5 Best Substitutes for Pickling Salt (And How To Use Them)

Although consisting mainly of the same elements (sodium and chloride), salt varieties aren’t freely interchangeable. They have different physical characteristics and additives, as you’ll learn in this article, which is why some types are better suited than others when it comes to finding a substitute for pickling salt.

Kosher salt is the best substitute for pickling salt. It contains no additives or minerals that interfere with the fermentation process or cause a change in the end product’s appearance or taste. However, the correct substitution ratio must be followed to avoid bacterial growth.

Here is a kosher salt brand that is often used and recommended by chefs. It will work very well if you don’t have pickling salt handy.

Now, let’s cover the 5 best replacements for pickling salt in detail.

Pickling salt on a table

1. Kosher Salt

Kosher salt is unique for its flaky appearance, flat structure, and lightness. These characteristics make it perfect for providing crunch, rimming cocktail glasses, and drawing out moisture from meat. However, is it an excellent substitute for pickling salt? 

Among other salt varieties, kosher salt is the best substitute for pickling salt. To understand why kosher salt is a great replacement, you must first know what makes pickling salt special for canning and fermentation. 

Why Pickling Salt Works Best for Canning and Fermentation

Pickling salt is best for canning and fermentation because: 

  • Inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. Adding salt to fermentation products (such as pickles or sauerkraut) prevents harmful bacteria from proliferating and causing botulism. Botulism, caused by a bacterial toxin, affects the nerves, leading to paralysis and even death. 
  • No additives. Pickling salt is perfect for fermentation because of the lack of anti-caking agents, minerals, and other additives in other salt types. These additives may interfere with the preservation process. At the very least, they may cause an undesirable appearance, texture, or flavor. 
  • Fine granules. Unlike rock, sea, and other coarse salts, pickling salt granules are fine. This allows it to dissolve more efficiently, leaving the fermenting liquid clear. Crystal clear products are preferred as you can see the pickles or other items better and monitor their quality. 

These three qualities make pickling salt a must in the preservation processes. However, if it’s unavailable, you need a salt that would meet as many of those qualities as it can. 

What Makes Kosher Salt a Good Substitute for Pickling Salt?

Kosher salt often meets two out of those three qualities:

  • Inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. If added correctly, kosher salt effectively curbs the bad bacteria growth rate. 
  • No additives. MOST kosher salt brands do not contain additives or anti-caking agents. However, check the label carefully because some companies have incorporated additives through the years. 

Unlike pickling salt, though, kosher salt is not fine-grained. It’s flaky; thus, the two are not interchangeable in terms of volume. This has an effect on the amount needed and the dissolving process. 

How Much Kosher Salt Do I Substitute for Pickling Salt?

Marisa McClellan tried measuring a tablespoon of each salt type, effectively demonstrating how each one varies in weight. In that blog, it can be seen that a tablespoon of pickling salt weighs ¾ of an ounce only (21 grams), while the same volume of kosher salt is ⅝ of an ounce (17.7 grams). 

When substituting kosher salt for pickling salt, you must use 1 and ½ cups of kosher salt for every 1 cup of pickling salt. The volume discrepancy accounts for the differences in structure. However, there’s no difference if you go by weight (in grams). 

Kosher-salt-for-pickling-salt-falling-on-a-spoon

For instance, if you need 200 grams (0.44 pounds) of pickling salt, you’ll also need 200 grams (0.44 pounds) of kosher salt. Appearance-wise, one may appear to take up more room than the other, but that’s only because their structures affect how the granules pack together. 

Pros

  • Clear liquid. The liquid will remain clear if the kosher salt has no additives. It will taste and look the same as when pickling salt is used. 
  • Inhibits bacteria. Kosher salt is often as pure as pickling, so there’s little to worry about additives interfering with the preservation process. However, you’d still risk bacterial growth if the wrong amount of kosher salt is added. 

Cons

  • Different granules. The discrepancies in grain structure impact the measurements. If you use too little kosher salt, it may not be enough to prevent bacterial growth and botulism. 
  • Slow to dissolve. Because kosher salts are larger in surface area, they are harder to dissolve than fine pickling salt. Thus, the dissolution process takes time. 

Recommended Kosher Salt

As you’ve noticed, I emphasize that kosher salt is only often a good substitute. I don’t use the term ‘always’ because some kosher salt brands contain additives, which can affect the preservation process and final product. 

However, here is a kosher salt brand that is highly used and recommended by chefs. Like pickling salt, it has no additives.

However, it does contain less sodium than its counterpart, which may slightly affect the flavor.

Can You Substitute Pickling Salt for Kosher Salt?

Suppose the situation was reversed. That is, you have pickling salt but need kosher salt. Can you use pickling salt as a substitute? 

If the purpose is to draw moisture out or dry brine meat, you cannot. The structure of pickling salt cannot induce water to evaporate. 

2. Dairy Salt

A salt made especially for preparing dairy products (e.g., butter, cheese) is called dairy salt. Although not a popular salt type, it’s been used in the industry since the 1890s.

What Makes Dairy Salt a Good Substitute for Pickling Salt?

These are the qualities that make dairy salt a good substitute for pickling salt: 

  • Inhibits bad bacteria. Even in the dairy industry, this salt is used primarily for food preservation. 
  • Fine granules. Unlike kosher salt, dairy salt has a very similar structure to pickling salt. They both dissolve faster and better, leaving a clear fermentation liquid. 
  • High purity. Additives are highly discouraged in dairy salts because they may impact the quality and flavor of the products. Thus, it’s nearly as pure as kosher and pickling salt. 
  • Nearly the same measurement. When substituting dairy salt for pickling, use 7 and ¾ ounces (220 grams) or 1 and ½ cups of dairy salt for every 1 cup of pickling salt. Thus, the substitution ratio is 1.5:1. 

Pros

  • Clear liquid. Fine-grained dairy salts with no additives dissolve efficiently, leaving a clear fermentation liquid. 
  • Inhibits bad bacteria. Dairy salt is primarily used for food or dairy product preservation. 

Cons

  • The quality isn’t always consistent across brands. Not all dairy salt brands are the same. Some tolerate low purity and the addition of additives to lower the price. 

3. Table Salt

The salt we are all familiar with and likely think of as regular salt is table salt. Households are highly likely to have this kind of salt over any other variety. However, does convenience make it an excellent substitute for pickling salt?  

Can You Use Regular Salt in Place of Pickling Salt?

Table salt was made to be convenient. For instance, anti-caking agents are incorporated to prevent clumping. Many table salts are also fortified with iodine. This helps meet iodine requirements, which are necessary for proper thyroid function. 

You can use regular or table salt instead of pickling salt, but it is not recommended. Table salt contains anti-caking agents, minerals like iodine, and other additives. These may interfere with the preservation process, producing a product that looks different and undesirable for some.

Table salt next to pickling salt on a table

The anti-caking agents are insoluble in water. Thus, when used for pickling, these additives do not dissolve and leave a cloudy liquid. While they do not make it unsafe to eat or use, people prefer crystal clear fermentation liquid. 

Moreover, the presence of iodine affects the color of the product. For instance, cauliflower becomes pink. Color changes are unappealing for many fermenters and consumers. 

If table salt is your only option, using a non-iodized option is preferable. Moreover, the substitution is recommended only for fresh and quick-process pickles. 

Pros

  • Convenient. Table salt is often present in your pantry already. If not, nearly all stores have them. 
  • Fine granules. Table salt is fine-grained, like pickling salt. Thus, it dissolves fast. However, it won’t be clear because of anti-caking agents.
  • You can follow a 1:1 ratio. Because fine table salt has the same structure as pickling salt, there is no deviation in volume. Thus, you can follow a 1:1 ratio (1 cup table salt for every 1 cup pickling salt. However, it’s better to measure by weight and use fine, non-iodized table salt only.   

Cons

  • Presence of additives. Anti-caking agents, iodine, and other additives may interfere with the preservation process. Thus, end products may appear undesirable even if safe for consumption.

4. Sea Salt

Sea salt is like table salt. It’s a safe substitute for pickling salt but not highly recommended. Although it does not contain artificial additives because it’s a natural product, minerals that could affect the end product may be present. 

What Makes Sea Salt a Good Substitute for Pickling Salt?

  • Inhibits bad bacteria. Like other salts, sea salt prohibits bad bacteria from growing in pickled food. However, it’s only effective if the right amount of sea salt is added. Since many sea salts are coarse, that affects the substitution ratios. 
  • Natural product. Sea salt is unlikely to contain additives such as anti-caking agents or iodine, which are usually present in table salt and some kosher and dairy salt brands. However, that does not make sea salt entirely pure. 
  • Convenient. Sea salt is easy to find and available in many stores. 

How Much Sea Salt Do I Substitute for Pickling Salt?

Sea salt can either be coarse or fine. The amount you’ll need to substitute pickle salt depends on the type you have on hand. 

Even websites and blogs aren’t consistent when it comes to the substitution ratios they recommend. 

SourcePickling Salt Fine Sea Salt
Webstaurant Store Blog1 teaspoon1 teaspoon
Webstaurant Store Blog½ cup½ cup + 2 teaspoons
Webstaurant Store Blog1 cup1 + 4 teaspoons
Blog Chef1 teaspoon1 teaspoon
Blog Chef½ cup½ cup + 1 teaspoon
Blog Chef1 cup2 cups + 1 tablespoon

These discrepancies may be because sea salt itself varies in consistency and build. Some contain more minerals or less sodium than others, impacting flavor. Structures are also inconsistent, with some having larger granules than usual. 

Thus, it’s always best to go by weight. Determine how much pickling salt is needed in grams or pounds and weigh an equivalent amount of sea salt. 

Another option is to grind or process sea salt into very fine grains so that the granule sizes will be the same as pickling salt. This will make substitution easier. You can use a spice grinder to process the salt. 

Pros

  • Inhibits bad bacteria. Provided the correct amount is added, sea salt will inhibit bacterial growth. However, determining the proper amount can be tricky. 
  • No artificial additives. Sea salt is natural. However, its natural composition isn’t exactly pure because there may be minerals that affect the fermentation process.
  • Fine granules. Fine sea salt is available to help avoid measurement inaccuracies and slow dissolution. However, you have a coarse variety on hand, use a grinder to process salt into fine particles.   

Cons

  • Inconsistent. Sea salt is unpredictable in terms of mineral composition and grain structure. Some may contain more minerals than others. Certain grains will be bigger or coarser. These inconsistencies affect the final product. 
  • Inaccurate volume measurements. It is difficult to establish a substitution ratio for sea salt and pickling salt based solely on volume. Thus, it is recommended to depend on the weight of salt needed. 
  • Presence of minerals. The presence of minerals may discolor or change the final product’s flavor profile. 
  • Dissolution process. The dissolution process is likely inefficient and slow if coarse salt is used. 

5. Reduced-Sodium Salt

Reduced or low-sodium salts decrease sodium content by replacing a part of the sodium content with potassium. There are health benefits but not many pickling benefits. 

The alteration may lead to a different flavor when used for quick pickle recipes. Moreover, it is not recommended to use reduced-sodium salt for fermenting pickles because of its potassium content. 

Pros

  • Fine granules. Fine reduced-sodium salt dissolves quickly, leaving a clear liquid. 
  • Health benefits. This salt is beneficial for those who cannot have too much sodium or need more potassium. However, this would not be appropriate for those who can’t have too much potassium.

Cons

  • Quick pickles only. Reduced sodium salts cannot be used for fermentation because of their potassium content. 
  • Different flavors. The presence of potassium and lack of sodium may lead to undesirable flavors.

Be sure to check out any of my other pickling articles that you find interesting!

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

Jelly Grandma

For more, don’t miss Pickling vs. Canning | What’s the Difference?

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page.

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