No spice rack is complete without salt. In fact, it's the most used spice in the world, highlighting and enhancing the flavor of virtually all foods. But with so many different kinds, it’s important to know what features to look for when purchasing salt for seasoning or finishing your cooking.
Luckily, we've done all the hard research and come up with a list of the 10 best salts to use in your cooking. Our favorite is Celtic Sea Salt from Selina Naturally, because it's versatile and has a great texture. Take a look below for more options, and read on to the buying guide for more shopping tips that have been backed by an experienced chef!
Danilo is an Italian chef who has grown up cooking traditional dishes under his nonna and mamma's tutelage. He has also worked in Italian restaurants in various countries such as Australia and Japan. The skills he has acquired in a home and professional kitchen have enabled him to preserve and expound on Italian cuisine while dabbling in recipes from other cultures.
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Table of Contents
Most salts will have a similar flavor, but there's still a lot to consider when choosing the right one for your cooking. Let's look at the different types, as well as how a salt's grain size affects your recipes.
Salt can either come from evaporated seawater or the ground, and from there it can be divided into three main categories: table salt, rock salts including Himalayan, and sea salts.
Table salt is very fine, with regularly-shaped crystals, and usually contains anti-caking agents to prevent it from clumping. Some also have added iodine.
If you've ever tried to sprinkle salt from a shaker over a steaming pot, you know the futility of your task! The holes in the shaker will quickly get clogged up with salt. So, while it makes for accurate measurements of teaspoons and tablespoons, this salt's main use is for seasoning finished dishes at the table, and for baking.
When water from ancient inland seas evaporated, the salt in them crystallized, and became the salt deposits we mine today.
The most famous gourmet rock salt you'll find is Himalayan pink salt, which derives its color from trace minerals like copper and magnesium found in the crystals. However, any minerals in salt are in very small amounts compared to the rest of the foods in your dish, so nutrition shouldn't be a deciding factor in choosing.
Himalayan pink salt can also be carved into various shapes, such as a slab or block that you can cook on directly! These can be used to sear meats, cook pizza, or cook eggs. They can also be chilled to serve cold foods like sushi. It's hard to think of a more impressive way to add seasoning to your food.
Despite its initial reputation that Pink Himalayan is healthier or the more bougie option, the pink hue is mainly due to the level of impurities in the salt crystals, including rust or iron oxide. Personally, I've never fallen for the marketing hype of this salt except for presentation purposes.
Did you know that when you heat Himalayan salt with hot water and let it rest for some time to separate the rust and minerals, the remaining water will produce white salt?
That's why I believe regular rock salt will suffice for your cooking needs. You can use rock salt for boiling pasta water, for crust on food, as chunks in ice cream, or boosting the flavor of fish and meats when baking or cooking, as long as it is not used directly on food for consumption.
Sea salt is another form of salt that has trace minerals. They can include potassium, iron, and zinc. However, because it is sourced from seawater, it will usually also contain microplastics. We don't really know if consuming the tiny bits of plastic in our oceans is harmful to human health, but it's something to be aware of.
Sea salts are typically flakier in texture than rock salts, creating a crisp mouthfeel for enhancing dishes. The grain size can vary, from fine-textured salts that are great for seasoning during cooking, to larger crystals that add crunchy saltiness to a finished dish.
Although rock and sea salt are almost the same chemically and nutritionally, how they are processed may affect your decision. Rock salt is derived from old ocean sea beds that have dried up. They are mined in their solid rock form, so you get a coarser texture that often includes impurities from the refining process.
On the other hand, sea salt is an all-natural process of using the sun and wind for evaporating seawater. Therefore, there are a bit more of the essential oligo-elements (namely, iron, zinc, and iodine in salt) found in sea salt. The briny taste of sea salt reflects the leftover minerals from the ocean, creating a more complex flavor.
Kosher salt is the most popular grain shape and size, and it can be made from sea or rock salt. The reason it's so useful is its grain size and texture. Its grains are flaky, unevenly-sized and coarse, making it more effective at drawing the blood out of meats, which is what koshering means. It doesn't contain many trace minerals and usually doesn't have added iodine, but it might sometimes contain anti-caking agents.
The large grain size makes it easy to add a pinch of salt to a dish while you're cooking. It's popular for adding to boiling pasta water, brining, and just about any other use. But the uneven grains produce unreliable measurements by volume, so it's not good for baking.
Salt is prized for its texture and visual appeal just as much as its taste and ability to enhance the natural flavor of foods. Depending on how you plan to use the salt, you'll want to pay attention to the size of the crystals you buy.
Fine-grained salts are able to dissolve and mix well into soups, batters, and other dishes. You generally won't be able to see the grains after using it. However, some fine-grained salts, such as Fleur de Sel, add light, crunchy texture to dishes as a finishing salt.
Coarse salts also add texture, and you can use a grinder to break up the chunks into smaller pieces. These are best for finishing dishes where you want the salt to hold its shape and not dissolve.
If you're looking for additional seasoning, you can find many salts that are blended with herbs or infused with other flavors. There's an almost endless array of these in various combinations for any type of cuisine, and it's easy to make your own by mixing dried herbs or other ingredients in a food processor with salt.
Smoked salt provides extra flavor while not containing additional ingredients. Salt can be dried while absorbing the smoke from any number of woods. Smoked salts offer a strong aroma and work best as rubs or finishing salts.
Indian black salt contains sulfur as part of the manufacturing process, which gives it the distinctive aroma and taste of eggs. It's popular for vegan dishes. Moshio is a Japanese salt produced using seaweed, which imparts a subtle umami flavor.
Speaking of sweets, salt is a crucial ingredient in bringing out the flavor of the other ingredients. I have tried baking cookies or a cake without the salt, and weirdly enough, the finished recipe didn't taste as complete, full, or right.
When using salt on bread, it helps contain yeast activity and the dough rising too quickly during the crucial proofing step. You can consider salt as the essential agent that controls and enhances the components of the ingredients you use in desserts and bread.
To skip the risk of your finished dish having a slightly bitter, unpleasant taste, you can go for salt with minimal to zero iodine.
Click to purchase
Celtic Sea Salt
Best Kosher Sea Salt for a Variety of Uses
Sea Salt Shack
Best Sampler of 4 Famous Varieties
Sea Salt Flakes
Best Soft and Flaky Sea Salt
San Francisco Salt Company
Sherpa Pink Himalayan Salt
Best Specialty Salt to Add a Natural Smoky Flavor
Amabito no Moshio
Sea Salt with Grinder
Best Salt for a Little Extra Umami
The Spice Lab
Pink Himalayan Salt
Best to Use With Your Grinder
San Francisco Salt Company
Fleur de Sel
Best Gourmet Salt for Gifting
The Spice Lab
Black Truffle Salt
Best Salt to Add Egg Flavor to Vegan Dishes
Best Iodized Salt for Accurate Measurements
Fleur de Sel de Guerande Sea Salt
Best Salt Block for Cooking and Presentation
This sea salt is simply dried and finely ground. Because the particles are so fine, they can be used for a variety of kitchen tasks. It's not refined, so it still contains all the minerals originally present in the salt; however, like with all salts, those are in very tiny quantities.
Reviewers say the salt is fine enough to use with a shaker but slightly bigger than table salt. It also may clump, so try adding rice to your shaker to absorb the moisture. Home cooks proclaim it works great for any recipe.
This sampler set includes four gourmet salts from around the world. The Hawaiian black salt gets its color from charcoal, while the red tint comes from clay. Guérande sea salt has a moist texture, and the Himalayan pink comes in large crystals.
A few reviewers say the flavor differences are too subtle for them, but others love that the unique colors and tastes are all-natural. They say they're a lot of fun to use and try out different recipes. People also recommend this set as a gift.
This beautifully flaky sea salt has been produced in Essex, England since 1882. The taste is clean and fresh. The manufacturer recommends crushing it with your fingers and thumb when sprinkling it onto foods to retain the unique texture.
A few thought it was overhyped, but they were in the minority. Close to 100 percent of reviewers loved this salt, saying it creates a distinct soft crunch that releases a clean, briny flavor when bitten.
Smoked salts provide you with intense flavor without having to slow-smoke your own foods. Use the fine grain variety for things like seasoning soups, chili, eggs, and sauces, and rimming cocktail glasses. We like the coarse grains for dry rubs on meat or adding crunch to salads and finished dishes.
A few reviewers found the smokiness got lost during certain cooking processes, and that adding more just left dishes too salty. If you want to have maximum effect, stick to using it towards the end as a finishing salt, or as a rub or homemade barbecue sauce ingredient.
Featured in the Netflix documentary Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, this is more than just sea salt. It's made using seaweed, which is dried in the sun and then boiled with water from Japan's inland sea. This modern method is based on ancient practices, and means the final salt contains nutrients and umami flavor from the seaweed.
It's not meant to actually impart a strong flavor of anything but salt, and some reviewers said that's all they could taste. However, many found the subtle umami added an extra layer to their dishes' flavor profile. They recommend it as a finishing salt for sashimi and salads, or to season vegetables and meats while cooking.
This salt is the perfect size for use in your salt grinder. The color makes a nice accent on finished dishes, and it can be used as regular salt during cooking. Pink Himalayan salt gets its color because it's unrefined and naturally contains minerals other than sodium chloride.
Some of these are insoluble, and a few reviewers reported these as being like sand in their salt. But others praised this very quality for being natural and liked this Himalayan salt for the beautiful color and balanced flavor.
Fleur de Sel is French sea salt gathered by hand. Paludiers skim salt pools to harvest only the finest top layer. It adds texture to dishes and is best used as a finishing salt. The high-class packaging and wooden spoon make it a great gift.
Some reviewers felt that the salt was too moist, but this is why many chefs love it. It will cling onto finished dishes as a final touch. Reviewers found the taste to be subtly different than ordinary salt. They also say you don't need to use as much to notice the flavor.
Indian black salt has flecks of dark purple and is produced by heating Himalayan salt in a kiln with charcoal and other natural ingredients. The result contains sulfurous compounds, which gives it its distinctive eggy smell. It's used for chaat masala, chutneys and raitas, or on salads and fruit.
Reviewers mainly use it to replicate the flavor of eggs in vegan dishes, although some found the smell too pungent. They mention it shakes out easily, and you should be careful not to use too much, as it's properly strong and salty.
Table salt still has a place in the kitchen of even the most hardcore gourmand. If your recipes call for measurements by volume, you'll want to use its fine crystals for the most accuracy. Added iodine is not necessary if you eat enough seafood or dairy, but important for vegans, as well as women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Reviews about its quality are overwhelmingly positive, and buyers like that it's pure white with no specks, grains are uniform in size, and it flows easily.
To use this salt block for cooking, preheat it very slowly over a gas flame or grill, gradually increasing the heat. Food cooked on the heated plate will absorb its saltiness. You can also refrigerate the plate for serving cold foods. To clean it, simply wipe it with a damp cloth and let it dry.
Some reviewers say that the salt plate cracked or even shattered upon heating. Note that it's not meant for use in the oven or on electric stoves. Many reviewers who followed its instructions exactly love it, using it for grilling steaks and seafood and searing vegetables.
Most Americans consume far more salt than the recommended amount, and it can have serious health consequences. If you're looking to cut down, one way is to use more herbs and other seasonings. But sometimes you just need that salty flavor.
There are two substances that are close in chemical composition to salt, and have a similar taste: potassium chloride and monosodium glutamate.
Potassium chloride is produced and sold by big brands, making it a readily-available salt replacement. It can be used in all the same ways because it has the same properties as regular salt as far as food chemistry goes.
You can also use it like table salt when finishing dishes, but it can taste bitter. In addition, it's best to talk to your doctor before switching to potassium chloride. It may not be appropriate for those who have heart, liver or kidney disease, high blood pressure, or take certain medications.
Monosodium glutamate is a naturally-occurring salt of glutamic acid, and found in large amounts in foods like tomatoes, mushrooms and cheese. It's the chemical behind the umami, or savory, taste.
It has one-third the sodium content of regular salt, and because it interacts with and enhances savory flavors, you'll get more impact with less of it. It won't work with sweet recipes, but can be used in any savory food application.
However, like salt, it can still increase blood pressure if consumed in very large amounts. You may also have heard that it can cause headaches and other symptoms, but studies have consistently shown this not to be the case, and participants can't tell the difference between it and a placebo when given amounts normally used in foods.
Danilo says, "Salt is considered the most important ingredient in the kitchen. It is present in all flavors, from sweet to savory. However, it can get confusing what you need in your kitchen arsenal with the many kinds of salt available.
I recommend having one of each of the four types of salts: table, for everyday cooking and baking; kosher, a flakier option without iodine for dehydrating; sea salt, for a less refined option and achieving that powerful salty kick; and finishing salts if you are meticulous about presentation."
Now you know that all salts aren't created equal, but you might still have some questions. We've tried to answer some of them here.
There's no argument about whether or not you need iodine in your diet - you do! But does it have to come from an additive in your salt? The answer largely depends on where you live and what you eat.
In the US, dairy products often contain iodine. When iodophor cleansers are used as part of the milking process, iodine is accidentally introduced into the milk and passed along to the consumer. Iodine is also present in soil, and crops grown in this soil pick it up. But, iodine soil levels vary widely across the country.
The most reliable dietary source of iodine is anything that comes from the ocean. Seaweed is an excellent source, and fish and shellfish will also provide some of your recommended daily allowance. Some other foods that provide iodine are eggs and prunes. If you don't eat enough of these foods, you should consider using iodized salt.
You'll often see manufacturers tout their salt as healthier than others because it has more minerals. Himalayan pink salt, in particular, has been marketed this way. But these claims need to be taken with a grain of salt!
Salt is 90 to 99 percent sodium chloride. Himalayan pink salt and sea salt both contain trace amounts of minerals, whereas refined table salt has lost many of them in the process. However, the key point here is "trace amounts." You'd need to consume far more than the recommended daily allowance of sodium in order to get anywhere near the RDA of those minerals.
All those minerals can really provide is color and a more complex flavor profile. So, which salt is the healthiest? The one you consume in moderation!
The world of condiments, spices, and herbs is a vast one. Besides salt, there are so many other flavorings you can use to enhance your dishes.
If you want a few more options to look through, check out Amazon's bestseller list! You may even recognize a few choices on there.
No. 1: Selina Naturally | Celtic Sea Salt
No. 2: Sea Salt Shack | Sea Salt
No. 3: Maldon | Sea Salt Flakes
No. 4: San Francisco Salt Company | Sherpa Pink Himalayan Salt
No. 5: Amabito no Moshio | Sea Salt with Grinder
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