How to reduce saltiness in soups/stews

It’s easy to accidentally over-salt soup, stocks and stews and for ages I thought that there wasn’t anything you can do about it. But it turns out it’s quite easy to repair something that’s too salty: just put a raw potato in the soup or stew. As the potato cooks it will absorb some of the salt and then before you serve up just remove the potato. Simple.

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26 Responses to “How to reduce saltiness in soups/stews”

  1. bigsky Says:

    Plus, you end up with a salty potato. Bonus.

  2. recipes « Chef where are you? Says:

    [...] How to reduce saltiness in soups/stews [...]

  3. unmessenger of doom Says:

    this is not a myth
    you never study osmosis at school?

  4. Fixup Says:

    Yes, I did. And I also de-bunked this myth by doing a practical experiment during A-level biology, using various salt solutions, plain water, and potatoes. Oh and an electrical conductivity meter. If you want more details, just ask.

  5. cha Says:

    Or You can use Washed charcoal to remove salt

    Take few pisces of wooden charcoal and wash it throughly. Cover it with few pieces of kleenex. Place the covered charcoal pieces in a clean cloth (like cheese cloth) and place it inside your soup for 5 min. Stir the soup lightly.

    The Chracoal absorbs the dissolved salt from the soup.

  6. CraigH Says:

    I have just read this thread, and have to say that Fixup’s experiments must have been inadequately controlled.

    If you cook a potato in a pan of unsalted water and compare it to one cooked in salted, the taste clearly shows that some of salt must have moved into the potato (not sure how you could measure this though).

    Perhaps some of the starches from the potato move into the water, such that Fixup’s meter registered the same conductivity (or perhaps he did not make proper allowance for the water that would have evaporated whilst the potato cooked, thus increasing the effective salt solution).

    Whilst the effect might be small, Science says that it must also be real.

    The downside is that Science also says that the potato will take on some of the other flavours from the soup/stew, so you might have been better simply pouring away some of the salty stock, and topping up with clean water.

  7. No Need To Fight Says:

    So the potato does remove salt from the water. Very little in my experience. But the science experiment Fixup suggests must have been faulty, as common sense and taste proves otherwise.

    But generally speaking, we don’t want to impart potato flavour into just any soup. If you truly want to reduce the saltiness of a soup you can add more nage, or light broth. Depending on your soup, just boil related flavours into another pot of water, remove those vegetables, and add the nage to the salty soup as required. This is an essential tool in all busy kitchens. I have at least a liter of nage next to my Bain-Marie everyday.

  8. Kauhajoen Ruokamessut 14.-16.9.2009 Myytti #1 – Suolan poisto raa’alla perunalla | Says:

    [...] on ympäri maailmaa levinnyt myytti, ja sitä on testattukin monessa eri yhteydessä.  Tietääkseni kukaan ei ole pystynyt [...]

    • Paul Says:

      Hmmm………yes. Well, that clears that up then. Insightful. Thank-you.
      And would you like fries with that?

  9. Jessica Says:

    Hey, WTF am I supposed to do if there are already potatos in the stew? anyone with a real answer? like can I add “blah blah blah” to remove the stalty taste.

    Any help?

  10. Loisa Says:

    I can give you the answer but you were not nice on saying it.. so sorry cant help anymore

  11. Kitchen-dweller Says:

    Loisa, please, if not for Jessica then please tell the rest of us if you know any other way of reducing the salt-contents in a soup. (other than the potato of course…)

    Any help would be much appreciated.

  12. ginqueen30 Says:

    jeez guys,,,anyoe knows that you check seasoning before salting,,,,esp if using manufactured stock cubes, or broth as they are always quite salty anyways,,,,i hardly ever add my own salt to soup and stews,,,,just taste taste and keep tasting !!!!! amatures !!!

  13. buster Says:

    If you’re talking about soup which is not cream based soup, your best bet would be adding more water into it.. If more water aren’t allowed into the soup like creame soup for instance, your best bet would be to make another batch with very much less sugar and mix the two batches…

    You guys said that Fixup’s experiment isn’t controlled enough, somehow I began to question about your tastebuds.. No the right words should be the method of your tasting the soup. How are you tasting it? Did you after the fist taste, rinse your mouth and tongue with adequate water to ensure all the saltiness has gone?

    For the potato, it’s doesn’t really work if we are talking about very oversalted soup.. the potato absorb not only the salt but the water.. natrium exists inside the potato and this will cause potato to not absorb salt very effectively. in fact the salt concentration in the soup wouldn’t be very much of a difference.

    The addition of potato is a myth and a fact in its own sense.. Myth because it doesn’t really reduce the concentration of salt in the soup.. Fact because it does absorb salt into the itself along with water.

    By experiment, the addition of potato will very slightly increase the conductivity.. However, the increament isn’t statistically different. The increament is simply because there are other salts aside from NaCl(standard table salt) present in the potato, and these salts went into the water. The conclusion of the experiments are, the salt concentration before and after the addition of salt is practically the same.
    If you’re wondering about the experiment are faulty, I can asure you that everything that can be controlled have been controlled. Everything is controlled and taken into account, from the surface area of the potato to the room temperature and humidity. the data are proccessed statistically.

    The problem with the taste is because when you first taste something very salty, the salt molecule will bind to your taste bud occupying most of the receptor (practically numb your tongue).. after you add potato, and you taste it again, you will taste it a little bit less salty. This is simply because the salt from the first taste hasn’t completely gone yet thus, there will still be difference in the saltiness..

    It’s like after you consumed a very sweet juice, your tastebud will get used to the sweetness and you drink it again, it will taste less sweet, If you taste it again and again and again and again…, In the end you don’t say the juice is very sweet anymore.. you’ll just say the juice is sweet.

  14. buster Says:

    oops.. typo.. instead of sugar, it should read salt..

  15. Paul Says:

    Most answers are on wiki: A nage is a flavoured liquid used for poaching delicate foods, typically seafood. A traditional nage is a broth flavoured with white wine, vegetables, and herbs, in which seafood is poached. Cooking something à la nage means “while swimming” (French nager = to swim) and refers to cooking in a well-flavoured court bouillon. Eventually the term “nage” itself came to refer to a broth which, while light, is strong enough to be served as a light sauce.
    ** So in fact “no need to fight” means fight the saltiness with more unsalted soup or stock – that is to say dilute it. The disposable potato remains a better solution in my view.

    • Judy Teel Says:

      I just improved my pinto beans in the crockpot that I had salted too much. I took some of the liquid out, added water and beef stock. Then a cup of picanti sauce. I think they are going to be perfect. Here in Mexico we feed our workers lunch. My house is being painted and they are going to have a grand lunch tomorrow… beans, rice and totillas. Better than the sandwiches they have had this week!

  16. Rita Lindsay Says:

    Charcoal can reduce the salt content in a salty soup. Just a little wash and remove charcoal after boiling the soup.

  17. Justine Says:

    My chili turned out too salty this time and I tried the raw potato trick…didn’t work…..any suggestions?


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