You could be forgiven for thinking that salt is just that, salt. The same regular table salt that you see in shakers the world over.
However, once you start to learn about artisanal salt, you’ll discover there is, in fact, a huge variety of different types of salt – all characterized by their own unique qualities, textures, and tastes.
From relatively new inventions such as smoked salts to time-honored, hand-harvested French salts like fleur de sel, there’s a whole world of choice out there to discover.
So, why not shake up your tastebuds and impress your friends by experimenting with a new type of salt?
1. Refined salt (table salt)
Table salt is a highly-refined salt that you’ll most commonly find in large quantities in your local supermarket.
It is harvested from underground salt deposits and then processed to remove any impurities, including trace minerals. After refinement, it is finely ground and iodine and anti-caking agents are often added. Anti-caking agents are used to help it flow better from a salt shaker.
Table salt can be used in any dish, either during the cooking process or as a finishing salt, although its fine texture makes it especially suitable for the latter.
2. Kosher salt
Kosher salt is less refined than table salt. Generally, it is a coarse grain salt that is not iodized, although certain brands may add an anti-caking agent.
While it can be kosher, its name comes from its traditional use in “koshering” meat by drawing out the blood. To distinguish it from finer table salt, some brands began labeling their salt as kosher and the name stuck.
Kosher salt can be used anywhere you would use regular table salt. It is ideal for salting with your hands thanks to its large grains, making it easy to grab a pinch to salt your steak or stew.
Just bear in mind that as the size of the crystals vary from one brand to another, it is less suitable for recipes that require specific measured amounts. It makes a great choice for rubs or any dish that will be enhanced by its strong flavor and crunchy texture.
3. Sea salt
Sea salt is obtained by evaporating seawater to obtain an unrefined, coarse-grained salt. It may contain trace minerals, including iron, potassium or zinc, depending on its provenance. These different minerals give it a more complex flavor, while the coarser grains give texture when used as a finishing salt.
Thanks to its chunky texture, sea salt makes a great choice for cooking with. Sprinkle a pinch into your dish as it’s cooking or use it as a rub with herbs and spices. You can also find finer ground sea salts or use it in a salt grinder.
Add it to fish, meat, vegetables, either during or after the cooking process as a healthier, more natural choice to refined table salt.
4. Flake salt
Flake salt is a type of salt that is characterized by its large, flat flakes. It can form naturally, but it is usually produced by boiling brine or through evaporative techniques.
The delicate salt shavings that are produced by these methods tend to have a lower mineral content than other types of salts for a saltier taste. With their large surface area, the flakes dissolve rapidly yet have a crunchy texture, making flake salt ideal for use as a finishing salt.
Flake salt can be used for any dish that you choose. However, thanks to its unusual properties and “melting crunchiness”, it is perhaps best put to effect in sweet dishes such as caramel or chocolate desserts, cookies or even sprinkled on ice cream.
5. Himalayan pink salt
This full-flavored mineral salt is mined from ancient sea salt deposits, located deep in the Himalayan mountain range.
Its high mineral content gives this salt its stunning pink to red hues. Potassium and calcium, as well as iron and magnesium, are some of the many trace minerals that make up this highly-prized salt. These trace elements give this salt its unique, varied taste.
Although it is generally sold as a medium-coarse salt, you can also find it available in finely ground versions. Himalayan pink makes a great addition to complex dishes that require more frequent salting such as in stews or any brining solution.
Try it out with cured meats or to lift the flavor and texture of salads and gratins.
6. Himalayan black salt (Kala Namak)
Himalayan black salt, also known as ‘Kala Namak’, is used extensively throughout traditional South Asian cuisines. It is manufactured from salt deposits in the Himalaya region.
These salts are kiln-fired in sealed containers with added charcoal and local seeds, bark, and various other local ingredients. The salt is then cooled and aged. The iron sulfide present in the salt gives it its dark color and it also contains trace amounts of magnesium and sulfates.
Due to the sulfur present in Kala Namak, you may find that it releases a fairly pungent odor when first added to food. However, this subsides leaving you with a savory taste that is similar to egg yolks.
This makes it a popular choice for adding extra flavor to meat and egg-free dishes. Add it to a variety of classic Indian dishes or invent your own fusion food.
7. Hawaiian alaea salt
Also known as “Hawaiian Red Salt”, this salt comes from where the Pacific Ocean meets Hawaiian shores.
Once the salt has been harvested, it is mixed with volcanic red alaea clay. This brick-red colored clay is rich in minerals and iron oxide. Traditionally, it was believed to have spiritual powers and was used in traditional Hawaiian ceremonies, to promote healing, as well as for blessings and purifying.
Hawaiian alaea salt has a slightly nutty flavor and is prized for its flavor retention throughout cooking, meaning a small amount goes a long way. It is used in traditional dishes such as Hawaiian poke or pork kalua.
Sprinkle it over grilled fish for an authentic taste or use it as an eye-catching garnish on any pale dish.
8. Hawaiian black lava salt
Hawaiian black lava salt employs a winning combination of flaky Pacific sea salt and black lava from Hawaii. Rich in activated carbon (which is prized for its detoxification properties) this salt will not only add a unique flavor, but it can also help to aid digestion.
In addition to its crisp sea salt taste, Hawaiian black lava salt is renowned for its delicious smoky flavor with hints of sulfur. Some people describe it as having an almost nutty taste, too.
Thanks to its dramatic appearance, this salt looks fantastic sprinkled over any light-colored dishes such as fish or poultry. It also adds texture and makes an excellent accompaniment to grilled eggplant and mashed potato.
It is important to note that this salt should only be used as a finishing salt. If used during cooking, the salt will dissolve, leaving a black residue at the bottom of your dish!
9. Cyprus black lava salt
This eye-catching salt is similar in composition and benefits to the Hawaiian version.
Produced from the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, the salt is then combined with carbon for its distinctive black color, with a hint of a smoky flavor. This salt has a more pyramid-like flake shape than the Hawaiian one and provides a crunchier bite.
For use only as a finishing salt, try sprinkling your Cyprus black lava salt on creamy soups, over salads or on white meats for a delicious boost to looks and flavor.
Feeling daring? Try a tiny touch to add an extra dimension of taste and presentation to your white chocolate desserts.
10. Celtic salt (Sel gris, Gray salt)
Celtic salt (also known as “sel gris” or “gray salt”), is harvested by hand from clay-lined tidal ponds off the Atlantic coast of France.
The clay gives this salt its gray color and almost moist texture. Mineral-rich, this labor-intensive, coarse-grained salt is not cheap, but it does have a unique taste and is highly prized.
This salt can be used as both a cooking and finishing salt. Its briny, mild taste is ideal for enhancing fish, seafood and pasta dishes. Thanks to its moist texture, it is also a good choice for rimming cocktail glasses.
11. Fleur de sel
Fleur de sel, often referred to as the “caviar of salts” is one of the most expensive salts you can buy.
It is harvested in much the same way as Celtic salt, except it is even more labor-intensive and can only be harvested in certain circumstances. Fleur de sel’s delicate thin crystals are skimmed from the top of the water’s surface. This can only be done on dry, warm days with a slight breeze, using traditional techniques, hence the limited annual production and the hefty price tag.
Like sel gris, this salt retains its moisture and has a delicate, briny flavor. Use it as a finishing salt to enhance all dishes, especially seafood, fish and vegetables. It can also be used to add an extra dimension of flavor to caramel and chocolate dishes, as well as sauces.
12. Sale di Cervia
Sale di Cervia is the Italian version of the French fleur de sel.
Produced in almost identical fashion in small salt flats and harvested with traditional wooden rakes, you could be forgiven for mistaking one for the other.
However, just as the Atlantic Ocean and the Adriatic Sea are very different, so too are these high-quality gourmet sea salts.
Sale di Cervia lacks the brininess of the fleur de sel and is an excellent choice finishing salt for all cuisines. From vegetables to grilled fish, pasta and salads, its subtle flavor and high mineral content will enhance any dish.
13. Truffle salt
Truffle salt is a great way to add flavor and depth to any dish.
High-quality sea salt is infused and mixed with fine truffle fragments for a winning gastronomical combination. Truffles have been highly prized for centuries for their earthy, exotic flavor and they are one of the most expensive raw foods that you can buy.
Use this exquisite infused salt to add an extra dimension to simple dishes such as rice or pasta recipes, grilled meat or cream-based soups and salads. In fact, almost any dish will benefit from a sprinkle of truffle salt just as it reaches the table.
14. Smoked salt
If you are looking for a chemical-free replacement for liquid smoke, or just want to add a hint of smokiness to your cooking, why not try a smoked salt?
Available in a variety of smoky flavors, such as hickory, alderwood or maple, smoked salts are created by slow-smoking natural sea salts over several days.
Smoked salts are a quick and convenient way to add extra flavor to most dishes. Depending upon your choice of smoked salt, you could use it to perk up chicken dishes, as a dry rub for ribs or sprinkle it over any red meat for a delicious, aromatic flavoring.
It also makes a great accompaniment to fish and vegetarian dishes.
15. Curing salt
Curing salts, also known as pink salt or Prague powder, are made up of a mixture of table salt combined with sodium nitrate and a distinctive pink dye.
They are used to preserve meat by inhibiting the growth of bacteria that leads to spoilage. Curing salts have been used for centuries before the advent of refrigeration and modern food processing and preservation techniques.
You must only use curing salts as directed and be sure to store them out of children’s reach. Purchasing curing salts will enable you to make your own ham, pastrami or corned beef.
To find out more about different curing techniques take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Curing Salts.
16. Pickling salt
Pickling salts, as the name suggests are used for pickling.
Essentially, pickling salt is pure sodium chloride, without any added ingredients. Iodine or anti-caking agents that are frequently added to regular salt can make the pickling solution go cloudy or gather as a residue at the bottom of your jar. Pickling salt also tends to be very fine, which helps to speed up the pickling process as the salt dissolves more rapidly.
You can use pickling salt in place of regular salt, but it may cake pretty quickly if left out. If you fancy pickling but don’t know how to get started, check out this handy salting and wet brining guide.
While salt often gets a bad press, it is an essential ingredient for delicious cooking.
Rather than sprinkling your food with your regular old table salt day-after-day, expand your culinary skill-set and experiment with these different types of salt for a satisfying punch of new flavors and textures!
Did you try out any of our suggestions? Drop a comment below to let us know your thoughts and don’t forget to share this article with your foodie friends!