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I'm trying to reduce my salt intake. I've noticed in baking recipes where baking powder is used they add salt. Can I omit the salt or would the recipe fail?

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I completely agree with Cascabel's answer. I do want to add a bit.

Salt is an amazing flavor enhancer and most (sweet) baked goods use very little (1/4 to 1 tsp) considering that most of the recipes make 12-24 servings (more for cupcakes/cookies etc) but it does make a difference. Most baked desserts gain quite a bit from having the added salt... and they don't even have to be baked.

Even in things like buttercream frosting, adding a little salt greatly helps to balance the overwhelming sweetness of the frosting and makes it more palatable to adults. All of my favorite buttercream recipes have a small amount of salt.

Anyway, removing the salt won't cause the recipe to fail... I'm sure I've accidentally omitted it several times in the past when I'm in a rush to get stuff in the oven... it can just make the flavors not as strong or remove some of the flavor contrast, so things can taste a bit flatter.

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    That's true - if you want to reduce salt intake, baked goods are probably not your biggest worry. – Cascabel Jul 18 '15 at 17:47
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In baking, salt is generally only for flavor: things won't taste as good without it. So you can reduce it or leave it out if you want, just be aware that you may sacrifice some flavor.

This shouldn't have anything to do with the baking powder. Baked goods that don't use baking powder usually contain salt as well.

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I would just note that salt does sometimes play other roles in baking, particularly in yeast breads (but also in relatively lean doughs raised chemically, like soda bread). Salt concentration slows down yeast growth, and it can also alter gluten formation early on. It can also affect final texture and even browning to some extent (as a side effect).

It is possible to modify most bread recipes to bake without salt, but it may require altering the rising time (and perhaps how much you knead/fold/shape). And of course there are notable bread traditions that are simply made without salt, like much bread in Tuscany.

  • I think you have this back to front. Extra salt speeds up yeast action, hence it's use in commercial operations – TFD Nov 20 '15 at 23:33
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    @TFD: Salt is used in commercial bread operations (in order of importance) for flavor, as a preservative, to stabilize crumb formation and machinability, and to moderate yeast growth. Without salt, fermentation can be harder to manage. Quoth Jeffrey Hamelman: "Salt has a retarding effect on the activity of yeast... If there is an excess of salt in bread dough, the yeast is retarded to the point where there is a marked reduction in volume. If there is no salt, the yeast will ferment too quickly." The benefits of salt outweigh the increase in fermentation time for commercial bakers. – Athanasius Nov 21 '15 at 3:01
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    Ahh right, I'm confused! – TFD Nov 21 '15 at 8:53
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I stopped using salt 40 years ago, therefore I never use salt in baking. I have never noticed any issues. Once your palate adjusts, you will enjoy the fresh flavour of food rather than the salty overtones.

  • Salt is never added to taste salty, the taste of salt is terrible, so if you tasted salt then you added way too much. The point is that your tongue's taste recepters are controlled by sodium gradients, adding salt makes is so that the same amount of flavor triggers much more taste buds, ie, it makes all of the other flavors stronger. I've tasted them side by side and the unsalted one is missing a lot of flavors that you'd otherwise be able to experience, making the final dish less complex – Nicholas Pipitone Apr 12 at 2:36
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I disagree with the other answers. I've heard this opinion frequently, but never seen it work that way in practice.

I live in Europe, and baking recipes here rarely use salt in baking. I certainly don't, and frequently omit it from American recipes too. I don't notice much of a difference between making it with and without the salt.

My best guess is that If you are accustomed to eating baking goods with salt, you'll miss it if they don't have it. If you're not accustomed, you won't. This would explain my observations in salt being used in some local cuisines and not others. Salt preferences can certainly be changed for savory dishes by simply changing the amount of salt eaten until one has grown used to a new level; I've done so myself, and I've known others who do it. There is a good chance it works the same way for sweet goods.

So, if you want to eat less salt, just omit it. Even if it is a bit unusual at first, it will likely grow on you. Just note that if you're serving to a crowd which expects salt, the results can be perceived by them as underwhelming.

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    I wouldn't omit salt from any baking recipe. Salt in baking is used in small quantities and it's primary function is to enhance the flavours and aromas. Other function is to balance sweetness and sourness. And quantities are so small that aren't of any concern in low salt diets. Cooking with salt is another issue, as quantities are bigger in comparision. There are alternatives for salt as a flavour enhancer, but they add other flavours (cinnamon, ginger, parsley, basil, vanilla, wine, etc..). salt doesn't add any specific flavour, except saltiness, not noticeable in such low quantities – roetnig Dec 16 '16 at 9:02
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    "quantities are so small that aren't of any concern" - no, that's not true. Bread is typically about 1.5% salt of the prepared product. So somebody on a 2 g salt diet would fill their complete daily requirement from 133 g bread. The "balance sweetness and sourness" is not something I have ever heard before of salt. As for the flavor enhancer, yes, it does have a small effect, but you will be surprised how easy it is to get accustomed to it without missing it, to the point that I now find storebought breads pointedly salty and sometimes even unpleasantly so. – rumtscho Dec 16 '16 at 9:38
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    In bread making slat usually is 1-2% of the total amount of flour, not to the total amount of prepared product. In bread making salt enhances the flavour, tightens the gluten structure and add strenght to the dough. Anyway the question isn't about bread, it's specifically about sweet bakery (he mentions baking powder, which is never used in bread making). In sweet bakery quantities of salt are infimous, and have its function. – roetnig Dec 16 '16 at 11:39
  • Yes, salt balances sweetness and sourness. There are five main tastes salty, sweet. sour, bitter and umami. Playing with those tastes you can correct the overall taste of food, reduce bitterness, enhance sweetness, etc.. Salt reduces bitterness, so it brings more sweetness or sourness. Adding a pinch of salt let you reduce sugar content in a recipe, etc. – roetnig Dec 16 '16 at 11:55
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    Yes, I know that salt is about 2% of the flour in bread dough. In the finished product, 1.5% is normal, just look at nutrition labels. Any reports of effect of salt on primary tastes I have seen is anecdotal, and are probably a result of a distraction, as opposed for firm effects like sweet actually stopping the perception of sourness. And salt in sweet baking goods is just as much of an acquired taste as in bread, in fact most people in my birth culture (where sweet baking is not salted) prefer the version without salt. Those who grew up with the salt can easily unlearn it. – rumtscho Dec 16 '16 at 12:06
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I know this thread is old but I'm going to post anyway. All the previous people may not be aware that people who are "reducing salt" might actually mean reducing sodium. Check your baking soda and baking powder labels if you're thinking home baking is not a source of sodium!

This still adds up. Consider my recipe that uses 2 eggs (70 mg sodium each), ½ tsp baking soda (600 mg), and ¼ tsp baking powder (70 mg). Divide that by 12 (muffins) and that's 67.5 mg of sodium per muffin. That is without any added salt!
And just as little as ¾ tsp salt adds another 1770 mg of sodium to my recipe, which would make EACH muffin have 215 mg of sodium. Please be aware it does add up bakers!

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    This does not answer the question (strictly speaking this should be a comment), but it is a valuable contribution for people wanting to reduce their salt intake. I am going to edit out a lot of non-essential text though. – Jan Doggen Feb 22 '18 at 10:08
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    I get this site is technically not about health but pointing out Na is a great point. +1 Now that we have follow on health answers I am not so sure about encouraging it. – paparazzo Feb 22 '18 at 19:22
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Salt is generally used for flavor in cooking, but when it comes to baking it plays more of an important role. In baking, salt is used to activate the leavening agent in the product-like baking powder or baking soda. This means that if you omit salt all together your product won't rise as much or at all. You should be able to reduce the amount of salt you use and still get your product to rise, but I would not recommend omitting it all together.

  • Interesting answer, but it conflicts with many others, so can you add some references to back this up? – Jan Doggen Dec 24 '18 at 7:39
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I doubt the tiny percentages of any salt present is affecting your daily salt intake. Avoid fast food/processed food and presumably, continue to reduce or pay attention to sodium in your own cooking. A pinch of salt in a cake isn't going to do much harm for you.

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No one yet mentioned potassium chloride salt substitute which in the small quantities of, say, cupcakes works fine.

Also, flavor enhancing mineral drops such as Concentrace have had the sodium removed; adds depth.

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