Use these salt substitutes to keep your low-salt foods flavorful

Empty ceramic salt pigs by Etsy seller jclayPottery
Empty ceramic salt pigs by Etsy seller jclayPottery
My doctor recently put me on blood pressure meds, and suggested I go on a low salt diet. Any advice on cooking with low salt that still has flavor?

The only low salt foods I know are are quite bland and boring… I want to still eat flavorful foods, but I don't know where to start.

Any tips/advice? And if you have any recipes please share!

So I tossed this questions out to the Homies on Facebook, and the overwhelming consensus was that once you stop using salt, after a while you get used to it and stop missing salt.

But they also had a lot of great salt substitute suggestions…

Aromatics: Starting a lot of recipes with onion/garlic/bell pepper/celery/leeks/carrots/ginger goes a long way.

Herbs and spices: find a good curry powder blend, a Italian blend, and a spice rub. There's lots of good options to make your own or buy.

For soups and stews you can always get extra flavor by making your own stock, brown meat before putting it in anything, using the browned bits left in the pan.

Roasting vegetables makes them really yummy.

Soy sauce and miso can bring a lot of flavor to a dish, but watch the sodium. You really don't need a lot. -Amy

I very rarely use extra salt in my dishes, which my boyfriend, hates because he likes things over-seasoned. But I've learned to add more pepper, garlic, a (very small) dash of salt IF need be, and work with other seasonings as well.

Like quitting fast food, etc… Everything tastes like crap at first, but after awhile, your body gets used to it and actually prefers it. -Sarah

The Spice House has a whole section of salt free spices… just search their website for "salt-free."

If you sign up for their email list they'll tell you about sales and free shipping and stuff. I 💙 that company… their blends are awesome and have helped immensely with getting the Husbeast past his super pickiness with food. -Lindsey

I would look at Asian recipes where you can get a big punch of flavor without a lot of salt. Also, fresh herbs/veggies give a lot of flavor with no added sodium, like ginger, basil, and hot peppers. -Wendy

I'm doing low sodium too! Soup is one of my favorite meals but the canned ones are loaded with sodium. I've been learning to make my own soups from online recipes, so I can control the sodium! It hasn't been as hard as I thought it would! Not only has it been healthier for me, but saves money too because you can get a few servings from each batch of soup! This also works with pizza! -Tory

I would try experimenting with herbs to add flavor. Just load your food up with tons of fresh herbs while it's cooking:

  • I love garlic and onions for flavor in almost anything.
  • Ginger is great for flavor and is super healthy as well.
  • Fresh herbs have a lot more flavor than dried.
  • And red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar are amazing for flavor too.

-Shawna

I'm vegan and I also never use salt on or in anything. You can substitute sodium for Mrs Dash. Use lots of cracked pepper, herbs and spices. Be careful of using things like soy sauce, it is very high in sodium, tahini is much less. -Sandie

Check out different curry recipes — especially the ones that involve half the stuff on the spice rack. If you google "[vegetables I have on hand] curry", you'll find lots of ideas. -Erin

I recommend following Clean Food Dirty Girl! Whole food plant based AND yum. -Emily

Cutting out canned foods, fast foods, and prepackaged meals usually cut your sodium much more dramatically than cutting salt from your cooking. If you don't already, switch to fresh veggies (or just frozen with no sauce), add international foods into the mix (Blue Apron can help you get the hang of it), and reduce alcohol. All three make a huge difference that may outweigh reducing your salt in your cooking. -Meagan

What are your favorite salt-substitutes?

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  1. Saltbush is a native Australian shrub and an amazing bush tucker food! You can buy the dried leaves online and grind them with dry rice to make a salt-like consistency. Problem solved! 😀

  2. Lemon/lime juice! I marinade a good portion of meat in citrus based marinades with no salt and the results turn out really well! From time to time I will even mix a little in with some rice.

    I've also found a few good low sodium recipe ideas on this site: http://thedailydish.us

    Penzey’s has a lot of salt free pre-mixed seasonings. My mother loves their California Pepper one.

    I also make my own taco seasoning in bulk with this recipe:
    http://www.food.com/recipe/salt-free-penzeys-taco-seasoning-308360

    …some grocery stores in my area don't carry all of the spices listed in that recipe, though. I either have to order online or go to a specialty shop to get the tomato and jalapeño powder.

  3. I find that when it feels like something is missing salt, often what I'm missing is an acid tang. A bit of citrus juice (lemon, lime, orange, depending on the food involved) or vinegar of some sort (apple cider vinegar, white, red wine, basalmic, rice, etc.) can work.

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  4. Garlic and herb mashed potato made with half a splosh of olive oil is an acceptable substitute for mash made with salted potatoes and lots of milk and butter.

    If you experiment with homemade bread, you can cut the sodium content right down. It's difficult to cut it out entirely as the salt does something useful with either the rising or the crust (can't remember which!)

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    • The salt is needed in bread because it helps control the rise of the bread. Sugar feeds the yeast which causes a chemical reaction triggering the expansion, and salt kills the yeast, so it doesn't rise too much or too rapidly 🙂 Finding the perfect balance can be very hard, so it is generally best to follow the recipe as it was made the first go round, and gradually reduce until the recipe fails, then you know when you've reached the limit.

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      • Salt also kills the, uhm, toxic products of yeast's metabolism. It eats, grows, and produces… Waste. Yes, salt takes care of yeast's farts and burps.
        As explained by my teacher at baking school 🙂

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        • Food science geeking out time!

          So, too much salt can kill the yeast, as can too much sugar (or too much yeast! poor stuff drowns in its own waste) but that's not the role it's there to play, because odds are you'd just kill the yeast before you started. Cooking the bread is a much more efficient way to kill the yeast off, after all! Small amounts of salt increase the strength of the gluten bonds due to the way salt interacts with water, and slows the production of CO2 (the farts and burps!) that yeast produces during its life cycle to a more even level. So salt isn't getting rid of the yeast's waste, it's actually helping to trap it in the dough and giving your bread a more even rise. Bread without salt tends to rise more quickly and unevenly – good for Mediterranean style breads! The Wild Yeast blog has a lovely saltless tuscan loaf recipe, which is great with tomatoes and garlic.

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  5. If you can't eliminate salt completely from your cooking, try halving it. Most recipes do quite nicely with only 50% the salt. It will keep your food from tasting utterly like cardboard while your tastes recalibrate themselves. With salt out of the picture (or at least in the background), your brain will try to fill in the gap…with the subtler flavors of your food. So don't think of it as cutting salt, but rather as developing your palate!

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  6. Seaweed! OK it's salty, but since it's not standard sodium chloride table salt but rather the mix of mineral salts in the sea it's usually lower in sodium. Also, as seaweed has its own flavour you really don't need much, so you can use less of it than normal salt yet still get the flavour enhancement. A little sprinkle can work well in stir fries, soups etc.

    I also second the suggestions for more herbs and spices, and garlic is actually very good for regulating blood pressure (as well as being good for your immune system) so the more of it you eat the better!

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  7. Cooking from scratch is the #1 suggestion I'd give. Prepackaged meals are loaded with salt. Low fat stuff tends to be full of salt and sugar also, to replace the flavor of the fat, so avoiding those can be good too.
    And hey, MSG is making a comeback, and is pretty easy to find in many international groceries 😀

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  8. I'm pretty sure that Sandie (in the Facebook replies posted above) meant "tamari" rather than "tahini" in the following statement:
    "careful of using things like soy sauce, it is very high in sodium, tahini is much less" 😉

    I've also heard that thyme can trick your brain into thinking a dish is saltier than it actually is. So more thyme, less salt.

    2 agree
  9. Thought of this last night fixing dinner when my partner asked me if the taco filling needed more salt. The solution- pour some salsa on it. I think in general sauces tend to make food feel more flavorful, and if you choose carefully or make your own, they don't have to add much sodium.

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