Ideas for tasty salt-free cooking?
Are there any really good salt substitutes out there?
It depends on how serious you are about a low sodium diet. Some people like to use Potassium Chloride as a salt substitute. I switched to a low sodium diet about 15 years ago. I decided against using salt substitutes and quit cold turkey. I had to relearn how to cook because my cooking style relied heavily on soy sauce and salt.
I'd personally recommend this approach instead of using salt substitutes--it's better for your health. However, if you are intent on using salt substitutes, you should consider talking with a registered dietician. Best wishes!
When I first read your question yesterday, I was going to suggest ordering a lot of different (to you) herbs/spices from Penzey's and trying to jazz it up that way. But then I re-read it as looking for an actual salt substitute, so I didn't respond.
So yes, I'd try various herbs and spices such as Pepper, Ground Sumac. Ground Mustard Seed. Or use lemon or lime juice for a tang.
Penzey's (and other spice sites) have salt-free blends that could be interesting:
French Four Spice: http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzey...
Mural of Flavor (lousy name, BTW) - http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzey...
Jerk Seasoning - http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzey...
Lamb Seasoning - http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzey...
Sunny Paris Seasoning - http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzey...
The cold turkey approach is the toughest in the short term but I think the best in the long term. When I went cold turkey, I switched from my Chinese-based cooking to a mix of whatever I could think of. I used different low or sodium-free herbs and seasonings in different combinations. The first four weeks were tough--everything tasted like cardboard. That's because my tongue was so used to salt, which hides the much of the flavor of foods. But during the fifth and sixth weeks, I started tasting flavors in food that I never experienced before. My tongue had become much more sensitive to other flavors.
Here are my recommendations:
1. The most important step you can take is learning to identify fresh meats, vegetables, fruits, etc. When your tongue is more sensitive, you'll be able identify the real taste of food. Also, you'll be able to identify anything that is even slightly rancid (salt covers this up).
2. Avoid anything processed unless it is low-sodium (this is about 75% of what you find in an average supermarket). Lots of items have sodium benzonate as a preservative. It's the sodium, not the salt that is important.
3. Learn to identify vegetables and fruits in season. Out of season produce is generally not very tasty.
4. Learn to identify differnt types of meat cuts. Use only the most flavorful cuts.
5. Learn to cook meats and vegetables correctly. Overcooking them kills the flavor. 99% of all the chicken breasts I've ever eaten are completely overcooked.
6. Try different combinations of spices, herbs, and flavorings. Look for low sodium ones. These are either clearly identified mixes or they are just one herb (e.g. pepper, cumin, etc.)
Here are just a few combinations to get you started:
1. Roasted honey-dijon mustard chicken with fresh basil leaves
2. Garlic and lemon on anything
3. Curry with tomatoes and coconut milk with any vegetable and/or meat
4. Roasted garlic with lemon juice and olive oil as a sauce base
5. Wochestershire sauce (adds body to the flavor)
6. Fermented black beans with green onions, baby ginger root, and low sodium soy sauce (for classic Cantonese steamed seafood).
7. Vietnamese fish sauce.
8. Hot chili paste (found in Asian markets--highly recommended).
9. Sesame oil
10. Dill and lemon on seafood
11. Fresh basil with anything (much better than dried basil)
12. Lemon juice (fresh-squeezed juice is far stronger than the bottles you buy)
13. Kale (very strong-flavored vegetable--excellent for stir fry our soups)
14. Green onions and ginger root stir fried with any shellfish or meat.
15. Adding diced shitake mushrooms to any dish.
16. Dijon mustard, worchestershire sauce, lemon juice, and olive oil as a meat marinade (for grilling).
17. Grilled veggies with a low-sodium sald dressing as marinade.
These are a few of the ideas I've tried. Use whatever combinations you feel make your food taste good. A common misconception is that low-sodium food is bland.
Using fresh ingredients is about 75% of the solution. Many people do not know how to identify fresh meats and vegetables, so they use flavorings to make up for the poor quality, tasteless ingredients.
It will take some time, but if you get past the six weeks, you'll never need to worry about tasteless food again. I went cold turkey 15 years ago and haven't looked back.
If you want any more hints, let me know. Best of luck.
It's hard to find but my family likes garlic pepper (salt free). When I find it I stock up! The last time I found it was Fairways, but they don't seem to carry it anymore.
That's true, but one serving would still be about 800 mg of sodium (based on 2400 mg of sodium per teaspoon of salt). As long as one monitors the total amount of sodium consumed during the day, this is a manageable amount. Used sparingly, it could be helpful. I personally don't use MSG, but I suppose it really depends on how much one wants to reduce sodium from the diet.