Time to Spice Things Up
Who needs salt when vegan sauces, smoked paprika and more can take your dishes to the next level.
Salt. It’s arguably the most common go-to when a dish is lacking just the right amount of flavor. But as the culinary world evolves, chefs and other food maestros have been privy to a global array of sauces and seasonings that put salt to savory shame.
According to Meredith Hink, corporate nutrition services manager at Reinhart Foodservice, the mere act of replacing salt with herb and spice alternatives is enough to activate various health benefits. “The bigger health benefit is that we are using herbs and spices instead of salt, sugar and fat to season food,” she says.
To quite literally spice things up in your kitchen, opt for these salt alternatives that are brimming with flavor.
As interest in vegan and vegetarian lifestyles steadily increases, so has interest in mushrooms as a meat alternative. In addition to serving as a meat-like substitute, mushrooms may provide a unique and deliciously distinct flavor for dishes. “I feel like mushrooms are one of the best salt substitutes,” says Jeffrey Compton, chef de cuisine at Acre in Auburn, Ala. “Mushrooms have an umami-like flavor profile that hits most of the notes on your palate—even salt. I like to dehydrate them into a powder or caramelize them, using tomato paste to really bring out their umami/salty flavor.”
Oregano enthusiasts may be familiar with marjoram, a culinary herb that is the same genus as oregano, yet differs subtly in flavor. While dried marjoram may be used in cooking, marjoram oil provides a simpler and more impactful way of cooking with this piney herb. Regarding its health benefits, marjoram oil is said to cure a medley of ailments, including stomach cramps, migraines and nerve pain.
With its versatility and rich taste, pesto can transform just about any dish, from pizza to pasta. For those who love the taste of pesto, but can do without dairy, vegan pesto is an easy alternative. To create vegan pesto, simply swap out parmesan cheese for nutritional yeast.
Liquid shio koji
For Michael Sichel, executive chef at Gabrielle in Charleston, S.C., liquid shio koji has been an absolute game changer in his kitchen. The Japanese fermented rice liquor is created when a sake press is used to extract the golden liquid from shio koji, a seasoned porridge used to tenderize protein.
“I use it to add umami to everything, from marinades to finishing, as well as in aiolis and soups,” Sichel says. “It adds a scrumptious, caramelized char to meat and seafood.”
Smoked Spanish sweet paprika
This paprika is a fitting option when attempting to strike the right balance of sweet and savory. Unlike domestic paprika, smoked Spanish sweet paprika boasts a welcome smokiness that makes it more than suitable for potato-based dishes and a myriad of meat-heavy dishes.