What Is Kosher Salt — and Is It Really Kosher?

Here’s what you need to know. 

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If you are the least bit interested in cooking (or eating), you probably have a box of kosher salt in your pantry. But have you ever wondered what it is and how it's different from other types of salt? Here's what you need to know:

What Is Kosher Salt?

First thing's first: Before we talk about kosher salt, we really should discuss salt in general — what is it and how does it affect food?

Salt is a mineral compound composed of sodium chloride (NaCl). Some salts are edible and others aren't. It can't be overstated how important edible salt is to the human body and how we perceive food. In fact, it's one of the five basic taste sensations (salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami).

Its abilities to preserve food, enhance flavor and texture, and bind proteins together make it essential to cuisines around the world.

That said, different types of salt affect foods in different ways. Kosher salt, which has a coarse and uneven grain and no iodine additives, is one of the main types of salt we see on grocery store shelves and in recipes today. It has numerous cooking and baking benefits:

  • There are no bitter-tasting additives (such as iodine or fluoride), so it tastes quite pure compared to table salt.
  • The large grains make kosher salt easier to measure and distribute.
  • It adds brine and texture to dishes throughout the cooking process.
Kosher Salt Spilled from a Spice Jar
Michelle Lee Photography / Getty Images

Kosher Salt vs. Sea Salt vs. Table Salt

All salts aren't created equal. Here's how to identify and differentiate kosher salt, sea salt, and table salt:

  • Kosher salt has a large, coarse, uneven grain. It's usually not iodized and it's very versatile, as it's composed of large, light flakes that don't dissolve immediately.
  • Sea salt has a smaller, but still coarse, grain. It's made from evaporated sea water and is usually used as a finishing touch on dishes, as it is more expensive than other types of salt.
  • Table salt has a fine, uniform grain. It is cheaper and much more potent than other types of salt (it's about twice as "salty" as kosher salt). Table salt often contains iodine and other additives.

Is Kosher Salt Kosher?

Kosher salt can be kosher, but so can any salt that's produced under kosher guidelines and supervision. Its name comes from the ancient Jewish practice of using coarse-grained salt to drain blood from meat, as eating meat containing blood is forbidden in certain Jewish traditions.

Not all kosher salt is technically kosher — if you're looking for kosher kosher salt (as in, salt manufactured under kosher guidelines and standards), look for a package that is labeled "kosher-certified."

What's the Best Kosher Salt?

There are two major brands of kosher salt: Diamond Crystal and Morton. As they are produced in different ways and have different properties, they do produce slightly different results.

Each type has its supporters and detractors. For what it's worth, though, award-winning chef and cookbook author Samin Nosrat developed all the recipes in Salt Fat Acid Heat using Diamond Crystal — and, if anybody is a salt expert, it's Nosrat.

It dissolves roughly twice as fast as a denser salt like Morton, which means it's far more forgiving when you're seasoning food through estimations rather than measurements. Also, as it's less dense, it adheres to food easier.

"I prefer Diamond Crystal — even when I've accidentally salted dishes twice with this salt while enjoying a little too much my conversation, the company, or a glass of wine, the food has emerged unscathed," writes Nosrat in Salt Fat Acid Heat.

Kosher Salt Substitute

You can substitute sea salt or table salt for kosher salt in a pinch, but you can't do it on a 1:1 ratio.

Your best bet is going to be coarse sea salt, which has a similar grain and flavor. If your recipe calls for 1 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, use just one teaspoon of coarse sea salt.

In a pinch, you can use table salt. However, a little table salt goes a long way: If your recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, use just ½ teaspoon of table salt.

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