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Every home cook knows the sinking feeling that comes when you’re pretty sure you’ve ruined a recipe. It’s impossible to un-burn a batch of cookies or re-inflate a souffle, but-step away from the garbage can!-you just might be able to salvage a dish that has too much salt. Our volunteer Field Editors share their tricks for fixing your oversalted dinner before it’s too late.
“Throw in a cut-up potato.” –Tahnia Fox, Trenton, MI
In soup, stew or anything saucy, potato chunks will help draw out some of the saltiness. Let the potato pieces sit in the pot for about 15 minutes, then fish them out before serving.
“Remove a portion and rinse it off in a colander.” -Elizabeth Bramkamp, Gig Harbor, WA
Here’s is a smart trick for oversalted bean, pasta or rice dishes (but skip it if the recipe is something baked or mashed). When stirring the ingredients back together, remember to let everything come back up to temperature so the dish isn’t lukewarm.
“Use the salty part as the seasoning.” -Janie Zirbser, Mullica Hill, NJ
Start the recipe again, but skip the seasonings and make sure to use no-salt-added or reduced-sodium ingredients. Then use a portion of your oversalted batch to add flavor. You can either toss the leftovers out or freeze them to use in a future meal. Just be sure to label the freezer container, so you remember it needs some low-sodium love when you’re ready to eat it.
“A little sugar might do the trick.” -Debbie Glasscock, Conway, AR
Add small amounts of sugar or vinegar to your dish. The sweetness of sugar or the tartness of vinegar can balance a dish’s saltiness. But watch out! Each of these ingredients goes a long way, so add a tad, then taste, then add a little more if needed.
But let’s be real. Sometimes the dish really is wrecked. You can’t exactly save a casserole once you’ve added 1/2 cup instead of 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Take a deep breath, pick up the phone and order Thai food, because that makes everything better. For next time, use these tricks to avoid oversalting in the first place.
“Cook from scratch.” -Ann Sheehy, Lawrence, MA
Boxed mixes and other processed foods are often full of salt, while homemade recipes allow cooks to keep sodium at bay. Case in point: A serving of chili mac from a meal kit packs about 500mg sodium, while our Chili Beef Noodle Skillet has a more reasonable 351mg per plate.
“Taste as you go.” -Susan Stetzel, Gainesville, NY
Sample each part of a dish-say, lasagna-before you assemble it. This avoids the possibility of creating a salt bomb (or a big pile of blah) once all the pieces come together.
“Remember that flavors will concentrate as a dish simmers.” -Angela Lively, Conroe, TX
Even if a mixture tastes bland after a sprinkling of salt, resist the urge to add more right away. Instead, let the stove do its thing so the flavors have time to meld. Then taste it again before dinnertime, seasoning a little more if need be. Your family will thank you.