How many types of salt are there?

How many types of salt are there – varieties and sources

How many types of salt are there and where does salt come from? Read on for salt facts – varieties and sources.

What is salt?

To most of us salt is something we take for granted. We use it daily to sprinkle over our food, or when we are cooking. We also use salt when we are preparing or preserving food.  But how many of you actually know what salt is and where it comes from?  Let’s look at salt facts – varieties and sources. Are you aware that salt is actually a mineral, made up of a crystalline structure, commonly known as sodium chloride (NaC1)?

How many different types of salt are there?

Well, let’s start at the beginning.  Where does salt come from and how many different types of salt are there? Actually there are only two main natural sources of salt – sea water salt and rock salt.  

Salt facts sources – What is the main source of salt?

Seawater salt

Salt is a mineral primarily composed of sodium chloride and is present in vast quantities in seawater.  The evaporation of seawater from mineral-rich water from shallow pools leaves behind salt crystals.  Seawater salt is less processed than refined salts, such as table salt, and it also retains more trace minerals.

Rock salt (Halite)

The rock salt forms deep underground and is a result of underground waterways that have dried up. Over time the rock salt gathers in large deposits. The rock salt is normally colorless, or white, although other colored varieties of rock salt are known to exist.  Interestingly, these other colors can range from light blue, dark blue, pink, red, orange, and even yellow or gray depending on the inclusion of other materials and impurities.  

Did you know the world’s largest salt mine is half a kilometer under Lake Huron in Ontario, Canada?  Amazingly it produces approximately 7 million tons of rock salt each year, all extracted through mining.

Let us take a look at the different types of salt that are generally referred to as ‘common’ types.  Later we can look at the different types of salt for cooking and the different varieties on offer. 

What are the different types of salt?

Now that we know there are only 2 main sources of salt we can split these down into 4 common types of salt.  And later on, we can have a look at the different varieties of salt on offer, from salt for cooking, and food preservation, to salt lamps and skin treatments.  

We will also look at the health benefits, possible side effects, and different ways to use each salt remembering that all these salt products have their own unique characteristics.

Salt facts varieties – Common salts

Refined table salt

Let’s start with the one that we all know – table salt.  The base component for this type of salt is produced through mining, or alternatively, taking ocean water and removing the excess water through evaporation, leaving behind salt crystals.  After this happens the salt crystals go through a further stage of processing where anti-caking agents are added to assist with the flow of the grains.  This further alters the salt crystals from their original natural state. 

Later on we will look at what are the best types of salt for cooking.

Fleur de Sel

Fleur de Sel is a hand-harvested salt. The salt forms when seawater evaporates and leaves behind a very fine, delicate crust on the surface. 

Only under certain weather conditions, Fleur de Sel, which is a natural product, can form.  As the harvesting process is very hands-on and labor intensive it can merit a premium price versus other salt products.

Obviously, as the name suggests it comes from France, mainly Brittany, with the name Fleur de Sel translating as ‘flower of salt’.

Remember to adjust your recipes when using Fleur de Sel. Due to its strong flavor, and premium price, it may be worth considering using Fleur de Sel as a garnish.

Himalayan pink salt

As previously mentioned Himalayan pink salt is rock salt.  The salt is mined from the Salt Range Mountains in the Punjab region of Pakistan and contains 84 trace minerals. 

Due to the striking pink-colored grains of salt we have used the name Himalayan pink salt to identify the pink-colored grains of salt.  The pink color is due to the amount of iron oxide and trace minerals contained in the salt, the finer the grain the paler the pink coloring.  

Kosher salt

Kosher salt has a flaky, coarse structure that helps draw out the blood from the surface of the meat.  The salt does not go through an iodizing process and normally does not go through the process of having anti-caking agents added.

Sea salt

Sea salt is a natural product. Remember the refined table salt mentioned earlier? Sea salt is actually a salt that has not gone through the processing stage.  After removing the excess seawater this leaves behind salt flakes which are generally larger than refined salt.  This type of salt contains trace minerals including iron, potassium, and zinc.

Salt facts – more ideas

If you would like to read more articles about salt, the many varieties there are and their uses then head on over to Salt Recipes and Salt Products to learn more.