Black salt is a popular ingredient, hailed for both its potential health benefits as well as its unique flavor and aroma. Not only is it widely used in curries, chutneys and chaats in Indian cooking, but it’s also often featured in vegan dishes, including egg-free frittatas, scrambles and sandwiches.
However, there are a lot of misconceptions about just how healthy this ingredient may be, as well as how it compares to regular table salt. And while it may be less processed and richer in certain trace minerals than other types of salt, it’s still high in sodium and should be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
Ready to learn more? This article will evaluate some of the benefits, side effects and potential uses of black salt.
What Is Black Salt?
Black Himalayan salt, also known as kala namak, is a common condiment used in South Asian cooking. It is typically mined from the foothills of the Himalayan mountains in countries such as Pakistan, Nepal, India and Bangladesh. Although some varieties are dark in color, others may range from brownish-pink to violet.
The black salt formula consists of chemical compounds such as sodium chloride, sodium sulfate, ferrous sulfate, magnesia, ferric oxide and greigite. Thanks to its high sulfur content, it has a pungent smell and savory flavor that works well in chutneys, salads and savory snacks.
In traditional forms of medicine, such as Ayurveda, this type of salt is said to have a cooling effect on the body. It has also been used as a natural remedy to treat a range of ailments, including heartburn, gas and muscle cramps.
There are several different types of black salt, each of which varies in terms of flavor, appearance and potential uses. Here are a few of the most popular varieties:
- Himalayan Black Salt: As the most common type of black sea salt, Himalayan salt is known for its savory flavor and pungent aroma. It’s widely used in South Asian cuisines and can also be used to mimic the flavor of eggs in vegan dishes. Himalayan salt is also said to possess powerful medicinal properties, along with an assortment of important minerals.
- Black Lava Salt: Also known as Hawaiian black salt, this type of salt was traditionally mined from black lava in Hawaii. Today, however, it is usually made by blending sea salt with activated charcoal. Unlike Himalayan salt, this type of salt has a distinct black hue and can be sprinkled over finished dishes to provide an earthy, smoky flavor.
- Black Ritual Salt: Although there are several different methods for how to make black salt, this type of ritual salt is usually comprised of charcoal, ashes and salt, including various types like gray holy salt, kosher salt or sea salt. While it is not intended for consumption, some use this black salt for Wiccan rituals, as it is thought to help drive away negative spirits. Although likely harmless, the potential black salt uses for protection against evil or negativity have not been studied or supported by research.
Black Salt vs. Table Salt
One of the main differences between table salt and black salt is the way that each is manufactured and produced. Traditionally, black salt was mined from regions surrounding the Himalayan mountains, producing pink Himalayan salt. It was then combined with other spices, herbs and seasonings and heated to very high temperatures.
Today, many manufacturers often create synthetic salt by mixing compounds like sodium chloride, sodium sulfate and ferric sulfate with charcoal, giving it a darker hue. Apart from its unique color, another key difference between black salt vs. pink salt is its savory and pungent flavor and aroma.
Table salt, on the other hand, is usually extracted from large rock salt deposits and then processed and refined, stripping the salt of most of its trace minerals. Although table salt can be used as a black salt substitute in many recipes, it has a less complex flavor profile and may slightly alter the taste of some dishes.
In terms of nutrition, black salt is generally a bit lower in sodium compared to table salt. Table salt is also usually iodized, meaning that it contains added iodine to protect against deficiency.
Another major difference between these two types of salt is the black salt price. In fact, depending on the specific retailer, each ounce generally costs around a dollar or more. Conversely, you can often purchase 1–2 pounds of table salt for less than a dollar at many grocery stores.
Compared to other types of salt, black salt is much less processed and less likely to contain harmful additives or preservatives. Regular table salt, for example, often contains anti-caking agents like potassium ferrocyanide, along with other questionable ingredients like aluminum silicate and potassium iodate.
For those looking to reduce their sodium consumption, black salt may also be a good alternative to regular salt. Cutting back on sodium has been shown to help lower blood pressure levels, especially in those with high blood pressure. Not only that, but consuming high amounts of salt has also been linked to a higher risk of stomach cancer and increased bone loss as well.
Some also claim that black salt may be higher in important minerals, such as iron. However, there is limited evidence to determine whether or not it actually contains higher amounts of these key minerals.
Additionally, it’s unclear how beneficial the mineral content may actually be, as research shows that the minerals found in salt are not well-absorbed by the body, and only very small amounts are consumed at a time.
In traditional medicine, black salt has also been used to improve digestion, enhance skin and hair health, increase weight loss and reduce acid reflux. However, further research is needed to evaluate whether or not it may be beneficial for these conditions.
How to Use
Black salt is widely available at many grocery stores and health food shops and can typically be found in the seasoning aisle, alongside other herbs and spices.
It is commonly used in Indian dishes, including chutneys, salads, soups, curries and raitas. You can also swap it in for other seasonings to top off air-popped popcorn, kale chips or spiced lemonade.
Himalayan black salt also makes a great addition to vegan dishes, thanks to its ability to mimic the flavor and aroma of eggs. Try sprinkling it over eggless quiches, chickpea scrambles, vegan “egg” salad sandwiches or frittatas to give your favorite recipes a tasty twist.
Risks and Side Effects
Although black salt may be sightly lower in sodium and less processed than regular table salt, there is limited research to support many of the other purported benefits. Furthermore, all types of salt should be enjoyed only in moderation as part of a balanced diet. In fact, the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting sodium consumption to less than 2,300 milligrams per day, which translates to about one teaspoon of salt.
It’s also important to keep in mind that regular table salt is typically iodized, meaning that it contains added iodine to help prevent deficiency. This key mineral plays a central role in thyroid function, fetal development and brain health. Because most black salt does not contain added iodine, you should be sure to consume a variety of iodine-rich foods to ensure that you’re meeting your needs for this essential micronutrient.
Some research also shows that the black salt fluoride content could contribute to dental fluorosis, a condition characterized by changes to the enamel caused by excessive consumption of fluoride. For this reason, children, in particular, should moderate their consumption of black salt to promote normal formation of the enamel.
- What is black salt? Also known as kala namak, black salt is a condiment often used in South Asian cooking.
- There are several different varieties, but black Himalayan salt is the most common. Other types include black lava salt and black ritual salt.
- In addition to being less processed and refined than table salt, black Himalayan salt also offers a complex flavor profile and is slightly lower in sodium.
- It may also contain fewer additives and preservatives as well as more trace minerals, such as iron.
- However, as with all types of salt, it’s important to keep your intake in moderation, as it is still high in sodium. You should also be sure to eat a variety of iodine-rich foods, including fruits, vegetables, fish or dairy.
- Thanks to its unique taste and aroma, there are many potential black salt uses. It makes a great addition to stir-fries, curries, chutneys and soups, as well as vegan dishes like eggless quiches, chickpea scrambles and more.