Smoked sea salt is sea salt with the added flavor of smoke from hickory or other aromatic hardwoods. It allows you to get the smoke flavor at the same time that you salt your food. If you can’t find smoked sea salt in your grocery store’s spice aisle and don’t want to make it yourself, you can try a smoked sea salt substitute.
Your best bet: Make your own smoked sea salt
It is easy to make a smoked sea salt if you have access to a smoker or barbecue grill, but you may also be able to do a version of it in your oven. All you need is your desired smoking wood and some time. The principle is the same as that for smoking meat or any other food: place the sea salt in the grill on a tray and expose it to smoke for about 24 hours. Stir every few hours to ensure that all the salt gets equal exposure to the smoke.
Some experts recommend placing the salt in coffee filters or atop a metal splatter screen to ensure that the salt gets smoked on all sides. The sea salt will pick up the nuances of whatever wood you are using so you can try different woods with different batches of salt to get a variety of flavors.
If you very little time or don’t have any smoking equipment, you can mix your sea salt with a little liquid smoke. Mix it thoroughly and then place it in a low oven to dry out. Keep an eye on it and keep moving it around to ensure that the grains remain separate.
A decent second choice: Liquid smoke
You can use liquid smoke on its own to add a smoky flavor if you are adding sea salt to a dish separately. Liquid smoke might be a preferred alternative if you want to increase the salt in a recipe without also increasing the smokiness or vice versa.
Liquid smoke is also a lot easier to find in a standard grocery store when compared to commercial smoked sea salt and is a faster way to get the smoky flavor when compared to smoking salt yourself. Bear in mind that because it is a liquid, you will be adding moisture to your dish; reserve it for food where this will not be a problem.
In a pinch: Black salt (kala namak)
Black salt is a sulfurous salt that contains hydrogen sulfide along with its sodium chloride. It is chemically a salt just like sea salt, which means that its flavor profile is merely salty; however, the hydrogen sulfide component gives it a rotten egg smell.
When you use black salt in small amounts, that note can enhance its savory character and stand in for the smokiness from smoked sea salt. Keep in mind that while the smell is immediately detectable in the uncooked salt itself, it mostly disappears cooked dishes and leaves only the umami quality.
You can get the same smokiness that you would get from smoked sea salt by merely salting the food and then smoking it over wood. Directly adding the smoke flavor might be a faster option than smoking salt and then using it as a seasoning.
Smoked paprika is another way to get the smoke flavor in spice form. Of course, this will only work in dishes that would benefit from the addition of paprika. You will need another smoked sea salt alternative if you are making a dessert.