Cooking for people with very simple tastes...

Dear HO community: I would like to prepare a meal for friends, but need some help! They are meat & potato folks, but have some dietary restrictions: no salt or sodium, pepper seems to be an exotic seasoning, no spicy stuff… I like to cook all kinds of things, but tend to lean to ethnic dishes I know they wouldn’t like. So, do I just do something like meatloaf??? Any suggestions will be appreciated…

A simple beeef stew can be delicious without much added spice - caramelize onions, use some garlic & herbs - season with salt & pepper at the table (sub-optimal, but it sounds like there’s an underlying health issue, so I’d be careful to check any tomato paste or other not-fresh additions for added salt - I was surprised that even some frozen veg had salt added when I was cooking for a low-sodium diet guest this summer).

Or a roast (beef, chicken, pork - parts or a whole) with roasted veg & potatoes - use just herbs & garlic for the meat, and salt half the gravy to fix the flavor issue for everyone else.

I would happily eat these things, and meatloaf, and like you I usually lean to stronger flavors too.


Roasted chicken is flavorful without a lot of addins. fill lemons in the cavity, limit s&p. Rice steamed in veg broth. Baked potatoes wrapped in foil. Twice baked or mashed potatoes works too. Turkey broil is another one that comes to mind. Roasted carrots with butter, cinnamon and honey.
Green salads. Chicken cutlets are easy to fix. Do they like fish? Cod filet is mild.

My brother prefers plain meals with little fuss and his standby is usually poultry, starch, veg.

Nice of you to fix a accommodating meal.


The no salt is the real hurdle here.

I was also going to suggest roast chicken.

What about a chicken piccata variation without the capers.

I sometime do a very simple wild rice with mushrooms baked in the oven with chicken breasts on top. The chicken juices add to the rice. Very tasty.

I don’t know how anything will come out with no salt at all … sometimes acid helps bump up flavor similarly to salt which is why my head went towards piccata. But maybe you could go hearty salad with a nice Dijon mustard vinegrette?

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For more casual meals with friends- especially in a group with mixed dietary needs/preferences- i’m a big proponent of tacos. They’re familiar and can be as easy or complicated as you want to make them. Everyone can DIY their tacos from an assortment of options.
You could do fish tacos with baja style cabbage slaw, a mild salsa fresca or even a mango salsa, fresh cilantro, like wedges, guacamole, sliced radishes, whatever. Or go straight towards common denominator chicken fajitas.

Pizzas are another crowd pleaser that is easy to elevate to company worthy with various toppings, (and store bought dough makes it easy) you could do one meaty one, a classic margherita, and then one more creative version you will enjoy. A crispy green side salad is the perfect side

Everyone loves lasagna- and nobody makes it themselves! Haha, so that can be another option. And there’s a way to really elevate it with a good homemade sauce, fresh noodles etc. Even better for entertaining it holds together better made the day before and rewarmed before serving.

To save yourself potential last minute stress i would reach out to the guests before shopping and just say “I’m planning to serve blahblah and just want to check this aligns with your dietary needs/preferences “ or something similar so they have an opportunity to let you know ahead of time that fresh basil gives them a rash or bob hates olives.

Mrs dash seasonings are actually quite good, and if you have access to trader joe’s they have a few very low/no salt seasonings as well
You’re such a thoughtful gracious host, i hope it’s properly appreciated!


I feel for you in this. It always ends up cooking for the lowest common denominator. We have this to cope with at every family gathering. Of the nine of us, seven will eat pretty much anything. One does not eat red meat and is so picky about seafood that it is not an option. Father in law is so picky that it is a real struggle to put food in front of him - on one visit, he said he hoped we were not going to cook anything “exotic - like green beans”. On a recent two week stay in hospital, there was, almost literally, nothing he was prepared to eat so depended on soup and sandwiches that family brought in.

Roast chicken, or a very basic chicken casserole, is our usual solution.

By the by, I gave up salt many years back and don’t cook with it or add it to my food on the plate. I now often find food salted “normally” to be much too salty for my taste, overpowering the flavour of the food.

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You do like to go out to eat, how do you adjust and appreciate? Do you tell the restaurant the salt issue beforehand?


My MIL has health issues that forbids her to have salt in her food, but she likes spice, vinegar, mustard etc, so the issue isn’t that big.

I don’t know if your friends like eating healthy, maybe they like steamed food? Or maybe simply prepare with very fresh ingredients, a premium of piece of meat (grass fed etc) or wild caught fish is very tasty on its own without adding much.


I’ve done the same. I find I can taste things that people I eat with drown away with salt. Salt is for baking where it has a chemical contribution.

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No, but I rarely find it a problem in recent years. I think it’s a matter that British chefs have cut back a lot on salt use.

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Just check the salt content of packaged hard taco shells and soft corn or flour tort’s some are quite high in sodium. My Aunt uses bib lettuce as the taco shell to avoid the sodium.

Lime juice is a nice sub for salt on tacos.


Trader Joe’s 21-Seasoning Salute is salt-free but is so flavorful that it obviates the need for salt. It is not hot, just a lot of herbs, garlic, black pepper, etc.

Chicken Marbella is very flavorful even if no salt or pepper is used.


I grew up eating mostly Eastern European Foods, what some might consider Bland, and I enjoy it. You can adjust almost any recipe by cutting down on the salt. Use fresh herbs and citrus to enhance the flavor. Asian Cuisine has lots of healthy fresh vegetables. Mediterranean or Greek is another suggestion, i.e. kabobs and a couscous or tabouli salad. Greek lemon and Herb roasted chicken with Greek lemon roasted potatoes, and a Greek salad on the side. Mexican, like enchiladas Etc, but go easy on the spicey ingredients. Italian is another favorite, chicken parmesan, eggplant parmesan, baked ziti, linguine and red or white clam sauce. Chicken cordon bleu with a side of asparagus. Braciole. Steak frites and a wedge salad with blue cheese dressing. So many ways to go.


Nothing wrong with a good meatloaf! Even those of us with more exotic tastes like a good meatloaf from time to time. The Serious eats one is fantastic.


Stew or roast was my first thought as well. Good advice here.

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Yes! The 21 seasoning salute is what i was thinking of at trader joe’s. I am very very pro-salt and find that using this I don’t notice salt is missing.

Thanks everyone for the great suggestions, I will report back with what I end up making & if they liked it or not!!!


My sister is visiting and I mentioned this topic to her. She suggested a chicken and rice casserole with biscuits for the gravy.


This is one of those times when good ingredients really shine. Get a special cut of their favorite meat and grill it. How about butter, doesn’t everyone like butter? A blanched veg or two with butter (asparagus, snap peas, green beans?), maybe one roasted with olive oil (carrots, parsnips) …

I was just eating rice and remembered this topic. Rice is one of the few things I like just totally plain with no seasoning. So, steamed rice for the starch.


I’ll be contrary here. Many of the suggestions are along the lines of “if you can’t use salt use all this other stuff.” In my experience people who shift away from conventional amounts of salt start to taste all kinds of flavors within a few months. Don’t overwhelm them with 21-seasonings this and 43-seasonings that. You only have to make up for the reduction in salt for YOU not for THEM. Use a very gentle hand.