Quick Fixes if You Add Too Much Salt to a Dish
Salt, sodium chloride, sodium, NaCl. By any name, pepper’s best buddy is not an herb or a spice, but an essential mineral, and one of our favorite food seasonings.
Acting on food’s molecules, salt enhances their essence and makes them taste and smell better. Without it, dill pickles just wouldn’t be the same!
We need sodium for survival. It’s a vital nutrient that helps maintain blood, nerves, muscles, and fluid levels in the body. However, too much can be detrimental to good health.
There are plenty of foods that are naturally rich in sodium, like beets, apples, celery, cranberries, and meats. As a matter of fact, most foods contain at least some of this essential mineral.
Regular table salt comes in plain and iodized versions. In 1924, iodized salt was introduced in the US to help rid the population of goiter, a common thyroid condition at the time.
Today we cook with many varieties including sea salt, Himalayan, rock, and kosher. They differ from one another in flavor, texture, sodium content, usage, and price, but each imparts that secret something that makes foods sing – unless we overdo it.
Imagine a rich stew simmering, filling the house with its delicious aroma.
Dip a spoon into the glistening broth and taste. Just a pinch more salt will do the trick. Grab the shaker to add a dash and – oops! The lid pops off, and the contents pour in.
After tossing the shaker into the trash with a few choice words, what should you do?
Solutions for Stews, Soups, and Sauces
The natural reaction to over-seasoning stews, soups, and sauces with sodium is to want it out – fast.
With a large spoon or ladle, gently scoop out the contents in the area where the sodium was added. If it hasn’t had a chance to dissolve, you may undo some of the damage.
If you still have a pot that tastes like it was dunked in the ocean, the following four methods can help:
1. Dilute and Diffuse
After you’ve attempted to siphon off the salt before it dissolves, your next course of action is to water down your recipe to diffuse the heavy seasoning to a palatable level. Try the following:
The addition of more liquid will dilute the liquid in your dish, rendering the overall flavor less saline.
If the additional fluid thins the consistency too much, you’ll need a thickener. Dissolve one tablespoon of cornstarch in one to one and one-half tablespoons cold water, and add it slowly to your simmering pot. Repeat until the desired consistency is reached.
2. Add to Counteract
Another option is to add an ingredient that will mask your blunder. If you can expand your original recipe, great! If not, a sweet, creamy, savory, or acidic addition may improve the taste of your over-seasoned dish.
Give one of the following a try:
- Citrus juice – a sour variety, like lemon or lime
- Herbs – savory aromatics like basil or rosemary
- Milk, half-and-half, or cream
- Sour cream or yogurt
- Sugar – brown or white
- Vinegar – particularly balsamic for beef-based dishes
Experiment using small increments, tasting as you go until the briny flavor is reduced.
If these fixes don’t do the job, there’s another idea you might want to try. Read on!
Back in the day at my house, the conventional wisdom was to grab a potato, peel it, and plunk it into the pot when Grandma got heavy handed with the seasoning.
The idea was that it would absorb the excess as it simmered in her gravy. It was taken out before it got soft enough to fall apart. Of course, Grandma always ate it later – it was Grandpa who was on the low-sodium diet!
Today’s cooks have gone to great lengths to bust this method as a quaint myth. The general consensus is that the potato does absorb salt, but it soaks up liquid too, and doesn’t necessarily change the proportion of salt to food.
You may also try:
An absorbent starch like rice or pasta may absorb excess sodium in your soup, stew, or sauce for a less briny taste overall. The added bulk will also soak up liquid, so add broth or water as needed.
If you are rescuing a sauce or broth, you may be able to strain and discard the added starch. This is more difficult with stews and soups, as the rice or pasta becomes part of the dish.
4. Serve with Something Mild
A dish that is not utterly ruined by an overabundance of sodium, but that is nevertheless quite briny, can be served in a way that will minimize its impact on the palate.
Serve small portions with mild side dishes like baked potato, bread, rice, or pasta, and avoid offering butters and cheeses that tend to be high in sodium.
Dress a cool, crisp salad in a creamy yogurt dressing for a healthy side, and keep glasses filled with thirst-quenching beverages and a twist of lemon or lime.
Top the meal off with a refreshing sorbet for dessert.
Waste Not, Want Not
Salvaging a dish is a relief, especially because you don’t have to throw money down the drain or start over again. Knowing these handy tips will do wonders for your anxiety level the next time you slip with the salt shaker!
Let us know some handy kitchen tips for repairing recipes in the comments below. We enjoy hearing from you!
The health information in this article is not intended to assess, diagnose, prescribe, or treat any disease. Please consult with your health care professional before making any dietary changes.
Photo credits: Shutterstock.
About Nan Schiller
Nan Schiller is a writer from southeastern Pennsylvania. When she’s not in the garden, she’s in the kitchen preparing imaginative gluten- and dairy-free meals. With a background in business, writing, editing, and photography, Nan writes humorous and informative articles on gardening, food, parenting, and real estate topics. Having celiac disease has only served to inspire her to continue to explore creative ways to provide her family with nutritious locally-sourced food.