How to Remove Too Much Salt in Cooking

Salt often rescues bland dishes. Adding too much salt can make food unbearable, however, leaving you scrambling to reverse a culinary disaster. This may happen when you misread a recipe or if the lid falls off the salt shaker over the pan. Salty flavors concentrate as liquid reduces in a sauce, so if you add more too soon, you end up with a super salty dish. Whatever the cause, choose a practical way to reduce the saltiness.

Remove excess salt if it overpowers, rather than enhances, a dish. (Image: Ingram Publishing/Ingram Publishing/Getty Images)

Scoop It Out

You can't simply scoop out extra salt that's already dissolved in a broth or casserole, but you might be able to save the dish with quick action after making the error. If the lid falls off the salt shaker in mid-pour or you accidentally pour the salt instead of shaking it, quickly grab a spoon and scoop out the excess salt. Do not stir the dish because this encourages the salt to dissolve and distribute throughout the dish. If you can't scoop out enough undissolved salt, try scooping out some of the liquid and solid foods in the immediate vicinity of the salt pour.

Balancing Act

Sugar can be used to balance salt. (Image: Jan Sandvik/iStock/Getty Images)

Strong flavors, such as sugar, or acids, such as cider vinegar, lemon juice or wine, can help balance out excess saltiness in a dish. While adding other flavors doesn't reduce the amount of sodium in the dish, it can help to remove some of the intense, salty flavor. A bit of sugar goes a long way, so start off with a pinch of sugar or a splash of vinegar. Test the dish after about one minute to give the added ingredients time to intensify. Add a little more at a time until you achieve the desired results. Choose the ingredient based on the type of dish. Sugar, for example, can blend in well with a tomato-based dish such as chili, while an acidic liquid might be the better option for meat dishes.

Cook for an Army

Beef stew. (Image: zeleno/iStock/Getty Images)

An oversalted meal for two might not be palatable, but it might be just right if you increase the recipe to serve four or six people. Take the original recipe and double or triple it, adding as many additional ingredients as needed until you achieve the desired balance. While you might not be able to eat all the food at once, you can save it for lunch the next day or store many foods in the freezer. In the case of a soup or stew, this is as simple as adding sodium-free broth and more vegetables. If you're already halfway through the preparation, start a separate dish and combine the two when you catch up to the steps. In many cases, you can even add a few cut potatoes to absorb the extra salt and remove the chunks before serving.

Start Over

A colander. (Image: Dave & Les Jacobs/Blend Images/Getty Images)

A soup or stew with heavy broth or simply a dish with a lot of liquid that is later reduced in the cooking process can easily be remedied by pouring off the extra liquid. Scoop out some of the liquid or pour it through a colander and discard. Replace it with new liquid and add other seasonings as needed to restore the missing flavors. Some of the salt might absorb into the meats and vegetables, especially if it simmers for an extended period before you catch the error, but most of the saltiness should be concentrated in the liquid.

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