Curry powder is a spice blend that provides staple flavors for cooking Indian food and is usually the reason for that distinct, full-bodied aroma related to the cuisine. The blend varies by brand and there are plenty of different recipes out there that are easy to make at home. However, some of the key spices included in most curry powder are really high in sodium.
If you’re following a low-sodium diet, it may put curry powder off your list of acceptable seasonings. Flavor is not synonymous with salt, though, so you can easily use a few substitutes in the place of curry powder to maintain that great, unique flavor style and deep aroma.
Like we mentioned, curry powder is a blend of many different spices. Although the ingredients and proportions vary greatly from one curry powder recipe to the next, they will generally all include some (or many) of the following ingredients:
Most curry powder blends offer 1–3 mg of sodium per teaspoon, which may be a little high if you're trying to reduce your daily sodium intake. However, if you were able to pick and choose which spices went into your curry powder blend, you may be able to reduce this number to a minimum amount, which means enjoying the same delicious flavors without running up your sodium count. Or, you can use some of the spices individually to create a fragrant dish with only a tiny bit of added sodium.
If you are picking through the list of spices that are in your favorite curry powder blend, you may not know which are acceptable to use in your low sodium diet. Fortunately, we are going to break it down for you.
For a strict low-sodium diet, you should avoid spices like dry mustard and cayenne pepper, which both have 1 mg of sodium per teaspoon. You should definitely steer clear of cumin, which has 4 mg of sodium per teaspoon, and chili powder, which has a whopping 44 mg of sodium per teaspoons.
Don’t worry, though, you have several options with a much lower sodium content. Consider using these spices individually or combined for a more fragrant, interesting flavor:
This spice, which comes from the same plant as cilantro leaves, is a mouthful of flavor by itself. It has a floral aroma with a slightly sweetened, citrus twist. When ground coriander is made, the whole coriander seeds are roasted and then ground down into a powder, which releases a warm, nutty flavor. Luckily, coriander only has about .6 mg of sodium per teaspoon, so in moderation, you can enjoy this yummy spice without surpassing your sodium mark for the day.
If you aren’t familiar with this flavorful spice, you should be. A relative to the ginger root, this positively pungent spice offers a mild fragrance and a brilliant orange color. It has a flavor profile that is best described as bitter and earthy with touches of lemon and orange. Ground turmeric has around .8 mg of sodium per teaspoon, so it’s another great spice that can be used in moderation to create delicious meals with an acceptable amount of sodium.
You’ve probably seen fresh ginger root in the produce section of your favorite grocery store, and perhaps you use it regularly. Did you know you can buy the same delicious flavor in a ground form to save you the time and trouble of peeling or grating ginger root for recipes? Best of all, ground ginger has less than a half milligram of sodium per teaspoon. This means you can really spice up your meals with ginger, which provides a slightly bittersweet flavor with a spicy kick, as well as warm, woody undertones. Adding ginger at the beginning of cooking will lessen the flavor intensity, or add it near the end to enjoy a stronger flavor.
This spice is common enough that you can probably find it in every kitchen around the world. Ground black pepper has a sodium content of less than .3 mg per teaspoon and adds a great kick to any dish. You are probably familiar with the flavor of black pepper, so we won’t waste your time explaining.
Ground cinnamon may be something you’re quite familiar with around breakfast time or when used in desserts. It also is frequently used to spice hot beverages. But did you know that cinnamon has flavors that compliment savory dishes and meat as well? Cinnamon is actually a tree bark, so you can expect both earthy and woody flavors, as well as a moderate spicy kick. Ground cinnamon, like black pepper, has less than .3 mg of sodium per teaspoon, and is an intense spice, so it takes very little to add a wonderful, aromatic touch to your food.
Ground cardamom is another great flavor to include in your low-sodium diet. At around .36 mg per teaspoon, you can easily use this sweet spice to add flavor to your food. If you aren't familiar with cardamom, there are two varieties: green cardamom and black cardamom. The pods can be used whole or ground into a powdered spice. Cardamom has a flavor profile that is best described as slightly sweet, spicy, zesty, with citrus undertones. Green cardamom is the most popular and easily accessible, but it is said that black cardamom has a stronger flavor.
All of these spices will allow you to get some of the same bold, delicious flavors of curry powder without the impact of the high sodium content. Try experimenting with each spice alone or mixing and matching the spices to create a different interesting and diverse flavor profile for each and every dish.