Victor Protasio

Don't pour your too-salty soup, stew, or sauce down the drain—fix it by trying these clever tricks instead.

Elizabeth Laseter
August 14, 2012
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Here’s a familiar scenario: You’re making a batch of homemade chicken soup for dinner. The recipe calls for two teaspoon of salt—but all of a sudden, the salt shaker gets away from you. You realize you’ve added way more than the recipe actually needs. Crossing your fingers no one will notice, you give the soup a taste.

Yuck. Too salty.   

So, what do you do? Dump the soup, drown your sorrows in a big glass of wine and order pizza instead?

No! You don’t have to throw in the towel just yet. Luckily, there’s more than one way to fix a batch of too-salty soup, chili, chowder, stew, pasta sauce, and more. However, some methods work better than others—and some don’t really work at all. Below, find several ways you may have heard for fixing over-salted food, and which ones work the best.

Increase the amount of non-salty ingredients.

This solution is labor-intensive, but it’s also the most effective way to diminish an overly salty flavor from a dish. By increasing the quantity of your main non-salty ingredients, the concentration or flavor of the salt will diminish.

So you’re making a creamy Carrot-Ginger Soup, increasing the amount of carrots and ginger should help tame all of that saltiness. However, keep in mind that you’re basically re-making the entire dish again, which is a bit of work.

Add salt-free stock or water.

If you’re dealing with a salty soup or sauce, adding salt-free stock or water is the quickest way to fix it. Make sure to choose an appropriately flavored stock (i.e. don’t use beef stock in a chicken soup) so you don’t completely alter the recipe.

Or, if it is a chunky soup, drain and discard about half of the salty broth, leaving the vegetables and meat. Replace the discarded broth with new stock or water. Additionally, you can further decrease the concentration of salt by adding more vegetables and/or meat to your doctored soup.

Mask the saltiness with an acidic or sweet ingredient.

Depending how oversalted the dish actually is, you may be able to use other strong flavors to bring down the perception of the saltiness. Adding an acidic or sweet ingredient may help downplay the saltiness, but you’ll likely create a completely new dish in the process. Here’s a few ideas:

Acidic: Lemon, vinegar, lemon or lime zest, tomatoes

Sweet: Fruit, carrots, honey, sugar

If you have the time and flexibility, this experiment is worth a try, but bear mind that it may or may not save you from tossing the entire thing.

Add a whole potato—or not.

Sorry—when you want to fix a dish that’s too salty, adding a potato just won't do the trick. Believe what you want, but potatoes are not magical‚ and certainly not capable of selectively sucking the salt out of your soup.

In his wonderful book on food science, What Einstein Told His Cook, Robert Wolke actually proves scientifically that adding a potato does not alter the concentration of salt in the water. (Give it a read it to find out exactly how he does it!) So save your precious potatoes—and make the Perfect Baked Potato or these Silky-Smooth Mashed Potatoes instead.

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