What Is Kosher Salt and How Is It Different from Table Salt?

a photo of a bowl of kosher salt
a photo of a bowl of kosher salt

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If you have found a recipe for dinner but after a scan of the ingredients you see that it lists kosher salt, and you don't have any, don't panic. For everything you need to know about what makes kosher salt so special, according to a professional chef, read on. Plus, learn how to substitute table salt for kosher salt.

Related: 6 Sneaky Signs You Might Be Eating Too Much Salt

What is kosher salt?

Kosher salt is a coarser-grained, additive free salt. Depending on the brand and the evaporation process, kosher salt crystals may be flaky or shaped almost like diamonds, if your eyesight is good enough to see their dimensions. Kosher salt does not contain iodine (sodium iodide) or anti-caking agents like smaller-grained table salt.

Is kosher salt kosher?

Despite the name, not all kosher salt is actually kosher by Jewish dietary guidelines. Food items that are kosher will be labeled as such, but you can also run a quick search on the Orthodox Union Kosher website to confirm.

The name kosher salt comes from the Jewish tradition of koshering, or kashrut. Since eating meat containing blood is not allowed in kosher guidelines, the process of koshering was developed. The coarse salt coats more evenly than table salt, making it more effective when using salt to draw blood out from the meat.

Why do so many chefs swear by it?

So, why is kosher salt so commonly found in recipes, and why do so many chefs swear by it? Shawn Matijevich, lead chef of Online Culinary Arts and Food Operations at the Institute of Culinary Education, offers a few reasons why:

"Because it has a clean flavor and it is easy to 'pinch.' The iodide in table salt gives it a flavor that I can definitely taste even in very small amounts. Kosher salt doesn't usually have iodide, and the good stuff doesn't have any other chemicals either. It's mainly the tactile feel of the salt vs. table salt though. If you have ever seen a chef sprinkling salt on something, you can get the idea."

Its larger grain also offers more control over how the released salt is distributed and you get a feel for the amount of of salt you're holding when you use kosher salt repeatedly.

Related: What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Too Much Salt?

How is kosher salt different from table salt?

Table salt is typically very fine in texture, and dissolves quickly. It is usually fortified with sodium iodide, which kosher salt is not. The anti-caking additives in table salt can leave an unpleasant taste in your mouth, especially if used in a sweet recipe or baked good. However, some people may not be able to perceive this lingering taste.

Can I swap table salt for kosher salt in recipes?

If you don't have any kosher salt at home but your recipe calls for it, you can save yourself a grocery store run or delivery order by using table salt instead—with a minor modification.

Matijevich recommends adding "less than what the recipe calls for at first and then work your way up; because of the different crystal shape and the iodide, table salt is a bit 'saltier.' There is only a minor difference if people even perceive it at all. Some would say I shouldn't be able to taste the difference, but I can."

Generally, when using table salt as a substitute for kosher salt, use about half as much. For savory dishes, taste as you're cooking, and if you need to add more salt, you can. If baking, you can taste the batter or a little bit of the dough to determine if more salt is needed. It's easy to add more salt, but impossible to subtract it from a recipe after it's been added.

Can I use kosher salt for baking?

Since kosher salt is more coarse, some bakers call for fine sea salt or table salt in recipes since it is smaller in size and can dissolve more evenly into baked goods. Matijevich pointed out a second issue that may arise while baking with kosher salt: "Sometimes a recipe calls for you to sift the dry ingredients together, and often the salt will get trapped in the sifter." However, there's a quick solution, "sift together everything but the salt and then mix it in after."

Bottom line

Kosher salt is a worthy addition to your kitchen, and can be used in a number of recipes, especially if the recipe calls for coarse salt. Table salt can be used in place of kosher salt, though that substitution may not be ideal. Just remember that table salt is saltier than kosher salt.

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