When you think of salt, you probably think of white. But you probably also know that salt comes in a variety of colours from different regions. Where does salt get its unique pink, red, blue, grey and black colours from? And what’s the difference between them?
First, all salt is basically sodium chloride, an electrolytic composition formed from evaporating sea water. Unlike everyday table salt, many unrefined salts also contain a number of other trace minerals and elements which may lend a coloured salt its unique hues. But that’s not always the case:
Himalayan Pink Salt
The translucent pink hues of Himalayan Pink Salt come from the presence of a reported 84 trace minerals including potassium, magnesium and calcium. Iron oxide is the main element that gives the salt its signature colour. Despite its land-locked underground location, the salt can still trace its origins to the sea. The salt comes from deep under the Himalayan Mountain Range where ancient seas evaporated more than 200 million years ago. These fossilized sea beds have been preserved in their purity by lava flows. Prized for its crunch, rich mineral content, flavour and purity, Himalayan Pink Salt is regarded by many as one of the healthiest and purest salts on earth.
Hawaiian Red Salt
Also known as Alea Salt, Hawaiian Red Salt is a traditional Hawaiian seasoning used in many authentic Hawaiian dishes. It has a mellower, earthier salt flavour than typical sea salts. The red colouring comes from the addition of small amounts of Alea, or red volcanic clay, to the unrefined sea salt. Like Himalayan Pink Salt, the volcanic clay is rich in iron oxide and lends the salt its vibrant red colour.
Brittany Grey Sea Salt
This high-quality salt is produced from the Atlantic coast of France’s Brittany region. The faint grey colour comes from minerals that are absorbed by the crystals from clay in the salt ponds. Brittany Grey Sea Salt is unrefined and hand-made using the traditional Celtic methods that have been in practice for more than 2,000 years. It’s considered a “moist” salt, high in mineral content, which is often used as a culinary finishing salt in dishes to add texture and enhance flavour.
Persian Blue Salt
Persian Blue Salt is one of the rarest salts on earth and is harvested from the remnants of an ancient salt lake in Iran. The blue hue of the crystals is due to the immense compaction due to tectonic pressure more than 200 million years ago. The massive compression of the salt vein essentially warped the crystalline structure of the salt to the point that it refracts light differently. In short, the colour is almost an optical illusion. Persian Blue Salt has an intense salt flavour with a mellow aftertaste.
Hawaiian Black Salt/Cyprus Black Salt
There’s no mistaking the stunning appearance of this salt. Whether it’s Hawaiian Black Salt or Cyprus Black Salt, the jet black colour is due to the addition of activated charcoal. The charcoal helps give the salt a unique flavour profile as well as enhance its nutritional benefits. The large black crystals dissolve quickly and stand out on the plate, especially when used as a finishing salt for fish and vegetables.