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Recipe: Low-Salt Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner

St. Patrick’s Day is coming up – and for many of us, the day just isn’t complete without the traditional Irish meal of corned beef and cabbage.

Unfortunately, that hearty meal is also extremely high in salt and fat.

A single 4-ounce serving can have nearly 1,500 milligrams of sodium — an entire day’s worth for many of us. (The American Heart Association recommends a daily limit of 1,500 milligrams of sodium to help control high blood pressure.) Corned beef is so salty because it’s cured for a week in a brine made with sodium nitrite (the chemical that gives cured meat its pink color and distinctive flavor) and two cups of kosher salt.

When it’s made from well-marbled brisket, it also contains about 17 grams of fat – about half of which is saturated fat. (The AHA recommends limiting saturated fat to about 15 grams a day — or less — to help lower your risk of heart disease.)

But here’s good news: You can make healthy mock corned beef that’s spicy and flavorful without the salt and fat. And you can make it in an afternoon.

The original recipe calls for a four-pound brisket, but at $7 a pound at the neighborhood market, I opted for more economical lean pot roast instead.

The Guinness Stout – the dark brew so popular in Ireland – adds an earthy richness to the broth, while the bit of gin, flavored with juniper berries, gives it a fruity spiciness. (Of course, the alcohol evaporates as the stock simmers.)

True, without the cured meat flavoring, Mock Corned Beef isn’t quite the same as “the real thing.” But as I’m developing a taste for less salty foods, I’m discovering so many of them have flavors previously masked by the salt. Corned beef is no exception.

But the best part of this recipe is its aroma. I’d make it again tomorrow, just to fill the house with the wonderful scent of its savory spices!

Healthy Mock Corned Beef

Serves 6 to 8
Lean pot roast, 4 pounds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bottle Guinness Stout
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
10 whole cloves
3 tablespoons gin
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dill seeds
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (or a pinch of nutmeg)
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 2 1/2-pound head of green cabbage, cored and cut into 1-inch strips
4 pounds small red potatoes, quartered

In a large pot, add olive oil and heat. Sear the meat on all sides to brown. Remove meat from pot.

In the pot, stir together stout, brown sugar and spices. Return the meat to the pot and add water, as needed, to cover. Bring the stock to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until meat is fork tender, about 3 hours.

Throughout the cooking time, continue to add water to cover the meat, as needed.

Remove cooked meat from the pot, cover and let rest. Add cabbage and potatoes to pot and simmer for about 30 minutes. When vegetables are done, slice meat and serve in a bowl with potatoes, cabbage and a bit of the hot stock.

Adapted from

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION (per serving, approximate): 350 calories, 15g fat, 6g saturated fat, 75mg sodium

About Judy Conkling

Judy Conkling is a Wichita writer and editor with a deep interest in all things related to healthy living.