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ibstubro's avatar

Other than citrus juice and hot sauce, what are your easy tips for adding flavor to low-soduim foods?

Asked by ibstubro (18804points) January 25th, 2016

I’m a pescatarian (semi-vegetarians that focus on a plant-based diet with the inclusion of fish) and I’m trying to eat healthier. Lower calorie vegetable dishes and soups (some pre-packaged) that are low in fat (no problem) and salt (problem). I incorporate seafood into my diet less than once a week, on average.

How do I get around the food being tasteless and bland?
I use the heck out of lemon and lime juice (if you’ve not tried the powdered packets, they’re great!).
I love hot sauces, especially Cholula Chipotle or Chili Lime.
I use the heck out of roasted garlic powder, granulated garlic, chopped dried garlic and pressed fresh garlic.
Indian curry satisfies me, but I’m not sure about the sodium content and I don’t cook it at home, from scratch.
The salt I do add is usually Himalayan Pink Sea Salt from a grinder. I know salt’s salt, but the course grind seems more satisfying.

Any other tips that satisfy your salt tooth without dumping on the salt?

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32 Answers

chyna's avatar

I use Worstershire sauce on a lot of bland things like rice.

ibstubro's avatar

My Midwestern upbringing limits my taste for worcestershire sauce to certain foods, @chyna. Typically, I associate it with meat.
But I’ve been exploring that, and lower sodium Soy Sauce.

I add salt, @Espiritus_Corvus (see Himalayan pink sea salt comment above), but if I’m using a packaged ingredient – say canned beans – that already has a huge salt content, I won’t add more salt.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Herbs. Parsley, thyme, oregano, basil etc. Spices, tumeric, cinnamon, etc. Add to anything. Make a pesto or a dressing. You can also get infused olive oils. A little infused oil over a salad or vegetables can really add flavour.

I almost never add salt to anything these days. I’ll use some in cooking, but only to taste. I’d only ever salt hot chips. I can’t think of anything else I add salt to. You can retrain your tastebuds to not need it. Herbs and spices are full of flavour.

ibstubro's avatar

This salt-free seasoning blend is made locally, and fabulous, @Earthbound_Misfit. Problem is, I’ve used it so much for so long everything can taste the same. I have others I swap it with, too.

I don’t have a lot of experience adding individual spices to foods. Mostly blends.

I do have a nice yellow curry that I forget about, and a splash of vinegar can do wonders on certain foods.

Grated Parmesan cheese is high sodium, but since it adds flavor as well, I sprinkle it on finished dishes, too.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I just remembered balsamic! I love balsamic vinegar. Why don’t you ask the member who is brilliant with cooking? I bet she has some rubs and recipes for pesto type things you can make to start with. However, just experiment. Try getting a mortar and pestle and some oil and making some flavoured oils to go on your food. You know flavours you like. Start there. If you love Italian food, start with some of those herbs, the oregano, basily type herbs.

ibstubro's avatar

I had a devil of a time getting my creamed cabbage to taste like much of anything without tons of salt. I used bouillon to boil it in (and make the sauce), so I knew there was salt in it. Natural smoke flavor helped, as did the fresh garlic.

Beans bedevil me. Especially the light colored like great northern and lima. I’d thought I might spice them up by cooking with smoked salmon, but that question went nowhere. A touch of vinegar might suit me, when eating them.

I have a block of tofu I’m wanting to cook, but all my previous efforts have been…well…ick. Extra firm.

jaytkay's avatar

I use a lot of black pepper. For the white beans I like pesto, though that may be high sodium with the cheese parmesan. I make oil & vinegar dressing I put on lots of things. Often I’ll put yellow mustard powder in that.

Soubresaut's avatar

I don’t particularly like salt, so I tend to look for other flavors. To repeat/expand some of the ideas above—
– Vinegars of all kind. I especially like balsamic, rice, apple cider, and red wine vinegars…
– Spices/herbs. Some I have on my spice rack currently, in absolutely no particular order: (I’ll overlap some with what was mentioned above): cumin, smoked paprika, chili powder, ginger, oregano, basil, bay leaves, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, tumeric, sage, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, parsley, white pepper, black pepper, mustard, nutmeg, cloves, dill… etc. I can follow a recipe but I don’t know flavor palates, so I’ll tend to mix and match according to what seems to smell good together, or what I know certain recipes will pair together. Experimenting with foods from (or inspired by) different ethnicities could introduce you to new spices and/or spice combinations… like cinnamon and cumin are killer together.
– Sauces. I use soy and worcesterhire too. I use pesto a lot (my favorite brand). Wine sauces, lemon/garlic sauces, lemon/garlic/wine sauces, bechamel sauces (with nutmeg), barbeque sauces, tomato sauces, curries, marinades, peanut sauce, dressings, teriyakis, etc.—I would recommend making the sauces/dressings from scratch whenever possible, because then you can control the salt content… and you can use fresh ingredients, etc. You can find simple recipes online for most of these.
– Garnishes. Fresh herbs, pine nuts (for special occasions), other seeds/nuts (especially toasted), cheeses (parmesan, asiago and goat are my favorites).
– Tomatoes are super savory (umami) without salt, they may hit the spot when you’re looking for something vegetarian but “meaty”?
– I find varying the kinds of staples I use, even something as simply as changing what leaves I use in salads, helps, since the underlying flavor shifts—I’ll bounce between kale, spinach, and arugula usually. Recently I found a mixed-greens that has chard and mustard and other greens like that. Same with switching up grains—gives new texture and flavor.

Haleth's avatar

It depends on what kind of food you’re making. If you eat a lot of frozen boil-in-bag veggies or whatever, there’s probably not much you can do. Off the top of my head, I can think of:

- if you boil or steam veggies or prepare them in some watery, mushy fashion, try to broil or sear them instead. Tough veggies like broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, bell peppers, and brussels sprouts broil really nicely if tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mushrooms sear well if you start with a hot pan and don’t crowd them. Think high temperature, low cook time in general.

- Whatever fats and salt you do use, buy higher-quality versions. Get really good extra virgin olive oil with a greenish tinge to it- at that point, it’s as much a seasoning or a dressing as it is a fat. Cultured butter has a sweet, slightly nutty flavor. If you plan to cook something in/ with butter, brown the butter first on its own to develop the flavor, and then toss the veggies in.

- If you make stews or curries, brown the onions first for a deeper flavor. Then add liquid, spices, and other ingredients and keep cooking. The onions will break down into mush/ gravy if you cook them long enough, making a very flavorful dish.

zenvelo's avatar

Self Edited. Others said it and better than I did.

cazzie's avatar

I like lemon pepper.

msh's avatar

Crazy Jane’s mixed seasonings, for dash of fast flavor.
Dried, spice aisle.

This is a good way to have a different style of salmon. I like it;
Aluminum foil bottom of broil pan. Enough with extra foil to wrap around reaching the bottom of the tray.
Spray tray itself (Pam/whatever) and place in foiled pan.
Prep Salmon. Filet, if needed, and gently rub-wash with hands under water. Do not dry.
Place salmon on top of sprayed tray. Salt/pepper to taste.
Broil one side- I keep oven door just open enough to spot check more easily.
Flip, I season again- (but that’s me, salt/sweet)
Broil to juuuust almost finished.
Add maple syrup. It will not stay thick once poured on fish, thus the foil on the bottom.
Put it back under the broiler, shut oven door.
Don’t over cook, not long- just until done and syrup is bubbly. Turn off oven. Pull out try on oven rack to sit a few Moments.
Serve with sides or salad. So good.
If put in fridge overnight- leftovers are really good also.
I make extra for that reason.
Liquid Lemon-Pepper marinate seasoning is also good. I like the flavor of fish to come through also, so I use method above to keep flavor lighter.
Fast cleanup- Place salmon on dinner plate. Take two-seconds to remove foil from bottom pan. Run water over foil to rinse side that was up. Bend up foil around it’s sides to form a tray to hold water in the sink. Fill foil with hot water and dish soap. Flip broiler top tray upside down in foil ‘pool’.
Go eat.
When finished, pan will have soaked long enough to make cleaning easier, or to pop in dishwasher.

msh's avatar

(Sorry, not allowed to sleep yet.)
If luncheon on the calendar, Great prep prior day to work.
Prepare salmon. Put in glass container and lid- or glass an aluminum foil. Boil eggs. Day of: Spring -mix salad, or spinach leaves in salad dishes. Chilled maple salmon on top. Dash of Crazy Jane ( above) or dash of garlic powder/garlic salt. Summer: big fat wonderfull tomatoes, sliced. Grape tomatoes if prefer. Winter tomatoes. Place on windowsill out of direct sun. Ripens in day or two. Keep room temp then to use same or next day. Otherwise, slow ripening process down by placing them into the refrigerator. Some place green or ripened tomatoes in paper lunch bags to ripen) I prefer other.
Slice /place tomatoes, sliced boiled eggs, cut radishes- whatever, place around bowl top. Top with watercress (well washed!)
Have guests taste before adding any salad dressings. Three kinds of crackers that work well covering different palates. I use rye, wheat, and club.
Happy, quick luncheon fare.

ibstubro's avatar

Sorry if I don’t hit every point in every post? I read them all, and I appreciate the response, honestly.

I, too, use a lot of pepper – black, white and mixed, all in separate grinders. I’m in the habit of keeping roasted garlic powder, granulated garlic, dried chopped garlic and fresh garlic on hand. I have lemon, lime and orange juice powder on hand, as well as lemon and lime juice in the fridge. Fresh lemons and sometimes lime. I’m tempted to experiment with the grapefruit shriveling on the counter. :-)

I’m a sucker for low/no salt seasoning blends, my favorite linked above. The built in grinders are great…increases the texture. I have a ‘steak seasoning’ blend that’s course, and excellent on baked potatoes.

I’ve not developed an affinity for pesto, @jaytkay & @DancingMind. But I can try again. Cheese is a part of nearly every meal I prepare. In or on, and I love hard cheese, too, @DancingMind.

I’m rediscovering my vinegars. I had red wine and red wine with garlic in the cabinet that I’d forgotten about. A spot of sherry is the bomb in cream sauces! I could use some small bottles of dry white wine.

Olive oil and lemon juice with salt free blend and Cavender’s Greek Seasoning is my go-to marinade.

I’ve been searing a lot of veggies, stove top, @Haleth. Mushrooms are great that way, and a meal. My new formula is to heat the pan to medium, med/high and add coconut oil. When it’s reached the temperature of the pan, I drop in real butter. Just as the butter is melted, I add the food. The coconut oil cooks the food and the butter at about the same time and temperature. Result is nicely browned, al dente food.

I do something similar with salmon, stove top, with a non-stick pan on medium high heat, @msh.
You cannot have too much left over seared salmon, be it broiler, stove-top or outdoor grill. You’re right, it really makes salads ‘pop’ if I can leave it alone long enough for it to make it there!

Haleth's avatar

@ibstubro That’s very close to how I cook salmon! Sear it on medium-high with the skin down, then cover, turn on low, and cook for another ~10 minutes. I usually season it with a sprinkle of old bay. It kind of steams itself, so the meat is meltingly tender and the skin is crispy.

This + kale makes a really bitchin meal. The kale is cooked very much the same way. Start with a pan on med/ hi, and sizzle garlic and olive oil in there. Add the kale and let it sizzle around until it browns and wilts a bit, then add vegetable or chicken stock, other spices, turn on low, and cover until tender.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

You can try salt free ms. Dash.

ibstubro's avatar

I could eat crispy salmon skin like other people eat bacon, @Haleth. I get so pissed when it pulls off on the grill!
I think I may have some Old Bay liquid in the cabinet.

Ms. Dash is a good starter, @RedDeerGuy1, but there are better blends around. Look for ones that come with the grinder top…you get a fresher flavor. Dollar and close-out stores are good places to try some cheap.

Kardamom's avatar

Vinegars, mustard, tahini, gochujang (fermented Korean hot pepper paste) fresh herbs, dried herbs (especially basil, tarragon, rosemary, parsley and oregano, celery seed) spices like cumin, chile powder, and smoked paprika, fresh salsas hot or mild, with chilies, or onions, or tomatoes, or tomatillos, or cilantro. Low Sodium BBQ Sauce

ibstubro's avatar

I bought bottled Korma sauce at Aldi that has relatively low sodium, @Kardamom. The entire jar (3.5 servings) has 70% RDA sodium.
I added nothing but fresh tomatoes, mushrooms and onion and it was delicious.
All I needed was a base (I used a Quinoa/brown rice blend).

Seed of Change brand has about ½ the salt and fat, but I’ve not tried it yet.

cazzie's avatar

I love sour cream. I have to get he low fat version these days because of my gall stones.

Kardamom's avatar

@ibstubro I love korma sauce! I’ve gotten a few different kinds of Indian simmer sauces at Big Lots for about $2 each, where normally they’re about 4 or 5 bucks. I’ll have to look to see what brands they are and how much sodium is in them.

Now I’m hungry : )

ibstubro's avatar

I have a bottle of Seeds of Change that may have come from Big Lots, @Kardamom. They don’t currently have any bottles in my area – just the pre-made pouches.
I bought 3–4 bottles at Aldi.
I’ve all but ruined myself on my favorite Indian buffet.

I use quite a bit of sour cream, too, @cazzie, but I’m ‘iffy’ about adding it to hot foods – heating it too much, or cooling to food too much.

cazzie's avatar

Salmon with capers and dill and sour cream. Yum!

ibstubro's avatar

Big Lots had Rogan Josh and Butter Chicken (I think) sauce today, @Kardamom. I’m not familiar with either.

I keep looking at the bottles of capers and wondering if I’d really use them if I bought them, @cazzie. I just doubt it.

cazzie's avatar

I love mustard and chutney, but I guess they all have quite a bit of salt in them. I remembered to by Worcestershire sauce today, and I’m sure that has a lot of salt in it. My kid teases me because my favorite food is condiments.
I use capers in place of anchovies. I hate the fishy taste of anchovies, but the recipe usually calls for something for a salty zing and for me, that is capers. We can’t get dill pickles here and I thought I was going to die, but I’ve managed without them. I’d still kill for a jar, though.

ibstubro's avatar

I like mustards, especially with fish, @cazzie. And I love anchovies_. lol

Surely you can get dill pickles somewhere? They’re not hard to make?

AshlynM's avatar

I use Lawry’s Garlic Salt on everything. A very tiny bit goes a long way, you don’t need a lot.

ibstubro's avatar

I use garlic powder endlessly, @AshlynM, often combined with salt (or more recently a grind of sea salt.)

I only mention it because when I was a kid we used garlic salt on everything, and it was always on the table at the popular (small town) local pizza joint. At the time garlic powder was a dense, clumpy powder like baby powder. When granulated garlic became popular, I migrated to that and soon found that I couldn’t stand garlic salt on pizza.
Whatever works for you. Personally I found I liked the garlic flavor better than the garlic-salt flavor.

ibstubro's avatar

Liquid smoke!
Not the fake kind, but real smoke washed down, like Wright’s.
I added a touch to scalloped potatoes and it was great!

Kardamom's avatar

@cazzie Hopefully you can find the ingredients to make yourself some of these Quick Dill Pickles

ibstubro's avatar

True- citrus is a great product, if anyone’s not tried it.

Powdered citrus juices. I use the heck out of True-Lemon to give food a jolt of flavor. I find it mixes with dairy well, as in lemony-cream sauce for vegetable. I sprinkled it on my pasta Alfredo tonight and it was great. No need to add any additional salt, too.

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