What Is Pickling Salt and What's a Good Substitute?

In a pickle? Learn all about pickling salt and what to use when you don't have any.

Although it's not necessary for canning all foods, salt is essential when it comes to fermented pickles and sauerkraut. According to the Pennsylvania State University Extension, "in fermented sauerkraut and brined pickles, salt not only provides characteristic flavor but also is vital to safety since it favors the growth of desirable bacteria while inhibiting the growth of others."

So when you see a recipe that calls for pickling or canning salt, can you substitute any old salt for this specialized ingredient? Well, yes and no. There are some salts that do better than others in place of pickling salt, but you have to make sure you're substituting the proper amount. Otherwise, you risk the development of harmful bacteria.

Before you tackle your next pickling adventure, make sure you know what pickling salt is, and how to properly substitute for it.

What Is Pickling Salt?

person sprinkling canning salt over pickles and onions in bowl
Andy Lyons/Meredith

Also known as canning salt or preserving salt, pickling salt is simply pure granulated salt (sodium chloride), without any anti-caking agents or additives that are traditionally added to table salt. These additives can add a cloudy and/or darkened look to the pickle brine, which is why it's left out of pickling salt.

It's also very fine in texture, making it quicker to dissolve in solutions. For all these reasons, it's considered the best choice for canning and preserving, although it's not necessarily the only choice.

Do You Need Pickling Salt? Pickling Salt Substitutes

different types of salt on black background
Clockwise from top left: kosher salt, pickling salt, table salt, and sea salt. Andy Lyons/Meredith

Pickling salt's pure form and fine texture makes it ideal for canning and preserving, but one other form of salt can be used in its place in a pinch.

Pickling Salt vs. Table Salt

Table salt, or regular salt, contains anti-caking agents to keep it from clumping together. Because these additives aren't water soluble, they can cause the brining liquid to become cloudy. Although this won't affect the taste of the pickles, it doesn't give the most visually appealing result. For a crystal clear brine, you're better off using either pickling salt or more pure forms of salt.

Pickling Salt vs. Kosher Salt

Kosher salt can be used as a substitute for pickling salt, so long as it doesn't contain any anti-caking agents (this can vary from brand to brand). Since kosher salt has a different grain size than pickling salt, you will have to adjust the measurements when substituting one for the other.

According to the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension, it's important to weigh your pickling salt substitutes to ensure you are getting the correct amount of salt in your brine. The wrong salt concentration can lead to the growth of bad bacteria, including botulism. Use this guide from the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension when substituting kosher salt for pickling salt:

Type of Salt Weight Measure
Canning and pickling salt (Morton®) 7 ¾ oz. (220 g.) 1 cup
Kosher flaked salt (Diamond Crystal ®) 7 ¾ oz. (220 g.) 1 ½ cups

Pickling Salt vs. Sea Salt

Although sea salt contains no additives, it is not recommended as a substitute for pickling salt because it is so dramatically different in grain size and shape from pickling salt, causing it to measure out very differently by volume than pickling salt.

The Bottom Line

The only type of salt recommended by the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension as a substitute for pickling salt is kosher salt, assuming that you adjust the measurements as needed.

ball pickling salt in green package on red/orange and yellow burst background
Allrecipes Illustration/Amazon

Where to Buy Pickling Salt

You can find pickling salt (also called canning and/or preserving salt) in the salt section at your supermarket, or with the canning jars and equipment in a hardware or big box store like Walmart. Popular retailers available on Amazon include Ball ($10 for 2 pounds) and Morton ($22 for a 4-pound pack of four).

More Ways to Use Pickling Salt

Pickling salt is just salt after all, so it has more applications in the kitchen than just pickling. Use it in place of table salt (although clumping can occur). You can also use it in other brines like turkey brines. And since it has no anti-caking agents, it does a good job sticking to foods. Try sprinkling it over popcorn or tortilla chips.


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