Funny story time. Back when I knew very little about cooking, I didn’t know salts were different. Salt was just salt. I had a brine that called for coarse kosher salt. All I had was regular table salt. Unbeknown to me, they don’t substitute one for one. I ended up using about twice as much salt as I was supposed to. It was edible…but salty. Luckily, this happened to me with a brine. Doubling the salt in the actual recipe would have likely ruined it.
Salt substitutes covers a few different things. This post is going to be broken into sections:
The first is salt substitutes (how to substitute one type of salt for another) in cooking and baking. This will include conversion amounts.
The next section will cover non-salt flavorings and alternatives: types, how to use, etc.
Finally, there are two small sections: low- and no-sodium options and information about potassium chloride-free alternatives.
Salt Conversion Amounts:
While substituting one salt for another may seem simple, it’s actually not. The main reason is that salt types have different volumes. So 1 cup does NOT equal 1 cup.
Information for the above graphic was provided by “Morton Salt.”
Your best choice if you are trying to cut salt (sodium) is to find something else to add flavor to your dishes. Luckily, this is EASY. With the many spices and herbs available today- fresh and dried- finding a good alternative is possible year-round.
- Herb and spice blends, such as Mrs. Dash. Many contain no sodium (check the label) and offer a good mix of flavors with absolutely no effort. Ratio of substitute is 1 to 1. Aka: recipe calls for 1 tsp. of salt, use 1 tsp. of herb/spice blend instead.
- Lemon and/or lime juice- this works on everything from meats to fresh salads.
- Garlic powder (not garlic salt). A lot of flavor and can be added to anything. A little bit goes a long ways.
- Onion powder (not onion salt). Again, a lot of flavor and can be added to anything. A little bit goes a long ways.
The American Heart Association has a long list of what spices go with what foods:
- Allspice: Lean ground meats, stews, tomatoes, peaches, applesauce, cranberry sauce, gravies, lean meats
- Basil: Fish, lamb, lean ground meats, stews, salads, soups, sauces, fish cocktails
- Bay leaves: Lean meats, stews, poultry, soups, tomatoes
- Caraway seeds: Lean meats, stews, soups, salads, breads, cabbage, asparagus, noodles
- Chives: Salads, sauces, soups, lean meat dishes, vegetables
- Cider vinegar: Salads, vegetables, sauces
- Cinnamon: Fruits (especially apples), breads, pie crusts
- Curry powder: Lean meats (especially lamb), veal, chicken, fish, tomatoes, tomato soup, mayonnaise
- Dill: Fish sauces, soups, tomatoes, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, cucumbers, potatoes, salads, macaroni, lean beef, lamb, chicken, fish
- Extracts (almond, peppermint, maple, etc.): Puddings, fruits, baking
- Garlic: Lean meats, fish, soups, salads, vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes
- Ginger: Chicken, fruits
- Lemon juice: Lean meats, fish, poultry, salads, vegetables
- Mace: Hot breads, apples, fruit salads, carrots, cauliflower, squash, potatoes, veal, lamb
- Mustard (dry): Lean ground meats, lean meats, chicken, fish, salads, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, mayonnaise, sauces
- Nutmeg: Fruits, pie crust, lemonade, potatoes, chicken, fish, lean meat loaf, toast, veal, pudding
- Onion powder: Lean meats, stews, vegetables, salads, soups
- Paprika: Lean meats, fish, soups, salads, sauces, vegetables
- Parsley: Lean meats, fish, soups, salads, sauces, vegetables
- Pimiento: Salads, vegetables, casserole dishes
- Rosemary: Chicken, veal, lean meat loaf, lean beef, lean pork, sauces, stuffings, potatoes, peas, lima beans
- Sage: Lean meats, stews, biscuits, tomatoes, green beans, fish, lima beans, onions, lean pork
- Savory: Salads, lean pork, lean ground meats, soups, green beans, squash, tomatoes, lima beans, peas
- Thyme: Lean meats (especially veal and lean pork), sauces, soups, onions, peas, tomatoes, salads
- Turmeric: Lean meats, fish, sauces, rice
Salt Alternatives: Low and No-Sodium Options
If you’re looking for salt substitutes because of excess sodium in diet, the first source to check is any processed foods you eat or drink (including sweet items). Added salt and salt in recipes in generally a low source of sodium in one’s daily diet. However, you may still wish you cut salt out of those areas too.
If you are considering switching to a low- or no-sodium option, make sure you check with your doctor. The amount of potassium in such items can be harmful for some conditions (including kidney problems and some hypertension medicines). In addition, they often have a bitter or metallic taste.
“Lite” or “low-sodium” alternatives: most of these (including Morton Lite Salt) are a combination of sodium chloride (normal salt) and potassium chloride (which tastes similar to salt, but isn’t supposed to raise blood pressure). Note these ingredients still contain some sodium.
No-sodium alternatives: these usually consist entirely of potassium chloride. These include: Morton Salt Substitute, NoSalt, & Nu-Salt.
Consumer reports suggests “Diamond Crystal Salt Sense.” It is still real salt, but the volume of the crystal means that there is less sodium per tablespoon. This will work to cut sodium provided you don’t simply pour more salt on the food.
Salt Alternatives: Non-Potassium Chloride
As stated above, the common low- and no-salt substitutes are made of potassium chloride. But for those avoiding potassium chloride: there are few options out there. I would recommend shopping online, though, as they will be hard to find in stores. Search specifically for “potassium chloride free salt substitutes.” Taste of these will vary, so you may have to try a few before you find one you like.
I have seen recommended, but have never tried: dried seaweed flakes and kelp granules. Note that they do have some sodium. I have had dried seaweed, though, and found it edible!