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Sep 24, 2012 06:06 PM

Cutting back or eliminating salt?

How do you cut back on salt in your cooking? I made 3 different vegetable recipes last night and all called for salt. I also made some pasta, and of course salted the water. I don't always follow a measurement exactly (tho in baking I do), usually I just grab a pinch. I think I usually use less than a recipe specifies, but can't see cutting out salt altogether.

Almost every recipe I see calls for salt....there must be a reason why, and a way to cut back without affecting the taste. I use a lot of herbs and spices in most recipes but I can definitely taste "something is missing" from a recipe cooked without salt.

Any thoughts on the subject?


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  1. Just use less salt than the recipe calls for. Perhaps try by reducing it a lot, then gradually increasing it. I've found lowering salt in your dishes can take some getting used to.

    Salt is used to enhance somethings natural flavour, so going by that theory, if it tastes salty, then it likely has too much salt.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Musie

      I haven't used Salt in pasta water for decades and have never heard a complaint from anyone who's eaten my food.

      A dash of Chile helps almost any recipe-Herbs well it depends.

      1. re: Sam Salmon

        If you have a good flavourful sauce I doubt you would miss the salt in the pasta water.

        1. re: Sam Salmon

          +1 to not salting your pasta water. No one will miss it.

          1. re: anthony.izzo

            I absolutely, 100% miss it. I've made it both ways, and had it served to me both ways without my knowing. I also am certainly not rude enough to tell anyone who is kind enough to cook for me that their pasta is bland. Unless you have to keep your salt at pretty much zero, the salt you add to pasta water is a very small amount, so it would probably be more beneficial to reduce processed foods (as noted below) if you are trying to reduce your salt just on general principle.

            That being said, you do get used to smaller quantities of salt in your cooking over time. Also, although it's counterintuitive, light-handed salting at every stage of cooking can actually decrease your total salt volume, because you wind up with a well-seasoned dish and don't wind up adding a bunch of salt to remedy blandness at the end.

            1. re: ErnieD

              The usual advice on salting your pasta water is that it should taste like either a) seawater or b) a well seasoned soup, which is much more than a very small amount.

              I think it varies on application. If you're doing a simple aglio olio, you want the pasta to shine, but if you're laddling on plenty of an ol' warhorse of a bolognese, I don't think salted pasta water would really make a difference.

              That being said, I would rather have bland pasta than heart attack, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, kidney failure, retinal hemorrhages, and all the other stuff that goes along with long standing, untreated hypertension. Salt reduction is just one part of comprehensive lifestyle modification that includes dietary changes, exercises and maybe medication, but reduction of sodium intake is always high on the list of recommendations.

      2. I'll presume you are doing this for health reasons. If so, you might consider cutting back on processed foods, rather than on the salt you add yourself, because that's where most of the dietary sodium in the US comes from.

        Here's some interesting reading.

        7 Replies
        1. re: FreddieJaye

          Cutting back on processed foods helps so much - and also just doing a little lable reading. Even certain products of canned tomatoes or beans can contain some sodium - and while it's not a lot, it can be a situation where everything adds up to make a home cooked meal have a lot more salt in it.

          Personally, I use lemon juice, vinegar, or other acids as a way of boosting flavor without using salt. I was raised in a very low sodium house growing up, so as an adult I'm a lot more sensitive to salt than my peers. But ultimately I think that it's something you can train your tastebuds to respond to differently.

          1. re: cresyd

            Definitely. If you're cooking for yourself, you've already cut out a huge amount of salt that you would take in by eating processed foods. If you do want to use canned goods/frozen meals/prepared stocks/etc, be sure to read labels and opt for "low salt" or "low sodium" varieties.

            1. re: cresyd

              cresyd said:
              Even certain products of canned tomatoes or beans can contain some sodium - and while it's not a lot...."

              It's usually quite a lot. I'm looking at a 15.25 oz can of kidney beans, that has 380mg sodium per serving, which works out to 1330 mg per can. That said, WF has tetrapacks of beans with no added salt. Or, you can use dried beans.

              1. re: Steve Green

                This was my first thought as well. "Certain" - it's nearly all unless you pay attention and "some sodium" it's usually upwards of 10-25%. It's insanity really. Dried beans are of course no sodium, but if you want canned beans Whole Foods does have a great line of salt free beans and I'm sure other places as well but you have to pay attention. Salt is ubiquitous these days so all packaged products which go in my cart get the flip around and the label is carefully read.

            2. re: FreddieJaye

              +1 its actually not the salt that's the problem it's the sodium. Don't eat any processed food and you can salt your foods as you like...

              1. re: sparky403

                Sodium is the problem, but most of it comes from salt. MSG is another source, but that is not used as much as it once was.

              2. re: FreddieJaye

                Best advice FreddieJaye. If you must use processed food go frozen.

              3. I use kosher salt, and add it just before serving. Kosher salt has large grains, and because it's added at the last minute it fools the taste buds into thinking the food is more salted than it is (or so I tell myself).

                People require some salt in their diets, but not as much as most Americans consume. Cutting back or eliminating processed foods (and, alas, a lot of cheeses) can bring your salt consumption down enough that you can salt fresh vegetables to taste.

                1. I put the salt shaker away decades ago. I do not salt pasta water. I agree with using a tiny bit of kosher or sea salt on the plated food IF it needs it, which it seldom does. Lemon or other acidic
                  ingredients are good subs for salt, and pepper brightens flavors too. I went cold turkey. It takes a couple of weeks for your palate to re-set itself but once it does, most prepared and packaged foods taste too salty so you find you have committed yourself to cooking from scratch, something you might not have been doing.

                  1. I tend to just cut back a little at a time, until I start to really notice the difference. I don't often fully follow recipes (I usually use them as a guideline to get ingredient ratios or methods and then make it up), but I have managed to easily half the salt in a lot of the recipes that I use.

                    It makes it easier that I have an extensive spice/herb collection that I use as well. I do always salt my pasta water, but my mother never does. My brother and I can taste the difference (but I'm very sensitive to taste differences), but my husband cannot, and neither can my mother or father.