What is the Best Salt for Fermentation {Sauerkraut, Pickles}?

If you’re new to the world of fermentation, you may not realize how important choosing the right salt can be for your success. With so many different types of salt available, it can be overwhelming to know which one to choose. In this post, we’ll explore the various types of salt commonly used for fermentation and help you determine which one will give you the greatest success.

Bowls of various types of salt on a grey backdrop. | Makesauerkraut.com

Today, I’m going to ensure that you are successful with fermentation and share with you what salt to use.

Over twenty-plus years of fermenting various vegetables, relishes, kimchi, and sauerkraut, I’ve tried just about every type of salt out there.

I’ll share which salts I’ve had the most consistent results with.

Let’s dive in right now.

FREE PDF Download

Use the button below to grab my handy Best Salt & How Much Salt PDF.

Why Use Salt?

Salt is used to create the brine in which vegetables ferment. 

For sauerkraut, salt pulls water out of the cabbage to create an environment where the good bacteria (mainly lactobacillus) can grow and proliferate and the bad bacteria can die off.

For brined vegetables (e.g., cucumber pickles), the water from inside the cucumber will flow out until the water inside the cucumber and outside the cucumber are equally salty. As the cucumber loses the water inside it, it shrivels up and shrinks, becoming a pickle.

This is an important job for our salt! Make it a good one.

Now, let’s learn what your salt choices are.

Three Categories of Salt

I’ve grouped salt choices into three categories:

  • Processed salts (table salt, sea salt, iodized salt, kosher salt, and pickling salt), some of which don’t contain additives. Though not ideal, these salts generally work. If processed salts are all you have, use them until you’re able to upgrade to a mineral-rich dry salt.
  • Mineral-rich dry salts (Himalayan Pink and Redmond Real Salt) that contain naturally occurring minerals are good to switch to once you’re ready to spend the extra money for the extra minerals these salts contain. The best salt for fermentation is a mineral-rich dry salt.
  • Mineral-rich wet salts (grey sea salt) contain naturally occurring minerals and have a high moisture content that can throw off your salt concentration.
    I no longer recommend this category of salts since they can contain microplastics, lead, and heavy metals due to the high levels of pollution in our waters today.

Processed Salts

When you think of salt, the white stuff in your shaker on the table comes to mind. You may know it as table salt, sea salt, kosher salt, or pickling salt.

However, few people realize that this salt—like our sugars, flour, and vegetable oils—is highly refined.

It is the product of an industrial process that uses chemicals and high temperatures to remove all the trace minerals naturally occurring in the sea or earth. Those minerals are then sold to companies making and selling dietary supplements.

These are the minerals that our bodies use to regulate blood pressure, nourish our adrenals and just plain keep us healthy.

Table Salt or Iodized Salt—Do Not Use

Blue container of Morton Salt or iodized salt. | MakeSauerkraut.com

These are basic salts that you can buy inexpensively from any grocery store.

They are refined salts that have had all their minerals stripped out during processing. They also contain additives such as calcium silicate to make them free-flowing and potassium iodide to compensate for iodine deficiencies. The Windsor brand of table salt is available here in Canada and even has sugar listed on the label!

The problem with these additives is that they may inhibit the beneficial bacteria in your fermenting sauerkraut. Because of this, I do not recommend using table salt or iodized salt for fermentation.

Industrial Sea Salt—Check the Label

A container of Hain Pure Foods Sea salt. | MakeSauerkraut.com

Most so-called sea salt is produced by industrial methods. It ends up being a highly refined salt that has had all its minerals stripped out during processing, just like table salt.

Even if it does not contain all of its minerals, as long as there are no additives listed on the label, it is fine to use for fermenting.

A black box container of Morton Kosher Salt. | MakeSauerkraut.com

Kosher salt is not “kosher” itself, but is used to make meats kosher and has a larger crystal than table salt.

I don’t recommend using it for fermentation because I find that the larger crystals don’t dissolve as easily as fine-grain salt. It can also contain anti-caking agents that you do not want in your ferments.

Pickling Salt—Works Fine

A green container of Morton Canning and Pickling Salt. | MakeSauerkraut.com

Pickling salt does not contain anti-caking ingredients or additives like iodine.

Pickling salt is pure granulated salt (sodium chloride). In addition, its granules are designed to easily dissolve.

Mineral-Rich Dry Salts

Think of salt as you would any other food you would put on the table, or in your ferments. An ideal salt for fermenting is whole, unrefined, and full of natural vitamins and minerals.

Mineral-rich dry salts are mined from ancient sea beds, Pakistan for the Himalayan Pink Salt and Utah for Real Salt.

Himalayan Pink Salt—My Favorite

Himalayan Pink Salt for fermentation inside wooden bowls over black background. | MakeSauerkraut.com
Himalayan pink salt, is a mineral-rich dry salt. Use fine grain as shown in the bottom bowl.

Himalayan Pink Salt is my favorite salt to ferment with.

Its purity and high mineral profile ensure a healthy fermentation environment. I especially like its color—a beautiful pink! Himalayan Pink Salt is mined from deep in the Himalayan Mountains.

This salt crystallized more than 200 million years ago and remains protected from modern-day pollution and impurities.

It contains more than 84 trace minerals and none of the additives or aluminum compounds found in refined table salt.

I like to use unprocessed ingredients, thus, my preference for mineral salts or
unprocessed sea salts.

Lead in Himalayan pink salt?

However, some choose not to use salts mined from ancient sea beds (Himalayan pink salt and Real Salt) due to trace amounts of lead found in these subterranean salt mines and instead recommend sea salt.

I’m more disturbed by all the microplastics in our sea waters and how varying moisture contents can throw off sodium numbers.

This article sums up my viewpoint on why the benefits of Himalayan salt outweigh the negative factors.

The Spice Lab Himalayan Salt - Fine 2 Lb Bag - Pink Himalayan Salt is Nutrient and Mineral Dense for Health - Gourmet Pure Crystal - Kosher & Natural Certified
  • 100% CERTIFIED AND NATURAL: Does not contain any pieces of plastic like some of our...
  • USED: Seasoning for grilled meats, fish, ribs, eggs, vegetables, soups, stews, pasta salads as...
  • INGREDIENTS AND MINERALS: Himalayan pink salt ranges in color from sheer white to varying...
Sherpa Pink Himalayan Salt - 5 lbs. Fine Grain
  • Our Sherpa Pink Himalayan Salt is Kosher Certified, Non-GMO, and does not contain any MSG, Soy,...
  • This Sherpa Himalayan pink salt is in our slightly larger than standard table salt Fine Grain.
  • Our 100% pure Himalayan Pink Salt is the perfect addition to any meal! Sherpa Pink Himalayan...

Redmond Real Salt—Also a Good One

A white bag of Redmond Real Salt. | MakeSauerkraut.com
Redmond’s Real Salt, a mineral-rich dry salt that’s is great for fermentation.

Redmond Real Salt is commonly found in health food stores and even in many standard grocery stores.

Real Salt comes from an ancient sea bed in Central Utah. It is completely natural sea salt—nothing added, nothing taken away. That means you get more than 60 trace minerals in a delicious, healthy salt that is not chemically treated, bleached or kiln-dried.

REDMOND Real Sea Salt - Natural Unrefined Gluten Free Fine, 26 Ounce Pouch (1 Pack)
  • FLAVOR – Real Salt is unlike any salt on earth. It’s subtly sweet, never bitter sea salt...
  • NATURAL – Unrefined, unprocessed and ancient sea salt with trace minerals and no additives....
  • HEALTHY – Recommended by doctors! An ancient sea salt recommended by doctors and health...

Mineral-Rich Wet Salts

Gray sea salt inside a wooden bowl over blue cloth. | MakeSauerkraut.com
Grey sea salt. I no longer use this salt due to varying moisture content and our polluted waters.

I used to ferment with grey sea salt because of its high mineral profile and availability at local health food stores.

The grey in this salt comes from the clay lining of the salt ponds where seawater is evaporated.

It is known for its high moisture content, extraordinary mineral content, and bonus nutrients not found in most sea salts. It is hand-harvested according to centuries-old Celtic methods and is often called Celtic Sea Salt.

It can contain lead and other heavy metals due to higher levels of pollution found in our waters today.

In addition, some claim that mold can form during the evaporation process, not something you want to introduce into your ferment.

Summary of Salt Choices

The best salt for making sauerkraut diagram. | MakeSauerkraut.com

The best salt for fermentation is an unprocessed salt, a salt that still has its complete natural profile of minerals.

The two salts I use for fermenting sauerkraut and various vegetables are Himalayan Pink salt or Real Salt.

One of the nutritional benefits of fermentation is that it makes minerals bioavailable, resulting in more nutritious sauerkraut. So, the more minerals in the salt you use, the more minerals you’ll end up within your sauerkraut.

However, if the only salt you have in your home is refined salt, go ahead and use it.

There is the “ideal” and then there is reality.

In fact, having had the opportunity to ferment vegetables with every possible kind of salt handed to me by workshop organizers, I have observed that lactic acid bacteria seem tolerant to a wide variety of salts, including iodized salt, and are not particularly picky.

Sandor Katz, The Art of Fermentation

Start with what you have and then over time “level up” your salt choice.

How Much Salt for Fermentation?

See How Much Salt Should I Use in My Lacto-Fermented Sauerkraut? or follow my step-by-step recipe:

SureFire Sauerkraut... in a Jar | makesauerkraut.com

Frequently Asked Questions about Fermenting Salt

What is the best grain size of salt to buy?

“Fine” grains of salt will dissolve more quickly than larger grains and will give you the best results.

Where can I buy Himalayan pink salt?

If your grocery store has bulk bins, check there. One reader told me she can find it in the bins at Sprout Market.

Health food stores will likely carry Himalayan pink salt. And, of course, it can be found online.

Can I use the coarse-grain salt in my salt grinder?

Yes, but, you’ll want to take the extra step to first grind it. Large salt grains do not always dissolve completely and result in uneven disbursement of the salt.

Can I use pickling salt for fermentation?

Yes, pickling salt works fine. Its grains dissolve quickly and it contains no additives.

What is the grit left over when dissolving Himalayan pink salt or Real Salt?

Some of the minerals in these salts don’t dissolve in water. Some look like grains of sand and some look like grains of salt. People sometimes notice traces of red minerals left behind too. 

Most of the granules that don’t dissolve are the trace mineral silica, an element that occurs naturally in healthy bones and joints.

Does salt speed up fermentation?

The amount of salt you use impacts the rate of fermentation. Too much salt slows fermentation down; not enough salt and fermentation will progress too quickly.

Salt, when used in the right proportions, creates an environment within which we are able to better control the growth of microorganisms and have a happier ferment.

Help, I used iodized salt! Do I need to throughout my ferment and start over?

No, most likely everything will ferment just fine. There is the “ideal” for “stacking the deck in your favor” and then there is what you have in your kitchen. Don’t let your options prevent you from getting started with fermentation.

Know Your Salts Infographic

Here is a beautiful infographic by the Real Salt Company that nicely summarizes your salt choices.

Infographic for real salt. | MakeSauerkraut.com

FREE PDF Download

Use the button below to grab my handy Best Salt & How Much Salt PDF.

What Salt Will You Use for Making Sauerkraut?

Share in the Comments section what salt you have around the house that you will use for fermenting.

Last update on 2024-03-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Woman sitting with jar of sauerkraut on knee. | MakeSauerkraut.com

Holly Howe, Fermentation Educator

Holly Howe has been learning about and perfecting the art of fermentation since 2002.

Her mission is dedicated to helping families welcome the powerful bacterial world into their homes in order to ferment delicious gut-healing foods.

She is the author of Fermentation Made Easy! Mouthwatering Sauerkraut, and creator of the online program Ferment Like a Pro!

Read more about her HERE.

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