“Bring fun and flavor back to your kitchen!” – Chef Aaron McCargo, Jr.

Meet celebrity Chef Aaron McCargo, Jr., winner of The Next Food Network Star: Season Four and former host of Big Daddy’s House on Food Network. Working with our team of dietitians, he creates delicious recipes with big, bold flavors that fit perfectly into your dialysis meal plan. If you think a kidney disease diet needs to be boring, think again. His mission is to get you excited about spending time in your kitchen. Mission accomplished!

“I love going to Lake Okeechobee. I still do the things I like to do.”

—Ron, on dialysis until transplant in 2018
Watch Ron’s Dialysis Story

Discover a World of Flavor, Maximize the Possibilities

With a sister-in-law and a best friend who have kidney failure, Chef McCargo understands a thing or two about creating a kidney-friendly diet. His approach: “It’s not about what you can’t have or can’t do; it’s all about what you can have and can do.”

Positive and encouraging, here’s Chef McCargo’s best advice:

Pump up the flavor with spices and herbs

Going without salt is one of the toughest challenges for anyone on a renal diet for kidney disease.
Chef McCargo’s solution: replace salt with the big, bold flavor of spices and herbs. “For example, if someone’s craving the taste of bacon,” Chef McCargo says, “go to smoked paprika, cumin or some of the chili powders and spices that give you a strong smoky flavor and aroma… You need to amplify the ingredients in a recipe that will make the most difference… Whether your taste preference is for salty, sweet, sour or savory flavors, you can find spices and herbs that mimic the flavor of your favorite dishes.”

Chef McCargo´s top 10 spices and herbs

Use herbs and spices like cumin, rosemary, paprika, oregano, basil, coriander, dried peppers, cilantro, thyme, chili powder and cumin.

Swap it out! Try some tasty alternatives 

Can’t imagine life without the foods you love? Think again. If you love using tomatoes in recipes, Chef McCargo says, “Swap it out with roasted peppers!” If you need to cut back on oranges and citrus, “try a little bit of lime or lemon, if allowed.” Love chili?, “For a fresh flavor experience, swap out the beans with seasonal vegetables like zucchini that will hold up through the different phases of cooking.” 

Check your pantry first, then go shopping

“Go to the staples you already have in your pantry,” says Chef McCargo. “Chances are you already have a lot of kidney-diet items you need like pasta, rice, herbs and spices. Then go grocery shopping and stock up on other kidney-friendly foods you may need. That way, you won’t be tempted to substitute unhealthy foods.”

15 kidney-diet staples to stock

CKD diet ingredients

Eggs: perfect for meals or snacks

Eggs are the perfect protein for people with kidney disease. Keep hard-boiled eggs on hand but turn up the flavor meter and switch things up. “Deviled eggs are a great side snack,” says Chef McCargo. “Try them with horseradish, smoked salmon, turkey or chicken salad filling. Or scramble up some eggs and combine with onions, pepper and turkey for a hearty breakfast burrito. For another quick and easy-to-make meal try my Stuffed Breakfast Biscuits stuffed with eggs and cheddar cheese.”


Tips for storing hard-cooked eggs

Refrigerate eggs for up to 1 week
Hard-cooked eggs in their shell
  • Refrigerate as is for up to 1 week
Peeled hard-boiled eggs
  • First, cover eggs in a bowl of cold water 
  • Or place eggs in a sealed container without water, covering the eggs with a damp paper towel
  • Refrigerate for up to 1 week


Kidney-friendly cooking just got tastier! Get the latest big-and-bold, flavorful recipes by celebrity Chef Aaron McCargo, Jr.
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Plan ahead, make things easy on yourself

Prepare your meals ahead of time, especially before dialysis treatment days when you may feel more tired than usual. Chef McCargo’s advice: “Store a batch of precooked pasta as a base for many different meals. Have precooked protein on hand, like chicken or poached salmon, to add to pasta or a salad. Soak chicken in a delicious kidney-friendly marinade so it’s ready to cook when you get home. Make extra servings of your favorite recipes and store them in the fridge.”

5 steps for keeping cooked pasta fresh

How to keep cooked pasta fresh
  1. Cook pasta a little under the texture you like
  2. Drain the pasta but do not rinse
  3. Place on baking sheet and let it cool at room temperature
  4. Place in a gallon-size plastic storage bag and squeeze the air out before you seal the bag
  5. Store it in the back of your fridge and use it over the course of 3 to 4 days

Turkey and apple for renal diet

Celebrate the good times

Chicken wings for renal diet
You may have kidney disease, but you can still enjoy your meals—and your life. From special times to birthdays to “unofficial holidays” like the Super Bowl, you can enjoy delicious, festive meals that are kind to your kidneys.

“Holiday time is a special time to get creative with kidney-friendly recipes,” says Chef McCargo. “You can cook sweet potato pie, but you need to soak the potatoes overnight. You can also have turkey with mashed potatoes and string beans. You can do ‘traditional’ or put a funky twist on it.

“As for the Super Bowl, you can nosh on some pretty healthy dialysis recipes I’ve cooked up like Dry-Rubbed Barbecue Turkey Wings or Not-Too-Spicy-for-Your-Mama Chipotle Wings.

“Having kidney disease doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself. You just have to do things differently. Think of it as an opportunity to get creative and have some fun with flavor,” says Chef McCargo. “But first things first. Always speak with your renal dietitian first for a list of foods you can eat. Then take it from there and maximize the possibilities.”