At first, salt might seem like a simple ingredient. Most of us have been using it since we were children to season our food. But, there is a whole world of salts out there and many reasons to use it beyond flavoring food. It turns out that salt is not that simple, as there are different varieties, colors, brands, functions, etc.
There really is a salt for every purpose (and every palate), and we scoured the internet for the best in each category.
Best for Cooking
SoSalt Sicilian Coarse Sea Salt
Evaporated by sunlight
The Sosalt Sea Salt (Coarse) is special, originating from ancient salt pans in Trapani and Marsala in Sicily, Italy. Its coarseness comes from a unique drying method that combines crystal water, wind, and sun. It is then harvested by hand.
Seasoning enthusiasts love it for its range of potential uses. It’s flavorful with zero bitterness because it contains less sodium chloride than regular table salt, and thus adds a unique brininess to any dish, and is great for projects like curing olives. However, it can easily be put into a salt grinder if you prefer a fine texture. For its extensive use and flavor, this salt is the best for cooking. It costs more than other options at the grocery store, but the investment is worth it. This box weighs over 2 pounds and thanks to its long shelf life, it will last you a long time.
Price at time of publish: $19
Size: 35.5 ounces | Iodized: No | Grain: Coarse
Best Table Salt
Redmond Real Sea Salt Shaker
Mined in Utah
Comes in a shaker
Contains traces of 60 minerals
Can taste slightly sweet to some
Many of the other salts on this list are from faraway places. This one is from Utah, mined from what geologists think was an ancient inland sea from the Jurassic Period. Thanks to a layer of bentonite clay, it’s been protected from erosion and contamination for the past few million years.
The 60-plus trace minerals give it a lovely pink hue and a clean, delicate flavor. Yet, some may taste the tiniest hint of sweetness. The crystals are fine and the salt is not iodized. Redmond salt is available in many iterations, but this one comes in a shaker, making it easy to use as your everyday table salt. A refill bag is also available for purchase, so you can reuse the shaker tub and save some money, too.
Price at time of publish: $5
Size: 4.75 and 10 ounces | Iodized: No | Grain: Fine
Best Finishing Salt
Maldon Sea Salt Flakes
Looking for a beautiful salt to sprinkle atop your Instagram-worthy plated dinners? Meet Maldon Salt. You may have already come across it a time or two—chefs and food lovers love this stuff. It's hard not to understand why...the salt is flakey and bright white, making any dish look complete. It is not just appealing to the eye, but to another sense, too. This salt is thin and satisfyingly crunchy.
Hailing from the English seashore, this pyramid-shaped, non-iodized salt is naturally processed using traditional long-handled rakes for a unique texture and flavor that has made it a name for itself. In fact, some chefs are known to travel with their own tiny tin of Maldon for emergencies. Because of its popularity and aesthetics, it is also great for giving as a gift for any foodie in your life. A box weighs slightly above 0.5 pounds, so keep in mind that it is slightly smaller than other salts out there.
Price at time of publish: $8
Size: 8.5 ounces | Iodized: No | Grain: Flakey
Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, 3-Pound Box
Soft enough to pinch and break
No anti-caking chemical used
Not super fine
Kosher salt got its name because the size of the crystals tends to be perfect for drawing out salt from meat during the koshering process. Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt has somewhat of a cult following among those who use it to kosher meat, and it’s not hard to understand why. It’s more of a flat, flake-style kosher salt (as opposed to the rock salt available from other brands). This makes it easy to grab, pinch, and break up with just a few fingers.
With a truly neutral flavor that is perfect for just about any application you might need it for, there’s a reason professional and almost-professional chefs swear by it. While other options use chemicals to prevent the flakes from joining together in the box, this one does not. The ingredient list is simply "Salt". Another plus is how much is in each 3-pound box, ensuring you won't need to buy a replacement for a while.
Price at time of publish: $12
Size: 3 pounds | Iodized: No | Grain: Flat and Flaky
Thrive Market Pink Himalayan Salt
Can use a grinder, or not
Probably not healthier than other salts
Himalayan Pink Salt was introduced to the mass market by Trader Joe’s in 2009. Most of it comes from Punjab’s Khewra Salt Mine, between Islamabad and Lahore. While some claim that it’s healthier than other salts, most scientists agree that it’s really just better at being pink.
Nonetheless, it’s a gorgeous color to have around your kitchen, and this option from Thrive Market is beloved by many. For starters, some versions of this salt can take a chunk out of your wallet—but this one is pretty budget-friendly. It comes in a 1-pound bag that will last, and it is also known for its clean flavor and range of uses. Throw it in a salt grinder or use it as is for an added crunch in whatever you are eating. If you’re looking for a great Himalayan salt, this is a superb option.
Price at time of publish: $6
Size: 16 ounces | Iodized: Not indicated | Grain: Coarse
Best for Steak
Jacobsen Salt Co. Infused Sea Salt Black Pepper
Salt harvested off the Oregon coast
Contains Tellicherry peppercorns
Pairs well with grilling
Looking for a special salt for that Kobe or Wagyu steak? Your search ends here with Jacobsen Salt Co. Harvested by hand in Netarts Bay on the Oregon coast, Jacobsen Salt Co. has gained a loyal following for its texture and clean, mellow flavor, with just the right amount of spice. This salt, infused with freshly ground Tellicherry peppercorns, is great on just about anything and perfect for those special cuts of beef that simply call for salt, pepper, and heat. Grills were made for steak (we like to think), and this salt was made especially for both.
Although it comes in two jar sizes, both are relatively small. You may have to replenish your stock if you eat steak often. It's not super expensive, though, and makes a great gift for the griller in your life.
Price at time of publish: $8
Size: 2.4 and 4.23 ounces | Iodized: No | Grain: Coarse
Best for Baking
La Baleine Fine Sea Salt
Crystalized off the French coast
Can pour out quickly
This delicate sea salt comes from the salt pans of Aigues-Mortes in Camargue, France on the southern coast, where salt has been produced in the Mediterranean since before the Roman occupation. It is naturally crystallized by the sun and warm sea winds.
These tiny, unrefined salt crystals are a favorite among chefs, especially pastry chefs, because of their delicacy and ease of use in just about anything you’re making. It dissolves like a dream, incorporates more thoroughly into the food, and adds flavor beyond a kick of sodium, so things like ice cream or caramels will be smooth and not grainy.
The tall, slender tub this salt comes in makes it easy to pour into a measuring cup or spoon, but be careful because the fine crystals and tear-shaped opening can mean the salt can come out quickly. One tip is to measure away from the mixing bowl in case it overflows.
Price at time of publish: $5
Size: 26.5 ounces | Iodized: No | Grain: Fine
Sabatino Tartufi Truffle & Salt
Contains real flakes of truffle
A little goes a long way
For truffle lovers, a good truffle salt is indispensable. The Sabatino Tartufi Truffle & Smoked Sea Salt is just lovely—thin Sicilian sea salt is blended with real flecks of black summer truffles harvested in Umbria, Italy. Perfect for eggs, popcorn, meat, french fries, and pasta, this truffle salt will serve you well. Not only does it add real truffle flavor to foods, it appeals to the nose, too, giving off a fresh truffle scent. A pinch of this is all you need—if you want more truffle flavor without more saltiness, consider adding something like truffle oil if the recipe allows. (One of our favorites is included in this list of the best olive oils.) We also like this option because although it comes in a small, 4-ounce jar, it won’t break the bank.
Price at time of publish: $11
Size: 4 ounces | Iodized: Not indicated | Grain: Flakey
Best for Curing and Brining
Hoosier Hill Farm Prague Powder No.1 Pink Curing Salt
Produced in Indiana
Gives a smokey flavor
Mouth is wide enough for measuring
Shares equipment with common allergens
Pink curing salt is not quite the same thing as pink Himalayan salt. For starters, it’s inedible and made with nitrites, specifically for the curing of meats and preventing botulism. But, it can be used to preserve and cure a variety of cooked meats, including jerky, pastrami, fish, ham, bacon, and even corned beef. This option from Indiana-based Hoosier Hill Farm is revered for its price, efficacy, and distinct smokey flavor. Be sure to adhere to the curing recipe—after all, a little goes a long way. Luckily, the mouth of this 2.5-pound plastic tub is wide enough for smaller measuring spoons to scoop up an accurate amount.
Also, be aware that the label indicates this salt is "packaged in a facility shared by tree nuts, peanuts, dairy, soy, and wheat products." Anyone allergic to any of these should use caution when curing with this salt.
Price at time of publish: $18
Size: 2.5 pounds | Iodized: Not indicated | Grain: Fine
Best for Margaritas
Caravel Gourmet Margarita Lime Salt
Only two ingredients
Big enough to fit different rim sizes
Purchase includes digital cookbook
Some may need to add more lime
This salt contains only natural sea salt and lime, evaporated by the sun and ground and blended in the Pacific Northwest. It also is simply the best for margarita night (or Bloody Mary brunch). That hint of lime adds complexity and flavor to even the most stunningly crafted margaritas (and will make not-so-stunning ones go down all the easier). Some may want a stronger lime flavor—an easy way to achieve this is to simply squeeze fresh lime into the salt and stir before dipping the rim. Speaking of the rim—this margarita salt comes in a tub with a wide mouth that can fit a range of rim sizes.
When you’re not enjoying a cocktail, it makes a great addition to chicken, beans, salad, rice, and more. We also love that when you buy this margarita salt, you also get access to a digital cookbook with nearly 30 recipes that use it.
Price at time of publish: $12
Size: 5 ounces | Iodized: Not indicated | Grain: Coarse
Best for Popcorn
The Spice House Popcorn Collection
Great for gifting
Can be used in cooking
Everyone deserves popcorn exactly to their liking. Whether it’s cheesy, garlicky, sweet, or spicy, this collection from The Spice House includes something for everyone. This spice set includes creative salt combinations like Maple Garlic and Vulcan's Fire Salt, which blends chili paste, shallots, and paprika. Also included is a white cheddar cheese powder and a garlic and herb seasoning.
Not only do customers love the beautiful packaging that makes it great for giving as a gift, but they also praise the salt's flavor, eliminating the need for butter, oil, or extra seasoning. The price is on the higher side, but the versatility makes it a better deal. While we love it on popcorn, you can use the salt and seasonings when cooking things like garlic bread, meats, eggs, beans, potatoes, and more.
Price at time of publish: $42
Size: 2.3 ounces per jar | Iodized: Not indicated | Grain: Varies
If you're looking for a versatile salt with a relatively mild flavor or are a fan of coarser textures, we recommend Sosalt Sea Salt. Want to make your own jerky? We like Hoosier Hill Farm's Pink Curing Salt for its distinct flavor.
What to Look for in a Salt
There is a salt for every purpose. Beyond all-purpose salts for cooking, there are special salts. Brining and curing requires a salt that preserves the food and reduces spoilage from bacteria; pink curing salt, also called Prague powder, is one of them. It is not to be confused with pink Himalayan salt, which is for finishing dishes and sprinkling. For rimming glasses for cocktails such as margaritas, there is rimming salt.
Salt can be neutral in flavor, or with hints of sweetness or brininess. Non-iodized salt has a cleaner flavor than iodized salt—iodine adds a slightly metallic taste—but any of those salts generally work well for cooking. Whether a salt has any taste on its own also depends on it being refined or unrefined. In common fine table salt, most of the impurities have been eliminated, so it’s the most neutral in flavor.
If you want to add both saltiness and flavor to food, there is a wide array of flavored salts to choose from, ranging from salt-and-pepper mixtures to popcorn salt with unusual flavor creations.
The texture of salt makes a big difference. Table salt consists of fine cube-shaped flakes. Fine salt dissolves easily, which makes it a preferred salt for baking. For cooking, coarse salt is often the salt of choice because it is easier to take a pinch with your fingers and add it to food than fine table salt, and it also adheres to food better. Kosher salt is a flat-grained coarse salt. In flaky salt, the salt crystals, which are originally cubic in shape, have been flattened. Flaky salt sticks better to food, dissolves faster, and is blended in more easily.
What is salt made of?
Salt is a compound of two elements, sodium and chlorine; its ions consist of positively charged sodium (Na+) and negatively charged chlorine (Cl-), which are bound together by electrical attraction, forming a crystal lattice structure.
Why is salt so bad for you?
The human body needs salt to function, but excess salt can be bad for your health. The FDA-recommended daily limit for people 14 years and older is 2,300 milligrams per day. Eating more salt than that can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
What are the types of salt?
The five main salt categories are table salt, kosher salt, sea salt, curing and brining salt, and specialty and seasoned salts, which can be either salt from a special location, such as Himalayan pink salt or Hawaiian black salt, or regular salt with a flavor added, such as garlic salt or celery salt.
How We Researched
To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best salts on the market, evaluating their key features—like grain, other additives, and price—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. We then used this research to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Writer, podcaster, and professional cheese nerd Christine Clark has kind of a problem when it comes to salt—she has at least 20 different brands in her cabinet. Each is special and important!
Amanda McDonald is an editor at The Spruce Eats and has over seven years of experience researching, writing, and editing about all things food — from what new products are at the grocery store to chef-approved hacks that keep tricky leftovers fresh for days. She updated this article to include the most up-to-date information.
Fayet-Moore, Flavia et al. An Analysis of the Mineral Composition of Pink Salt Available in Australia. Foods, vol 9, no. 10. 2020, p. 1490. Foods, doi:10.3390/foods9101490.
Lee S, Lee H, Kim S, et al. Microbiological safety of processed meat products formulated with low nitrite concentration — A review. Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences. 2018;31(8):1073-1077. doi:10.5713/ajas.17.0675