Have you heard somebody shouting, “Salt isn’t a condiment?”
Or find yourself confused when another person emphasizes that salt is a condiment?
Who’s right, then?
The debate over whether salt is a condiment could potentially divide friends and family.
So, what’s the truth? Is salt a condiment or not? Let’s dive into the history, culinary use, and arguments surrounding this essential seasoning.
A Quick Answer to “Is Salt a Condiment?”
Before getting into the details and justifying whether salt is a condiment, seasoning, or both, let me spread the beans.
Yes, salt is primarily a seasoning used to enhance the flavor of food during cooking. However, it can also be considered a condiment when used for a finishing touch or when diners add it to their meals according to personal taste preferences. The classification of salt can be fluid, depending on its context and usage.
Without being diplomatic by now, we can think critically on the topic, “Is salt a seasoning?”
A Word about What is a Condiment and its Different Forms?
Now when we want to consider salt as a condiment seriously, it’s essential to know the following:
- What is a condiment?
- And, in what form of condiment can you classify salt?
A condiment is a complementary food preparation in small quantities used to enhance the flavor of various foods. Adding condiments lets you customize your meal to suit your taste. Some well-known examples of condiments are:
- Soy sauce
- Hot sauce
- Relish, hot sauce
These flavor-enhancing preparations have been essential to our culinary culture for several centuries. The evidence of condiment usage dates back to ancient human civilizations like the Romans, Egyptians, and Greeks.
Different forms of condiments
It’s challenging to list a definitive number of condiment forms.
That’s because the number is growing every day in the ever-evolving culinary world. However, you can categorize condiments into several forms or types according to their consistency, ingredients, and applications.
Below are the primary forms of condiments:
Sauces are combinations of ingredients, e.g., vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices, and acids in liquid or semi-liquid consistency. They can be smooth, creamy, or watery. Likewise, they can also vary according to tastes like salty, sweet, acidic, or umami.
Examples of condiment sauces include ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, soy sauce, barbecue sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.
Spreads are thick, semi-solid flavor and texture boosters that you can apply to bread, buns, or crackers. They can be savory or sweet, depending on their ingredients.
Some common spreads include pure butter drawn from milk, jam and jelly, nut butter, cream cheese, and hummus. Similarly, savory spreads can be cooked, mashed with chickpeas, or blended with tahini. Olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic can be combined to make savory spreads.
Dips are thick, flavorful condiments that you can use for dipping various food items like chips, bread, crackers, or vegetables. You can also serve dips as appetizers and snacks, besides serving them with the main dishes. Their taste can vary, which can be savory or sweet.
Dips have an extensive list of ingredients like dairy products, vegetables, legumes, and more. Some of the most popular examples of the dips are salsa (a tomato-based Mexican dip), Guacamole (another creamy avocado-based Mexican dip from Mexican cuisine), hummus, and Tzatziki.
Pickled or preserved items
These types of condiments are pretty traditional and can vary according to region. Such preservation of food ingredients can involve methods like picking, fermenting, or curing.
These methods add an unusually acidic flavor to these condiments. Some examples of such condiments are pickles, olives, capers, and sauerkraut.
Seasoning (when Used as Condiments)
Seasonings are dry or semi-dry ingredients that add flavor to food during cooking or on the serving table.
Primarily, they help you adjust the recipe taste as seasonings during your recipes’ marinating, cooking, or final mixing stages. Yet, when you use them to enhance the flavor of your food on your dinner tables, they work as condiments.
So they transcend the more specific category of condiments.
You can find seasoning used as condiments in the form of powders, flakes, or granules. Some examples include salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and chili flakes. Some common types of seasonings found in the kitchen are:
- Pastes like tomato paste, curry paste, and miso paste
- Dressings like vinaigrettes, ranch dressing, and Caesar dressing
- Syrups like maple syrup, chocolate syrup, and caramel syrup
- Ground or whole spices, like cinnamon, cumin, or paprika
- Fresh or dried herbs, such as basil, cilantro, parsley, mint, oregano, rosemary, or thyme
- Salts like pink salt, black salt, table salt, garlic salt, smoked salt, or Himalayan pink salt
- Liquid seasonings, such as soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or hot sauce, add depth and complexity to a dish.
In short, the condiments include countless variations and combinations of ingredients in different cuisines and cultures. Therefore, sometimes some seasonings also come in the group of condiments.
Can any Seasoning be a Condiment or any Condiment a Seasoning?
Seasonings and condiments both enhance the flavor of food. Yet, you can’t use these terms interchangeably without caring about their role in your food.
For instance, ketchup is a condiment when added to your platter. However, when you use it in your recipe at cooking, marinating, or final stage, it also serves as a seasoning.
Likewise, salt is a mineral seasoning. But it’s a condiment when used on the dinner table to improve the taste of the food as per individual preferences.
Indeed, there is a significant overlap between these two terms. Yet without caring how you will use any of these, it’s best to call a seasoning “seasoning” and a condiment a “condiment.”
What is Salt, a Seasoning, or a Condiment, then?
Salt is a mineral that occurs naturally. In human history, it has the most ancient culinary usage. Primarily, it has been used as a seasoning.
Seasonings are food ingredients you can use to jack up your food flavor without altering its taste greatly. If you add the seasoning in huge quantities, it can ruin the taste of the food. Some everyday seasonings are salt, pepper, sugar, and herbs.
Salt can also be a condiment when you place it on your dinner table to alter the standard taste of your dish/food. Hence, it belongs to the “seasoning” form of condiments previously discussed. For example, you might use salt with the veggies or fruits like unripened mango or guavas.
Hence, salt is an edible and essential mineral that can be a seasoning or condiment, depending on how you use it.
Why Do Some Others Oppose the Idea of Salt as a Condiment Heavily?
It’s evident that salt is a seasoning; it can be termed a condiment owing to its particular use. And some people also clear such ambiguity when others call salt a condiment, for some reasons:
Seasoning is an ingredient added to food during preparation to enhance or modify flavor. So, salt is used primarily at the food preparation stages, like mixing, cooking, or right before serving it, aiming at developing the standard taste of the recipe.
Salt is a single-ingredient substance. This distinction also contributes to the argument that salt should be considered a seasoning rather than a condiment.
Salt is a nearly universal seasoning in almost every cuisine worldwide. Yet, condiments vary from one tradition to another and their ever-evolving list.
So, is salt a condiment?
First, salt is a mineral seasoning. Yet, if you want to call it a condiment, it ultimately depends on how you add it to your food. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that:
- First and principally, salt is a mineral seasoning.
- Secondly, salt can be called a condiment when you use it while eating your food.
- Third, it’s not a spice at all.
Salt is definitely a must-have ingredient for your recipes because:
- It enhances the natural flavors of ingredients;
- Balances sweetness and bitterness;
- Acts as a preservative;
- Plays a role in the texture of certain foods, such as in baking and meat curing