I remember those onion soup mix packets that my mom used to make onion soup for us. I still get kind of nostalgic when I see them in my supermarket (although I don’t go there very often). I even see them on social media in those fast-forwarded recipe videos. They are used as an ingredient for many “quick” dinners, as a nice and convenient way of adding some flavor to your meal. But as with many other convenient products, we should be suspicious and “take them with a grain of salt”.
This is the ingredient list for the most popular brand of onion soup mix:
Onions (deyhydrated), salt, cornstarch, onion powder, sugar, corn syrup, hydrolyzed soy protein, caramel color, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, monosodium glutamate, yeast extract, natural flavors, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate.
There’s a lot to unpack here.
First, the monosodium glutamate. It’s also commonly referred to as MSG and known as the ingredient supposedly responsible for the umami flavor. It’s also a known excitotoxin, meaning it’s bad for your body and overall well-being. Other ingredients from the list, the hydrolyzed soy protein and the yeast extract, also contain MSG (source).
The disodium inosinate and the disodium guanylate behave similarly to MSG. Their chemical components are largely the same and they are often used together (source). I think of them as one and the same thing: MSG. And I avoid MSG whenever I can.
But what I don’t like the most about this ingredient list is the so-called “natural flavors”. At least with MSG, they tell you exactly what it is. But the term “natural flavors” can mean anything which is why it’s so problematic. It’s the same deal with “fragrance” in cosmetics. We simply don’t know what “natural flavors” contain.
The Code of Federal Regulations defines “natural flavors” in the following way:
the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. (source)
So what this means that we don’t know whether the maker is referring to the oil that came from a natural substance or a derivate of some chemical that is supposed to mimic the taste of real food. There’s simply no way to know what we are putting in our mouth.
And I don’t know about you but I don’t really trust big corporations to put healthy stuff in there (otherwise, they would brag about it on the packaging!). The sad truth is that they usually use the cheapest ingredients possible while still fulfilling the vague guidelines from the government to trick us into thinking their product is safe.
What about the other ingredients? The cornstarch is most probably full of pesticides and comes from a GMO crop. Most non-organic corn crops nowadays are genetically modified so I generally avoid corn that comes from an unknown source.
Same deal with soy beans. The hydrogenated soybean oil is most probably derived from a GMO. The hydrogenation process is also considered to be contributing to the increased likelihood of heart disease in our population (source). I really don’t understand how it can still be legal.
Ok, rant over. What I want to show you in this post is that you don’t need to use artificial flavor packets to whip up a bowl of onion soup with no effort. All you need to do is prepare such a mix yourself and have it on hand in your kitchen when you feel like having onion soup.
- a measuring cup
- a pint glass jar with a lid
- 2/3 cup of dried minced onion
- 1 T. of whole cane sugar
- 1 T. of dried parsley
- 2 t. of onion powder
- 2 t. of turmeric
- 1 t. of celery salt OR 2/3 t. of sea salt + 1/3 t. of celery seed powder
- 1 t. of sea salt
- 1/2 t. of ground pepper
- Add all the ingredients together in a mason jar.
- Screw the lid on and shake well to combine.
- Use two tablespoons of this mix like you would use one packet of a store-bought mix.
Enjoy your onion soup without worrying about shady ingredients!