Alaea salt and Himalayan salt are two versatile culinary salts that can do more for your food than just improve flavor. Alaea and Himalayan salts have a lot in common, and yet neither can perfectly replace the other. If you want to learn more about what makes these popular salts differ from each other and how to use them, look at the SPICEography Showdown below.
Table of Contents
- How does alaea salt differ from Himalayan salt?
- If your recipe calls for one, can you use the other?
- When should you use alaea salt? And when should you use Himalayan salt?
How does alaea salt differ from Himalayan salt?
Alaea salt and Himalayan salt come from different sources. Alaea salt is otherwise known as red Hawaiian salt and is made from Hawaiian seawater with the most traditional form harvested from a salt pond on the island of Kauai. The water is evaporated to produce the salt, which is then mixed with clay from Waimea to color it. There are products that imitate alaea salt from all over the world, including some from the mainland US and China. All Himalayan salt comes from one mine in Punjab, which is in Pakistan. Himalayan salt is what’s left of an ancient ocean.
Alaea salt and Himalayan salt have different colors — alaea salt is red; Himalayan salt is pink. Himalayan salt gets its pink color naturally, unlike alaea salt. The two salts are also often sold in different forms. Alaea salt is commonly used in coarse crystal form though a fine crystal version is also sold. Himalayan salt is popular in block form as well as coarse or fine crystals. Himalayan salt slabs can be used as cooking surfaces for steak and other foods. You can find Himalayan salt sold as fine crystals as well, though the block or coarse forms are preferred for presentation purposes.
If your recipe calls for one, can you use the other?
Alaea salt can be an effective Himalayan salt substitute if what you need is a finishing salt. Alaea salt’s large red crystals will provide the same kind of crunch, the burst of salty flavor and dramatic visual contrast with food that you would get from Himalayan salt. Depending on the food, alaea salt might even be an upgrade because of its more vivid color. Alaea salt won’t be much good if you need an alternative to a pink Himalayan salt block, since it only comes in granular form.
Himalayan salt in its coarse form will work just as well as alaea salt for finishing dishes. While it won’t give you the same red color, it will provide the flavor and mouthfeel. Himalayan salt might not be an ideal substitute in the traditional Hawaiian dish kalua pork. The texture of kalua pork is said to depend on the clay component of alaea salt, which you won’t get from Himalayan salt.
When should you use alaea salt? And when should you use Himalayan salt?
Alaea salt should be your first choice if you are making classic Hawaiian dishes. Along with kalua pork, use alaea salt for poke and pipikaula. Like any coarse salt, alaea salt makes a good finishing salt because of its look as well as its crunchy crystals and briny sea salt flavor.
Himalayan salt’s primary purpose is to be a finishing salt — if you are using it in coarse crystal form — but it might be a cooking or serving vessel if you are using the block form. Cooking on a Himalayan salt block will give the food a subtle saltiness but won’t be overpowering.