Ingredients for Flavoring Without Added Salt
Adapting to a low sodium diet can be very difficult. It’s best to prepare most of your meals yourself, as using fresh ingredients gives you maximum control over your milligrams. But even if your taste buds do adapt, the fact remains that subtracting sodium reduces flavor.
However, as a home cook, you can see this as a challenge to answer, as a chance to learn how to make food delicious without relying on salt. In addition, the better the low sodium food tastes, the easier it will be to stick to your diet. Here are some ingredients that add a strong flavor without adding salt.
Herbs and spices. The most obvious way to add more flavor is … add more flavor. Strong spices like cumin, smoked paprika, and paprika add zest to salt-free foods. However, watch out for pre-made spice combinations such as chili powder, which is often seasoned with salt. And to balance the strength and heat of the spice, add fresh herbs for brilliance and flavor.
Onion and garlic. Aromatic hydrocarbons are an important part of the low sodium arsenal. Caramelized onions and shallots especially can add tons of flavor, sweet and salty at the same time.
Nutritional yeast. Unfortunately, you’ll want to avoid a lot of cheeses due to their high sodium content, but nutritional yeast, a staple in many vegan cuisines, gives you a cheesy flavor without any salt. Mix in rice, sprinkle on vegetables, or use as a popcorn filling. This is amazing.
Vinegar and citrus fruits. The acidity makes the dish popular, especially in contrast to the richness and juiciness. In addition, vinegar and citrus fruits contribute their complex, powerful flavors, from the sweetness of balsamic vinegar to the aromatic lightness of lemon zest.
Umami. Okay, it’s a flavor, not an ingredient, but it’s a category that gives food a rich and savory flavor, and you’ll want plenty of it to make up for your lack of salt. When I cook low in sodium, I prefer high umami vegetables like mushrooms and tomatoes (I love low sodium tomato paste) over bitter vegetables like kale and cauliflower.
Bouillon. Most store-bought broths contain sodium, but you can buy sodium-free broths or make your own from bones or vegetable leftovers. Use it as a base for soups, of course, but use it for pasta or rice instead of water to enhance the flavor where a mere mortal would rely on salt.
Obviously, you want to use these ingredients together. Balsamic vinegar made with caramelized onions and mushrooms has been a strong base for me in many low sodium dishes – sweet, sour and savory. Even without salt, you have many flavors to work with.