Gifts from the Sea—Flavored Salt Blends


Part 3 of the Series on
DIY Holiday Gift Giving from the Kitchen


Caricature1Making salt blends at home could not be easier. For those who are not on a salt-restricted diet, salt blends add a depth of flavor with very few ingredients needed to accomplish the goal. Seasoned salt is often the standard seasoning on foods such as chicken, chips, and deep fried seafood, or potatoes. But it also can be used for many other dishes as well as the finishing salt that graces your table. Flavored salts have the potential to initiate a subtle modification to your dish or a dynamic transformation; it’s up to you!

Salt is the only rock that is eaten on a regular basis (barring those taste-testings you had as a kid). Salt is readily absorbable, meaning the blending process with other ingredients binds to the salt crystals—every single one! The result is a 100% natural flavor concoction more balanced and impactful than perhaps just a seasoning blend. Seasoned salt helps to distribute flavor throughout your dish and increase the intensity of the essence of other herbs and spices. I like FLAKED or COARSE salt the best because it produces a better product I think. I either use a kosher salt or my favorite, in most instances, is Maldon Sea Salt Flakes or Flaked Himalayan Pink Salt. And with the help of a food processor and a quick stint in the oven or dehydrator, you can infuse salts with herbs, flowers, citrus, and more.

I love this bit of advice from Saltworks…”If you’re unsure how to use flavored salts, don’t become overwhelmed by flavorful goodness, consider these three simple tips:

Tip #1: Don’t overthink it. Just be more deliberate next time you salt your dish by asking yourself how a flavored variety could make it better. Let’s call it thoughtful experimentation.

Tip #2: While our Fusion flavored sea salts are best as finishing salts, you can also crank up the flavor by incorporating them during the cooking process as well, but be careful not to over-salt and add the salt as late as possible for the most flavor. When baking, use unsalted butter to optimize flavor without over-salting.

Tip #3: Start light and taste as you go. Flavored salt smells way too good to trust your instincts and often requires less than most recipes call for.”

Just an FYI…If you’re trying to avoid conventional table salt but you’re worried about not getting enough iodine, Himalayan crystal salt is a viable alternative. Half a gram of Himalayan crystal salt provides 250 micrograms of iodine—over 150% of the amount the average body needs each day—so enjoy this special salt in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

As you can imagine, these flavored salts make great gifts.  I love making gifts from my kitchen. Almost all of my friends are as interested in food and cooking as I am, so I know gifts from my kitchen are loved. These flavored salts are incredibly easy to put together, and it only takes a few extra minutes to make enough for all your friends. And the bonus? These are majorly FRUGAL gifts that have the look, feel, and taste of gourmet. Search online for flavored salt gift boxes. I saw one the other day for $60.00 with only 4 flavors! I don'[t know about you, but that price tag upsets my last frugal nerve.

The Most Common Types of Salt

different Salt Varieties

Across the board, salt has played a key role in most cultures.  Economically it’s been important throughout the ages.  Salt has been referenced and utilized in nearly all time periods and cultures from before recorded history.  It’s been used as money and for trade in many early cultures. The expression, “Not worth his salt” stems from an ancient Greek practice of trading salt for slaves. While salt is gained from two sources, salt deposits on land or directly from the sea, once harvested it is essentially processed in the same way, through the creation of brine and evaporation. And no, salt itself does not have an expiration date!

Table salt: This is the common salt normally found on every table. It is a fine-ground, refined rock salt with some additives to keep it free-flowing. Smaller particles mean more particles per measure and more surface area than coarser grinds. As such, use about half the amount if you are substituting for coarse salt.

Coarse salt: Coarse refers to the grind. The jagged edges and large crystals make this a good choice for sprinkling on pretzels or corn on the cob because the edges tend to cling and the salt does not readily melt.

Iodized salt: Salt which has iodine (sodium iodide) added. Iodine is a mineral necessary to the body to prevent hypothyroidism and some countries actually require iodine added by law. For those who live in areas away from oceans, iodized salt is an easy way to get this necessary nutrient into the diet. Surprisingly, iodized salt contains a small amount of sugar (usually indicated as dextrose in the ingredients listing), without which the salt would turn yellow due to oxidation of the iodine.

Kosher salt: This is a coarser grind of salt with large, irregular crystals. It contains no additives. Kosher dietary laws strictly require as much blood as possible be removed from meat before cooking. This coarse grind performs the job admirably. It is a favorite with not only Jewish cooks, but also professional and gourmet cooks who prefer its texture and brighter flavor. When substituting for table salt, you may need more to taste since it seems less salty. The size and shape of the crystals cannot permeate the food as easily as fine grades. Coarse pickling salt can be substituted.

Celtic salt: This is the expensive type. It is harvested via a 2,000 year-old method of solar evaporation from the waters of the Celtic Sea marshes in Brittany, France. Its flavor is described as mellow with a salty, yet slightly sweet taste. Even more expensive and rare is fleur de sel, from the salt marshes in Guerande, which is said to form only when the wind blows from the east.

Dairy salt: See pickling salt. It is used to pull moisture from cheeses to cure them.

Rock salt: Less refined and grayish in color, this is the chunky crystal salt used in ice cream machines. This type is generally not used as an edible flavoring mixed into foods, but in cooking methods such as to bake potatoes or to encrust or embed meat, seafood or poultry for baking. Rock salt makes an impressive bed for oysters on the half shell. When using rock salt for cooking, be sure it is food-grade. Some rock salt sold for ice cream machines is not suitable for cooking.

Pickling salt: This fine-grained salt has no additives and is generally used in brines to pickle foods. Unlike table salt, the lack of additives will help keep the pickling liquid from clouding.

Sea salt: Distilled from sea waters, this form can be fine or coarsely ground. This is a less expensive version of Celtic salt. Some consider sea salt nutritionally better than rock salt because it naturally contains trace minerals, but the difference is too minute to note. It does, however, have a stronger and more interesting flavor. Grey or gray salt is a sea salt.

Sour salt: Although it is not a salt, I include it here for clarity’s sake. Sour salt is actually citric acid, extracted from citrus and other acidic fruits such as lemons, oranges, and pineapple. Also known as citric salt, it is used in some classic recipes such as borscht and also by some as a pseudo-salt substitute. It adds a zesty, tart flavor that can sometimes mask as a salty flavor in some dishes and gives a helpful psychological satisfaction of shaking on “salt.” If it is not in the spice section of your market, check the kosher section.

Notes on Blending/Grinding Equipment

Blending-Grinding Equipment

Mortar and Pestle. A mortar and pestle is the time honored method of grinding spices and does a wonderful job. If you have just purchased a mortar and pestle. you need to grind some raw rice first to get all of the residual dust out.

Spice/Coffee Grinders. An electric spice grinder will make short work of your blends and flavored salts. Try to get one with stainless steel blades and a removable grinding cup for easy pouring and clean-up. Getting a spice/coffee grinder to dedicate to grinding spices really is one of the best methods I have found to powder you’re her and seasonings like lemon zest, etc.

Mini Food Processor.  I have a Cuisinart Mini-Prep, and find it very useful for certain small chopping jobs. It does a great job on fresh herbs, for instance. However, I don’t think it does as well as a spice grinder there’s too much space between the lower edge of the blade and the bottom of the bowl – you might get dried whole chilies reduced to small bits, but not get that last step to a powder.

Salt Grinders. Like a Pepper Mill, you can use a Salt Mill that you can pour your ingredients into and then at the time you salt your food you will be able to freshly grind your flavored salts into your food. You will have a longer lasting grinder that does not corrode if you buy the mills with a ceramic grinder or nylon grinder, not a steel grinder. Any steel will eventually get corroded.

Food Processor or Blender. You can also use your food processor or blender for these recipes. Just make sure you have a high powered machine that will not burn out. I find mine the least effective for this task because it does not finely powder my spices/seasonings.

Flavored Salt Recipes

Flavored Salts Ingredients Collage

Bacon Salt

1 ounce well-cooked bacon , crumbled
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup salt of choice

  1. Tear the bacon into pieces and put into a mini food processor; process until you have very small crumbs. Add the paprika and salt, pulsing a few times until ingredients are combined. Do NOT grind salt to a powder.
  2. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Suggested uses: In recipes in place of the called-for salt, or as a finishing salt, on eggs or potatoes, add a pinch to pancake or waffle batter, season your chicken, pork, or veggies with this slightly smoky salt.

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Celery Salt

1/2 cup leaves from one bunch of celery, washed and dried (or the whole celery)
1/4 cup salt of choice

  1. Dry celery leaves in 200°F oven for 30 minutes or dry in a dehydrator at 125°F/50°C (preferred). When cool, use your fingers to crumble the leaves completely into grinder.
  2. Add salt, pulsing a few times until ingredients are combined. Do NOT grind salt to a powder.
  3. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place (away from heat, light, AND humidity).

Suggested uses: baked potatoes, vegetables, sausage, dips, soups, etc.  It’s especially good for dishes like cold salads (egg, potato, pasta, etc.).

Have a recipe that calls for celery but don’t have any?  Save a trip to the store and use celery salt.  Just make sure to cut back on the amount of salt you add to the recipe.

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Chile-Lime Salt

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried lime zest
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup salt of choice

  1. Add red pepper flakes, lemon zest, and paprika to you bowl and grind to a fine powder.
  2. Add salt, pulsing a few times until ingredients are combined. Do NOT grind salt to a powder.
  3. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place (away from heat, light, AND humidity).

Suggested uses: Wonderful in Salsa and Hispanic dishes.

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Citrus Herb Salt

1/2 teaspoon dried orange zest
1/2 teaspoon dried lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 cup salt of choice

  1. Add lemon zest, orange zest, rosemary, and thyme to the bowl and grind to a fine powder.
  2. Add salt, pulsing a few times until ingredients are combined. Do NOT grind salt to a powder.
  3. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place (away from heat, light, AND humidity).

Suggested uses: pan seared tofu, rice, quinoa, pasta, homemade crackers.

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Cocoa-Coffee Salt

1/2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons finely ground espresso
1/4 cup fine salt of choice

  1. No need to process: just mix all ingredients together. Fine Salt is highly recommended.
  2. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place (away from heat, light, AND humidity).

Suggested uses: Rub this salt on your favorite cut of pork, like tenderloin or chops, before grilling or roasting for a dry marinade that enhances the natural sweetness of the meat. It’s also dynamite when added to the braising sauce for short ribs or other slow-cooked beef. Delicious on salt caramel sauce and cocoa.

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Fresh Herb Salt

1/3 cup fresh herbs, lightly packed (I use a mixture of oregano, thyme, and sage)
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup salt of choice

  1. Use any combination of herbs you like. With the food processor running, add clove of garlic through the shoot to mince. Add fresh herbs to the bowl the food processor; process until very fine, about 30 seconds.
  2. Combine salt, freshly ground black pepper and herb mixture in a medium bowl; whisk to thoroughly combine.
  3. Store in refrigerator or freeze.

Suggested uses: Use on meat, vegetables, pasta, or fresh baked bread.

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Porcini-Parmesan Salt

1/4 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup salt of choice

  1. Add dried mushrooms and Parmesan cheese to the bowl and grind to a fine powder.
  2. Add salt, pulsing a few times until ingredients are combined. Do NOT grind salt to a powder.
  3. Store in refrigerator.

Suggested uses:: Use as seasoning for scrambled eggs, roasted chicken, or creamy pasta, pumping up those dishes with savory, umami flavor.

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Smoked Paprika and Ancho Salt

1 dried ancho chilie
1-1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1/4 cup salt of choice

  1. Remove stems and seeds of dried ancho chilie before processing.
  2. Add dried chilie and paprika to the bowl and grind to a fine powder.
  3. Add salt, pulsing a few times until ingredients are combined. Do NOT grind salt to a powder.
  4. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place (away from heat, light, AND humidity).

Suggested uses:: Use in any savory dish where you want to pump up the heat.

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“Vegan” Salt

1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon dried garlic powder
1 small dried jalapeno
1/4 cup salt of choice

  1. Put dried jalapeno to the bowl and grind to a fine powder. Add in the remaining ingredients, pulsing a few times until ingredients are combined. Do NOT grind salt to a powder.
  2. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place (away from heat, light, AND humidity).

Suggested uses:: tofu scramble, veggies, butternut squash, root veggies, popcorn, french fries.

Download Free Printable Labels for you own containers here: Flavored Salt Blend (labels).


If you missed any of the previous parts of this series, they can be found here:
Part 1, Popular Herb/Spice Blend Recipes
Part 2, The REAL Stars of Movie Night—Popcorn Seasoning Blends

Participant in Homestead Blog Hop #50