HomeVolume 9March 2024 Salt: a culinary staple with a rich history in India

SRAVAN BANDA is a Ph.D. scholar in Biophilia and Wetlands, and Commodore KAMLESH KUMAR is CMD of Hindustan Salts Ltd. Here, they share the history of one of the most important condiments we use in our food-salt!


Salt is an essential ingredient that has played a significant role in human history and culture for thousands of years. It is an integral part of most cuisines, preserving and enhancing the flavors of various dishes. Salt has a rich history that traces back to ancient times. Historically, it was not just a culinary ingredient but also had great economic and political importance. It was used as a form of currency, and salt production and trade became lucrative businesses. In India, salt holds a special place, both in the culinary traditions and in the socio-economic fabric of the country. Here are the origins and usefulness of two varieties of Indian salt—Sambhar Lake Salt and Sambhar Lake Black Salt.

Origin of Sambhar Salt

Sambhar Salt comes from the Sambhar Lake in Rajasthan. It is renowned for its distinctive flavor and its alkaline nature, which sets it apart from other types of salt. It holds a special place in the country’s salt industry. Sambhar Lake is one of the largest saltwater lakes in India, and is renowned for its high salt concentration. The lake’s salt production dates back centuries, with records of its use during the reign of the Mauryan Empire.

Sambhar Salt undergoes a natural evaporation process that concentrates its mineral content and natural Iodine coming from an algal source. This process contributes to the salt’s alkaline nature, which is associated with various health benefits. It is believed that consuming alkaline foods can help balance the body’s pH levels and reduce acidity. Some studies suggest that an alkaline diet may contribute to improved digestion, enhanced energy levels, and better overall health.

In addition to its alkaline properties, Sambhar Salt retains the essential minerals found in the saline waters of Sambhar Lake, including sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron. They contribute to the overall nutritional value of the salt. The presence of these minerals also adds to the unique flavor profile, enhancing the taste of dishes prepared with it.



The soluble salts present in the ashes
are extracted and combined with the
salt, resulting in the distinctive black
color and unique flavor of Sambhar
Lake Black Salt. 

Sambhar Salt is a favored choice among health-conscious individuals and those seeking a unique flavor experience in their culinary creations. Whether used in traditional sambhar recipes or as a seasoning for various dishes, Sambhar Salt adds depth and character to the culinary delights it accompanies.

Sambhar Lake Black Salt—A Medicinal Wonder

Sambhar Lake Black Salt, also known as Kala Namak, is a flavorful variety of salt that has been used for centuries in various cuisines and traditional medicinal practices. Triphala herbs are added to the salt, creating a unique taste and potential health benefits. The three herbs making up Triphala—Amalaki (Indian gooseberry), Haritaki (Chebulic myrobalan), and Bibhitaki (Bahera)—are well-regarded in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine, for their numerous health benefits. Triphala is known to have digestive properties and is commonly used as a natural remedy for digestive disorders such as bloating and indigestion. It is also known to possess detoxifying properties and may help in balancing electrolytes in the body.

The production process of Sambhar Lake Salt involves a traditional method that has been passed down through generations. The plant materials are carefully selected and burned to ashes. These ashes are then mixed with the salt and subjected to a meticulous filtration process for around 48 hours. The soluble salts present in the ashes are extracted and combined with the salt, resulting in the distinctive black color and unique flavor of Sambhar Lake Black Salt.

One of its key characteristics is a distinct sulfurous aroma, because of the presence of trace amounts of sulfur compounds. It is this distinct flavor that makes Sambhar Lake Black Salt a popular ingredient in various dishes, especially in Indian and Asian cuisines. It is often used as a condiment, or as a seasoning to enhance the taste of salads, fruits, snacks, chaats, and chutneys. Whether used in culinary creations or for its medicinal properties, the Triphala-fortified Sambhar Lake Salt continues to be appreciated for its rich heritage and versatility.



With a long-standing
history in India, salt holds
both cultural and culinary

While Sambhar Lake Black Salt offers a unique flavor and potential health benefits, it is to be used in moderation like any other form of salt. People with specific dietary restrictions or medical conditions should consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating it into their diet.

With a long-standing history in India, salt holds both cultural and culinary significance. From the ancient trade routes to the modern-day kitchen, salt continues to be an indispensable ingredient in cooking. The distinct varieties of Indian salt, such as Sambhar Lake Salt and Sambhar Lake Black Salt, showcase the diversity and richness of India’s salt heritage.

So, the next time you savor a flavorful meal or explore the realm of natural remedies, remember the remarkable journey of salt and its transformative role in India’s history.

Note: The information provided in this article is based on historical and cultural references and should not replace professional medical advice.


Sravan Banda

Sravan Banda

Sravan’s expertise is constructed wetlands and wastewater challenges. He is an accredited Green Building Professional through IGBC, and a member of the Society of Wetland Scientists, USA. His interest extends to Indian Traditional Medici... Read More