Too Much Salt in the Stew: What to Do?

Quick Fixes if You Add Too Much Salt to a Dish

Salt Shaker Closeup | Foodal.com

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.

We’ve all done it. We’re preparing a recipe and everything is great, when all of a sudden we give it a massive dash of salt and think the whole dish is ruined. Is there a way to reverse the damage? Yes! Salvage your stews and restore your sauces with quick fixes from the experts at Foodal. Read how here: http://foodal.com/knowledge/how-to/fix-too-much-salt/

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.

The top fell off the salt shaker right in the pot, but your dinner guests are about to arrive. Don't panic- you just may be able to salvage that dish! Check out our tips: http://foodal.com/knowledge/how-to/fix-too-much-salt/

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.

Steaming Pot | Foodal.com

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.

Pouring Water Over Vegetables | Foodal.com

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.

Note: don’t use fruit or vegetable juices, as they usually contain a noticeable amount of sodium.

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
  • Wine

Experiment using small increments, tasting as you go until the briny flavor is reduced.

You were a little bit heavy-handed with the salt - now what? Check out our quick solutions for when your soup, stew, or sauce is just a bit too savory: http://foodal.com/knowledge/how-to/fix-too-much-salt/

If these fixes don’t do the job, there’s another idea you might want to try. Read on!

3. Absorb

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:

  • Pasta
  • Rice

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.

Rice and Meat Dish | Foodal.com

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.

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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.

8 thoughts on “Too Much Salt in the Stew: What to Do?

  1. I’ve experienced the dreaded loss of the shaker lid, too. To solve this problem I decided to start seasoning by hand, but occasionally, I might forget and still use the shaker. These tips are real money savers, and I have used a few in the past.

    • Hello and thanks for writing. You’re absolutely right – seasoning by hand is the way to go. Happy to hear the tips have worked for you.

    • Yeah, seasoning by hand, or spoon, is the way to go for me too. I’ve overdone it more than once with the shaker or canister. I always water it down if that happens, but yeah, sometimes that just ends in a mess. If possible, I try to double the batch and then just freeze some for later.

      These are great ideas for masking the salty taste, but I have to add more to dilute the overall sodium content. I like the ideas of rices or noodles. Then, you almost have to add more liquid.

      I’m definitely going to try granny’s secret there too. Why didn’t I think of that?

  2. Well I am so glad I came across this, because I will be honest my go to method is just to add water, and we all know that this really just tends to add a whole other issue with the flavor once you solve the salt issue. I like the alternatives to add, and also focusing on absorbing some of that salt, which is a good way to go. All great ideas, so thank you.

  3. I make this mistake all too often! I’ve used the diluting method before, but that really doesn’t help with a curry, especially after you’ve used your last can of coconut milk. I would never have thought to use citrus juice to remove some of the salty flavor, or vinegar. I didn’t know that sugar or savory herbs would work either. Thanks for posting this! You may have just saved my next dinner!

  4. Thanks for the really great article and the wonderful tips. I know I’m not the only one who has suffered through the experience of putting too much salt, and it’s great to know that it’s not the end of the world if that happens to you. These tips will really come in handy when I’m cooking as I tend to have more accidents with the salt than most. Thanks again.

  5. These are good tips that I would not have thought of implementing on my own. Seems like the added starchy ingredient would pair well with adding the extra liquid, since they can help balance each other out.

  6. Use a triple layer of cheesecloth to form a 12 inch (or more) square. Pour 1 cup to 1 1/4 cups of dry rice in the center of the square. Bring two opposite corners of the cheesecloth together and tie together. Do the same for the remaining two corners of the cheesecloth. You should have a LOOSE cheesecloth “bag”. Take butcher’s twine (or heavy cotton cord) and wrap 2-3 times around the neck of the “bag” below the knots. Tie securely and trim cord. You can now rescue the over salted dish; AND retrieve the rice. *NOTE* The cheesecloth “bag” needs to be loosely filled so the rice has room to expand as it cooks.

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