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What is the difference between pink salt and more typical coarse salt (e.g. sea salt)?

I know it is pink due to mineral deposits, but culinarily is it any different? e.g. does it taste different, is it used differently, etc.

Since there may be more than one kind of pink salt, I'm talking specifically about "Himalayan Pink Salt".

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seriouseats.com/2011/09/… –  rumtscho Oct 10 '11 at 20:45
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FWIW, the pink color is actually due to bacteria. –  FuzzyChef Oct 11 '11 at 5:17
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Definitely more than one kind of pink salt—the type I've heard of before contains sodium nitrate, and is used for curing meats. But that's not this type. –  derobert Oct 12 '11 at 19:02
    
@FuzzyChef Really? Answer me this. Just how would a lowly pink bacterium hook up with a salt crystal? –  Jolenealaska Jun 28 at 2:05

10 Answers 10

up vote 9 down vote accepted

In my experience, the difference between various salts has little to do with flavor, once you've moved beyond iodized table salt and bulk kosher salt, and assuming we aren't talking about salts that are flavored by additions like herbs or smoke during processing.

So limiting the discussion to natural, high quality finishing salts, the differences are mainly texture and color. Some salts, like Maldon, are flaky, while others are large pyramids or cubes, and others tend to a small grain size and hold on to a bit of moisture. Each of these textures can bring something special to a finished dish. For example, flaky Maldon adds a delightful crunch, while another salt might adhere better to a French fry.

Color, like the pink salt you mention, is used pretty much for the visual interest. And there is nothing wrong with that. Simply save it for a dish where it will be noticeable. For example, those pink grains would look amazing on a chocolate truffle, or a savory meringue.

If anyone thinks they can actually taste the difference among unflavored finishing salts, I'd challenge them to do a triangle test with those salts dissolved in water (in equal amounts by weight) so that texture and color isn't confusing the issue.

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I actually have to slightly disagree with you (though for the most part you are right). Most sea salts taste similar, but there are very slight differences. For instance, Himalayan pink salt tends to have an ever-so-slightly floral (similar to lavender) taste if you stick a small piece in your mouth. Hawaiian black sea salt has an earthier taste (probably due to the charcoal content). The differences are subtle at best, but definitely there if you do a horizontal tasting across several of them. –  Matthew Sep 6 '13 at 17:41
    
At 18g/kg, you might notice the magnesium in Himalayan salt. There's 15+grams of bicarbonate as well, which might also be tasteable: davidicke.com/forum/showthread.php?t=115738 Naturally, analytic results differ: saltnews.com/chemical-analysis-natural-himalayan-pink-salt –  Wayfaring Stranger Jan 7 at 20:38

I have just started using the Himalayan Pink Salt in the last five to six month sand find the taste is much better than any type of table salt I've used before. Most table salt I've used I find has a bitter aftertaste. The Himalayan Pink Salt has no such aftertaste whether in the food or tasting the salt directly on my tongue.

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We are a cooking site, and nutrition is completely off-topic. I am glad to hear that your condition improved, but I have to remove that part of your answer. –  rumtscho Jan 14 at 11:28

I started using Himalayan pink salt for health reasons, but now I prefer it on flavor alone. In a broth it adds a subtle depth and richness just plain salt doesn't seem to offer. I have also used it in a glass with water as a mouth wash. I have noted that there is a pink sediment in the bottom of the glass that seems to be rock dust.

Different types of rock dust are added to soil as a practice of organic gardening and help plants fight disease and just be stronger and healthier plants.

It is hard to separate food from health awareness.

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I've been using Himalayan Pink Rock Salt for a while now and I can definitely taste a HUGE difference, even between it (and its brothers in the naturally-refined-coloured-salt-gang, Red and black Hawaiian salts) and sea salt.

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This appears to both make several health claims and actually be further questions rather than an answer... –  sourd'oh Jan 8 at 17:12
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I'm going to edit this down to the part that actually answers the question. If you want to ask a question, please post it as a question so that people can see it and answer it. You can find what I've edited out in the revision history of your post. –  Jefromi Jan 8 at 17:16
    
-1, as discussed on other answers, the red and black salts you're talking about are refined in the same way other salts are (i.e. they're not "naturally refined" in any meaningful way). They're just sea salt like everything else, with color added in. –  Jefromi Jan 8 at 17:18

Himalayan Pink Salt, I personally can taste an IMMENSE difference over table salt. I also have bought Hawaiian Red gold sea salt, which is flavored/colored with clay. This is one of the tastiest salts I have ever tried. I have also tried black salt ("black lava salt"), which is actually sea salt colored with activated charcoal. The world is full of hundreds of culinary options for salt. Experiment with them all and enjoy!

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I've combined your two answers and substantially edited them, correcting the bits about where the salt comes from (red gold and black lava salt are just colored by additives; the salt is still sea salt), and removing the health claims - we're a food and cooking site. –  Jefromi Sep 12 '13 at 0:49

Pink salt is not table salt with food coloring- pink salt is Himalayan salt which is a natural occurring substance. Beside sodium chloride, it contains minerals that are found in the human body.

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Hello, and welcome to Seasoned advice! We do not discuss any purported or real health effects of food here, so I will remove the parts referring to that from your answer and leave the informative part. –  rumtscho Sep 11 '13 at 10:01

Himalayan pink salt isn't your average table salt. Hand-harvested and minimally processed, it contains 84 minerals and trace elements that are highly beneficial for the body including magnesium, calcium, copper, potassium and iron, according to the website The Greater Green. "Regular consumption of Himalayan pink salt provides essential minerals, trace elements, balances electrolytes, supports proper nutrient absorption, eliminates toxins, balances the body's pH, normalizes blood pressure, and increases circulation and conductivity.

Regular table salt is "actually full of many forms of chemicals and even sugar", according to natural health website Global Healing Center. This type of salt is difficult to digest and can lead to inflammation of the tissues, high blood pressure and bloating. Himalayan pink salt is easier for the body to process, requiring far less cellular water in order to neutralize the sodium chloride content in chemically-treated salt.

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The OP stated: "I know it is pink due to mineral deposits, but culinarily is it any different? e.g. does it taste different, is it used differently". So he's basically asking how does it taste and is used. –  J.A.I.L. Nov 9 '12 at 10:46

From a culinary perspective "Himalayan Pink Salt" and Coarse Salt are about the same. Himalayan salt is mined from the himalyayan mountains, coarse salt is typically derived from evaporation, I believe. Coarser grains are better from marinating while the finer grains typically found in Himalayan salt make it better for finishing. There are some small trace mineral differences, but they are not very distinct taste wise.

Important note that "Pink Salt" can also refer to curing salt, which is something entirely different. It is sodium nitrate where table salt is sodium chloride.

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In the Good Eats episode "The Ballad of Salty and Sweet" Alton Brown spends a few minutes, toward the end of the show, covering "Finishing Salts" (including "Pink Salt"). Other than trace minerals which give it coloring there is no 'real' difference.

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In that episode he mentions that some of the finishing salts have different flavors. I'd think tasting different would qualify as a "real" difference. –  Fambida Oct 11 '11 at 2:42
    
@Fambida, I will make a point of going back and checking that. –  Cos Callis Oct 11 '11 at 2:50
    
Did you ever go back and see what he said about flavors? –  Jefromi Sep 12 '13 at 0:45
    
It appears that "Good Eats" (as part of Scripps) has been asserting their copyright and most (if not all) of their videos have been pulled from YouTube and other forums except for FoodNetwork.com, where they have been chopped into segments, and the relevant segment has not been published. I do record the Good Eats episodes as they air, but don't have this in my personal collection yet. –  Cos Callis Sep 12 '13 at 2:36
    
If I remember correctly, you're both right. If used as a finishing salt, where the salt will hit your tongue directly, there are some slight but noticeable differences. If used during cooking or another way that the salt will dissolve, the differences disappear. –  sourd'oh Jan 15 at 16:29

As it's typically much more expensive and (depending on your taste) more flavorful, pink salt is used as a garnish salt, not a "lets salt the french fries or season this big pot of mashed" kind of salt.

I personally think it's more flavorful, but I like spring water over distilled water for the same reason. A little bag of Himalayan salt should be a cheap enough ($4 or $5) experiment to see if you like it.

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