One question I frequently hear when it comes to fermenting foods at home, “What is the best salt for fermenting?” If all the choices of salt on the market has you scratching your head, too, read on for Sarah’s take on which ones to use, and which ones to avoid.
Salt is the crux of a good natural ferment. With salt, you have crisp pickles, juicy sauerkraut, and perfectly preserved carrots. Without salt, you may have a successful ferment, but there will be more variation in texture, and you may have a higher chance of contamination or mold.
If salt is so important in a natural ferment, then what exactly does salt do?
The salt of your natural ferment provides the perfect environment for your lactobacilli to thrive. As these beneficial bacteria are salt loving, they will be happy to thrive in your salt ferments. Most unwanted bacteria don’t like salt, so they fail to thrive while the good bacteria out compete them. Now, does that mean you need a specific salt?
While any salt will retard unwanted bacteria, and encourage the lactobacilli, some salts are more preferred than others due to being less processed or having more trace minerals and elements. Just because a recipe calls for a particular salt, does not mean you need that salt to make it. Natural salts bring a varying range of beneficial minerals and trace elements. Some natural salt can even work if you need to keep your sodium intake low.
Let’s take a quick look at a comparison of salts for your fermenting fun.
What is the best salt for fermenting vegetables?
Himalayan Pink Salt:
This salt is the most recommended here on Fermentools. Himalayan Pink Salt provides a wide range of beneficial minerals and trace elements, anywhere from 80-84. While your lactobacilli bacteria like salt, they also like the other trace minerals. These minerals help them thrive and end up being incorporated into the end ferment, so you get the mineral benefit too.
If you do not currently have Himalayan salt, use a known brand of high-quality sea salt, like the Celtic Sea Salt. Using a known, well-tested brand of salt will prevent unwanted contaminants which can negatively impact your ferments. Sea salt made in an uncontaminated area also has a high trace mineral content, with at least 75 trace minerals and elements, just slightly below the Himalayan salt trace element level. Sea salt is usually larger grain than the Himalayan salt, so you will need to dissolve it in warm water before adding it to your ferment.
Dead Sea Cooking Salt:
While lactobacilli love salt, if you are on a low sodium diet, you may feel the need to sub-out the salt in your fermenting, particularly if you consume a lot of your home ferments. You can use a Dead Sea cooking salt, which contains 21 minerals and trace elements, to work within your diet’s confines. The main salts in the Dead Sea cooking salt include Potassium, Calcium, and Magnesium salts, with a much smaller proportion of Sodium. If you only consume small amounts of your ferments, sticking to normal salt will be the most effective for fermenting consistency.
Regular non-iodized pickling salt:
If you don’t have another salt on hand, regular non-iodized salt will work. As this salt is overly purified, to be pure Sodium Chloride, it is not ideal for your body or your ferment’s lactobacilli. However, it will work until you can get a higher quality salt.
When fermenting, I prefer to choose a salt that has extra trace minerals. But, since lactobacilli are persistent and hardy, they will handle any salt. So, don’t let non-ideal salt keep you from delicious home-fermented food.
If you find yourself without the proper salt for your ferments, check out the Fermentools store. Our powdered Himalayan Pink Salt dissolves readily in cool water and is included in each kit. Also, the label has a chart to help you determine the right ratio for making your brine.
Sarah Dalziel is passionate about DiY skills, knowledge, and self-sufficiency. She was homeschooled K-BSc, and enjoys questioning, researching, and writing about hands on skills and preparedness. Ethnobotany, natural dyes, and self-sufficiency fascinate her. If she isn’t writing about them, you’ll find her dipping yarn into a steaming dye pot, or stirring up a batch of woad pigmented soap. Sarah blogs at wearingwoad.com, a natural dye and fiber skills blog, and also at sarahdalzielmedia.com, an interdisciplinary skills and writing blog.