Flavoured salts add instant depth of flavour to any dish but ready-made versions in the store can be very expensive. Thankfully they are cheap and easy to make at home. It’s just a matter of combining salt with whatever flavour you choose, letting the mixture dry out, then storing in an airtight jar. You can go traditional and use fairly basic cheap ingredients such as celery leaves and rosemary with kosher salt, or opt for more adventurous combinations such as roasted garlic and wild mushroom Himalayan rock salt, or bacon with smoked salt. As long as you get the flavour combination right, flavoured salts can compliment vegetables, meats, poultry, cheese, and even desserts. As salt is a natural preservative, making herb salt is a simple way to extend the shelf-life of fresh herbs harvested from the garden. Flavoured salts are also attractive and unique so make a wonderful homemade gift for any foodie.
How do you use Flavoured Salt?
You can use flavoured salt in most of the ways you would use plain salt, but here are some ideas if you are looking for inspiration:
- As a ‘finishing salt’ to season a completed dish
- As a substitute for plain salt in recipes
- Sprinkled over vegetables before roasting
- As a rub for fish and meat
- As a salt rim on a cocktail glass
- Popcorn topping
- Tasty addition to salad dressing or mayonnaise
Selecting the ingredients
In terms of the ratio of flavouring to salt, there are no hard and fast rules, it very much depends upon personal preference and the strength of the flavourings you are adding to the mix. I don’t like my food overly salty, so I often tend to use a high herb to salt ratio. A good place to start is about 1-2 teaspoons flavouring per 1/4 cup of salt, then taste and increase if you find it is not strong enough for you. If the flavouring you choose is mild (e.g. bay leaves), use a higher concentration. If you use ingredients with a very strong flavour, for example, ghost chillies, you may want to go a lot lower. I also use a higher concentration of flavourings to salt when I intend to use the finished salt as a rub/cooking ingredient than if I intend to just use it as a finishing salt to season food before serving. Here are some ideas for potential flavourings:
- Whole or powdered Spices e.g. cumin, smoked paprika, chilli flakes
- Fresh or dried herbs e.g. Rosemary, Oregano, Thyme, Basil, Sage
- Vegetables e.g. garlic, ginger, chilli
- Dried edible flower petals e.g. lavender, roses
- Meat e.g. bacon, chicken skin
- Dried mushrooms e.g. shitake, porcini, truffle
- Grated zest e.g. Lime, Lemon, Orange
- Seeds e.g. chia, poppy pumpkin
- Liquids e.g. red wine, sriracha
- Other e.g. jasmine tea, matcha, dried seaweed
Often the most exciting and attractive salts are combinations of ingredients, some of my favourites for different purposes include:
- Roasted garlic – very versatile can be used with soup, pasta, salad, fries, gratin, roasted vegetables etc.
- Thyme, rosemary, sage and garlic – sprinkled over root vegetables or meat before roasting
- Vanilla bean and cinnamon – a small amount added to apple pie, cookies, pastries, ice cream
- Lemon zest and peppercorns – great match for couscous or fish
- Celery leaves – works well with eggs and is a perfect addition to a Bloody Mary
- Shitake – delicious with soup, pasta or any mushroom dish
- Chilli, coriander, garlic and lime – ridiculously moreish on potato wedges with sour cream
The best way to discover your favourite flavours and combinations is to experiment, if you start with a good grey rock salt and fresh, good quality ingredients you can’t go far wrong.
2. The Salt
If you are giving the flavoured salt as a gift, coarse and flaky salts produce the most attractive results. Unrefined grey salt works particularly well, but for an extra special touch, you may want to opt for a gourmet salt such as Himalayan rock salt, Persian blue salt or smoked salt. If you are making it for yourself and are on a budget, try kosher salt or sea salt. If you only have table salt, you can use that too, but I would suggest opting for a higher proportion of flavourings as it can be overpowering. I tend to use fine salt for combinations that I mainly use in recipes and coarser salt for mixtures I mainly use as finishing salt.
Processing the Ingredients
1. Grind/Mix the Salt and Flavourings
There are three ways to mix the salt and flavourings:
- Use a spice grinder/coffee grinder
- Bung everything in a food processor/blender and pulse, being careful not to over grind the salt
- Chop herbs by hand then add salt after
- Mash herbs in a mortar with a pestle, add salt for a slight pounding just before the end
2. Dry the Flavoured salt
The key to making a good long-life flavoured salt is to ensure that the salt and flavourings are completely dry before you store them in an airtight jar. There are a few different ways to do this depending on the equipment you have on hand and the ingredients you are using.
- Pre-dried herbs and spices – just add the dried ingredients to the salt, place in the jar and shake.
- Fresh herbs, spices and zests – sprinkle on a baking tray and leave somewhere warm and airy to dry out for 24 hours, use a dehydrator, or place on baking tray in the oven on low temperature until dried.
- Liquids/very moist ingredients e.g. roasted garlic, red wine – preheat an oven to 180°C. Pour salt and sauce/liquid onto a baking tray, mix together then spread thinly. Place the baking tray in the oven, switch off then leave for about 3 hours until dry. Alternatively, place in oven on very low heat and monitor carefully.
If you do not dry the ingredients sufficiently before storing the salt will clump together, if this happens it won’t look as attractive but you can still crush it to use when needed.
3. Store the salt
Finally, store the salt in an airtight container, I use Fido jars as they are attractive, airtight and fairly cheap. The shelf-life of the salt will depend on the flavourings used and your expectations. Mild flavoured ingredients like basil and citrus only retain a strong taste for a few weeks, but if you use strong dried spices such as cumin they will easily retain their flavour for a year. Colour also fades with time. If you use highly perishable ingredients such as bacon or chicken skin salt they will last only a couple of weeks and should be kept in the fridge. For the strongest colours and flavours make small amounts as and when needed.
Example Recipe – How to make Sage, Rosemary, Thyme and Garlic Salt
This is probably the herb salt I use most as we eat a lot of roasted vegetables and it works great with them. Don’t forget to taste and adjust the ingredients to suit your preferences.
- Salt 1/2 cup
- 2 cloves garlic
- Rosemary 1/2 teaspoon
- Sage 1/2 teaspoon
- Thyme 1/2 teaspoon
Step 1. Collect together herbs/ingredients. Peel the garlic then wash the herbs and remove any spoiled leaves and tough stems.
Step 2. Either coarsely chop the herbs by hand, pound with a pestle and mortar or pulse in a food processor. Add the salt towards the beginning if you would like fine salt or at the end for coarser salt. Be very careful not to overprocess the salt if you prefer the look of large flakes/crystals.
Step 3. Spread the herbs and salt onto a baking tray and leave in a dry airy place for 24 hours or so until the herbs and salt are completely dry. Alternatively, if you are using very wet ingredients or live in a very humid area place the baking tray in warm oven on about 80°C
Step 4. Once dry, pour the salt into an airtight glass jar and use as needed.
- Salt ½ cup
- 2 cloves garlic
- Rosemary ½ teaspoon
- Sage ½ teaspoon
- Thyme ½ teaspoon
- Collect together herbs/ingredients. Peel the garlic then wash the herbs and remove any spoiled leaves and tough stems.
- Either coarsely chop the herbs by hand, pound with a pestle and mortar or pulse in a food processor. Add the salt towards the beginning if you would like fine salt or at the end for coarser salt. Be very careful not to overprocess the salt if you prefer the look of large flakes/crystals.
- Spread the herbs and salt onto a baking tray and leave in a dry airy place for 24 hours or so until the herbs and salt have completed dried out. . Alternatively, if you are using very wet ingredients or live in a very humid area place the baking tray in warm oven on about 80°C
- Once completely dry, pour salt into an airtight glass jar and use as needed.