Why You Should Always Read Ingredient Labels

Now that I've shared my preposterously easy and highly authentic Black Beans and Rice recipe, let me share a story, the moral of which is this:

Always read ingredient labels. At least glance at them.

Long time Casual Kitchen readers will recall from elsewhere in this blog how I've encouraged you to make all recipes by the book at least once before attempting any recipe modifications. Well, this time, going “by the book" kind of backfired on us.

But because I usually try and follow my own rules, this meant blindly following the instructions on the label of a can of Goya black beans, which is where I originally found this delightful and simple recipe. So when the recipe called for "two packets Sazon Goya without Annatto," I obediently grabbed a box of Sazon Goya packets. I was already in the Spanish foods aisle anyway, and hey, I was only following orders.

Unfortunately, after Laura and I had finished dinner, we started to feel just a tad bit hypotonic. I take that back. It was more like we'd been hit by a rusty shipping container-full of sodium.

Laura picked up the box of Sazon Goya and started reading the ingredients:

Glutamato Monsodico
Ajo en Polvo...

(Whoops! Wrong side.)

Monsodium Glutamate
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Spice Extracts
Natural Color
Tricalcium Phosphate (anti-caking agent)

Now I understood why we felt so woozy. Not only does this spice mix contain a lot of salt (as the second ingredient listed), but it contains even more MSG--salt on steroids! And I'm still trying to figure out what tricalcium phosphate is, but in any case we weren't even trying to make cake.

Needless to say, we made our modifications for the next time, and this second-order spice mix was left out of the recipe.

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Ms.D said...

My husband and I love rice and beans, I have made it for years, however about a year ago I gave up MSG. My husband asks weekly for many of my dishes that I can't make because I just cannot duplicate the flavor of sazon. :(

K said...

...still trying to figure out what tricalcium phosphate is, but in any case we weren't even trying to make cake.

this made me giggle

Jenna said...

I think everyone has to learn this the hard way. Not to long ago I attempted an Alton Brown (of Good Eats fame) recipe for french onion soup. I'd been cooking everything from scratch for a few months bu decided to go ahead and use the Campbell's beef consume' the recipe called for.

The soup tasted like onion candy - so sweet we couldn't stand it. Only after a few hours of wondering what the heck had gone wrong did I pull the can out of the recycling bin. HFCS was right at the top of the ingredients.

Now, I make SURE to check everything before blithly popping it into the dinner pot.

Good to know I'm not the only one out there!

Amanda said...

Yeah, it broke my heart when I finally looked at the ingredients on the sazon packets. But you CAN find adobo seasoning w/o MSG, and that works just as well in black beans.

Daniel Koontz said...

Thanks everyone for your comments!

Ms. D: Try the spice mix from my Black Beans and Rice post and see if that works for you.

K: I think you were one of the very few who picked up on that joke.

Jenna: Yep, high fructose corn syrup is another classic example of an ingredient to watch out for. We find it to be a particularly bad problem with most cereals.

Amanda: Agreed. I think MSG is just a crutch--a form of culinary cheating. One can season any dish deliciously without using it.


Anonymous said...

Tricalcium phopshate is used to prevent the blend from clumping together.

Excess salt can make one feel bad indeed. Did you by any chance add additional salt than what was in the packet? Also, MSG is a naturally occurring amino acid extracted from plants.

Daniel said...

Thanks Anonymous. I guess you missed my joke though. :)


anatomieparfaite said...

How many servings of black beans was this for? 2 packets of sazon is WAY too much for even 4 people. I just sprinkle a little bit for every serving and add in salt if necessary (which itself helps with flavoring).

-third generation Sazon user :)

Daniel said...

It was the exact amount specified by the recipe on the back of a can of Goya black beans.

But clearly it was more than enough sodium for the two of us. :)


Anonymous said...

Here's a quick recipe to make your own Sazon Goya without MSG: 1 tbsp. ground coriander, 1 tbsp. ground cumin, 1 tbsp. onion powder, 1 tbsp. ground annatto, 1 tbsp. garlic powder, and 1 tbsp. kosher salt. Combine all of the ingredients, being sure to mix thoroughly. To store your sazon, keep it in an airtight container. It stays freshest if you put it in a cool, dark place. This recipe yields 6 tbsps. of sazon.