I add salt to pasta water in order to reduce the stickiness caused by starch. However, I've never seen potatoes stick together. Why add salt?

  • 5
    Adding salt has nothing to do with stickiness. Aug 14, 2014 at 18:11

8 Answers 8


Salting the water in which you cook starches (pasta, rice, potato) is an effective way of enhancing the flavour of the finished product - boiling starches absorb salt well (which is why adding chunks of potato to an overall salty stew will lessen the apparent saltiness of the dish.

But salt does other things. When I am making roasted potatoes, I parboil them for 5 minutes before drying and roasting them in oil. if you divide them into two batches and boil one half in unsalted water and the other half in well salted water (1tbsp/2 quarts water), the salted potatoes will brown and crisp much better than the unsalted ones. I'm not sure why this is, but I would encourage you to try it because it's amazing to see.

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    FYI, adding potatoes to something that is overly salty is an old wives' tale. I've tested it repeatedly at home and work, and it simply has no validity whatsoever. Unless, of course, you add so much potato that your end result is more like potatoes with a little stew as garnish.
    – daniel
    Apr 29, 2011 at 22:48
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    Hi Sean. This is a demonstrable result. Many people, including Heston Blumenthal have shown this, not least in his In Search of Perfection show on BBC where he did a side-by-side test on the same batch of potatoes. He did say that different batches of potatoes varying in their 'crispability', so it could be that you're seeing this variability between batches.
    – Paul L
    Nov 9, 2011 at 10:39

First, as a physicist I would argue that:

-salt RISES the boiling point of water. Every student knows that.

-by osmosis, being the water salty results in a lower content of water in the potato. That is, the potato absorbs LESS water while cooking (there are some videos in YouTube showing this fact.) With less content of water, potatoes become crispier after roasting.

  • 1
    This does not seem to add anything to the inforation contained in the other answers. Please don't repeat answers (or user answers for comments).
    – user34961
    Jul 30, 2017 at 10:18
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    The 'osmosis' part is certainly not part of any other answer and serves to justify the accepted answer's remark on improving roasting crispness. Jul 31, 2017 at 21:55
  • this is the only non-opinion answer, good work!
    – dandavis
    Nov 19, 2019 at 21:28

To add flavor. Add some butter and cream afterwards when mashing- delicious

  • Ah -- I used to figure that the flavour was a mere side-effect.
    – user4697
    Feb 16, 2011 at 19:34
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    Salt is nature's MSG!
    – Doug
    Feb 16, 2011 at 19:59
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    @Doug mmmmmm not really, MSG is like salt only in that its flavor only falls into one of the "tastes". MSG for the "Umami" (or savory) taste Salt the "Salty" taste.
    – vwiggins
    Feb 17, 2011 at 10:40
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    MSG is nature's MSG.
    – Bob
    Feb 18, 2011 at 16:57

If you reduce the amount of water you use and increase the amount of salt, the result will be salt crusted potatoes, with added flavor and sweetness.


Pasta absorbs boiling water as it cooks, so the salted water actually seasons it. But whole unskinned potatoes absorb little if any water when they cook/boil, so they do not get seasoned. Although I have no data, I suspect that neither the small increase in boiling temperature nor the tiny bit of osmosis resulting from salting the water would be of much consequence. However, cut and/or peeled potatoes might indeed be seasoned somewhat, depending on how much cooking water they absorb.


i thought potatoes were more dry after i boiled with salted water vs unsalted - was making mashed potatoes i added salted while mashing potatoes while I boiled them unsalted and they were juicer salt draws the water out can boil potatoes faster is cut to smaller pieces anyways no salt necessary


Actually folks, heavily salting the water allows it to boil to a hotter temperature. This in turn cooks the potato's starch more thoroughly, resulting in a more creamy texture. Google 'Syracuse salt potatoes' for more information.

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    I suspect the temp raise is very small, and only academic. Care to share an exact figure?
    – TFD
    Jul 3, 2013 at 4:45
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    It is minuscule at concentrations used for pasta, per wikipedia, less than 1/3 degree F. The ratio in the cited syracuse salt potatoes is 2 cups of table salt to 5 1/2 quarts of water, which is extraordinary. A saturated brine, carrying the maximum salt load possible, has a boiling point of only 108.7 C (228 F).
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Jul 3, 2013 at 5:37
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    And besides, starch cooking is somewhat of a binary process, with a sharp change at a certain temperature. This temperature is somewhere between 90 and 100 degrees celsius for different starches. Cooking the starch at a higher temperature will not let it "cook more thoroughly".
    – rumtscho
    Jul 3, 2013 at 11:55

Salt also lowers the boiling temp of the water, so you can use less energy to cook.

  • This is a myth. Salt does lower the boiling temp, but not by enough to matter. Using some back of the envelope calculations, 2 tablespoons of salt in one quart of water will lower the boiling point by about 1 degree F.
    – KeithB
    Feb 17, 2011 at 17:29
  • Isn't boiling the water all about the temp? Feb 17, 2011 at 17:56
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    On the contrary, salt slightly raises the boiling point of water. See wikipedia on Boiling-point elevation: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling-point_elevation
    – timmyp
    Feb 17, 2011 at 19:35
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    Well, you learn something new every day. Thanks for the info, guys!
    – tenpn
    Feb 17, 2011 at 21:05
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    @chris: 58g of salt consists of about 22g of sodium, which would put the water at about 2.3% salinity, which is actually below the salinity of sea water (~3.5%), which is often quoted as the proper salinity in which to cook many starches.
    – ESultanik
    Apr 29, 2011 at 19:09

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