Steve De Long

Flavor Aficionado

Salt Pairings

Let's take a deeper dive into the classic Salt Pairings: Salt + Umami, Salt + Bitter, Salt + Sweet + Sour + Umami, and Salt + Sweet.

Salt + Umami

Examples are: bacon, miso soup, chicken soup, or soy sauce.

The salt and the umami enhance each other. In a sense the umami becomes “super” umami.

Salt + Bitter

An example is lightly salting a grapefruit.

The salt masks the bitter notes of the grapefruit and makes it taste sweeter.  The lesson is that salt suppresses the bitter notes and brings forward the other flavor notes that bitter is masking. So when you have an ingredient with a bitter component maybe a sprinkle of a flake salt can help offset that note and make for a more enjoyable dish.

Salt + Sweet + Sour + Umami

Examples: Barbecue and Teriyaki Sauces

Barbecue Sauces and Rubs and Teriyaki Sauce are classic for having that balance of flavors playing off each other. Salt + Honey + Vinegar + Tomatoes make for a match with the formula. Can you imagine how you might use this concept in your own cooking?

Salt + Sweet

Example: Salt and Caramel or Salting your Watermelon

In my family salting watermelon is a tradition. The salt makes the sweetness of the watermelon “pop.” Of course, we used classic table salt, which I now think tastes bitter, but come summertime I’m breaking out the Fleur de Sel. I think the high moisture content is going to work magic.


So as you are cooking think about these classic salt flavor pairings and how you might use them in new and creative ways. In the next post we will discuss salting in every day cooking.

Go to Part 3: Salting or read Part 1: The Salts