Sea Salt Vs. Table Salt: What’s The Difference?

Although they come from the same general source, these salts have flavor and texture differences that you should know.

France in a ceramic grey bowl with wooden spoon on a black slate background. Traditional french natural sea salt of high quality close up.

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Salt is arguably the most important ingredient in cooking, used to season all kinds of savory dishes, to enhance baked goods and sweets, to preserve food, and to balance bitter flavors. You might come across recipes that call for table salt , others that use sea salt. What’s the difference between the two, and does it matter?

What Is Table Salt?

Table salt refers to the fine crystals that you’ll find in most salt shakers. Typically made by mining underground salt deposits, this type of salt is processed and refined to remove minerals and impurities, then fortified with anti-caking agents (such as silicon dioxide, magnesium carbonate, and sodium aluminosilicate) and, often, iodine—a practice that began in the U.S. in the 1920s when iodine deficiency was common. It has a fine texture that makes it a good choice for baked goods and desserts, where you need a small amount and want it to disperse well. The flavor tends to be one note only: salty.

What Is Sea Salt?

Sea salt is made by evaporating ocean water or water from saltwater lakes. Unrefined sea salt is minimally processed, retaining trace minerals that might lend color or flavor to the salt. (Refined sea salt, though, has been washed to remove minerals and contaminants, so it ends up very similar to table salt.)

Some popular types of unrefined sea salt include the following:

Fleur de sel: Translated as “flower of salt,” this delicate, pricey sea salt traditionally comes from Brittany, France.

Maldon sea salt flakes: gorgeous pyramid-shaped flakes of crunchy goodness harvested from the U.K. town of Maldon

Sel gris: moist, gray-hued, coarse salt traditionally harvested in France

Unrefined sea salts tend to have subtle flavor nuances from the minerals they contain, so they embody a more rounded, complex sort of salty flavor.

Bottom Line

Both table salt and sea salt share a similar makeup, containing roughly 40 percent sodium by weight.

One thing to be mindful of: Because table salt tends to be finer textured, the same volume of it will contain more sodium than an equal volume of coarser-textured sea salt—and thus give your dish a more salty flavor.

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