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There are many different types of salt from all over the world. Not only is salt an important commodity for many countries, but it also has a rich history in various local cuisines and cultures. Each type of salt is special and comes with its own unique qualities and specific purposes.
This post is sponsored by Mountain Rose Herbs.
I originally published this article on March 29, 2018 and updated it on August 9, 2020.
How Many Different Types of Salt are There?
You might think that all salt is interchangeable. After all, salt is salt, right?
Dig a little deeper and you’ll soon learn that there are noticeable differences in flavor, appearance, texture, and mineral content. (source, source)
Since Mountain Rose Herbs is my favorite place for high-quality herbs, spices, teas, and essential oils, I thought it would be fun to go through their catalog of gourmet salt and describe each type one by one.
I had so much fun taste testing these different salts! I hope you have as much fun exploring these options as I did.
Originally, I felt skeptical that a different salt could make that much of a difference, but I was wrong!
Noticing the subtle differences between each kind of salt was an eyeopening experience.
The smoking process relies on the Pacific Red Alder tree for flavor. Once the process of solar evaporation is complete, natural sea salt, from the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California is smoked. The flavor is very alluring but does not have any trace of tinge or burnt aftertaste like other brands I’ve used before.
How to use smoked sea salt:
Like white sea salt, this salt option will have a similar all-purpose application for savory foods. I would avoid using it in desserts and sweet dishes.
This salt is by far my favorite decorative salt. It has a wonderfully light flavor and delicate texture, making it ideal for finishing sweet and savory dishes. A unique pyramid shape is created during the evaporation process which is set to very specific standards and may take up to 2 years to complete.
This deep red crystal salt is a traditional salt used in local Hawaiian Island cuisine both for the purposes of flavor and preservation. Red Alaea salt also has a unique role in religious culture and ceremony. Its role to cleanse, purify and bless tools, canoes, homes, and temples is revered.
The salt is collected in tidal pools that are made of iron-rich volcanic clay. Mineral deposits affect the color of the salt and give it a beautiful red color.
How to use Red Alaea Salt:
The red alaea salt is my second choice for decorative salt. The reddish-pink crystals look so pretty on top of sweet and savory meals, especially those with strong contrast. It’s stunning on Maple Buttercream Frosting!
I notice this salt has a slightly sweet flavor, making it perfect for sweet and salty recipes.
Black lava salt isn’t burnt, it’s infused with activated charcoal! Activated charcoal is used to detox the body and remove various sources of stomach pain, distress, diarrhea, and even certain types of poisoning. (source)
How to use Black Lava Salt:
This is another salt that brings so much pop to a recipe but actually has quite a muted flavor. I usually use a bit of sea salt for taste and then add black salt for the visual wow-factor.
I can’t think of a more stunning contrast than these Salty Marshmallow Cookies with light browns and white, paired with Black Salt.
Himalayan Pink Salt has an important role in local culture; it is used to preserve fish and other foods for trade.
Pink salt may be one of the most well-known specialty salts, however, not all pink salt is created equal. Low-end salts are exported under toxic labor conditions and often have environmental contamination that may be doing more harm to your health than good. (source)
To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend any pink salt other than this one from Mountain Rose Herbs. Their salt is exemplary and harvested from ancient sea salt deposits, extracted “by hand, according to long-standing tradition, and without the use of any mechanical devices or dynamite techniques. After being hand-selected, the salt is then hand-crushed, hand-washed, and dried in the sun”. (source)
How to use Himalayan Pink Salt:
The light pink color is another very pretty choice for decorative purposes. This salt has a properly salty flavor and can be used in equal proportions to table salt or sea salt. It’s great in everything from Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry to Low-Carb Blueberry Scones!
All of these yummy recipes clearly illustrate a variety of ways to use salt in cooking. From sweet to savory dishes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, salt has an important role in flavor, appearance, and even texture.
It’s fun to have all of these salts on your spice shelf so you can pick and choose which one you want under different circumstances.
Using different salts is the easiest way to add variety to a meal without changing anything else. There are many recipes that come out noticably different by simply substituting one type of salt of another.
The bottom line is that you want a clean, unrefined, natural salt that is affordable and budget-friendly.
Deciding what the best salt for cooking is will depend on the specific purpose it is used for. Some are best for adding smoky flavor and others lend a touch of sweetness, while still others are more eye-catching than anything else.
You may be able to find a quality local salt that isn’t listed here, in that case, try it out! Support local producers as much as possible. Look for regional food production in your area to see what you might find and share your success with us in a comment below!