What savoury foods are as dear as salt?
August 13, 2015 10:56 PM   Subscribe

So I've been diagnosed with hypertension, which means (amongst other things) I am looking at reducing my salt intake. But for me, salt is very dear and things taste wrong without it. I am particularly struggling with savoury snacks, which are already pretty rare. There are heaps of sweet ones, but not much I can think of which is savoury and unsalty. Help!

I am well-covered with fruit, yogurt, unsalted nuts, muesli bars and the like. But I crave that salty rush and am daydreaming about fish and chips as I write. I am trying to follow the dietitian's advice and have snacks throughout the day, but these are tending to be on the sweet side of things because there isn't a lot of savoury snackfood that isn't also high in salt.

I am in Australia, so please don't recommend specific brands unless they are available here - I'm not going to Amazon Snyder's pretzels, for example. Vegemite is also not an option as I loathe the stuff.

PS: title comes from one of many fairy tales about salt.
posted by Athanassiel to Food & Drink (28 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Would pickled ginger, sauerkraut, or wasabi help?

Grilled field mushrooms?

Home made roasted sweet-potato wedges with lime? (if you can get a lime infused macadamia oil to cook them in, fantastic!)

Grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes?
posted by Hot buttered sockpuppets at 11:10 PM on August 13, 2015

I am thinking that you may get the piquancy you are thinking from seasoning things with lemon juice, a really high-quality balsamic (which could actually lean more toward sweet), rice vinegar, and a ton of fresh herbs and spices. This is more generally and not specifically answering your question I suppose. One thing that I love is freshly popped popcorn where you pop it in coconut oil.
posted by bookworm4125 at 11:12 PM on August 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Salt free chips and salsa.
posted by pairofshades at 11:19 PM on August 13, 2015

If you have a specific salt intake goal, you could get around this by planning days where your main meals are super low salt and use your salt allowance for lower salt snacks.

The snacks I like that are savoury and not salty are all crunchy and fiddley - peas in the pod, sunflower seeds and so on.

The other thing to try is just suffering through and bearing with it. You may find you get more used to it with time.
posted by kadia_a at 11:24 PM on August 13, 2015

First of all: ugh. I'm sure the transition is a little miserable...

I agree with several comments above: think spicy and/or acidic. It will take a few weeks for your palate to reset, but it will soon adjust.

Try jicama and cucumber sticks dressed with fresh lime juice and ground arbol chile. It's crunchy, spicy and acidic.

I also love popcorn with browned butter and hot sauce. The flavor and spiciness mean I can skip the salt altogether (and salt is very very dear to me). I usually pop the popcorn on the stove because I'm old school like that, dump it into a bowl, then melt/brown the butter in the still ripping hot pan. Once the butter is as brown as I want it, I shake in some hot sauce, swirl the mixture together (don't breathe in the fumes!) and drizzle over the bowl of popcorn.

I'm guessing the dietician said this, but I'd also suggest you make sure you are well hydrated.

Good luck!
posted by jenquat at 11:39 PM on August 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

I feel for you! I much prefer salt to sugar.

A couple of tricks that I've tested: adding lemon juice to some savoury recipes can create the illusion of saltiness. Also, I think umami will be your friend: mushrooms, garlic, tomatoes.

Though I haven't tried them, the Sodium Girl blog has some good looking umami-rich snack recipes:

roasted chickpeas
edamame pate
low sodium cheese crackers
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:39 PM on August 13, 2015 [8 favorites]

Potassium intake makes a big difference in the impact that sodium has on your blood pressure -- definitely something to read more about and talk to your doctor about as a part of this strategy to reduce sodium intake. You can reduce intake and also offset the harm caused by the sodium you do consume.

The potassium in peanut butter for example significantly offsets the hypertensive effects of its sodium content on your kidneys.

Consider juicing certain vegetables high in potassium to significantly increase potassium intake and consume some throughout the day; my go-tos are kale, spinach, beet greens or chard, and celery (celery being lowest), though I don't consume them alone -- I make a quite elaborate cocktail including ginger, beets, apples, carrots, lemon, berries, tomato, cucumber, whatever I have on hand, but usually all of those...it's a bit of work [understatement] but I've gotten my blood pressure back to normal from scary levels by leaving a stressful job (not an easy option for most, I know) and improving my diet with juicing (tons of vegetable intake, less cravings for fast food and junk food).

Talk to your doctor before changing your diet in significant ways, of course, it's just pretty difficult to get the 4,000+ mg of potassium recommended through solid foods or supplements. Supplements rarely exceed 3% of your potassium for the day because it's unsafe to consume it in large amounts in supplement form.
posted by aydeejones at 11:52 PM on August 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

I will try very hard not to threadsit, but will just add a couple of extra parameters to make it even more of a challenge:
- I do not like spicy foods (hot sauce, chilli, etc)
- although I loooove garlic I can't really eat it without, um, explosive results.

Thank you for suggestions so far!
posted by Athanassiel at 12:14 AM on August 14, 2015

As a salt loving, high blood pressure having person, I feel you!

A few things:

1. The majority of people are not actually salt sensitive. In the US, for example, fewer than 25% of the population have sensitives to salt. While the advice to people with high blood pressure is always "limit salt" this is unsupported by evidence for most (people of some racial groups have more salt sensitivity than others). Unfortunately, there isn't a test for salt sensitivity, but you may want to discuss this with your doctor.

2. Read labels on all prepared food. I was surprised to learn that many seemingly salty snacks actually had little sodium and plenty of non- salty products were loaded with it. The big problem for me is restaurant food since most of it has high levels of sodium. Who knows, your favorite savory snacks might be back on the menu once you cut out the hidden sodium in, say, prepared salad dressing.

3. As far as low sodium snacks go, the biggest trick I have learned is using nutritional yeast. It is rich and savory tasting, but it has very little sodium. I make lots of things with it, but one of my favorite ways to eat it is on popcorn (I take air popped popcorn toss a bit of olive oil on it and shake on nutritional yeast and black pepper). No salt blue corn chips are pretty tasty with a low sodium salsa. And I also like carrot sticks with various homemade dips.
posted by girl flaneur at 12:28 AM on August 14, 2015 [14 favorites]

Oh yeah, I forgot about nutritional yeast! When I was vegan, I liked using it as a Parmesan cheese substitute--I mixed it with ground roasted nuts, usually almond I think. This recipe uses cashews.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:13 AM on August 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Whoops, obviously omit the salt and garlic powder from that recipe, sorry!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:14 AM on August 14, 2015

Have you looked into "Lite Salt"? It's available in most supermarkets here in Oz, and is 50% potassium chloride and 50% sodium chloride -- it might help with the sodium/potassium balance. Of course, check with your dietitian first to see if it's OK.
posted by nonspecialist at 1:37 AM on August 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

Roasted potatoes with fresh crumbled rosemary... Mmm :)
posted by treadstone11 at 2:01 AM on August 14, 2015

In the US, we have low sodium canned tomato and vegetable juice. They make it taste salty with a potassium compound (similar to "lite salt" referenced above). I drink those because the regular stuff just has an insane amount of sodium. They really do taste pretty salty and I find them very filling and satisfying for some reason. You could make something like that but much better with your own juices and lite salt. As nonspecialist mentions, you want to check with your nutritionist about lite salt; it is basically pure potassium, or half and half potassium and sodium. The pure potassium kind is a bit shocking to me since taking high-dose potassium supplements is considered dangerous, and this is basically a jar of pure potassium.
posted by BibiRose at 3:16 AM on August 14, 2015

Popcorn with curry powder on instead of salt is a favorite of mine. Pop it in coconut oil, like bookworm4125 suggests, for that movie-theater taste.
posted by coppermoss at 3:34 AM on August 14, 2015

Instead of using 100% of the salt, you would have used, use about 10-25% of this.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:54 AM on August 14, 2015

Ok, please hear me out regarding garlic: if you get a good-quality garlic salt, you can use a whole lot less of it than plain salt for a lot of flavor (or good garlic powder plus salt substitute, maybe.) That being said, I, too have a one-sided love affair with the allium family- I take a (or several) enzyme capsules when I eat them, and my guts stay pretty happy.
posted by JulesER at 5:16 AM on August 14, 2015

Onion powder, cumin, range of curry powder mixes, paprika, mustard, lemon and vinegar, tiny amounts of wasabi can all be used to enhance flavours without causing a lot of heat - of course you can find hot versions of a lot of these but not so hot alternatives are available/small amounts can add just enough flavour to make all the difference between bland and satisfyingly savoury. So I'd start by exploring, what else the spice cupboard has to offer.
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:32 AM on August 14, 2015

Is cooking okay? If garlic-the-vegetable is hard but garlic-the-flavor is okay you might get some good mileage out of kale chips with garlic powder. Basically a recipe like this (skip the salt). And get the garlic powder (very strong stuff) and not the garlic salt. I, too, get garlic-related rumbleguts with the vegetable but not with the powder. Popcorn with nutritional yeast and/or cayenne and/or paprika and/or cumin is a good one. I find that cumin or chili powder both manage to get some of the salty/savory mouth feel without being actually salty.
posted by jessamyn at 7:24 AM on August 14, 2015

Let me put a plug in here for shichimi togarashi.

While you said you don't like spicy, I can honestly say that when used in small amounts, it's not really hot - it's more of an umami thing. Seems to be quite available in Australia.

Re: the toasted chickpeas suggestion above (which are awesome, btw), you could throw some shichimi on them in lieu of cumin/paprika.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:29 AM on August 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Roasted seaweed tastes salty as hell but actually Doesn't have a ton of sodium. One of largish packages (enough for what feels like a good salty snack binge) has 250mg of salt. For comparison one cup of plain chex cereal (no milk) has 220mg!

Yummy :)
posted by pennypiper at 7:39 AM on August 14, 2015

I once tried a salt substitute thing that I think was dried chives (?) at a fancy spice store but I could be wrong about what it was. It doesn't taste the same, of course, but it scratched that itch. This list of what are good herbs to use in place of salt? is a good place to start.
posted by R a c h e l at 8:35 AM on August 14, 2015

Found it - freeze dried shallots from a store in Chicago. I have no idea if that would be something you could find in Australia, but the idea holds.
posted by R a c h e l at 8:35 AM on August 14, 2015

I have found that salting my food directly on the plate gives me more salt satisfaction than just eating something with salt already cooked into it. It allows me to use less salt all around.
posted by Vaike at 8:43 AM on August 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

I don't know whether you can get Mrs Dash in Oz, but you should be able to find most of its ingredients in the spice section of local grocers.
posted by brujita at 9:01 AM on August 14, 2015

Hard-boiled eggs.
posted by ethorson at 9:22 AM on August 14, 2015

"Nutritional yeast" is good stuff, and my hippie friends like it-- sprinkle it on things for delicious umami flavor.
posted by 4th number at 9:32 AM on August 14, 2015

I use a little salt but try to get the most bang for my buck.

I like to mix nutritional yeast with toasted sesame seeds (with the hull on, if you can find them ; aka brown sesame). Grind in a coffee grinder with just a little kosher salt (I have it down to about 1/10th). This combination gives you a diluted but still salty kick along with lots of umami.

How to use it:

- Sprinkle on thinly sliced sourdough, toasted and buttered.
- Smear any salt-free or low-sodium cracker with some tahini or any other low-sodium spread.
- Use as a dip for raw vegetables
- (I also want to say popcorn but you might be sick of it.)

Ingredients to mix and match grind with just a little salt:
- toasted nori sheets
- dried shitake mushrooms
- pistachio nuts
- very dry sundried tomatoes
- toasted cumin and coriander seeds
- nutrititional yeast (alone or with any of the above)
posted by Frenchy67 at 7:35 PM on August 15, 2015

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