DIY Pantry

How to make flavoured salt and add oomph to your cooking

1st August 2018

Add flavour to your cooking with these simple flavoured salt concoctions. Food writer, Malou Herkes, guides you through it.

Flavoured salt

Photo: Natalé Towell

Flavoured salt is not something that I had really considered making until I made a trip to Georgia in the Caucasus (just east of the Black Sea) a couple of years ago. It was in Svaneti – a mountainous region, largely cut off from the rest of the country with its own cuisine and customs – that I discovered Svaneti salt. My host, Nora, would season just about everything with her own mix of it: a combination of Black Sea salt, fenugreek, ground coriander, garlic, onion, chilli and a bunch of other spices I couldn’t decipher.

svaneti salt

Svaneti salt: a spicy, garlicky and fragrant flavoured salt

Homemade fresh cheese, tomato salads, plain boiled potatoes and eggs would come with an obligatory jar of the stuff to sprinkle over. She’d use it when she cooked, too. A clever way to add quick flavour without needing to rely on a storecupboard of different spices. As we didn’t speak the same language, I never did get her recipe, but she packed me off with a big bag of it, which I’m still using even now.

What to do with flavoured salt

Flavoured salt can add a new dimension to your food, adding punch and spice, zest and depth to whatever you’re cooking. And it doesn’t need to be as complicated as Nora’s. Rosemary-salted chips is a game changer, as is bacon-salted egg and soldiers. A sprinkling of chilli-lime salt on a boring salad or days-old broth, or a hit of saffron-fennel salt on plain risotto will provide a meal with altogether more flavour. What about cinnamon-vanilla salt on popcorn, or any flavoured salt on popcorn for that matter.

bbq corn on cob

Chilli-salted buttery BBQ corn

Now that it’s summer – and a hot one at that – stretch your salts to complement your barbecue. A smattering of chilli salt on buttery corn-on-the-cob is amazing, as it is on grilled pineapple. Or try seasoning charred sweet potato wedges with smoked paprika salt. Making margaritas? Dip the rims of your cocktail glasses in homemade lime salt, or swap in bacon salt for your Bloody Marys.  

Summer brings camping trips, festivals and alfresco-eating galore, and with it, a good excuse to make use of salty-citrus-spiced concoctions to perk up your campstove dinners. And no need to bring your whole pantry to help you.  

What about the salt itself?

gourmet salt

Mixing salt with herbs and spices means you can afford to add a little less salt to your cooking overall, relying instead on the natural flavours these combinations provide. It’s a great trick to cut your salt intake when seasoning your food. There’s nothing wrong with using fine salt to do this, but I find quality salt is best here. Sea salt flakes, like Maldon, are more flavourful overall and I find you can get away with using a bit less of it.

How to make flavoured salt

1. Dry fresh ingredients (if using)

waste herbs

Making your own salts is a wonderful way to use up fresh herbs, citrus rinds, fresh chillies, or even leftover chicken skin from a Sunday roast. It’s important to remove as much moisture as possible from your ingredients so they don’t go mouldy. 

DIY flavoured salt

To do this, dry out fresh ingredients in a low oven (100ºC). Fresh herbs and citrus zest will take a couple of hours, but fresh chillies will take longer. Just keep an eye on them, and make sure the temperature isn’t so high that they burn.  

2. Blitz in a blender

Once dried, blitz your fresh ingredients in a blender. This won’t be necessary for citrus zest.

3. Mix with salt

Combine your chosen flavouring with salt (I use sea salt flakes). Start with a ratio of 3 tablespoons of sea salt flakes to 1 tablespoon of your chosen flavouring. This may differ depending on your tastes and what you’re using. 

Six flavoured salt variations to try at home

Flavoured salt

From left to right:

Chilli & lime zest salt. You can, of course, use chilli flakes here, but fresh chillies dried out in the oven adds a smoky sweetness. Try this on BBQ corn on the cob, grilled pineapple, Asian noodle bowls or Asian salads.

Oregano & lemon zest salt. Go with a Greek vibe for this flavour combination and use it to flavour Greek salads and grilled chicken.

Smoked paprika salt. Use this to spice up your Bloody Mary.

Cinnamon salt. You could even add the seeds from a vanilla pod to this. Delicious on popcorn, sprinkled over a decadent rice pudding or creamy porridge.

Sage salt. Great on crispy potatoes, baked fish or in tortellini filling.

Rosemary salt. Flavoured salt for chips doesn’t get better than this.

What’s the difference between table salt, sea salt and that fancy one from the Himalayas? Read more on that here.

For more DIY tips on adding flavour to your food, check out Malou Herkes’ step-by-step guides to preserving lemons and herb-infused olive oils as well as guides to DIY dairy-free milks, homemade almond milk, apple cider vinegar, an easy mayonnaise, gut-friendly kombucha, a go-to paneer cheese, creamy yoghurt and hummus as part of her DIY Pantry series.

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