fix a salty stew

How To Fix A Salty Soup or Sauce

Learn how to fix a salty soup or sauce with these techniques, from absorbing salt with potatoes to dilution and masking with other flavors. Mistakes happen, so make sure you know these practical solutions to rescue oversalted soups and sauces.

Food and Salt

Seasoning food with salt is one of the most common things you do when cooking – almost all food gets some salt. It’s not practical to measure salt formally (weight or volume) each time you use it. Instead. we add pinches of salt and eyeball how much we’ll need. Periodically, we pay the price for this convenience and accidentally overseason our food.

How to Fix Salty Soup – Prevention

The safest method for seasoning, besides measuring the salt formally, is to go slowly. Add salt little by little. After each addition, we taste our food to see if we need more, and if so how much. We don’t want to overshoot. We can always add more salt, but if we add too much it is impossible to go backwards. Well its not completely impossible to go backwards – which is what we’re going to talk about here.

fix a salty soup

Oops My Food is Too Salty

Every now and then, it is inevitable that a mistake will occur. In cooking, there are lots of things going on and things will occasionally go wrong – that’s part of the deal. Part of being a good cook is knowing how to fix these mistakes.

This post will cover how to fix a salty sauce, soup, or stew. The post is divided into sections based on the principle we are using to reduce the saltiness.

Sauce or Soup Too Salty – Solutions

If your soup is too salty, here are are some tactics you can use to get your dish back on track. These work if your stew or sauce is too salty as well – anything you are cooking that is predominantly liquid. I have divided the solutions into three categories based on how they reduce saltiness.

At the end of the post, I will also present some tactics to fix a solid food that is too salty (as opposed to a liquid food like soup, stew, or sauce).

Method 1 – Absorb Salt from your Oversalted sauce

In this approach, we want to add something into our soup that will absorb salt, and then remove that thing. Since we can’t remove the salt itself, we use something that will absorb the salt and then remove that thing.

The classic ingredient to use is the potato. Make sure it is peeled. Put the whole potato (or potatoes) into your salty soup and allow to simmer or boil. You can remove the potato in 30 to 60 minutes. You don’t need to cook potato through; in fact, you definitely don’t want to have the potato fall apart.

fix a salty sauce

Method 2 – Diluting your Oversalted Soup

Dilution is a method where we add more ingredients to your oversalted soup in order to lower the overall concentration of salt, and therefore make it taste less salty. The issue here is to always be cautious that you don’t add too much of that ingredient and create new problems.

Some ingredients you could add to dilute the saltiness:

  1. Water or unsalted broth/stock – this is the most basic thing you could add , but don’t add so much to make your soup bland
  2. Milk or dairy (cream, yogurt, etc.) – this is especially good at diluting and masking saltiness (see next category for masking)
  3. Other solid food ingredients like pasta, beans, lentils, or vegetables. All of these will ultimately dilute the overall saltiness of the soup (and mask the saltiness a bit as well)

Method 3 – Masking To Fix Your Salty Sauce

To mask the saltiness, we can add other ingredients that will cover up the perception of saltiness but not necessarily change the concentration of salt.

Some ingredients or flavors you could use for masking:

1.) Spiciness, like black pepper or red chili flakes

2.) Acid, like lemon juice or vinegar. Other cooks have recommended using acid, though some scientific reviews on binary taste interactions suggest that sour can enhance salty. So proceed with caution. I include it on this list to be complete.

3.) Sweetness, like sugar, maple syrup, or honey. Obviously you want to avoid making your sauce or soup too sweet, so be very careful here, or just don’t do it. However, a scientific review of binary taste interactions suggests that sweetness can suppress saltiness

fix salty minestrone soup

Fixing Solid Food That Is Too Salty

Let’s say you make something like a meatball or sausage that is too salty – it is possible you can save your oversalted solid food. You will use diffusion of salt to do this. Place your oversalted food into an unsalted liquid, like water, broth, or sauce.

For example, let’s say you make meatballs and brown them. Then you try one and realize they are too salty. Now you simmer those meatballs in a tomato sauce (low or no salt) for an hour. Now try a meatball. They will be considerably less salty. Some of the meatball’s salt will have diffused into the less salty tomato sauce.

You can use this same principle in other ways. For example, I once made a large batch of salmon mousseline at a restaurant where I was working. They were like salmon sausages basically. After cooking them, I tasted them and realized they were way too salty to serve anyone. I was going to have to throw all of them in the trash, and therefore waste a lot of time and product.

I really didn’t want to do this so I used the diffusion principle. I put all the salmon ‘sausages’ in a large container and covered them with water. The next day, I tried one and they were no longer too salty (thank goodness). The excess salt in the salmon mousselline had moved into the surrounding water.

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