First, let me just say that it can be a real pain to find easy low-sodium recipes. And given my past aversion to cooking, I specifically wanted simple low-salt recipes.
Because thanks to the effects sodium now has on me, I really can’t eat most processed food. Well, not without spiking my blood pressure and probably giving me a headache.
So I needed easy, blood pressure-friendly recipes. And ideally, I’d find frugal, easy, low-sodium recipes.
Well, two pieces of good news:
- Pretty much every low-sodium recipe — at least the ones simple enough for me to try — are pretty darn frugal. When you keep to recipes with relatively few steps, generally the food doesn’t involve pricey ingredients.
- Now that my depression is better managed and I’m not having to cook for someone who might not even be able to eat the food* I actually don’t mind cooking all that much.
*Tim’s stomach was ridiculously sensitive. If the food didn’t sound good at the time of the meal, he’d throw up if he tried to eat it anyway. Nothing like mustering all the mental energy I had to finally cook, only to have one of us still unfed. Ugh.
Anyway, on to the food! For those of you who want to skip straight to a particular dish or type of dish, here’s a clickable list:
A brief note
A lot of what’s made cooking easier for me to face made is using slow cooker liners. Knowing I don’t have to clean a cumbersome ceramic shell before attempting the next recipe is just such a relief and makes cooking feel less daunting.
So while, as an Amazon affiliate, I will be compensated for any purchases made through that link above, I’d wholeheartedly endorse liners regardless of where you find them. They’re available at pretty much any grocery store. I’m sure Target and Walmart have them. Just get them somewhere and make your cooking life a whole lot easier.
Note: Many of you won’t really need this section. If you don’t have to be on a low-sodium diet, you can use jarred/canned options. And I wholeheartedly endorse making cooking as easy as possible.
If you’re concerned about sodium levels, canned and jarred items are verboten. Salsa has 220 to 270 milligrams of sodium per two tablespoons. Canned beans and vegetables? You’re looking at 300 mg — with 3.5 servings per can.
Most grocery stores should have no-salt added beans. I know Kroger does. But if you can’t find those or money is very tight, you’re can cook dried beans. It’s actually quite easy: just boil them and then let them sit a while.
Anyway, let’s get started!
Thankfully, this one was easy — no cooking involved.
This recipe has you cut up green onions, regular onions, a jalapeno, lime juice and “cocktail” tomatoes.* Then pulse in a blender until it reaches the consistence you want.
Verdict: Not a bad recipe — but I’d strongly recommend (no matter how much you like spice) that you reduce the amount of jalapeno. I enjoy spicy food, but this one had a little too much zing for me. I think part of the issue is that the jalapeno heat nearly completely overpowers the other flavors.
The good news is that apparently I can use some extra tomatoes and lime juice to mellow it out. But I think my next attempt will use this other recipe. The garlic and bell peppers will give the salsa a better range of spice — and the cumin and oregano should temper the jalapeno a bit.
*I used roma tomatoes, as that seemed to be the closest thing in the store.
Tomatillo sauce/Salsa Verde
I think tomatillo sauce and salsa verde are different, but all food bloggers’ recipes use the two interchangeably. So I figured I would too.
The tomatillo sauce recipe is slightly more work than the salsa — but barely. You cut up the garlic, onion and jalapeno, then toss those and the tomatillos in some olive oil, then stick it the oven for about half an hour.
Verdict: Unfortunately, while tasty, the sauce has the same issue as the other salsa: too much jalapeno heat. I ended up roasting four more tomatillos, blending them, splashing in some lime juice, then mixing it with the sauce I’d already made. Balanced out perfectly!
Lime crema sauce
So… I’m not actually sure why I made this.
I didn’t have a particular recipe in mind. I just thought it’d be cool to have for some dish in the future. Guess I’ll Google recipes with it — or just make one up like I did with Sunrise Chicken. And the Internet says lime crema is another good way to mellow out spicy food.
However I end up using it, I’m glad I made it. And it was hard to justify not trying because this is one of the easiest recipes ever! You just put Greek yogurt, cilantro, lime juice, lemon zest and a small amount of kosher salt in a bowl and whisk it. That’s it.
Apparently, most recipes use sour cream, whereas this one uses Greek yogurt. It cuts down on sodium (and calories). But you can always choose to go back to sour cream if you so desire.
Verdict: Honestly, I’m not completely sure. I think it tastes good? But I always have it on things, so it’s hard to tell by just tasting the crema.
Obviously, this is the most important section. In fact, when it’s just me, I tend to make entrees only and don’t bother making sides at all.
Lime Pepper Chicken
Since cooking has always been tough, I decided to start small with my first dish. So I chose a super basic one that I “made up” years ago. (Quote marks because it’s not remotely original; but I did do it myself without any recipe inspiring it.)
The crazily intricate steps are:
- Squeeze limes to coat both sides of the meat in juice
- Sprinkle plenty of pepper (or ground peppercorns) on the both sides
- Put frozen chicken breasts in slow cooker
- Cut squeezed limes into slices
- Cover the surface of the top of the chicken with slices
- Cook for 4-6 hours
Verdict: Not exactly gourmet, but the result is pretty tasty. The lime slices really help the flavor saturate the meat.
That said, I was slightly disappointed by how little the ground pepper flavor came through. Hence the note in the recipe about peppercorns.
I used those for my second attempt but uh… I bought them without having a grinder. So I put several corns into a small bag, got them into one corner and tapped them with a hammer. Yup, I’m a classy, classy gal.
I sprinkled a liberal amount of the crushed corns on the top of the chicken. Obviously, you can be a bit more sparing, depending on your tastebuds’ sensitivity.
Revised verdict: This was perfect. The pepper was more noticeable but didn’t overpower the lime.
With that (super simplistic) brain child a success, I pondered other things I could make up and ended up with this one.
I dubbed it “Sunrise Chicken” because it’s fashioned after a Tequila Sunrise — minus the tequila. Though if anyone wants to try it with tequila, report back please!
Anyway, I’m very happy with the end result. And I’ve gotten two approvals from people I’ve fed. Despite it being a startling shade of red-orange.
To get an idea of the right ratios for the ingredients, I searched drink recipes online. And… it turns out no one agrees on how to make the drink.
I was taught it was OJ and cranberry juice — but some recipes didn’t include the latter at all! In the end I finally found one that looked about the same, though the first time, I decided to omit the lime suggested.
My recipe ended up being:
- 1/2 can (6 oz) of OJ concentrate — because actual OJ is pricey
- 18 oz of water
- 6 oz of cranberry juice
- 1.5 oz of grenadine (if you don’t like sweet, you may want to start with an even smaller amount and add a little at a time)
- Optional: 3 to 4 oz of lime juice
Put however many chicken breasts you want in a slow cooker and pour the liquid over them. Be sure the meat is completely submerged — or flip them halfway through. Even a small bare patch of chicken is super noticeable with this dish.
Cook on medium or high for four to six hours.
Important note: Notice that I used cranberry juice not concentrate. If you want to use concentrate for both, the ratios need to change. See the end of this section.
Verdict: While still very tasty, it wasn’t quite what I wanted. It was slightly too… Well, tart isn’t the right word. And my brain is stuck on calling the flavor “too bright” which I doubt makes sense to anyone else. Regardless, it was just slightly too… something.
Anyway, in my second attempt, I went ahead and added the lime juice.
Revised verdict: This version was perfect. The lime mellowed out the flavor just a teeny bit — exactly enough to make it the taste I wanted.
If you’re not sure whether you’d like it better with lime or without, just ladle some of the OJ/cranberry/grenadine juice into a small bowl and squeeze a little lime in. Try a sip of each version to see which you like better.
To use only concentrates: The simplest thing would be to just mix both concentrates up separately, then use the ratios in the recipe. But if you prefer to keep everything in one bowl, then it should be:
- 6 oz OJ concentrate
- 1.5 oz cranberry concentrate
- 22.5 oz of water (just over 2 3/4 cups)
This really needs a better name, but that’s the name in the cookbook apparently. So that’s what Mom and I have always called it.
At any rate, this is a comfort food for me — and the whole reason I made salsa.
- 2 cut-up chicken breasts
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups salsa
- 1 packet of taco seasoning
- 1 can of black beans
- I can of corn (or in my case, frozen corn to avoid the sodium)
- 4 oz of Monterey Jack cheese, grated
It’s a very basic dish to make.
Pour the water, salsa and taco seasoning into a pot or deepish skillet on a medium heat. Stir that until it’s thoroughly mixed. I let the mix heat a bit on its own.
Add in the beans, corn and chicken. Once the sauce starts to bubble, stir in the grated cheese and let it completely melt to thicken the sauce. Serve over rice.
- I used half the usual amount of cheese. Because sodium. Technically, you can skip cheese altogether, but I find it a little runny in that case. I guess you could just use less water at the start and/or let it simmer/boil longer.
- Taco seasoning is very sodium-rich. Mom (bless her) whipped me up some without any of the sodium ingredients. She swears it’s easy.
- This makes 4-6 servings, so unless you’re feeding three or more people, you may want to make a half batch.
Beans in tomatillo sauce
This meal is stolen from a Healthy Choice meal called “Unwrapped Burrito.” It’s almost painfully simple to make. Especially if you don’t have to DIY the tomatillo sauce.
Just mix together a can of black beans, a can of red beans and a can of corn. Serve it over rice, topping it with enough tomatillo sauce to coat everything.
I actually went a step further and put the beans/corn mixture into a pan and added enough tomatillo sauce to coat it, then let it heat up til the sauce was sort of… coating everything.
But then I realized that I’d still need to add sauce when I served it with rice. And since it was a bit spicier than expected, that was… a lot.
So if your tomatillo sauce ends up spicier than expected, I’d wait on adding the suace until the beans, corn and rice all in the same bowl.
But if your sauce has a slightly more mellow flavor then I think heating them up like I did could be a nice touch.
However the sauce ends up getting added, this is a delicious and simple recipe, so I recommend it. Though I may add some cut up bell peppers next time.
Honestly, I usually skip side dishes when it’s just me. But since I was feeding other people — someone has to be my guinea pig on meals — I thought I should provide a side as well.
As a result, I’ve tried a few sides — with varying success.
Cilantro Lime Rice
For my Lime Pepper Chicken, this Cilantro Lime Rice recipe seemed easy enough: put cooked rice in a bowl and toss it with olive oil, cilantro and lime juice.
Verdict: Not a fan.
I don’t think it’s the fault of the recipe, and I don’t think I did it wrong? Because Pirate Party Guy liked it. So I think it just turns out that I don’t like cilantro as a dish’s main flavor.
Thankfully, PPG took half the rice with him.
Roasted Bell Peppers
I’m not really a veggie lover. So in an effort to sneak some fiber into my diet — and since they’re kinda a vegetable — I thawed out some bell peppers that Mom had cut up and frozen for me. (Again, bless her.)
Unsurprisingly, they were a little limp when they were back to room temperature. So I put them on a cookie sheet and sprinkled them with garlic powder and pepper, then put it in the oven at 350 degrees. I took them out when the tips started browning.
These went nicely alongside the Sunrise Chicken.
Lemon Garlic Rosemary Rice
I swear, it’s not nearly as involved as it sounds.
The exact recipe can be found here. But basically, you:
- Sauté some butter, garlic and onions* (about 3 mins)
- Throw the uncooked rice in to brown a little (about 5 mins)
- Throw in the garlic, lemon zest and rosemary
- Add water and let the rice cook per usual
Verdict: Good but…
The recipe makes up to six servings of rice, which is way too much for my purposes, so I cut everything in half. I should’ve used the original amount of rosemary — and maybe the garlic too.
*I left out the onions since I was feeding Cute Trivia Guy, who greatly dislikes onions. Honestly, they seem pretty unnecessary.
Lime Black Beans
I invited Fellow Dating Warrior over to hang out on Sunday, so I threw some lime pepper chicken into the slow cooker.
I wanted a side dish, but I needed a break from rice. I found this simple black beans recipe, which boils down to:
- Sauté some scallions (honestly, you could probably skip them)
- Throw in black beans, chili, water and any salt/pepper you want
- Cook until thoroughly warm
- Stir in lime juice
Verdict: Very tasty. The chili flavor, while definitely there, is actually pretty mellow. So this is flavorful without being all that hot.
Well, that’s it so far. Still titrating a couple more before I report on them. But this should keep y’all busy for a bit.
Do you have any go-to recipes that are relatively low in sodium?