How To Flavour Your Meals Without Adding Salt

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Published by: Chef Matty Riedel • Updated: October 26, 2023

You can infuse flavour into your dish without adding salt in several ways. Create unique flavour profiles by adding seasoning blends, fresh herbs, dried herbs and spices, sprinkling zest of citrus fruits or mixing in their juices, etc. You can also try caramelising or grilling and increasing the spice level.

Ways To Boost Flavour In Your Meals Without Adding Salt

Forgoing salt does not mean you have to forgo flavour. There are many different ways you can enhance the flavour of your dish without reaching for the salt shaker. 

Home-cooked meals are always aromatic and bursting with flavour—with or without salt. However, it is always better to lean towards the healthier option of reducing salt intake in all your meals. Remember, salt does not equate to delicious.

Try the following ways to enhance flavour in your meals instead of sprinkling salt.

1. Add Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs are the best way to add sensational flavours to any dish. To retain the fresh flavour, make sure you add the herbs at the end of your cooking. Chop up and top your dish with the soft herbs of your choice.

In addition to adding flavours, there are also nutritional benefits to mixing fresh herbs into a dish. You can also brush herb-infused oil on meats and veggies you want to grill.

2. Cook With Sauces

The ready-to-use sauces available in the market, such as sweet soy, fish sauce, etc., lend a savoury taste to dishes. However, their salt content is extremely high, which does not help our no-salt cause. 

If you can locate salt-reduced sauces in your local stores, you can use them in diluted form to lend your dishes flavour. This way you get to cleverly incorporate flavour into your food while making minimal use of the sauce. 

3. Sprinkle Dried Herbs And Spices

While fresh herbs are better, dried herbs are not without their flavours. In fact, dried herbs impart a stronger flavour compared to fresh herbs. You will need to reduce the amount of dried herbs you add to your dish in order to prevent them from overpowering the original taste.

colourful herbs and spices

Dried herbs are good for seasoning meat. However, they should not be kept for long on the shelf. They lose flavour with time.

Breathe life into your spice rack and pick from an array of amazing flavours to infuse into your favourite meals. Make use of various warm spices, such as coriander, cumin, cardamom, etc., for a savoury kick to your sauces and curries.

Spices need time to release their flavour into a meal. So sprinkle them at the start of your cooking session. You can further enhance the flavour towards the end with fresh herbs.

Shopping List Of Dried Herbs And Spices

Add the flavours mentioned below to your shopping list to liven up any dish. It is a basic list. Broaden your flavour palate by experimenting more. I personally like to try nice recipes with exciting flavour profiles.

  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Bay Leaf
  • Dry Mustard
  • Curry Powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Paprika
  • Cardamom
  • Allspice

4. Flavour With Heat

It is a two-fold story when it comes to flavouring with heat. You can use methods like grilling, caramelising and charring to infuse flavour into your dish. Another way of using heat to pack flavour is by making use of chillies and ginger.

If you can tolerate the heat, make use of fresh or dried chillies. Adjust the intensity based on your tolerance. Ginger also makes an excellent addition to soups, stir-fries, braises, etc.

When heat is applied to food, the flavour develops and deepens. Roasting meat and vegetables lend them a savoury and sweet flavour. You can grill or caramelize the food of your choice while keeping the salt at bay. 

5. Stimulate With Zest

Zest is known to stimulate the taste buds. Citrus fruits and vegetables lend meals a flavourful taste. You can invest in a good citrus zester and get to work on the limes and lemons. Add the zest of these citrusy fruits to your savoury dishes for a flavour-packed punch.

Squeeze some lime or lemon over fan-fried chicken or fish to zing up the dish. Believe me, you will hardly notice the lack of salt!

6. Introduce Alliums

How To Flavour Your Meals Without Adding Salt using onions, garlic, nuts, vegetables etc

The allium family featuring the members of garlic and onion are excellent flavour boosters. When fresh spring onions and chives are added to meals towards the end of the cooking session, they pack a fresh flavour. Sautéing garlic at the start of a dish allows for the savoury flavour to slowly infuse into the rest of the meal.

You can also wrap garlic bulbs in tin foil and pop them into the oven for a slow roast. These bulbs can be squeezed over grilled meats and roasts. You can also make a pulp out of it and store it in the fridge for late use.

7. Try Different Peppers

Grinding peppers over any dish makes for excellent finishing touches. White pepper imparts a more savoury flavour than black pepper. It adds a delicious kick when sprinkled over chilli, cheese sauces and mashed potatoes.

Instead of grinding up peppers and storing the powder, it is better to freshly grind the peppercorns and use them as needed. 

8. Toss In Fresh Produce

Adding fresh fruits and vegetables to your meal not only adds flavour but also improves the nutritional value of the dish. Low-sodium fresh produce includes apples, carrots, spinach and peaches. Dried produce like tomatoes, cranberries, and mushrooms are zesty and full of flavour. Toss them in salads or your main courses.

9. Experiment With Vinegar

Acids play a major role when cooking healthy. Adding acids like vinegar is a good way of stimulating the natural flavours of the food and allowing them to meld together. 

Try variations of vinegar such as red wine, balsamic, rice wine, etc. To invoke the best flavours, add the vinegar towards the end of your cooking session.

Tips To Season Your Meal Like A Pro

It may seem difficult to invoke flavour in meals without adding a tinge of salt. However, it is not only possible but also results in a delicious end result. Below are some tips you can use when preparing a meal to get the best flavours to the surface.

  • Jams: When glazing roasted vegetables or meats, make use of jams, honey, preserves or maple syrup.
  • Fruit Juices: Toss in fruit juices for flavour when preparing cornstarch-thickened glazes, sauces or marinades.
  • Plain Yoghurt: Marinate your meat with seasoned plain yoghurt. You can try out variations of seasonings like dried herbs, spices, etc.
  • Infused Oils and Butters: Herb-infused oils or even sesame oil make for excellent flavouring substitutes. Drizzle them over your pasta, bread, meats and veggies.

    If you are mixing herbs with butter or oil, allow the combination to rest for at least 30 minutes before using it in your cooking process. This will bring out all the flavours.
  • Brown Sugar: Prepare the rubs for dry meat with savoury spices and brown sugar. It ties together all the flavours and brings them out on another level.
  • Dried Herbs: Buy small batches of dried herbs. The longer they stay on the shelf, the more flavour they lose. Make sure you crush the dried herbs before adding them to your dish.
  • Spices: If you are working with whole spices, you will need to add them at the beginning of the cooking period. This will allow all the flavours to release into the food. On the other hand, save the ground spices for the last 15 minutes before turning off the stove.

Benefits Of Removing Salt from Your Meals 

Sodium restriction is beneficial to health in many ways. Most often, low-sodium diets are prescribed to people in hospital settings. 

It is meant to aid in the regulation of medical disorders like high blood pressure, renal disease, and heart conditions. People with these conditions face trouble with the proper functioning of their organs. It often results in the inefficiency of bodily function and further compromises the already compromised organ.

If you partake in a low-sodium diet, there are multiple potential health benefits. These include:

Lower Blood Pressure

Removing salt from your diet or following a restricted sodium diet may be beneficial in helping lower blood pressure.

Studies have demonstrated that switching to a low-sodium diet can bring about tiny but important modifications in the blood pressure of people who usually suffer from high levels.

People who reduced their salt intake for almost a month or more showed significant changes in blood pressure.

Reduce the Risk Of Cancer

Certain cancers, like those relating to the stomach, have been linked to high-salt diets. Studies have indicated that stomach cancer risk shot upwards by 12% when there was a daily increase of five-gram dietary salt. This salt intake was from processed food.

Such high-salt diets have also been shown to increase inflammation, affect the stomach’s mucosal lining and increase the growth of the bacteria known as H. Pylori. All these factors may play a role in raising the risk of stomach cancer.

As opposed to high-salt diets, low-salt diets that are rich in fruits and vegetables have been linked to lower chances of stomach cancer.

Improve Diet Quality

Any food that contains extremely high sodium is considered unhealthy and vice-versa.

Processed food, such as frozen ready-to-eat meals, fast food of any kind and packaged items, are not simply packed with high quantities of salt, but they also tend to contain high amounts of unhealthy calories and fats.

Health conditions like heart disease, diabetes and obesity have been associated with the frequent consumption of such foods.

When you opt to go on a low-sodium diet, the intake of such foods is completely restricted. This may be beneficial in helping improve diet quality.

How To Flavour Your Meals Without Adding Salt: The Bottom Line

Salt or sodium is important for essential body functions. However, nowadays, our everyday diet includes a lot of high-sodium content. This proves to be harmful in the long run.

I used to think cutting salt from my meals was something I could never do. Boy, was I wrong! There is a common misconception that salt is the sole reason meals have flavour. This could not be further from the truth.

Instead of salt, you can stir things up with fresh herbs, citrus, heat, dried herbs and spices. If used properly, all these flavours will stand out and mask the absence of salt.

Chef and Restaurant Owner Matty Riedel
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