April 17, 2012

Low-Sodium Brisket Taco

Life can change on a dime. One day, you’re a brisket. The next, a beef taco.

But before we get to talking about either dish, there is one important truth you need to know about this particular cut of meat:

Brisket can be juicy, luscious, drippy, and moist. Or it can be dry, dry, dry.

So it is the sauce — along with a slooooow roast — that makes this cut of meat tender. Not to mention a perfect place to experiment in building low-sodium flavors.

For a quick beef tutorial, I turned to the Pioneer Woman’s Passover Brisket recipe and found that she kicked up the flavor in her traditional ketchup-based marinade with onion soup mix and chili sauce. High in sodium, of course, but also a creative twist on the standard.

Spice for Passover? Loves it.

With the Pioneer Woman using her culinary, creative license, I got to thinking about all the other ingredients that would blend well with tomato flavors, like parsley, moroccan spices, horseradish, and even apricot jam. Because when trying to beat out the expectant flavors of salt, a good blend of the other tastes — savory (herbs, spices, and meat juices), sweet (apricot), bitter (horseradish), and umami (canned low-sodium tomato) — always does the trick.

So after buying a few pounds of that brisket, grab your Dutch oven. Stew up some onions and garlic. Rub that cut with a special blend of spice and herbs. Mix up your marinade. And slather, drench, and let the meat melt.

And when you have half of your brisket left the next day, don’t be afraid to wrap it up in a tortilla or chop it up with some spuds. Because once you break tradition, there’s no going back. There’s only days of delicious low-sodium leftovers to come.


Serves 10 to 12


  • 4 pound beef brisket, with fat
  • 2 teaspoons salt-free curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt-free garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Canola oil
  • 2 to 3 large onions, sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups no-salt added tomato puree (one whole 24 oz jar)
  • 9-oz jar apricot jam
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons no-salt added prepared horseradish
  • Fresh parsley, chopped


Preheat oven to 300dg F.

Take out the beef brisket from your fridge and let the meat come to room temperature. Also make sure that it will fit into your chosen oven-proof crock pot and if it doesn’t, go ahead and cut it in half.

As the meat warms up, mix together all the spices in a small bowl (curry to cinnamon). Score the fat on the top of your brisket, making large “X” marks with a knife. And then give the meat a deep massage with your spice blend.

Place your crock pot on the stove with 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil and bring it to a sizzle over medium-high heat. When hot, throw in the brisket, fat side down, and let it brown for 5 minutes. Then turn to the other side and brown again, adding more oil if necessary. Take out the meat, let it rest on a plate, and repeat if you have two cuts of meat.

Lower heat a little and add the onions and garlic to the pot, scraping all the brown, fatty bits into the mixture. THIS IS FLAVOR! Let the onions and garlic  soften and caramelize, another 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in medium bowl, mix together the tomato puree, the apricot jam, and the horseradish. Add the onions and garlic to the bowl and mix again.

Place the meat into the crock pot, fat side down again, and jiggle the meat around until it is laying flat on the bottom of the pan in a single layer (not stacked on top of one another).

Dump the sauce over the meat and make sure the brisket is completely covered. Add water if needed (or more tomato puree) and throw the whole pot, lid on, into the oven. Set your timer for an hour and a half. Then carefully flip the meat and let it cook for another hour and a half. Total: 3 hours of cooking, you math wizards!

Finally, it’s time to eat.

With at least 15 minutes or so before you plan on serving this juicy dish, remove the brisket from the oven and transfer all the meat to a cutting board. Cover it with foil and let it rest.

Now you have a few choices for presentation. You can ladle the juices directly from the pot and use that to coat each cut with some extra sauce. OR you can take out your trusty immersion blender and give the remaining juices a quick wiz. Then, place the pot back on the stove and let the creamy sauce reduce and thicken until it transforms into a smooth gravy.

Either way, slice that brisket into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch pieces, cutting against the grain of the meat. Serve over smashed potatoes, noodles, polenta, or couscous — anything that can soak up all that good sauce. Then drench with your chosen gravy, sprinkle with parsley, and enjoy.

And get someone else to do the dishes.

+ Sodium Count: Beef brisket (raw): 78mg per 1/4 pound; Canned tomato puree: 15mg per 1/2 cup, depending on brand; Prepared horseradish: 20mg per 1 teaspoon depending on brand

Mei April 17, 2012 at 1:06 pm

I have done something similar with Pork shoulder roasted Porchetta style. The next day, I made Carnitas by cubing the meat, sauteing with orange and lime juice and Mexican seasonings and then served the meat in tortillas.

Susan Tweeton April 17, 2012 at 8:09 pm

I agree that when you cut out the salt, you absolutely need to bump up other flavors. I don’t see brisket much in my local grocery stores, but next time, I’ll grab one and try this recipe. Love all the flavors.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: