Photo courtesy of Katy Wilkens
Umami ambrosia: soy sauce.

You Are What You Eat: Zesty sauces from around the world

By Katy Wilkens, MS, RD

I don’t use salt or salty ingredients because they are hard on everyone’s blood pressure, kidneys and heart. But I’m not willing to give up the zip of tasty food! The secret to cooking without salt is to pump up the other four flavors we taste: sweet, sour, bitter and umami. If you do this, your food is so flavorful you don’t need or miss salt.
Try these zesty low-sodium sauces from around the world. You can make all of them ahead and freeze in small containers to use later.

Mexican cilantro sauce
Great drizzled over a taco salad or fish tacos.
2 cups cilantro, loosely packed
3 cloves garlic
¼ cup bottled lime or lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Combine all in food processor and pulverize. Serve fresh for amazing flavor. You can also divide and freeze in mini muffin tins or ice cube trays, then pop out and store in a bag and return to freezer. Serving is 2 tablespoons.
Nutritional information (per serving):
Calories: 92, Carbohydrates: 2 grams, Protein: 0 grams, Sodium: 3 milligrams

Japanese low-sodium umami sauce
Try this as a low-salt alternative to soy sauce.
2 teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon molasses
1 teaspoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt-free garlic powder
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons orange marmalade, plum jam or honey
¾ cup water
Mix all ingredients until combined. Serving is 1 tablespoon.
Nutritional information (per serving):
Calories: 113, Carbohydrates: 19 grams, Protein: 0 grams, Sodium: 11 milligrams

Thai peanut sauce
Great tossed with rice noodles for a quick pad thai dinner.
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter (optional)
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Juice of 1 fresh lemon
In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Adjust garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes as desired. Serving is 2 tablespoons.
Nutritional information (per serving):
Calories: 176, Carbohydrates: 15 grams, Protein: 3 grams, Sodium: 180 milligrams, Phosphorus: 45 milligrams, Potassium: 106 milligrams

Caribbean seafood dipping sauce
This is really nice for shrimp or crab salads.
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1-2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon capers, rinsed, drained and chopped
¼ teaspoon each: ginger, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon
½ teaspoon paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Chill until serving time. Serving is 2 tablespoons.
Nutritional information (per serving):
Calories: 56, Carbohydrates: 1 gram, Protein: 0 grams, Sodium: 56 milligrams, Phosphorus: 0 milligrams, Potassium: 56 milligrams
The information in this column is meant for people who want to keep their kidneys healthy and blood pressure down by following a low-sodium diet. In most cases, except for dialysis patients, a diet high in potassium is thought to help lower high blood pressure. These recipes are not intended for people on dialysis without the supervision of a registered dietitian.

[Katy G. Wilkens is a registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. The 2013 recipient of National Kidney Foundation Council on Renal Nutrition’s Susan Knapp Excellence in Education Award, 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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