What Is Pickling Salt? (And Do You Really Need to Use It?)

updated Apr 9, 2024
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
overhead shot of a bag of pickling and canning sea salt
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe

Salt is one of the key ingredients in the pickling process, but does it matter which salt you use? Can you just use the salt that’s already in your pantry? Some recipes call for something called “pickling salt” — what makes pickling salt special? Here’s what you need to know.

Quick Overview

What Is Pickling Salt?

Pickling salt is pure granulated salt without any additives. It has very fine granules that help it dissolve quickly in brine.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe

All About 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.

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.

How to Store Pickling Salt

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

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. Per the University of Wisconsin – Cooperative Extension:

  • 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.

A version of this story was first published in August 2013 by Emily Han