What Is Pickling Salt? Do You Really Need It?

Ingredient Intelligence

Salt is one of the key ingredients in the pickling process, but does it matter which salt you use? Some recipes call for something called "pickling salt." What makes pickling salt special, and can you substitute another kind of salt? Here's what you need to know!

What is Pickling Salt?

Pickling salt — sometimes called canning salt or preserving salt — is pure granulated salt (sodium chloride). Pickling salt does not contain anti-caking ingredients, which can turn pickling liquid cloudy, or additives like iodine, which can make pickles dark. In addition, pickling salt has fine granules that make it easy to dissolve in a brine. Morton and Ball are two common brands available at grocery stores, usually in the salt section or next to the canning jars in hardware stores.

Keep pickling salt in an airtight container away from moisture to prevent the salt from clumping.

Do You Really Need Pickling Salt for Pickling?

While pickling salt is ideal for pickling because it has fine granules (finer than even table salt) and no additives, it is not the only salt that can be used. Kosher salt is a great alternative, as long as it is pure salt without any additives. (Diamond Crystal is a good brand; avoid Morton, which does contain anti-caking agents.) Pure sea salt can also be used in pickling.

Although table salt is perfectly safe to use in pickling, it is not recommended because the quality of pickles may suffer due to its additives.

From left to right: kosher salt, pickling salt, table salt

Substitutes for Pickling Salt

When making substitutions for pickling salt, keep in mind that weight per volume can differ. Salts coarser than pickling salt may also take longer to dissolve. The University of Wisconsin - Cooperative Extension advises that 1 1/2 cups of flaked kosher salt equals about 1 cup of canning and pickling salt, or about 50% more kosher salt. For fermented pickles, they recommend measuring by weight: 7 3/4 ounces (220 grams) of flaked salt is equivalent to 1 cup of canning and pickling salt.

This post has been updated - originally published August 2013.

(Image credits: Christine Gallary; Dream79/Shutterstock)