One of the ways to compensate for reduced sodium in baked foods is to turn to other flavors when dialing down the salty notes.

It’s all about rounding out the product’s flavor and making it indulgent, said Kathy Sargent, global director of market strategy for bakery at Corbion.

“If we don’t want to add a lot of sugar or sodium back, what’s going to be accepted?” she asked. “Is it a sweeter product, and how do you get there? Is it vanillas and things that aren’t adding a lot of caloric content but are fitting for that space? Is it dairy notes, whether we’re bringing in actual dairy or not?”

It’s easier to cut sodium in sweet goods because they have complex flavors, and the sugar can help mask bitter notes of low-sodium ingredients. There are several ways to enhance flavor.

“On the sweet side with muffins, you can definitely lean into adding real fruits,” Ms. Sargent said. “Some of the flavor enhancement is still going to give it the excitement such as the blueberries and strawberries to create the enjoyment.”

Added flavors can also include spices that add heat or sour notes that kids may find appealing.

“Instead of plain white bread, add some cinnamon or other spice or seasoning,” said Janice Johnson, PhD, food science advisor at Cargill Salt. “The added flavor may help you reach your sodium target and increase its appeal to kids.”

Mark Zoske, founder and chief executive officer of SaltWorks, said that fresh citrus is another natural way to lower sodium.

“Freshly squeezed lemon juice, in particular, is a great alternative to salt and can allow for a 25% to 50% reduction in sodium, sometimes even more, depending on the application,” he said.

For baked foods, fermentation is another great way to enhance flavor.

“Having a longer fermentation process develops a lot of flavor, and it can help counterbalance the blandness that comes when you take out some of the salt,” Ms. Sargent said. “Anything with that long fermentation process has that cheesy saltiness.”

Dr. Johnson also mentioned fermentation’s contribution to flavor.

“Similarly, the Maillard reaction contributes a lot of flavor,” she added, referring to the browning reaction that produces desirable colors and flavors in food. “Water is important for that reaction, so making sure that your ingredients are giving you the appropriate water activity can also help with flavor development.”

This article is an excerpt from the October 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Sodium Reduction, click here.