Maggi seasoning is a food flavor enhancer that is available in a thin, concentrated dark brown liquid, granulated powder, and cube form. Invented in Switzerland in the late 1800s and introduced in Germany, it's an ingredient whose uses have transcended cultures, dishes, and cuisines, thanks to its umami-rich, soy sauce-like flavor. Maggi shows up in sauces, stir-fries, soups, and more.
Main Component: wheat protein
Varieties: sauce, powder, and cube forms
Place of Origin: Switzerland
Substitutes: soy sauce, tamari
What Is Maggi Seasoning?
Julius Maggi, a miller from Switzerland, created and marketed the first instant pea-and-bean soups in the late 1800s to serve the need for nutritious, vegetable-based foods for the working class. His first factory, in Singen, Germany, was established in 1887. (In Germany, it's called Maggi Würze; the word wurze means spice or seasoning.)
In 1886, the Maggi company came out with a Maggi liquid seasoning, a dark-colored, vegetable protein-based sauce. Hydrolyzed vegetable protein is high in glutamic acid (of which MSG is derived), which is known to improve the taste of savory foods thanks to its rich, meaty, flavor profile. It developed a following for many reasons, but one of them is completely practical: It's an inexpensive substitute for a meat extract, like a broth or stock.
Maggi is a product that is used all over the world. In Africa and in the Middle East, it is used mainly in its cube form. There are a total of nine different formulations that differ among nations and regions, depending on the local preferences and cuisine. The Swiss version is the original flavor, but some will argue that the French version is better.
Mexican Maggi is called Jugo Maggi, and it comes in mild and spicy, and there is a version with lime. The one known in the Philippines has more garlic in it, and the Polish version is lighter in color and a bit more sour than the original.
Beyond the bottle, though, Maggi comes in chicken and beef bouillon tablets, soup mixes, hot and/or sweet chili sauces, and granulated bouillon.
How to Use Maggi
Maggi is undoubtedly a product within a beloved global reach, but many Americans are still unfamiliar with it.
Once you become familiar with it, it's likely to take you by surprise and inspire creativity: It's easy to see the ways in which you can use it. People commonly add a drop or two of the sauce to soups, sauces, and stews, but it adds a savory depth to anything it's paired with: scrambled eggs, meat sauces, soups, stews, and even mixed drinks. It makes meat taste meatier and more flavorful.
If you're not familiar with it, when you first start to incorporate it into dishes, go sparingly, as you would with soy sauce. They are similar, but Maggi is based on wheat protein (which means it's not gluten free), it is high in sodium and is a bit of an acquired taste. Maggi is also practically interchangeable with Golden Mountain sauce from Thailand. Although it's a salty sauce used in cooking, sometimes it can be found as a condiment on the tables of home cooks and restaurants.
What Does It Taste Like?
It smells and tastes like lovage, an herb that has the flavors of celery, parsley, and fennel rolled into one. It is unclear if lovage is one of the herbs in the "secret" recipe, but Germans seem to think so. Since the sauce was invented, the Germans colloquially call lovage maggikraut and the Dutch call it maggiplant.
Some claim it tastes like soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce mixed together.
Maggi Seasoning Recipes
All over the world, Maggi seasoning is used in a variety of dishes. It's added to meat patties in Germany, casseroles in eastern European countries, and stir-fries and ramen throughout Asia. Use it in chimichurri, add a dash to roasted veggies such as broccoli and cauliflower, or in Mexican pozole.
Where to Buy Maggi Seasoning
The liquid comes in a dark brown bottle with a yellow label. The cap color differs from country to country. It is red in Switzerland, Germany, Canada, and France. The cap is yellow in the U.S., China, and the Netherlands. Asia has eclipsed Europe in its use of Maggi, including even Germany and Switzerland.
Maggi products are all shelf stable and much like soy sauce, the sauce doesn't need to be refrigerated. Store any unopened Maggi products in a cool, dry, dark place.