I've been advised by a friend of mine that I have to add salt to my curries if I want the spices to come out and not leave me with a bland curry.

Now after being a doubter, as I never add salt to my food (for flavour reasons), I tried once or twice with various curries and after getting the amount right, it worked! I can kind of imagine the salt ions binding with some chemicals in the spice to aid it's solubility, but I'm not sure.

Why is adding salt so important for curries? I've read this but it doesn't seem to say anything about spices.

To clarify:

  • When I have added salt to my food as I cook that didn't have spices in (but did say have garlic, herbs, meat juices etc.), I haven't tasted a difference.
  • When I have made spiced meals (Curries, Tagines etc) with pre prepared spices and I've added salt I have noticed a marked difference.
  • 7
    It's not specific to curries.
    – Cascabel
    Sep 8, 2012 at 14:14
  • @Jefromi ...ok then 'My Spiced Dishes'. Sep 8, 2012 at 14:15
  • 3
    Theoretically this is a duplicate of cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/12204/… (salt enhances basically all flavor) but the answers there don't explain a lot.
    – Cascabel
    Sep 8, 2012 at 14:59
  • That deals with a comparison of salt and a herb. This is about the combination of salt and spices. Not a duplicate, I don't think. Sep 8, 2012 at 15:02
  • 2
    To be clear I'm not voting to close, but they are essentially asking for the same thing. You're asking "why do I put salt in dishes", which assuming you know it enhances flavors, is the same as asking why it does that. The other question did use an herb as a reference, but note that it says "salt changes the flavor of tomato, potato, and pasta in completely different ways" - so essentially it is asking why it enhances all flavors. (Relatedly, why don't you add it to anything, even in small quantities?)
    – Cascabel
    Sep 8, 2012 at 15:04

2 Answers 2


Your experience with the curry is normal. Salt helps bring out and enhance existing flavors. This is true for everyone, as far as I know. Different people have different sensitivities, and want different amounts, but the effect is the same. Given that you thought the curry tasted better with it, I wouldn't be surprised if you should also be adding salt to other things - maybe just not as much as recipes typically call for.


Curries tend to use some spices with a relatively bitter taste component, and salty and bitter are generally recognized as two taste dimensions that balance out. The salt helps to compensate the bitterness so the aromatic aspects of these spices are showcased. Pre-ground spices and spice mixes tend to be more stale than spices freshly ground or used whole, so the bitterness is stronger relative to the aromatic potency, requiring more balancing.

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