I find it hard to figure out how much salt to add to dishes. I'm always afraid I'll make it too salty. Recipes always call for salt to taste, but what does that mean? Is there a good rule of thumb?

  • I once saw a recommendation that if you’re not sure if it’s sufficiently salted to pull a spoonful out and add just a flake or two of salt… if that then tastes salty, don’t add more salt to the dish.
    – Joe
    Mar 7 at 16:58

7 Answers 7


I've noticed that salty food has somewhat of an addictive quality; people who eat a lot of it (i.e. fast food or other processed food) tend to bury their meals under a mountain of salt, whereas people such as myself who do a lot of home cooking hardly use (or want) any.

"Season to taste" means pretty much what it sounds like; add however much salt (and other spices) that you, personally, like the taste of. If you have a habit of eating a lot of salty foods, then you might want to add a little less than that, for the benefit of people like me who gag at heavily-salted foods.

If you use a lot of other spices, you won't need much salt - a few shakes of the shaker is enough. If the food is basically bland aside from the salt (and maybe pepper), then you'll need to use more. The best thing to do is add a little, then taste, and repeat as many times as it takes to get the flavour you want. If the food you're seasoning is still raw (and can't be eaten raw), then just put in a small amount the first time you make it and keep track of how much table salt you needed to add.

Just remember, you can always add salt later, but a dish that's too salty is permanently ruined.

  • 4
    People who exercise a lot crave salt as well. My wife runs 40+ miles / week and she loves salt. As her mileage increases, so does the salt in dinner.
    – yossarian
    Aug 16, 2010 at 16:34
  • @yossarian - that makes sense to me, i recently heard someone talk about salt tablets and looked them up, and learned quite a bit about how sodium is used by athletes. cool article: faqs.org/sports-science/Pl-Sa/Salt-Tablets.html Aug 21, 2010 at 6:04
  • 1
    I need to somewhat disagree with this good answer. In particular with "If you use a lot of other spices", it's not about other spices it is about a preferred balance fat, sour, umami, and where salt and sugar often fall on the same axis. E.g. a water melon with a sprinkle of salt tastes sweeter. I use salt to make an avocado taste sweeter, in the middle east they use sugar. Sep 7, 2021 at 21:00
  • Also did not realize this was an 11 y old Q =) Sep 7, 2021 at 21:01

Salting food has a predictable trajectory. Think of it like a roller-coaster. /\ At first it's not great, then it's great, then it's not great again.

Food with no salt will taste one-dimensional and flat. The flavors will not "pop". Add a little salt and the taste of a dish will start to both integrate and become more complex.

With the perfect amount (differs by palette), the dish will just taste great, with all flavors easily identifiable and balanced (this partly depends on getting other elements of the dish right).

As you oversalt somewhat, the dish will begin to have a sharp but one-dimensional quality, an edge to it. Some people like this. It is what many people become addicted to.

As you go beyond this point, the dish begins to taste like, salt. It has a briny quality that will make your mouth uncomfortable.

As many have mentioned, it's a lot easier to make something more salty than less, so add salt gradually and regularly. Few beginning cooks know that adding small amounts of salt multiple times enhances the cooking process, allows flavors to meld, and lessens the likelihood of oversalting all at once.

  • 1
    Good way to look at it. What surprises me is how much the amount of salt varies. For example, Joy of Cooking recommends 1 teaspoon of salt per cup of water used when making rice, whereas I use half a teaspoon.
    – papin
    Jul 27, 2010 at 19:37
  • 1
    A lot of it has to do with personal preference. There's just a huge variety of tolerance and taste involved, similar to heat or sweetness or, I guess almost anything. I find that the dish "changes" as salt is added, sometimes so much that it seems like an altogether different recipe solely based on that ingredient. Same thing for cooking time on some ingredients. Still, good chefs manage to pretty much nail both of those things every time, and bad chefs... well, they're shooting in the dark.
    – Ocaasi
    Jul 27, 2010 at 21:00

It's a little more complicated to ask how much.

Different people have different palates, depending on what they're used to.

But more importantly, salt doesn't just make stuff taste good. We shouldn't just sprinkle it on the end of a dish. Otherwise, the dish just tastes... salty.

Salt affects the water balance in the cells, it can plump up moisture (brining a turkey - brings in other flavour), and it can remove moisture (salting sautéed mushrooms extracts more water, creating more browned/flavorful mushrooms).

We really should season as we go. Salt a little at various stages of your cooking. Err on the side of caution. And season at the end - to taste. The idea is that you shouldn't have to add too much salt to get it right.

You'll end up with a much tastier, more complex flavor profile. And you'll likely use less salt as well.

Unfortunately, there isn't much replacement for experience in this area. With experience, you know exactly how much salt to use, which type of salt, at which time. Practice and screw it up a lot. In the interim, just keep trying.

General rules, though:

  • Foods served cold need more salt. A properly seasoned hot dish will be under-seasoned when cold.
  • Starches absorb salt - Potato salad needs to be salty; the next day it will be less salty. Or potatoes in a stew will suck out the salt; you'll need to reseason.

For these reasons, chefs always season their mise en place, then when finishing the dish, always check the seasoning.


Salt to taste means exactly that. You add a bit, taste it and then repeat the process until you like the result. Of course that once you've done the process a lot on different dishes, you will have a feeling for how much to use and you'll have to repeat the process less or even skip it completely, but what's the fun of cooking without tasting.

For things you cannot taste and repeat (like when cooking meat on a grill) my taste is to add a pinch on each side of the meat, evenly distributed. No way to tell what's yours so...

Rule of thumb: It's best to err on the side of missing salt than the other way around, so be shy. At worst you'll have to use salt on the table to fix it, but it'll be edible.


I would say it depends. Some recipes need salt to work. If you use yeast, you need salt to control the gross. If the usage of salt is for taste, I first look if I can use a healthier substitute. This depends on the particular dish, however, since in my family we all like hot spicy food, we usually do not need any salt. Instead we enjoy the healthy benefits of turmeric, ginger and other spices that even make the food tastier than with salt.


Salt to taste. As others have written. Add a pinch of salt. Stir. Wait. Taste. Repeat.

I use very little salt for myself, so my rule of thumb is that when I start tasting it's salty, I'm done. My wife need far more salt than that.


Generally 1%. If are cooking 100L of soup you would need 1kg of salt.

So if you are cooking 1L of broth 2 teaspoons should be good, because one teaspoon is 5ml.

Generally, people can escape this without measuring and just by intuition "Hmm this about feels right" because salt has a wide range. 0.75% - 1.5% is what you can escape. So a person who would add 1.5 teaspoons mistakenly adding 2 teaspoons is still safe. A lot also depends on the content of the dish, like a more acidic solution and a sweeter solution can take more salt. Therefore sometimes when your dish is overly salty, you can correct it by adding either vinegar, lime, yoghurt, tamarind or sugar, jaggery, dates, syrup, etc.

Salt has a very peculiar graph i.e. it amplifies your dish flavors, add a pinch more to a teaspoon and maybe it just amplifies twice as what was previously, but an extra grain and the whole dish is ruined. There's a peak after which it descends to zero just at the next level. The best cooks can consistently replicate that peak. How? By measuring, tasting, and noting.

So if your particular broth can have complex flavors, acids, and sweets, you can start with 0.75%, order your measuring spoons, and increase bit by bit; you can do this for a larger dish by taking out a smaller batch and trying to find that peak. Now you know how much per you can go for. Next time always add a level below peak. Like 1.25% is the peak, without fearing that it will ruin the dish next time you can safely add 6 teaspoons to a 3L broth i.e. 1%.

Yes, your saltiness will depend on culture, dish, and preferences. But restaurants always give your preference for Spice, not salt :P

P.S. - In a large section of Indian society housewives don't taste the food, as per Hinduism food is first offered to God and hence can't be tasted. I also generally follow the same.

In temples also same thing is followed. In Jagnath Temple what to say of tasting cooks don't even smell the food before offering it to the deity. Various community kitchens make very large quantities of meals they already have the exact amount to be put in.

This 1 KG to 100L I learned from temple :P

  • Here's one person who tried quantifying it, and the community downvoted it? Why? This is a good answer!
    – Nav
    Jan 20, 2022 at 13:40
  • 1% by weight is a value given regularly on the NHK (Japanese) program ‘Dining with the Chef’ for salting meat. I don’t recall if they’ve ever given an amount specifically for vegetables or salt, but it sounds like it would be a good starting point. America’s Test Kitchen recommended 1.5% by weight for making pork sausage, but they needed it to sit and break down the meat some for the right texture
    – Joe
    Mar 7 at 16:55

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