Curing Salt vs Pickling Salt

Curing Salt vs Pickling Salt

Knowing exactly which type of salt to use in the kitchen is very important. This is because if you use the wrong type of salt you will fail to achieve your intended goals. Often people ask if curing salt and pickling salt can substitute each other in the kitchen and the answer to that question is no. The names of the 2 types of salt actually tell you that one is for curing whilst the other is for pickling. However, to get an in-depth explanation on the differences simply check out the article below.


Curing salt

Curing salt is a type of salt that is pink in colour. It is used in meat processing to give the meat a pinkish shade whilst preserving it for a longer time. Curing salt is also known as Prague powder and it is used to prevent the production of bacteria in meat during the curing stage. Meat is commonly affected by botulism, a disease that affects meat. It is also referred to as the sausage disease or sausage poisoning. Curing salt helps to prevent that disease because it contains sodium nitrate, an important chemical that prevents the growth of such bacteria. The grains of curing salt are similar to that of table salt but the only difference is that curing salt has a pink colour.

NB: curing meat requires special expertise. Therefore if you do not have the knowledge then avoid doing it on your own. Always seek guidance when doing so. Curing salt contains toxins which are harmful so if you do it the wrong way it may result in sickness and sometimes even death.

Pickling salt

Pickling salt is pure sodium chloride or pure salt. It is commonly used for pickling cucumbers and other types of foods that need pickling. Pickling salt is different from other types of salt like table salt because it does not contain iodine. This is because iodine reacts with the bacteria needed for fermentation. So the end result will be dark pickles. Pickling salt does not have any anti-caking agents so it usually clumps up together when exposed to moisture. So it is usually stored in air tight containers. The grains of pickling salt are very fine.

NB: pickling salt can always be used to substitute table salt but table salt can never be used to substitute pickling salt. This is because it has iodine which is not required when pickling foods.

Differences between curing salt and pickling salt


The first difference to note between  curing salt and pickling salt is that curing salt is coloured pink whereas pickling salt has the same colour as table salt although the grains are different. However, it is important never to confuse curing salt for Himalayan pink salt since this type of salt cannot be used for curing meat.


The texture of pickling salt is different from that of curing salt. Pickling salt has finer grains as compared to curing salt. The reason why pickling salt has finer grains is because they help to create the brine that you pickle your products in.

To add on, since pickling salt is ground finely as compared to curing salt, it actually dissolves faster. That is one of the main reasons it is used for pickling.

Production process

Pickling salt does not contain any anti-caking agents or additives as compared to curing salt. This means that pickling salt does not contain iodine or any colouring that is found in curing salt. Due to its lack of anti-caking agents, pickling salt tends to form clumps when exposed to moisture unlike curing salt. Furthermore, the absence of iodine in pickling salt due to the fact that it tends to interfere with the bacteria that is essential to start the fermentation process.

In addition, curing salt contains sodium nitrate whereas pickling salt doesn’t. The sodium nitrate helps to preserve the meat so that bacteria doesn’t develop on it while it during the fermentation process.


Curing salt is mainly used on meat and can be very toxic to human beings if treated as ordinary salt. That is why it can never be used as a substitute for table salt. However, pickling salt can be used to substitute table salt since it doesn’t have any additives. Although it tends to clump up together because it doesn’t have anti-caking agents it can still work.

Substitutes for curing salt


This is another name for potassium nitrate. It can be used as a substitute for curing salt when curing meat. It works well in preserving food and in many African countries it is used as a tenderiser. Saltpeter works the same way that curing salt does. This is because it kills bacteria that affects the meat so it will able to last for a longer time.

Kosher salt

Substitute curing salt with kosher salt. This is because kosher salt is none iodised salt. It will really help to cure the meat without leaving an unpleasant taste.

Substitutes for pickling salt

Kosher salt

This type of salt can also be used as a substitute for pickling salt. This is because it does not contain iodine. So it will definitely not cause the pickles to turn darker. Furthermore, kosher salt is pure salt so you don’t have to stress yourself asking on whether it will help the pickles to ferment perfectly.

Sea salt

Alternatively you can use sea salt to substitute pickling salt. This is because it doesn’t contain most of the additives that are found in other salts. However, because sea salt has larger grains than pickling salt you need to measure the weight and not the volume when using it in your recipe. If you measure using the volume there is a risk that you will add too much then it will compromise the flavour of your pickles.


It is very easy to physically distinguish curing salt from pickling salt as these 2 types of salt have nothing in common. They can never be used interchangeably. Always remember never to confuse curing salt with Himalayan pink salt as these 2 salts are very similar in colour.

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