Ingredient Intelligence

Kosher Salt vs Sea Salt vs Table Salt: What’s the Difference & How Do You Use Them?

updated Sep 5, 2022
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Credit: Faith Durand

Don’t stress if you don’t know the difference between the most common types of salt: kosher salt, table salt, and sea salt. This question is one of the most frequently searched queries on Kitchn (and the internet at large). While we typically recommend you keep these on hand for cooking and baking, you can use them interchangeably even though the shape, use, and flavor are different — with some caveats. Here’s what you need to know about the difference between kosher, sea, and table salt.

What Is the Difference Between Kosher Salt, Sea Salt, and Table Salt?

Chemically speaking, all salt is the same. Their differences come down to shape, use, and flavor in a home kitchen. Some salts, like kosher and table salt, are mined from underground caves and made from the dried salt water of old seas. Sea salt is made from drying salt water into crystals. While their different sources might give them slightly different mineral contents, any further processing removes those minerals, making almost all salts pure sodium chloride.

Table Salt

Table salt is what most people think of as salt. It fills salt shakers and is sometimes referred to as “fine salt,” thanks to its small, consistent crystals. You’re likely to see this used in home kitchens for seasoning everything from steaks and salads, but it is often called for in baking recipes. Table salt’s fine texture is said to distribute more evenly in batters and doughs. Iodine has been added to table salt since the 1920s, but these days you can easily find iodine-free table salts at any grocery store.

Kosher Salt

Kosher salt is most often sold in larger, coarse crystals — although you can also find “fine kosher salt” in some stores. Kosher salt has become increasingly popular in home kitchens in the last decade (more on that below). You’ll often see kosher salt called for in seasoning brines, pasta water, and big cuts of meat, which doesn’t mean that is all it is good for. One watch-out for kosher salt: Brands vary in crystal size, making some kosher salts “saltier” tablespoon for tablespoon.

Technically speaking, all salt is sea salt. Whether it comes from a mined cave or an oceanside table, all salt comes from sea water! What you find in the store labeled as sea salt will season the same as table salt or kosher salt depending on its size. Fine sea salt can be used as table salt, coarse sea salt as kosher salt, and so on.

Is One Salt “Healthier” than the Others?

No — all bodies need salt to survive, plus it makes food taste good. Keeping an eye on sodium consumption is important to overall health and some diseases, but salt and sodium are slightly different things. You can read more about their differences here. Any trace minerals that give sea salts their color impart minimal flavor and nutrients. Pink salt, for example, is praised for its color and purported health benefits, but with trace minerals making up less than 5% of its total composition, there is no research to back up health claims by sea salt and mineral salt brands.

Why Do Chefs Use Kosher Salt?

We have TV chefs to thank for the rise in popularity of kosher salt over the last decade, although it has been widely available for much longer. Ask your chef friends why they love kosher salt, and “pinch-ability” is the most common response. Thanks to its larger crystal size and coarse texture, Kosher salt is easier to grab between fingers in a busy restaurant kitchen. Most Kitchn editors use kosher salt at home too; we recommend picking one brand and sticking with it for consistency.

More Information on Salt

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