May 15, 2015

Low-So Good Cheese Swaps

Cheese - Butternut Mac

Cheese - Butternut Mac

This May, we are going to discuss all things cheese. From the creamy shmears to the hard stuff to the grated sprinkles that melt all over your nachos. Because while most cheeses end up on the low-sodium “do not eat” list, there are plenty of amazing solutions that will keep your favorite oozy, gooey, cheesy recipes on the table. So don’t say goodbye to those enchiladas or stuffed pastas or Croque Madames quite yet.

But before we get to the creative swaps, let’s talk about the real thing, i.e., the low-sodium cheeses that exist on the market.

Fish Stuffed Tomatoes

croque madame

Thankfully, there are several brands that offer low-sodium cheese options. Online you can buy Helluva Good Cheddar Cheese (25mg per oz). In the store, swiss cheese tends to be your best bet and I like to buy Primo Taglio Lacey Swiss (35mg per slice and found at most Safeways), Boar’s Head Lacey Swiss (35mg) and Boar’s Head No-Salt-Added Swiss. Lucerne also makes a No-Salt-Added Cottage Cheese (45mg for 1/2 cup and also at most Safeways). And I have also found Paneer (a hard, Indian cheese that can be fried!) with as little as 5mg of sodium at most Whole Foods Markets. Which you can use for a fun, summer take on grilled Caprese skewers (RECIPE HERE!)

IMG_1646

Then there’s ricotta, which again you can buy with as little as 45mg of sodium per 1/4 cup. Or make your own with your own spices. And you can also find mascarpone, farmers cheese, and even some Mozerella with minimal sodium. The rule here is always read labels — not just to avoid the high-sodium products but to discover new low-sodium products, which are showing up with greater frequency on grocery store shelves.

So they are out there. Low-sodium cheeses do exist.

But, for those times when you can’t find a particular low-sodium product you are looking for or you simply just want to get creative, then let me tell you about a little trick I use when making cheesy dishes: Butternut squash. Yes. That huge bulbous vegetable makes on damn fine cheese impersonator. Let me show you.

cheese - shredded butternut

My favorite, simple way to use butternut squash is to grate it, just like grated cheddar cheese. Whether you cut it up yourself or buy squash in pre-prepped cubes, simply toss the raw squash into a food processor, using a grater attachment, and watch it transform into thin, orange threads that will melt into your potato leek soup, chili, slow-cooker rice, and Southwestern salads. On top of baked potatoes, homemade oven nachos, or a low-so good, DIY Frito pies.

cheese - Frito Pie
cheese - butternut potatoes best

Cheeese - Southwestern Salad

cheese- butternut nachos

My second favorite and super simple way to use butternut squash is by boiling it with water in a pot and then pureeing it,  keeping it thick to use as a spread for quesadillas. Or making it slightly thinner and using it as the cheese in creamy pasta and macaroni (RECIPE HERE!)

Cheese - Butternut Quesadilla

Cheese - Butternut Mac Puree

If you want to keep that cheesy taste in any of these dishes, you can always add nutritional yeast to your dish, which has a similar parmesan-like, umami flavor and effect. Or you can also use half butternut squash “cheese” and half real, low-sodium cheese — depending on your dietary needs and sodium restrictions.

Either way, by using a little or all butternut cheese, you will increase your vegetable intake, retain that cheesy look, and keep the sodium to a minimum. All good things.

How will you cheese this week?

cheese - Frito Pie overhead

Alison May 15, 2015 at 12:13 pm

I heard Heluva Good had to discontinue their low sodium cheese due to some issue (a fire, maybe?) at their plant. Have you heard this?

jessg23 February 5, 2016 at 10:14 am

Yes. Such sad news, but lots of other options.

Nancy May 15, 2015 at 12:14 pm

Oh Sodium Girl, this is near and dear to my Cheesy Girl Heart!

I agree, it’s all about reading every darn label! Helluva Good doesn’t market on the West Coast, but these are available here:
-Emmenthaler, 45 mg/oz (great for sandwiches and melting)
-Silver Goat Chevre, 40 mg/oz (tangy and spreadable)
-Comte, 90 mg/oz (nutty and complex)
-Blue Castello, 190 mg/oz (spreadable and a little goes a long way)

There is enough variety among these to put together a cheese platter that even the sodium-oblivious among us can appreciate.

Lisa May 16, 2015 at 7:17 pm

I get grated Parmesan from Boars head it’s around 55mg pet tablespoon, it’s great to add to spaghetti just to add that extra flavor. I also get mozzarella from Fry’s grocery store (Kroger brand) for about 30mg per oz, and a few oz’s on some lo-sodium fries, add a tablespoon of the Parmesan, lo-sodium sour cream and lo-sodium bacon bits (Fry’s grocery-3/4 tablespoon for 55 mg, makes an amazing lo-sodium cheese fries!! My Busman who does not have to be on the diet(but eats exactly as I do) requests them “best cheese fries he has ever had”. I also do a version of this on baked potato skins.

Emmy Kane June 3, 2015 at 8:43 am

Low sodium AND CHEESE in one post? I took a double take! This one is for the books. I was looking for healthier options for my cheese cravings and lo and behold you made an awesome list. Thanks a lot for the tips, recipes and the links!

Emmy

Karen June 3, 2015 at 5:06 pm

I have gone to the Heluva Good Web site several times and cannot find cheddar with 25 mg. sodium … am I missing something? Did they hide the low sodium cheese?

jessg23 February 5, 2016 at 10:11 am

Sadly they no longer make the cheese!

Kelly Boyd June 15, 2015 at 10:57 am

I went to the Hellufagood site and didn’t find a chedddar less than 180 mg per oz. which one are you saying is 25mg??

lynn November 15, 2015 at 9:05 am

This is great and has the information I really need.
Thanks,
Lynn

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