For many of us, salt is the star of seasonings. It adds flavor to just about any dish, from savory stews to chocolate-based desserts. But consistently getting too much salt (sodium) in your diet can be bad for you in the long term.
Fortunately, there are many flavorful salt alternatives for those looking to cut back on sodium intake.
21 best salt substitutes
1. lemon juice
2. fresh or dried garlic
3. fresh or dried onion
4. sun dried tomatoes
5. natural herb and spice blends
6. nutritional yeast
8. coconut aminos
9. black pepper
13. kelp flakes and granules
14. bonito flakes
15. umami powder
16. chili powder
17. low salt hot sauce
18. red pepper flakes
20. curry powder
21. low or no salt salsa
Looking for some not-so-salty swaps? You’ve come to the right place. These no to low salt options deliver on flavor while holding on sodium.
Are salt and sodium the same thing?
Sodium and salt can be easily confused because they’re closely related. Here’s the difference:
- Sodium: a mineral that’s found in lots of food either naturally or as an added ingredient
- Salt: (aka table salt) is a combo of sodium and chloride that we use to flavor our food
1. Lemon juice
Lemon juice can be used in just about any recipe that calls for salt, including soups, meat dishes, and stir-fries.
Want to give it a go?
- Sprinkle fresh lemon juice on fish and chicken.
- Add a squirt of lemon juice to sauteed veggies for a pop of brightness.
- Use dried lemon peel in baked goods to add flavor without additional salt.
Lemon juice may be particularly beneficial for folks with hypertension. Some research suggests that lemon could help lower blood pressure.
2. Fresh or dried garlic
Garlic is an excellent source of antioxidants. Eating this veggie regularly might help boost your health in a number of ways, like reducing your blood pressure and inflammation.
Try using fresh or dried garlic in savory recipes to reduce the need for added salt.
3. Fresh or dried onion
Like garlic, onion can be used fresh or in powdered form to add salt-free flavor to recipes.
Using garlic and onion together delivers a powerful punch of flavor that’s packed with nutrients that help keep you healthy.
4. Sun-dried tomatoes
Sun-dried tomatoes are super flavorful and make an excellent salt alternative that’s packed with fiber and other nutrients like vitamin C.
Try chopping up salt-free sun-dried tomatoes and adding them to egg dishes, stir-fries, and baked goods for a pop of flavor.
Just make sure to double check the ingredient list when choosing a sun-dried tomato product. You’ll want to look for salt-free or low-sodium options.
5. Natural herb and spice blends
Due to the demand for tasty, low sodium flavoring, many companies offer natural herb and spice blends that can be used in place of salt in your favorite recipes.
For example, Bragg Organic Sprinkle Seasoning is a blend made with rosemary, onion, garlic, thyme, red bell pepper, carrot, tomato, black pepper, basil, Bragg organic extra virgin olive oil, parsley, tarragon, lemon peel, and other natural ingredients.
6. Nutritional yeast
Nutritional yeast is a product made from dried yeast. It’s perfect for salt-sensitive cheese lovers because it has a savory, cheesy flavor. It’s also naturally low in sodium.
This popular vegan seasoning is an excellent source of B vitamins. Try using nutritional yeast to make low sodium cheese sauces, dressings, and low sodium cheesy popcorn.
Apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, red wine vinegar, and balsamic vinegar can boost the flavor of recipes while reducing the need for added salt.
Try using vinegar-based dressings in salads, adding a small amount of vinegar to soups, or incorporating a bit of balsamic vinegar in pasta dishes to cut back on salt.
8. Coconut aminos
Coconut aminos is a coconut-based, low sodium soy sauce alternative (great if you have a soy allergy) that can be used in a number of ways in the kitchen. For example, use a small amount of coconut aminos to flavor Asian dishes like curries and stir-fries.
It contains only 90 milligrams of sodium per teaspoon — just 4 percent of the recommended Daily Value (DV). By comparison, most soy sauces contain more than 300 milligrams of sodium per teaspoon.
Heads up: While coconut aminos is low sodium, it’s not salt-free. Use it in moderation.
9. Black pepper
Typically known as salt’s BFF, pepper can stand on its own too!
Black pepper is a powerful source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. It even helps improve the absorption of beneficial compounds like curcumin, the main active polyphenol found in turmeric.
Try adding freshly ground pepper to egg dishes, soups, pastas, and salads to reduce salt.
Paprika is a brightly colored spice made from peppers. Paprika comes in many flavor profiles, including sweet, smokey, and spicy.
It gets its intense coloring from plant pigments called carotenoids, including β-carotene, β-cryptoxanthin, and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids act as potent antioxidants, so adding carotenoid-rich foods like paprika into your diet may help improve overall health.
For peeps who like a sprinkle of sea salt on their chocolate, cinnamon could become a new salt-free go-to. Add cinnamon to baked goods like brownies and other sweet confections that call for salt to reduce added sodium.
In addition to reducing your salt intake, cinnamon could boost health in other ways. For example, when consumed regularly, cinnamon has the potential to help lower blood sugar levels.
Oregano can be used fresh or dried to decrease the need for added salt in your fave recipes.
Bonus: Oregano is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. It’s warm flavor also pairs well with many foods.
Try adding dried oregano to homemade tomato sauce before adding salt — or add a sprinkle of fresh oregano and lemon juice on top of fish or chicken for salt-free flavor.
13. Kelp flakes and granules
Kelp flakes and granules are made from kelp, a type of seaweed.
Even though kelp flakes and granules have a pleasing salty flavor, they’re actually low in sodium. Good news for adventurous salt lovers looking to reduce sodium intake!
Kelp is also an excellent source of iodine, a mineral that’s critical to thyroid function.
Pro tip: Kelp granules might not be sold at your local supermarket, but you can find them online.
14. Bonito flakes
Bonito flakes are made from dried, shaved tuna fish. This product provides a concentrated source of flavor without added salt.
This seasoning is wonderful addition to broths, soups and veggie dishes. You can find bonito flakes online, but be sure to purchase the kind without added salt.
15. Umami powder
Umami is one of the five basic tastes (yep, along with salty, sweet, sour, and bitter).
Most umami powders are made from a blend of powdered mushrooms and spices. They’re also mostly low in sodium.
Dark Horse Umami Powder is just one blend, for example. It includes shitake mushroom powder, dried onion, tamari, dried tomato, and nutritional yeast that contains just 10 milligrams (<1 percent DV) of sodium per half-teaspoon serving.
16. Chili powder
Chili powder is a spice blend that typically contains chili pepper powder, cumin, paprika, onion, and garlic.
This smart salt alternative gives a warm flavor to meat and veggie dishes. Just be sure to read ingredient labels because some chili powders do contain salt.
17. Low salt hot sauce
This one’s for the salt enthusiasts who crave a little heat! Low sodium hot sauce might be your new favorite flavor enhancer.
Although some hot sauces are loaded with salt, many products contain very low amounts of sodium.
For example, Tia Lupita Hot Sauce is made from just seven ingredients, including jalapeño, vinegar, and oregano. Even though it contains a small amount of salt, one serving only has 25 milligrams — 1 percent of your DV.
18. Red pepper flakes
Red pepper flakes are the product of dried, pulverized hot peppers. Try adding them to:
- homemade pastas
- egg-based savory dishes
These colorful flakes make a tasty, salt-free addition to any recipe that needs a kick of flavor.
Dill is an herb that’s rich in vitamin C, provitamin A carotenoids, and heart-protective flavonoid antioxidants.
Fresh and dried dill can be used in place of salt in many recipes. Some ideas:
- Add fresh, chopped dill to fish, chicken, or cooked veggies.
- Add dried dill to sauces and dressings.
- Experiment with swapping dried dill for salt in your favorite savory dishes.
20. Curry powder
Curry powder is a blend of spices that typically includes coriander, turmeric, cumin, chili pepper, and fenugreek.
It has a bright yellow color and warm, earthy flavor that’s perfect for savory dishes.
Curry powder is usually salt-free, but check the ingredient label to be sure.
21. Low or no salt salsa
Craving a low salt dip or topping for eggs, chips, or tacos? Try making your own low or no salt salsa.
Here’s how: Combine chopped tomatoes, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, garlic, and pepper. (This recipe provides step-by-step instructions.)
You can also shop for low sodium salsas online.
Is salt bad for you?
Using salt isn’t generally cause for concern, but going overboard can lead to issues like high blood pressure, possible autoimmune probs, and complications for peeps with heart disease.
Getting less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day is recommended by The Institute of Medicine for most adults, but your doctor could suggest aiming for a lower or higher amount.
Salt is a delicious, flavor-enhancing seasoning. But if you’re a salt lover who needs to cut back on your sodium intake, don’t fret.
Salt alternatives like coconut aminos and chili powder can help you reduce your salt intake without sacrificing the taste of your favorite meals and snacks.