Cooks of any experience level can overemphasize the saltiness of their food, but great cooks know how to add flavor to complement the existing flavors, rather than use salt to amp up those same flavors too much. Finding your spices and your ingredient ratios can take time, but it all begins with experimenting. Finding ways to use heat and acid to bring out the flavors you love – and even some you didn’t know you loved – will not only satisfy you as a cook, they’ll make you healthier in the long run, reducing your sodium intake.
Finding a good spice you like can be a life-changer, as far as flavor goes. The capsaicin (the compound that makes hot peppers hot!) in cayenne peppers might be the way to go for you. This is especially true since cayenne peppers, while hot, are also incredibly flavorful. You can also take it in baby steps, if you’re not used to spice, as a way to get your heat in without losing flavor in favor of overpowering heat.
You used to be able to visit a restaurant in Los Angeles called “The Stinking Rose,” where everything – even the ice cream! – had garlic in it. There’s a good reason for it – garlic is an almost universal ingredient for flavor enhancement. You can literally add garlic to anything in the right way to get considerably more flavor than with salt.
They supposedly pump a cinnamon scent into the air at amusement parks so that you’re hungry. Food is their biggest moneymaker, so there’s no reason you can’t add a little aromatic spice to all sorts of meals. It isn’t just for desserts, either, as cinnamon also goes with pork, and acts as an enhancer in sauces, as well.
Some dishes need that buttery, herbaceous touch that you almost can’t overdue. Fish, veggies, poultry and beef all can benefit from that small kick that works as an actual flavor, not just an enhancer. Using the right ratios, you can use dill in dishes from all over the world.
Some parts of the world are just discovering the magic of turmeric to add color and a warm, homey flavor to foods. It’s a fun way to add a new element to already familiar dishes. Try adding it to your holiday dishes, since it can be used with most proteins and vegetables without overpowering them. Also, it’s a great way to make your dish pop, adding a beautiful golden hue to simple rice dishes or anything else that might look a little dull.
Cooking low-salt and no-salt is not difficult, especially since you probably already know what flavors you’d like more of and which you’d like less of. It’s just a matter of knowing what proteins and what starches will absorb what spices and other flavors in what ways. This will help you emphasize the flavors you love most, while also benefiting your health.