Salt-Free Spice Blends from Around the World

Mar
16

Salt-Free Spice Blends from Around the World

Adding spices and herbs to your food is one of the best ways to bring flavor to your dishes without salt! Using inspiration from different cultures around the globe, this guide is meant to help you get creative in the kitchen and try new things while continuing to stick with your health goals.

Variety of herbs and spices on a dark grey background. Cinnamon stick, rosemary, black pepper, paprika, thyme, etc. are placed on spoons.

This year’s National Nutrition Month theme is “Celebrate a World of Flavors” and we are here to do just that! Continue reading below for salt-free spice blends from five different countries well-known for their cooking.

Why Salt-Free Spice Blends?

For most people, salt is the main source of sodium in the diet. While sodium is a required mineral in the body and serves many important functions, it’s no secret that it’s possible to get too much of a good thing. 

The average sodium intake in the US is 3,400mg per day, which is nearly 150% of the daily recommended (2,300mg per day). A high sodium intake over time has been linked to high blood pressure and increased likeliness of kidney disease

When living with kidney disease, your body has a harder time filtering out excess minerals like sodium. It becomes even more important to watch your sodium intake as your disease progresses. In the case of hypertension, it can worsen your condition by increasing your blood pressure further.

Instagram post from Healthy Mission Dietitian on a white background stating the recommended daily sodium intake

While removing salt from foods may sound like a direct highway to bland meals, it doesn’t have to be! Fresh & dried herbs and spices are one of the best tools you can have in your kitchen for flavoring your food. However, be wary of store-bought spice blends as they often have added salt.

Buying your own spices in bulk and making your own blends is a fun and safe way to ensure you are getting all the flavor without the salt!

France

The pillars of flavor in most French cuisine are thanks to:

  • Parsley
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme
  • Basil
  • Fennel seeds
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Bay leaf
  • Chervil
  • Herbes de provenc
  • Quatr Épices (a four spice blend)

Mirepoix is another traditional base of flavor that gets its flavor from vegetables rather than spices or herbs! The base is made by sauteing two parts onion to one part carrot and celery together. This is very common to see in many American chicken noodle soup recipes.

Eiffel tower landscape photo

Try this French-inspired salt-free spice blend when making homemade salad dressing or marinade (recipe courtesy of All Recipes).

  • 2 tablespoons dried rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seed
  • 2 tablespoons dried savory
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 2 tablespoons dried marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons dried lavender flowers
  • 2 tablespoons dried Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon bay powder

Vietnam

The main spices used in Vietnamese cuisine are:

  • Thai basil
  • Chiles
  • Cilantro
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Curry paste
  • Ginger
  • Lemongrass
  • Mint
  • Turmeric
  • Kaffir lime
  • Galangal (root spice similar to ginger)

If you’ve ever had a Bánh mì sandwich or a bowl of Phở, you likely got a taste of many of these ingredients. 

Busy street market with various fruits, vegetables, roots being sold.

Phở is a great option that can easily be made kidney-friendly and heart-healthy. Try this spice blend in your own homemade broth (recipe courtesy of RunawayRice.com). These amounts make 12-16 cups of broth, so scale as needed.

  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 Tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 5 cloves

China and Taiwan

These countries are well-known for their use of:

  • Chilies
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Szechuan peppercorn
  • Star anise
  • Black pepper
  • White pepper
  • Sesame seeds
  • Five spice
A variety of Chinese food placed on a red background. A hand is reaching over to grab a piece of vegetable from a plate using red chop sticks.

One of my favorite Asian dishes is Five Spice Chicken. Five spice is a powder blend commonly used in Chinese and Taiwanese dishes. As the name entails, this blend uses 5 different spices which provide you with a sweet, spicy, bitter, and umami flavor. Try making it for yourself at home by using this salt-free spice blend.

  • 2 teaspoon ground Szechuan peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground fennel seeds
  • 5 – 6 whole star anise
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger *optional


Toast up the peppercorns and star anise on low heat until fragrant. Add all ingredients into a blender, food processor, or grinder and blend until all ingredients are turned into a powder. 

You can use this spice blend on a variety of dishes! It is commonly used with meat, fish, or poultry but can also be used on vegetables or even fruit!

Thailand

The center of many Thai dishes are:

  • Thai basil
  • Chilies
  • Cilantro
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Curry paste
  • Ginger
  • Lemongrass
  • Mint
  • Turmeric
  • Kaffir lime
  • Galangal (root spice similar to ginger)
A plate of Tom Yum soup in a white bowl and a side salad placed on a wooden background

With any Thai dish, you choose to make, know that you are in for a delicious lingering aroma in your kitchen! Thai cuisine pulls influence from several countries, including India, China, and Portugal.

If you’re feeling inspired to try new flavors, give this Thai-style salt-free spice blend a go! Simply saute stir-fry vegetables in your choice of healthy oil & seasoning, add a lean protein, and serve over brown rice for a complete meal (recipe courtesy of forksoverknives.com).

  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons dried lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons dried lemongrass or lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground white or black pepper

Korea

Korean foods are filled with flavor, mostly thanks to:

  • Chilies
  • Garlic
  • Sesame seeds
  • Ginger
  • Perilla (a variety of mint)
Clear Glass Jar with Kimchi beside the Wooden Chopsticks

Kimchi is a Korean side dish staple that you can find at the table no matter what is being served! If you’ve never tried kimchi before but enjoy sauerkraut, then you are likely to enjoy this traditional Korean topping! Both are fermented cabbage side dishes with their own unique blend of seasonings. Try it with fried rice, dumplings, eggs, and soups.

If Korean BBQ is more your style, try out this spice blend you can make at home (recipe courtesy of thesubversivetable.com). 

  • ½ cup Gochukaru (chili powder)
  • ½ cup smoked paprika
  • ¼ cup brown sugar (packed)
  • ¼ cup ground cumin
  • ¼ cup granulated garlic
  • 2 tbsp mustard powder
  • 2 tbsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp cayenne pepper

North Africa

In most North African dishes, you can find:

  • Saffron
  • Harissa
  • Cinnamon
  • Cilantro
  • Cumin
  • Sumac
  • Mint
  • Parsley
  • Coriander
  • La Kama (Moroccan spice blend)
  • Dukkah (Egyptian spice blend)
  • Ras El Hanout (Moroccan spice blend)
Roasted chickpeas placed on a white background

The Northern Africa region is made up of seven countries (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, and Western Sahara) each of which has its own signature dishes. 

Try this Moroccan-inspired salt-free spice blend on some roasted chickpeas for a kidney-friendly addition to a salad (recipe courtesy of WanderlustKitchen.com).

  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

Greece

The Greeks tend to cook with more fresh herbs than spices, such as:

  • Mint
  • Dill
  • Parsley
  • Oregano
  • Basil
Vegetable Salad on White Ceramic Plate Beside Grey Stainless Steel Fork

Whether you’re dipping into tzatziki or biting into a fresh Greek salad, these flavors are prominent in nearly all Greek dishes! 

It’s easy to make your own Greek-style salad dressing with a 3:1 ratio of olive oil to vinegar, plus a special salt-free spice blend! Try this one (recipe courtesy of thetravelbite.com). 

  • 2 tsp Basil
  • 2 tsp Oregano
  • 2 tsp Dried Garlic
  • 2 tsp Dried Lemon
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp Parsley
  • 1 tsp Dill
  • 1 tsp Thyme
  • 1 tsp Marjoram
  • 1 tsp Onion Powder

Making Cultural Foods Meet Your Health Goals

I personally understand how important it is to maintain the integrity of a traditional cuisine while also altering it to meet your needs. Just because it’s a family recipe, doesn’t mean you have to give it up entirely!

While it may seem otherwise at times, it is possible to make any cultural staple food to benefit your health. You just have to have the right tools and knowledge! Working with a Registered Dietitian is the best way to learn how to navigate eating for both your health and your food preferences. 


Follow along on Instagram @HealthyMissionDietitian to get more ideas on how to fit your favorite foods into your diet. Whether you have kidney disease, heart disease, or diabetes, I’m here to help you learn about what’s best for you!

Instagram post from Healthy Mission Dietitian on a white background with different spices

What’s your favorite type of cuisine? Share in the comments!

P.S – If making your own blends at home seems like a daunting task. There are some food companies that produce blends without any salt added. You can try Mrs. Dash, Magic Seasoning Blends, or Pritikin Foods*. And if you like adding a kick to your meals, you should check out amazing red pepper flake blends from Flat Iron Pepper Co. They’ve got amazing blends from mild heat to super hot, and no added salt or sugar in their mixes!

*Links marked with an asterisk are affiliate links. I may make a small commission if you make a purchase using the links. This does not affect. you or increase the price in any way. 

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Registered Dietitian with over 10 years of experience sharing nutrition knowledge that you can use to enjoy food again

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