5 Salt Substitutes for Cooking

Cook adding salt to a pot of water

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Sodium chloride is a chemical compound that is essential to the human body. It is also is an electrolyte that regulates the amount of water in your body and helps with other bodily functions.

Most people refer to sodium chloride as table salt, and it holds a place in most household kitchens right next to the pepper shaker. Salt is commonly added to foods to enhance their flavors. It can transform the taste of bland foods and also act as a food preservative.

While salt no doubt adds a delicious taste to both sweet and savory recipes, it is also a source of dietary sodium and should be consumed in moderation, especially if you have certain health conditions. If you run out of salt or want to watch your sodium intake, try these substitutes for added salt instead.

Why Use an Alternative?

Salt contributes to your sodium intake, which plays a vital role in the body. However, there are several reasons why you may be hesitant to season your food with salt at every meal.

For instance, people prone to an allergic skin condition called atopic dermatitis may seek to reduce their salt intake. Researchers found that high concentrations of sodium chloride can influence the immune cells that are responsible for allergies. They also found high levels of salt in the affected skin of people with atopic dermatitis.

Those following a low-sodium meal plan may also seek alternatives to salt for some meals. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day for adults.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the average American consumes an average of more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day. Too much sodium can increase your risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Those who want to reduce their sodium intake may find success with these substitutes for salt.

If you are out of salt but still want to flavor your meal, you may wonder about salt alternatives. Table salt is widely accessible and affordable, and there are many types of salt. However, if you run out of salt, you can still flavor your food with some of these substitutes for salt.

Salt Nutrition

This nutrition information for 1 teaspoon (6.1 grams) of iodized table salt is provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 0
  • Sodium: 2,360mg
  • Calcium: 3.05mg
  • Potassium: 0.122mg
  • Manganese: 0.002mg
  • Iodine: 310mcg

Salt is not a significant source of calories or macronutrients like fat, carbohydrates, and protein. It is, however, a source of vitamins and minerals like calcium, potassium, and manganese. It is also a significant source of sodium.

Approximately 40% of table salt is sodium. The other 60% is chloride.

Iodine also is added to table salt (iodized salt) to prevent iodine deficiency. Keep in mind that unfortified sea salt, Himalayan salt, and other specialty salts often lack iodine. Be sure to read labels to ensure what you are getting.

Popular Substitutes

The salty flavor that salt adds can be difficult to replace. However, there are some ingredients that can replicate the taste of salt because they contain sodium.

There are also ingredients that can be used as salt alternatives because they add flavor to amplify the taste of bland foods much as salt would. Whether you are trying to cut back on sodium or you want to replace salt with other flavors in your cooking, you may have success with these salt substitutes.

Coconut Aminos

Coconut aminos are a popular soy sauce substitute. Like soy sauce, coconut aminos contain sodium but in smaller amounts. It is soy-free, wheat-free, and gluten-free.

Depending on the brand, coconut aminos can be a low-sodium condiment used to add flavor to savory dishes like stir-fries, marinades, salad dressings, and more. Tamari, miso paste, and liquid aminos can also be used in a similar fashion to replace salt, especially in Asian-style cooking.

Lemon Juice and Zest

Lemon juice is a popular pairing with olive oil when making homemade salad dressings and it can also replace salt in some recipes. Lemons have a strong sour flavor due to the presence of citric acid.

While the flavor is much different from salt, it acts as an efficient way to bring out and enhance the flavors of other foods. It also makes a noticeable difference in bland, unseasoned foods like chicken breast, salmon fillets, and vegetables.

Herbs and Spices

Salt and pepper are a classic kitchen duo and are the go-to sources of flavor for most home chefs. If salt is your culinary safety zone, try expanding your palate by reaching for other herbs and spices.

Garlic powder, dill, onion powder, smoked paprika, and red pepper flakes are all flavorful additions to amp up the taste of your food. When you season your food with herbs and spices, you may find that you need less salt or can omit it altogether because the food is flavorful enough.

Black Pepper

If you like salt, there is a good chance you have black pepper on hand. Ground black pepper has a distinct pungent flavor that can change the flavor of food and add depth.

To cut back your salt intake, go for the pepper instead. There are different types of peppercorns that offer different aromas and flavors.

Plus, black pepper has some health benefits. For instance, it is known for being an antioxidant, as well as its antimicrobial potential and gastro-protective abilities.

Salt-Free Seasoning Blend

Seasoning blends are a convenient way to spice up your food without reaching for several different herbs and spices. Salt-free seasonings have become popular as more people want to reduce their intake of sodium.

Many salt-free seasoning blends are made with a combination of dried onion, garlic, celery seed, cayenne pepper, and other dried herbs and spices. A sprinkle of these blends is sure to jazz up your tastebuds without salt.

A Word From Verywell

Adding a dash of salt to your food is a quick and easy way to boost the flavors of your meal. It is also an excellent source of iodine. In moderation, table salt can be part of a balanced meal plan.

However, there may be times when you cannot reach for the salt shaker. For instance, if you are all out of salt, experience a flare-up of atopic dermatitis, or want to reduce your sodium intake, you may be looking for a substitute.

Rest assured, you do not have to compromise on taste with a salt substitute. There are plenty of options that allow you to skip the salt shaker and still add flavor to your food.

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7 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Matthias J, Maul J, Noster R, et al. Sodium chloride is an ionic checkpoint for human TH2 cells and shapes the atopic skin microenvironment. Sci Transl Med. 2019;11(480):eaau0683. doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.aau0683

  2. USDA. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sodium and food sources. Updated February 26, 2021.

  4. Cleveland Clinic. How salt can impact your blood pressure, heart, and kidneys.

  5. USDA, FoodData Central. Salt, table, iodized. Updated December 12, 2019.

  6. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Salt and sodium.

  7. Butt MS, Pasha I, Sultan MT, Randhawa MA, Saeed F, Ahmed W. Black pepper and health claims: a comprehensive treatise. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2013;53(9):875-86. doi:10.1080/10408398.2011.571799 PMID:23768180