Salts (table or cooking) with the fewest additives

A short answer: try canning/pickling salt

I'll go into more detail about extra substances in salt products below, but I personally take the simple route of just buying canning salt, avoiding anticaking agents and not worrying about using salt to get iodine or minerals (as in sea salt). I buy:

Photo of Morton Canning and Pickling Salt
Morton Canning and Pickling Salt
Online sources
Flag for US residentsUS residents

Hy-Vee Direct has the lowest price I've found, 36lbs for $20.71 + $2.95 ground shipping:

Buy from Hy-Vee Direct
Flag for UK residentsUK residents

Morton's is available on amazon.co.uk, but it's currently overpriced:

Finding locally
Flag for US residentsUS residents

I've had about a 50% success rate finding this (or any other brand of canning/pickling salt) in my local grocery stores. Morton has a store locator that can help.

All ingredients:

Salt.

Many kosher salts brands are equivalent to canning/pickling salt, containing no extra substances. One example, more widely available in the UK than Morton's:

Photo of Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
Finding locally
Flag for US residentsUS residents

Diamond Crystal has a store locator.

All ingredients:

Salt.

In humid areas, salts like these may clump together because they don't have any anticaking agents. Adding a few grains of uncooked rice to a salt shaker can help prevent this by absorbing moisture.

The details: extra substances in salt products

Anticaking/anticlumping agents

The most common anticaking agents added to salts are calcium silicate (also known as E552), sodium ferrocyanide (aka yellow prussiate of soda, YPS, or E535), tricalcium phosphate (aka TCP or E342), and sodium silicoaluminate (aka sodium aluminosilicate or E554). Magnesium carbonate was also used as an early anti-caking agent, but I haven't found any brands that still use it.

I don't have any reason to believe those anticaking agents are harmful, but they're easy enough to avoid with canning salt.

Iodine

Most table salts are iodized/iodised to help fight iodine deficiency (see this map for an estimate of the degree of iodine deficiency in your country). However, an analysis of iodized salt products found a lot of variation in their iodine levels, so they might not be a good choice for those who want to carefully control their iodine levels.

Dextrose may also be added to iodized salt to stabilize the iodine.

I've never been able to find a non-sea-salt iodized salt without anticaking agents. If you know of one, please let me know in the comments section.

Fluoride

Some countries fluoridate their salt with potassium fluoride, sodium fluoride, sodium fluosilicate, or other fluoride sources to reduce the risk of dental cavities. I haven't found a master list of such countries anywhere (if you know of one, please let me know in the comments), but France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, and Spain are some of the estimated 15 countries with salt fluoridation programs. Some sites claim that fluoridation ingredients are not required to be included in the salt's ingredients list, so it might be worth contacting the manufacturer if you live in a fluoridating country.

Sea salt can also have significant flouride content depending on the source.

Minerals and metals in sea salts

Sea salt is often promoted as completely superior to ordinary refined salt because of its mineral content. However, it can also carry contain tiny amounts of harmful substances like aluminum, lead, and mercury. I don't mean this as a scare tactic: most foods will have some of these substances, and it's possible that ordinary refined salt retains some the harmful refining agents used in its processing. However, such substances make sea salt less of a no-brainer for people like me who are confident they're getting adequate minerals elsewhere, don't care about the taste of sea salt, and would prefer lower-cost salt.

Here are some chemical analyses if you'd like to find a sea salt with the highest levels of the minerals you're looking for, with the minimum of harmful substances. If you know of any analyses of ordinary refined salt, please let me know in the comments.

Based on those analyses, Real Salt brand seems like a good (and fairly affordable) option for sea salt, and it's commonly available in health food stores or online in bulk.

Ingredient details for common salt brands

Biosalt Light
Notes:
  • contains anti-caking agents
  • contains iodine
All ingredients:

Sodium chloride, zinc oxide, manganese sulphate, potassium chloride, potassium iodide, chromium picolinate, tricalcium phosphate, ferrous fumarate, trace minerals, magnesium oxide, copper gluconate from sea salt

Diamond Crystal Iodized Salt
Notes:
  • contains anti-caking agents
  • contains iodine
All ingredients:

Salt, silicon dioxide, tricalcium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate, dextrose, potassium iodide.

Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
Notes:
  • free of anti-caking agents
  • does not contain iodine
All ingredients:

Salt.

Diamond Crystal Salt Sense
Notes:
  • contains anti-caking agents
  • contains iodine
All ingredients:

Salt, silicon dioxide, tricalcium phosphate, dextrose, sodium bicarbonate and potassium iodide.

Hain Pure Foods Iodized Sea Salt
Notes:
  • contains anti-caking agents
  • contains iodine
All ingredients:

Salt, calcium silicate, dextrose, potassium iodide, sodium bicarbonate.

Hain Pure Foods Sea Salt
Notes:
  • contains anti-caking agents
  • does not contain iodine
All ingredients:

Salt, calcium silicate.

Morton Canning and Pickling Salt
Notes:
  • free of anti-caking agents
  • does not contain iodine
All ingredients:

Salt.

Morton Coarse Kosher Salt
Notes:
  • contains anti-caking agents
  • does not contain iodine
All ingredients:

Salt, yellow prussiate of soda.

Morton Fine Sea Salt
Notes:
  • contains anti-caking agents
  • does not contain iodine
All ingredients:

Sea salt, yellow prussiate of soda.

Morton Iodized Salt
Notes:
  • contains anti-caking agents
  • contains iodine
All ingredients:

Salt, calcium silicate, sugar, potassium iodide.

Morton Iodized Sea Salt
Notes:
  • contains anti-caking agents
  • contains iodine
All ingredients:

Sea salt, calcium silicate, dextrose, potassium iodide.

Morton Natural Sea Salt
Notes:
  • free of anti-caking agents
  • does not contain iodine
All ingredients:

Sea salt.

Morton Salt
Notes:
  • contains anti-caking agents
  • does not contain iodine
All ingredients:

Salt, calcium silicate.

N'Joy Salt Packets
Notes:
  • contains anti-caking agents
  • contains iodine
All ingredients:

Salt, sodium silicoaluminate, sodium thiosulfate, potassium iodide.

You made it to the end of this long, boring page about salt without falling asleep! I salute you.


More topics and updates

I send out an email every month or so with new topics / updates / cheesy jokes.

If you'd like to receive these, enter your email (I will neither spam nor sell it):

I also appreciate / Follow on Twitter!


Load comments