Himalayan to Hawaiian: Different Types of Salt

Words: Robyn Samuels

Salt has the ability to impact the outcome of any dish. You could have the fanciest dish at a fine dining restaurant, prepared with high-quality ingredients by the world’s greatest chef, but only the perfect amount of salt could bring the flavours home. While table and sea salt are the usual pantry suspects, there are plenty more types of salt. They differ in origin, texture and sodium content. Some are shaped like the pyramids of Egypt, or look like sapphire diamonds, and some are as old as the seas.

Whether seasoning steak, or improving the taste of your cake batter, the type of salt used makes all the difference. Here are some of the most popular types of salt:

Fleur De Sel

Fleur de sel is extracted from certain parts of France. In ancient times, it was used as a salve (ointment) and, surprisingly, as a laxative. It’s one of the rarest and most expensive types of salt due to low annual yields and labour-intensive harvesting required. Fleur de sel is sourced from the surfaces of seawater using a salt panning method, where pyramid-like crystals are extracted.

Fleur de sel translates to ‘flower of salt’ in French due to the flower-like appearance formed by salt deposits on seawater surfaces. It was once believed that in order to preserve the structure and delicate nature of the salt, it should be harvested by ‘gentle’ female hands!

Many confuse Maldon salt with fleur de sel due to the appearance; apart from price, the main difference between the two is that fleur de sel has a greyish colour, and Maldon salt has a white hue. It also has a more oceanic, ‘moist’ taste, whereas Maldon salt has a distinct dryness. Fleur de sel is typically used as a finishing salt on most dishes instead of seasoning during the cooking process, this is because it loses its characteristic texture once dissolved.

Add texture to this Mint, Lemon Olive Oil Marinated Zucchini Salad  or this Toasted Panzanella Salad with Burrata & Thyme Vinaigrette with fleur de sel.

Hawaiian Black Salt

Hawaiian black salt is sourced from the Pacific Ocean, specifically off the Hawaiian island of Molokai. Traditionally, salt is held sacred in Hawaiian culture and used in cleansing rituals. It contains approximately 84% sodium chloride, the rest is believed to be electrolytes and natural minerals. Although it’s also known as ‘black lava salt’, it doesn’t actually contain lava; the distinct black colour is created by mixing evaporated seawater and activated coconut shell charcoal.

type of salt

Hawaiian black salt is said to have detoxifying benefits that improve circulation and overall skin appearance, as charcoal contains absorption properties, thus drawing out toxins.

This type of salt has a coarse sea salt texture and is typically used as a gourmet finishing salt due to its rich mineral taste, adding depth of flavour to chicken and fish dishes.

Season this Salmon Poke Bowl or Braai Whole Yellow Tail with Hawaiian black salt.

Himalayan Black Salt

This unique type of salt is sourced from the rocks of the Himalayas, like its pink counterpart. Apart from colour, the main difference between Himalayan pink and black salt lies in the taste. Himalayan black salt has an umami flavour and is often likened to the taste of ‘rotten eggs’ – in a good way, we suppose. Himalayan black salt is enhanced with charcoal and spice, which is then cooked to enhance the umami flavour. During the cooking process, it undergoes a chemical change whereby the sodium chloride in the salt transforms into sulphites and hydrogen sulphide, which produces the ‘rotten egg’ flavour.

Himalayan black salt doesn’t contain iodine – necessary for regulating thyroid health. Although not commonly sold at general grocery stores, it could be found at specialist stores.

Praised for its appearance, some manufacturers sell counterfeit Himalayan black and pink salt. The only way to discern whether what you are being sold ‘the real thing’ is by confirming the source on the label – it should be either India or Pakistan. Himalayan salt should contain 100% Himalayan salt and no other ingredients. Benefits of Himalayan black salt include being rich in antioxidants and aiding digestion. This type of salt is also low in sodium – potentially useful for people with hypertension.

Use Himalayan black salt to sprinkle over fresh fruit for a contrasting umami flavour in this refreshing Watermelon Salad. It also works well in dips like raita.

Himalayan Pink Salt

The prettiest of them all, Himalayan pink salt is praised for its distinct pink/rosy hue. As the name suggests, it’s derived from the Himalayan mountainous region, specifically the Khewra Salt Mine in the Punjab region of Pakistan. In terms of sodium content, Himalayan salt is similar to table salt and contains 98% sodium chloride.

type of salt

Another characteristic is that while table salt is fortified with iodine, Himalayan pink salt could contain iodine, but not large amounts. The pink colour comes from the ground from which it’s mined, and contains trace minerals like iron and zinc. Himalayan pink salt is odourless with a subtle and slightly sweet taste, making it good for baking and more dishes.

Himalayan Pink Salt is perfect for sprinkling on these Pink Salt Praline Cookies.

Kosher Salt

You might have wondered what makes kosher salt ‘kosher’. The term ‘kosher’ refers to food prepared in accordance with traditional dietary standards for those of certain Jewish faiths – kosher salt thus doesn’t contain impurities. It has a coarse texture and is also commonly referred to as ‘kitchen salt’ or ‘flaky salt’ due to its large grains.

Kosher salt isn’t usually fortified with iodine or additives.

This type of salt is often used to pickle and preserve vegetables and meat. Traditionally, kosher salt is used for removing blood on the surface of raw meat. Everyday uses include seasoning meat or sprinkling over salads; it isn’t normally used in baking.

Sprinkle kosher salt over this Rice Shakshuka or Healthy Homemade Hummus.

Maldon Salt

Maldon salt is a special brand of sea salt from the UK coastal town, Maldon. The sea salt crystals have a unique pyramid-like structure, not to be confused with fleur de sel, which is purer and rarer. Although Maldon salt is still relatively expensive compared to other types of salt, fleur de sel can be up to three times more costly than Maldon salt. In order to get the pyramid structure, sea salt is first purified, then crystalised.

type of salt

Despite similarities, fleur de sel is used for last-minute seasoning and garnishing, whereas Maldon salt can be used as an all-purpose salt.

The crunchiness of Maldon salt makes it great for lending texture to certain savoury dishes and baked goods. Many chefs favour Maldon salt for these properties.

Maldon salt is ideal for sprinkling in Salted Caramel Sauce or this Salted Dark Chocolate, Pretzel & Caramel-rippled Ice Cream.

Persian Blue Salt

Persian blue salt almost looks like sapphire diamonds and is considered to be one of the rarest and oldest types of salt; it’s typically sourced from salt ponds in the Ergourz mountainous region of the Semnan province of Iran (previously known as Persia) that has dried up over the years. This mystical sapphire blue salt is extracted from sylvinite rock salt, which is made of sylvinite and halite, formed in salt-concentrated water bodies.

type of salt

Sylvinite rocks are present as both pink and blue – the blue kind is the rarer of the two. Persian blue salt’s characteristic colour comes from magnesium; it also contains minerals and nutrients such as iron, sodium, calcium and potassium. Health benefits of using Persian blue salt include lowering blood pressure, maintaining cardiovascular health and more.

Persian blue salt is slightly sweet yet salty and imparts a light lemon flavour to certain dishes. Its beautiful blue hue is aesthetically pleasing and often used to elevate the appearance of dishes.

Persian blue salt pairs well with fish or tomato-rich dishes like this Lemon Labneh with Roasted Tomatoes, Pine nuts & Toasted Pita or Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup.

Sea Salt

Sea salt is harvested from evaporated saltwater lakes and oceans, anywhere in the world. Unlike table salt, sea salt isn’t normally processed, meaning it retains most minerals and nutrients. Sea salt is available in ground and crystal form.

type of salt

Naturally, it doesn’t contain iodine, but some types have been fortified with iodine for the purpose of regulating thyroid health. When it comes to saltiness, both table and sea salt contain approximately 40% sodium by weight, but because table salt is finer, the sodium content would differ when measured by volume.

Sea salt is used to season many dishes, especially steak. Try it on this New York Strip Steak.

Table Salt

Probably the most popular type of salt in many households, table salt is mined from underground salt deposits and is processed in a similar way to table sugar. Besides iodine, table salt usually contains anti-caking agents to prevent the grains from clumping.

Gnocchi in a Creamy Basil Pesto Sauce
Use table salt for seasoning pasta water to make this Gnocchi in a Creamy Basil Pesto.

Learn about different types of African indigenous grains.

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