You Are What You Eat: Simple salt-free sauces

By Katy Wilkens, MS, RD

When you follow a low-sodium diet for good health, often you’re told to stay away from salty sauces. But protecting your kidneys and heart doesn’t mean you have to give up the creamy goodness of a white sauce on macaroni and cheese, the savory flavor of gravy on mashed potatoes or the buttery smoothness of hollandaise sauce on veggies.

Most sauces are salty because they use high-salt broths. But you can use broth with less salt and still have a sauce with great flavor.

Meals you can make with sauces:

Macaroni and cheese

Shepherd’s pie

Mashed potatoes and gravy

Green bean casserole

Homemade chicken, mushroom or celery soup

Poached eggs and asparagus with hollandaise sauce

Smothered pork chops

Fettuccine Alfredo

To cut salt easily in your favorite recipes, replace regular broth with Swanson Natural Goodness Chicken Broth (33 percent less sodium); homemade chicken, beef, turkey or veggie stock; milk, or half-and-half.

Making your own broth is easy. Having it on hand will give you more flexibility with many recipes.

Homemade broth

1 pound chicken wings or backs, or inexpensive fish, shrimp shells, beef, or mushrooms

8 cups water

1 onion, chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

4 peppercorns

1 bay leaf

Combine all in big pot and cook long and slow, for at least an hour, longer if you have time. Strain and reserve broth.

Nutritional information:
Calories: 10, Carbohydrates: 2 grams, Protein: 0 grams, Sodium: 22 milligrams

Simple white sauce

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons margarine or butter

1 cup milk

¼ teaspoon dry mustard

¼ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon parsley, basil or any other fresh or dried herbs

Mix flour and margarine or butter in a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir, microwave another 30 seconds. Add cream and spices, stir. Microwave 1 minute, stir again. Microwave 1 more minute. If not thickened, add another minute. Makes 4 servings.

Use in place of any creamed soup.

Nutritional information:
Calories: 105, Carbohydrates: 5 grams, Protein: 2 grams, Sodium: 25 milligrams

Quick hollandaise sauce

2 tablespoons sour cream

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Combine ingredients in small glass bowl. Microwave on 50 percent power for a minute, stir. Makes 1/4 cup. Double or triple as needed.

Nutritional information:
Calories: 131, Carbohydrates: 1 gram, Protein: 1 gram, Sodium: 108 milligrams

Easy, low-salt gravy

2 carrots, cut in 1-inch lengths
2 celery stalks, cut in 1-inch lengths
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, chopped
1 bay leaf

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

Simmer vegetables and mushrooms in a large saucepan for a half-hour. Remove veggies and bay leaf, discard. Pour broth into glass measuring cup. Add butter to a large frying pan, melt over medium heat. Add flour and thyme. Stir until lightly browned, and flour begins to hold together in a ball. Slowly add broth, stirring constantly, until thickened. Serve.
Yields 8 servings.

Nutritional information:
Calories: 58, Carbohydrates: 4 grams, Protein: 1 gram, Sodium: 25 milligrams

Katy G. Wilkens is a registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. She has a Master of Science degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Washington. See more of her recipes at

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