Asian cuisine is often known for being salty and having a high sodium content, yet there are so many other flavors that go into it! Learning how to cook with less salt and using lower sodium products in everyday cooking is an essential skill to learn for those with Chronic Kidney Disease.
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1. Sesame Oil*
Choosing unsaturated fats over saturated fats (such as butter and animal fat) helps to support good heart health. Not only is sesame oil a healthy unsaturated fat option, but its toasted nutty flavor brings a strong presence to any dish! Thanks to its strong flavor, even a small bottle will last you quite some time.
How to Use It: Drizzle on top of soup, add to stir fry, add 1-2 teaspoons when cooking rice, use as the base of homemade low sodium Asian sauces or vinaigrettes
2. Rice Vinegar*
In comparison to other vinegars, rice vinegar is among the mildest in flavor and has the lowest acidity on average. Rice vinegar naturally helps to bring out other flavors in a dish while at the same time adding a bit of tang and delicate sweetness.
How to Use It: Add to sushi rice at the end of cooking, use with homemade low sodium Asian sauces or vinaigrettes, use for low sodium quick-pickled vegetable
Also known as “black vinegar”, this is a staple in many Chinese dishes. It’s a much stronger flavor than rice vinegar and becomes sweet when cooked down. You can use it in many ways that you would balsamic vinegar, but it is best known to be served with 小籠包 “xiao long bao” (Chinese soup dumplings).
How to Use It: use it in a homemade low-sodium marinade for meat and poultry, make a low-sodium dipping sauce for dumplings by combining it with fresh ginger, use it with homemade low-sodium Asian sauces or vinaigrettes
This savory sauce gives an umami flavor to any dish! While the smell may be off-putting to some (similar to fish sauce), just a small amount is able to transform a meal. Most people do not use this as a sauce alone but rather as an ingredient to add to a base of a soup or marinade. Unlike typical American barbecue sauce, Bullhead is not sweetened. Therefore, do not expect to use it in the same way or quantity that you would with a regular American brand.
How to Use It: use it in hotpot, use it with homemade low-sodium marinades
5. XO Sauce*
This spicy, coarsely textured sauce primarily contains chili oil, dried shrimp, and dried scallops among other spices. A little can go a long way, so use sparingly! It can be easy to get carried away with the sauce, but it’s important to stay mindful of serving sizes. By reading the label above, you can see that the entire container is 500 calories!
How to Use It: use it as a topping for cooked vegetables, meats, noodle dishes, rice dishes, and more!
Named after the former capital city of India, Madras curry powder* is a great way to add flavor without adding sodium. Of course, there is the obvious option of making a traditional curry dish with this seasoning. Try something new by mixing a couple of teaspoons with plain yogurt to make a tangy & savory dip for fresh vegetables.
How to Use It: use it to season meats, mix with plain yogurt to make a vegetable dip, add to egg salad or chicken salad
You can find Sichuan peppercorns either whole or ground. Having both on hand at all times is even better! Ground is great for using in marinades, sauces, and hotpot bases. Whole peppercorns are good for pickling fresh vegetables at home. If you’ve never had sichuan pepper before, beware that your tongue may feel numb. This is a normal & very common reaction!
How to Use It: make infused chili oil, in homemade low-sodium Asian sauces and marinades
8. White Peppercorn*
White peppercorns come from the same type of plant as black peppercorns do, but they are processed differently. White peppercorns have a milder flavor when compared to both black and Sichuan peppercorns. It is a staple in many traditional Chinese and Vietnamese dishes.
How to Use It: use it in place of black pepper in recipes, use it for pickling fresh vegetables
9. Cumin Powder*
Cumin is a common ingredient in many different cuisines ranging from Latin America to Southeast Asia. You can make your own variation of curry powder at home using a mix of cumin, turmeric, garam masala, and whatever else your spice preferences are!
How to Use It: use in homemade low-sodium seasoning blends
10. Scallions, Ginger, & Garlic Seasoning
Scallions are a variety of young onions also referred to as green onions and spring onions. One of the great things about scallions is that they are mild enough to be eaten raw or slightly cooked, which preserves their crisp texture. Cooked scallions can be included in stir-fries, marinades, and salad dressings. Ginger adds a fragrant zest to both sweet and savory foods. In Asia, fresh ginger is an essential ingredient used in different classic dishes, including soups, sauces, and marinades. Fresh ginger packs a lot of warm, pungent, peppery flavor that works well with meat and vegetables. Garlic seasoning is a simple blend of herbs and spices that can be used in many dishes. Although these ingredients are typically used fresh, they can also be used as a dried seasoning when needed!
How to Use It: Add to homemade low-sodium marinades, soups, or salad dressing
11. Five Spice Powder*
The five ingredients in Chinese Five Spice powder are cinnamon, cloves, star anise, fennel, and Sichuan peppercorn. Sometimes you will find blends with added spices, such as licorice root. The star anise in the blend already lends itself a licorice-like flavor, so if you like it, look for a blend with licorice root added.
How to Use It: add to homemade low-sodium dry rubs and marinades, soups
12. Mushroom Seasoning*
Mushroom seasoning is a great vegan and vegetarian option to use on plant-based proteins, in soup stocks, or anything else that needs some umami flavor enhancement. However, because it is vegan-friendly, doesn’t mean that it can’t be used with meat dishes as well! Beef and chicken go especially well with mushroom powder. Compared to other vegetarian broth base options, mushroom powder is very low in sodium!
How to Use It: use it to season plant-based proteins for a meaty flavor, use it in homemade low-sodium Asian sauces, dressings, and marinades
There is a world of spices, sauces, and condiments out there that can be used to flavor your food without the use of salt!
What is your favorite out of the list? Let me know in the comments!