Spice: Black Salt

Black Salt, or ‘Kala Namak’ as it is known in Hindi, is not a seasoning that will be commonly found in western kitchens, but the unique taste will be somewhat familiar to those who have experienced the increasingly more popular Indian snacks known as ‘chaat’. These snacks, often consisting of deep-fried bits and pieces, are generally seasoned with spice mixtures collectively known under the name ‘Chaat Masala‘, in which dried mango powder and black salt, with its signature sulfurous quality, figure highly. The salt, while still only commonly found in Asian groceries in the west, is, nevertheless, relatively inexpensive to purchase and well worth seeking out…

Appearance and Taste

As you can see above, black salt is less black than it is a somewhat grayish-purple color. As the name would suggest, it is indeed a chemical salt, comprised chiefly the same sodium chloride as is consumed daily in the common table variety, but it also contains additional components (some would say ‘impurities’) that lend it specific qualities. Iron sulfide is responsible for the color, but it also contains significant amounts of hydrogen sulfide, which many will remember from high-school chemistry class as being the compound associated with ‘rotten egg gas’.

The salt can also be bought in a powdered as well as in large crystals and, as you can see, the purple quality is a bit more pinkish in this form. The large crystals have no particular smell, that I was able to detect, at least, but the powdered variety has a definite, if faint, aroma of boiled eggs.

If you take a dab of the powder on your tongue, the primary sensory experience is that of the regular table variety, but with the additional briny tang and sharp ‘burn’ of the un-iodized sea salts. Almost immediately, however, the sulfur compounds bloom and a very strong ‘eggy’ taste dominates. Indeed, this quality is apparently exploited by vegans who seek to duplicate the taste of real eggs in such otherwise neutral tasting foods as tofu, and the like. The sulfide taste, which some will not appreciate, is very strong, and persists throughout the experience, but there are also a few sweet notes as well. Personally, I also find there to be a faint peppery quality to the salt as well but it may very well be that this is just a ‘sense memory ’ effect from the black pepper I always use on, and associate with, boiled eggs.

Culinary Use

For those who have yet to purchase black salt, but would like to try it out, a good introductory experience would simply to mimic a fairly basic Indian use and toss a pinch or two with some fried potatoes. Alternatively, a little sprinkle on fresh fruit, or a simple salad will give you a good idea of the seasoning qualities.

In Indian cuisine, the salt is used in chutneys and raitas, and also many other sorts of snacks, but it there is, of course, no reason to limit your use to reproducing Indian dishes. Essentially, of course, you can use black salt in the same way that you would use salt in any application but, generally, it is used as component of more complex seasoning preparations (such as Chaat Masala), and I will be experimenting with this, and some derivations thereof, in future posts …

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8 thoughts on “Spice: Black Salt”

  1. I just love reading your articles! I didnt know there was blk salt i know of pink and smoked but never blk. I will have to hunt it down. Personally I reccomend Celtic sea salt, (why its called celtic, i dont know, but is actually made off the coast of france). it’s a gray salt and has over 80 essentail & trace minerals and actaul have been noted as immune enhaning due to these minerals. it also has a signifanctly lower sodium cholride content making it better for cardiac and cardiovasicular (sodium cholride adds or even insreases thoses issues.) 🙂

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