Pickling salt is used to provide flavor, but it serves an even more practical function in that it helps to kill bacteria that can make you sick. The latter function means that you have to take your substitutes seriously since pickling comes with the danger of botulism. Not every salt or salt-like product can do the same job as pickling salt. If at all possible, you should make the effort to seek out pickling salt and consider alternatives only when necessary. Here are some of the best pickling salt substitutes.
Your best bet: Kosher salt
Like pickling salt, kosher salt is free from additives. It does not contain iodine or anti-caking agents, which means that it won’t discolor pickled items nor will it give them an undesirable flavor. Kosher salt was originally used to draw out the moisture from meats to make them ceremonially pure for religious purposes. The removal of moisture from meat is one of its functions in pickling as well.
One of the big differences that you will find between pickling salt and kosher salt is the size of the grains. Kosher salt’s grains are much larger than pickling salt grains, which can lead to problems when measuring the two. The finer grains of kosher salt means that you can pack more of it into a measuring container, whereas kosher salt grains will be more loosely packed with spaces between the grains. You will be getting a much more accurate measurement with pickling salt than you will with kosher.
This means that you will need to adjust the quantity of kosher salt when you use it as a substitute. Some cooks recommend formulas such as increasing the amount of salt in a recipe by 50 percent. A simpler way is to measure by weight when making this substitution.
A decent second choice: Sea salt
You can use sea salt as a pickling salt substitute. It should work since it has none of the additives that make other salts less than ideal; however, note that some sea salts will have more of some minerals than others. In some cases, the mineral content may affect the flavor profile of pickled foods negatively. Note also that with coarse sea salt, you will run into the same problem as with kosher salt since the grain-size will throw your measurements off. You can solve the problem in the same way by increasing the amount of salt according to a formula or by measuring with weight rather than volume.
In a pinch: Non-iodized table salt
Salt without iodine is missing the big thing that pickle experts say most affects the flavor and color of pickles. Table salt without iodine does not cause those problems and therefore provides the same benefits as pickling salt. Also good is the fact that the grains are relatively small, which means that they will dissolve quickly in brine just like pickling salt. Fast-dissolving salt will give you a clear, attractive brine. The small grains are easy to measure; non-iodized should be a 1:1 equivalent of pickling salt.
Iodized table salt is the most controversial and vilified salt when it comes to pickling; however, it will serve the same purpose as pickling salt if you have no other alternatives. While some say that it affects flavor negatively and darkens the color of pickles, it is still safe to use and will get the job done.