Cooking with herbs


Well it’s time I bite the bullet and give up the salt shaker. With my heart condition I really was supposed to do that quite a while ago. I’m starting to have occasional incidents of edema now so I really have buckle down and start eating a low sodium diet. So…how to get I get food to have good flavor? What herbs go best with what kind of dishes? How much do I use? Can you tell I’m not familiar with using herbs? I do use fresh garlic is some things which my husband loves but that’s about it.



oh my, It wouldn’t hurt me to cut down on salt…so I’ll be watching this thread 'cause I don’t know either …

I do drink Liptons diet green tea…its low in sodium…


I cook a lot of dishes using fresh vegetables, and I love using garlic, onions, and fresh herbs with them. Some of my favorites are Rosemary (which I grow myself), basil, and tyme.

Try this recipe:

1/2 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 of Balsamic Vinegar
1-2 cloves fresh Garlic chopped
1-2 tablespoons fresh Rosemary chopped

Mix well and marinate 4 chicken breasts for about an hour. Grill until done. You can cut them into strips and put over a salad, or serve them with a side of fresh veggies.

Other ideas:

Melt a low sodium butter and mix it with fresh tyme. Refrigerate until solid, and them place a spoonful over a nice grilled steak. Top steak with sauteed mushrooms and garlic.

All of my (fresh) veggies get cooked with garlic. For example broccoli. Steam until almost cooked. Then throw it into a saute pan with some Olive Oil and fresh garlic to finish it.

Use read and white wines as reductions for added flavor. Cook rice with low sodium chicken broth instead of water. Drop 5-6 cloves of garlic in your boiling potatoes, then make mashed potatoes.

Use fresh salsa as a topping for eggs, potatoes, etc…

As far as how much herbs to use, start small and add to taste. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Fresh Basil and Oregano are great with pasta dishes.

Use lemons, and oranges to flavor foods like fish and chicken.

We never use salt in our house. No diet restrictions here, just never felt the need for it.

Credit for the Balsamic Chicken recipe goes to Rachel Ray.

P.S. When all else fails, add more garlic!


Definitely use garlic and onions to boost flavor of any dish! (Use the real thing, not powder!)

Also, try red pepper or crushed red pepper flakes to give dishes a zing.

If you use dried herbs, you’ll generally need less than fresh because the flavor intensifies as it dries. Contrary to popular belief, dried herbs don’t “go bad,” but they do lose their potency. If your dried herbs are old, you might need to add more than a recipe calls for.

Try to use fresh when possible, particularly parsley (Italian flat-leaf is what you’re looking for, not curly, which is usually used as a garnish), basil (YUMMY!!!), and chives. Also excellent are rosemary and thyme.

Rosemary is excellent with chicken and grilled salmon. Basil and oregano are standard in Italian cooking. Chives have a mild onion/garlic flavor and are excellent in compound butter (allow butter to soften to room temperature and then mix in your choice of finely chopped herbs).

Try various curry powders – they’ll add an enormous amount of flavor with no salt! There are many kinds – you’ll just have to try them to find one you like.

I am a spice/herb junkie and buy my spices in bulk from Penzey’s Spices. They have some salt-free seasonings you might want to check out. Check to see if there’s a Penzey’s near you – you can go in and smell the various spices to see what strikes your fancy. I see you’re in Michigan like I am. There’s a Penzey’s in the Detroit area and one in Grand Rapids.

Don’t forget the power of vinegar, particularly red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar. They can impart great flavor to an otherwise drab dish. A balsamic vinegar reduction is terrific on steak, for example, and not a grain of salt is in sight!

Balsamic Vinegar Reduction
Pour 1 cup of good-quality balsamic vinegar into a sauce pan and simmer until reduced to about 1/4 cup (it’ll be quite thick). Add 1 tablespoon unsalted butter and stir to melt. Serve over steak. This is **not **vinegary, it’s sort of savory-sweet.

Have fun!


Wow! Yumm…you guys are making me hungry! Thanks.:slight_smile:

I do love basil too, my mom grows it so I access to lots of fresh basil.


I was gonna say garlic…but also fresh oregano, basil, and parsley…can liven things up…capers are also very good with fish and chicken. For red meats…lots of ground pepper and some garlic powder can do the trick. Be wary of frozen veggies, some are high in sodium. Frozen things in general, because it’s a good preservative, can have hidden sodium. Good luck!:slight_smile:


I find that thyme is a wonderful complement to meat and makes me desire less salt.

I love acidic things like lemon juice and apple cider vinegar instead of salt also. Lemon juice on fish and chicken. Vinegar on cucumbers and cooked spinach.

Get a pepper mill, too. Freshly ground pepper is wonderful on lots of things. I just got a pepper grinder full of peppercorns in the spice section of the store for $2.00.

There’s a concoction called “gremolata,” which is, I believe, lemon zest, parsley and garlic. Google it and make sure. It goes on all kinds of fish and poultry.

Garlic, lemon and rosemary on roasted potatoes.

Happy healthy eating.



Dang, this post was meant for me b/c not only am I a nurse who has background with cardiac patients and post-open heart patients (always counseling on low-sodium diets), but I love to cook! Food is such a passion of mine…oh my, where to start… :stuck_out_tongue:

First off, you got some very good recommendations so far. Not only do you have to stop using the salt shaker, but look at foods when you buy them…you’d be surprised at what has hidden sodium in it! Frozen vegetables are an unlikely source, but some are loaded! Also, always but unsalted butter and low-sodium stocks. Another note on stocks…use the low-sodium ones to cook with wherever you would use water…rice, mashed potatoes, use them as a base for sauces, etc. If you wanna spend the time, it would actually be better to make your own stock homemade, that way it can be sodium free. Homemade stock really isn’t hard and not that time-consuming, and it is FAR superior to anything you can buy in the store. Look up a recipe online…they are a cinch…throw chicken and vegetables in pot, simmer all day away, strain and save…easy and delicious!

Make wine reduction sauces to flavor foods…for example, you just finished some sautéed boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the skillet on stovetop (skinless please, as a cardiac patient, I know you need to watch your cholesterol and fat intake as well ;)) so take some red or white wine (wine that you enjoy drinking straight from the glass, never cook with anything that you wouldn’t drink straight b/c in cooking the flavor of the wine will intensify) and add some to pan and reduce till it is desired consistency…finish with a pat of salt free butter and sprinkle whatever fresh herb you have on hand (amount depending on taste) and pour over chicken…voila! Delicious and good for you!

As for spices, go to…they have great spices and salt-free combos as well! Experiment as well…buy tons of spices and get creative with spice mixtures…be wary to buy pre-made spice mixtures in the store though unless it says it’s salt-free b/c most of them are loaded with sodium.

Ok, as for fresh herbs go, always have parsley on hand! Parsley is so under-used in america and it’s a shame…it goes with just about everything and has a long shelf life if stored correctly! I would suggest growing your own herbs (I do, and it works out great) and any extra you have you can dry and use later on in the season my just crumbling it up and adding to dishes. Here are some other low-sodium ways to eat flavorfully:

I make herb butters - start with a stick of unsalted butter and let it come to room temperature, then add 2 TBS of fresh herbs (chives, parsley, thyme, basil, rosemary all work well for this, use any combo you desire) or more to taste. Mix well in a bowl then lay out a piece of plastic cling wrap, put butter on wrap, then roll it up into a log again and store in fridge. Use in sauces, top steaks or other meats with it, potatoes, rice, anything! I like it best on grilled corn…and no need to dump a bunch of salt on corn this way!!! :thumbsup:

Add acidity by fresh lemon or lime juice, splashes of vinegar, cooking with wine, etc…also, if you have fresh lemons and limes, or any citrus, use the zest to flavor dishes…the zest has more flavor than the actual juice of a fruit!

If you must add salt, the best salt to use is kosher salt. Why? The salt flakes are bigger than traditional table salt and so melt slowly if used during cooking and in effect, you could get away with using less kosher salt to flavor a dish. But I would stay away from this if possible (look at me, what a terrible nurse I am to suggest a less sinful salt! :p:rolleyes:)



As for what herbs to use with what dish, well, experiment! That’s half the fun of cooking! Parsley goes good with anything: meats, potatoes, vegetables, eggs, sauces, marinades, soups, etc. Basil: anything italian, pastas, pizzas, frittatas (open-faced italian omelet), vegetables. Thyme: love it on chicken! Also great with vegetables. Cilantro: another fav of mine…called “mexican parsley” sometimes as slang b/c it is used so much in mexican cooking, it’s like a staple herb, like our parsley is to us. If you like mexican cooking, definitely try it! It tastes so good in salsas, pico de gallo, tacos, enchiladas (dang, i’m getting hungry!)

Don’t worry so much about the amount of herbs in dishes…I never cook with exact measurements and the food turns out good everytime! It’s really a trial-and-error thing to find out what you like, but check out recipes for guidelines, but with fresh herbs, usually, a little goes a long way. I find myself only needing a couple of tablespoons usually, that’s all, for most recipes. Oh, and a note on dried herbs…only some of them get more potent with the drying process. Oregano is a prime example…it gets MUCH more stronger dried than fresh…but on the other hand, parsley does not. In fact, dried parsley is pretty much flavorless. One way to tell is just open the bottle of the dried herb…if it smells strong, it will taste strong…if the smell is dull, it will taste dull. With spices, if it smells weak, it will taste weak as well. A good way to extend shelf-life to spices is to buy whole and grind fresh (especially true with black peppercorn…always grind fresh…it is so superior!!!) like nutmeg, whole coriander seed, whole cumin seed, cinnamon sticks, etc. Again, go to…they have all this for reasonable prices. If you use whole coriander, cumin, cinnamon, etc., toast the spices in a small frying pan without any oil for a couple minutes to develop more flavor before grinding. Whole spices, unlike already ground spices, can last years. Definitely worth the investment!

Oh, and something i read once…ground celery seed is a good substitute to salt in spice mixtures, but you only need a small pinch of celery seed, not a whole bunch. Celery seed is very potent. A little goes a long way! It gets overpowering very quickly.

And when all else fails, always cook with lots of garlic!!! You can never have to much garlic. I start every dish of mine with garlic and onions.

Ok, now that I wrote a book…I think I should be done now…sorry so long, but I hope a few of my suggestions helped! Watch that edema! It’s the nurse in me, I can’t help it :shrug:


Mrs. Dash is great on veggies and potatoes…very good!!:thumbsup: We use lots of garlic, lemon pepper, and red pepper. You will find what herbs and spices you’ll like the best, just get creative and see what happens.


I bought a whiskey barrel bottom from Lowes for $20 and filled it with dirt and and a bunch of herbs – cilantro, parsley, oregano, thyme, basil, sage and chives…LOVE it – it’s a ready pantry for me!!


If you have to eat a reduced salt diet (hopefully it’s not a NO salt diet), avoid prepared foods. Make what you can from scratch using simple whole ingredients…It’s actually a better and more delicious way to eat anyway. If you can use salt sparingly, then do so. Try Sea Salt added right before eating - the texture will add some interest and make it stand out so you don’t need as much salt. Either way, you will want to boost the acidity of your dishes so you don’t miss the salt as much. This means using vinegars (as many have noted) in dishes. Sometimes just a splash or a quick reduction will do. Also, look to fresh lemon and lime juices to boost flavor. Fresh lemon juice on fresh steamed green vegetables is delicious and you won’t miss the salt.

One note on reductions, make sure you don’t use anything with even a small amount of salt in it (like canned chicken broth, even low sodium) because as it reduces the salt will become MUCH more concentrated.


My cousin has a heart condition and he can’t eat much salt so my aunt cooks with Mrs. Dash and her whole family loves her cooking (she has 5 kids). There are several flavors and also marinades. Here is their site:

They have low sodium recipes too. I think they are probably with Mrs Dash seasoning but you could probably make your own if you wanted to (you can see the ingredients they use for each seasoning online). They even have different categories of sodium in the recipe page. Here is the recipes link:



Found this thread recently 'cos I didn’t know where else to go…

Regarding curry powder, the brown kind one usually gets at off the grocery store shelf. Mine is McCormick. DH made a great soup which I liked very much except it was too spicy. Was this from curry powder? Is it likely to have hot pepper in it, or another spice in it which is spicy-hot?

I’m a real wimp when it comes to spicy-hot stuff, and know I will never get used to it.

Thanks in advance,


I was going to write a long reply but I see gam3rchic has already done it for me. As a chef and restaurant owner, I have to say she pretty much nailed it.

Way back when I was new to cooking for living, sodium was the big evil that we paid attention to (like trans fat is now.) We often used of citrus for that bit of bitterness that salt gives and for a flavor boost.

Another note about wines sold as cooking wines: most have tons of sodium added to make them unpalatable as alcoholic beverages (they are sold in grocery stores so they have to be made into “non-booze”)

Watch the cured meats and be careful about cheeses. be careful about pork, almost all supermarket pork is “treated with a solution of up to 18% SALT WATER”

Fine herbs (that “feen-erb”) as the french say it - as in chopped fine. 3 parts fresh parsley, 1 part sage, 1 part rosemary, 1 part thyme. Pick out the stems, chop finely and keep in a covered bowl or ziploc. Sprinkle on almost anything.

Flavors that play well together:

paprika and parsley

Thai basil and lime (with or without Chilies)

greek basil and marjoram

zuchinni and thyme

Lemon juice on pretty much anything green

Honey and parsley on cooked carrots

Rosemary is good with meats but be careful it is strong (piney) and will be the dominant flavor in most things you use it with. Sage can do this also - I love it but it doesn’t hide. Sage is the flavor you associate with poultry seasoning.

Orange marmalade with a tiny bit of clove (or a couple of whole colves) as a chicken breast glaze. thin with a few drops of OJ if necessary. Brush on as for BBQ sauce, way less salt than tomato-based BBQ sauce

cayenne, garlic, lemon and olive oil (Piri-piri) as a marinade, dipping sauce, wing sauce

balsamic reduction drizzed on steamed veggies. Lightly steam so they still have some crunch and then toss into a hot dry skillet (you really need a big cast iron skillet or two) they get a bit of sear on them and then the savory/sweet balsamic makes 'em taste so good you’d swear they’re unhealthy

salsa as baked potato or steak topping. Store-bought salsa is pretty salty but it isn’t hard to make. Use lemon or lime juice for bitterness/acidity

Make your own corn salsa - roast an ear of corn (cans and frozen are OK if low salt) boil a handful of black beans in a quart of water or stock. Dice a couple of plum tomatoes, a jalapeno (seeds removed) and a crushed clove of garlic. Add chopped cilantro and lime juice. I use as a low-fat low salt salad topping. Piece of grilled fish or lean pork loin on a bed of salad veggies, top with corn salsa and it’s lunch.


Curry powder is not really supposed to be spicy, per se. Now, you MIGHT find that curry powder “spicy” if you are a very sensitive person. Might wanna ask your husband if he put any red pepper flakes or anything in that soup. :smiley:

If you want the flavor without the heat, you can try putting in a bit of the component spices in curry powder, which is really just a blend of spices. Cumin, coriander, turmeric and fenugreek are the common ones according to Wikipedia. If you add them individually you can figure out what you’re sensitive to and add less of that.

I have been thinking about making my own Indian spice blends since I actually find commercial curry powders rather bland. My local Asian market has Indian spices in bulk for MUCH less than the regular grocery story. I advise the spice lovers to check out their local ethnic markets for good deals on spices!


I have a question on garlic for all you cooking experts. How is it supposed to be stored? In the fridge or out?


Basil: Italian Dishes
Rosemary: Meats like lamb, chicken, pork roasts.
Thyme: Chicken dishes, all the way. Also really good mixed with rosemary on beef.
Cilantro: Mexican and Asian dishes
Green Onions are your friend, use them often.
Parsley: everything, but chicken soup is really helped with the flavor of parsley. So is mashed potatoes.

I basically keep the above six in stock most days.

For veggies instead of salt you can use Balsamic Vinegar and some unsalted butter, after steaming veggies, remove from pan, add some butter, a clove of garlic minced, and about 3TBS Vinegar to pan, reduce down by half, toss with veggies. REALLY good on broccoli.

Can do the same thing using sesame oil and seeds, just lightly toast the seeds in the pan dry, toss veggies with sesame oil and seeds and yum! Great with rice. Adding green onions to this mix is awesome.


Out and if you can get a terra-cotta pot to store them in – even better, it sucks out the moisture preserving the garlic a LONG TIME!


According to my DH, you are supposed to store it in the fridge because Alton Brown says not to. :wink: (He loves Good Eats…I enjoy the show sometimes but Alton Brown can be a tad dogmatic for me. Dogma is ok in my religion but NOT in my kitchen.) However keeping it in the fridge is the only way I have found to keep it from sprouting. :mad:

Is anyone else here addicted to roasted garlic? I just made some strained yogurt (yum yum) and am thinking about roasting some garlic to add to it to make an impromptu, low-fat spread.

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