Alfredo tastes extra delicious or why you have a headache after eating the lasagna, know that added MSG isn't to blame.

Why Olive Garden doesn't use MSG

While Olive Garden may not add MSG to its food, it does use ingredients that are high in glutamic acid, also referred to as glutamate. Glutamic acid is an amino acid that's chemically identical to MSG. The main difference between the two is that MSG is made artificially by fermenting sugar cane, sugar beets, molasses, or starch, while glutamic acid already exists naturally and therefore doesn't have to be synthesized. Both glutamic acid and MSG are responsible for giving foods a deep savoriness (commonly called umami), but MSG, since it's essentially concentrated glutamic acid, can be added to foods that don't naturally contain the amino acid.

Beyond walnuts and soy sauce, other foods rich in glutamic acid include cheese, tomatoes, and mushrooms — ingredients that are abundant in many of Olive Garden's menu items. Since MSG is typically added to foods without glutamic acid, adding it to dishes that already contain multiple sources of it isn't necessary.

Does Olive Garden use any flavor enhancers?

Considering MSG is an easy way to amp up the flavor of food, it might seem surprising that Olive Garden doesn't add any to its dishes, especially being a major restaurant chain with over 800 locations all across the U.S. But although Olive Garden food can be pretty tasty, it doesn't rely solely on the skills of its chefs or naturally glutamate-rich ingredients.

According to what an Olive Garden guest relations representative shared with a customer in an email republished to a forum on MisFit City, Olive Garden doesn't add MSG to its food, but it does serve certain products that "may contain hydrolyzed vegetable protein." Another customer's correspondence with Olive Garden guest relations yielded a similar response. Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, much like MSG, is a flavor enhancer. It contains glutamic acid but is not chemically identical to it like MSG. The use of hydrolyzed vegetable protein would increase the amount of glutamic acid in Olive Garden food, but it's still safe to say none comes from MSG.