Why Do Indians Swear By Kala Namak, The Ancient Black Salt?

Kala namak, also known as black salt or Himalayan black salt, has been used in Indian cooking for centuries. The salt gets its name and dark colour from its high sulphur content. With its distinctive rotting egg aroma and slightly bitter yet salty taste, it adds a unique flavour to many dishes. It’s a staple with fruits in many regions, think guavas or sliced cucumbers served with a sprinkling of kala namak by fruit vendors on the street. 

While it has a host of health benefits and a slight metallic taste due to its iron content, this is still salt at the end of the day and should be consumed in moderation especially for those with blood-pressure concerns. It also a great aid in body and haircare. So where did this unique salt come from and make it to the Indian pantry?

The Origin

The salt is believed to have originated in the Himalayan regions of northern India and Pakistan; today it is also mined in salt mines in different locations. Kala Namak forms naturally in the salt marshes located high in the Himalayas. As saltwater from the ancient Tethys Sea evaporated over millions of years, it left behind mineral-rich salt deposits. After extraction, the raw salt crystals are sun dried to draw out their moisture. This process brings out the salts' characteristic sulphurous aroma and slightly bitter yet tangy taste. 

The salt contains compounds like sodium sulphate and sodium bisulfide, which give it an aroma reminiscent of rotting eggs because of its sulphurous flavour profile, unlike regular table salt. The salt also contains trace amounts of iron, potassium, and other minerals that give it a subtle metallic essence.


Ancient Ayurvedic texts state that it aids in digestion and reduces acidity. The Sanskrit name for the salt translates to "health salt" due to its perceived benefits. In mediaeval times, kala namak gained popularity among royal kitchens of northern India, where it was used as a condiment to serve with rich Mughlai biryanis and other rich dishes. The salt added an intriguing flavour that complemented the heavy dishes of the aristocracy. Recipes from this era commonly call for kala namak as a critical ingredient. 

By the 19th century, kala namak had become a staple seasoning across many regions of India. Home cooks regularly kept stores of black salt to sprinkle on snacks like samosas, on fruit salads, and mix into chutneys. It also found regular use in street foods as a low-cost way to enhance flavour.

Uses of Kala Namak

With its intriguing sulphurous and slightly eggy flavour, it is commonly used in Indian cuisine to make umami rich dishes. The pinkish-grey salt is prized for more than just its taste; it has several cooking and non-cooking uses:

- Cooking: Kala namak is widely used as a seasoning in Indian cuisine due to its unique eggy flavour. It is added to dishes like chaats, gravy dishes, snacks, rice preparations.

- Pickles: Black salt is commonly used while making pickled vegetables and fruits to enhance the flavour. 

- Chutneys: It lends a distinctive taste to chutneys made from dates, tamarind, or other ingredients. 

- Masalas: Kala namak is mixed in various spice blends and masala powders that are used to flavour gravies. 

- Snacks: It seasons a variety of chaat items, bhelpuri, dahi vadas and more popular Indian snacks. 

- Hair: Black salt water rinses remove dandruff and soothe an itchy scalp. It is used in hair masks and shampoos. 

- Face: Used to exfoliate dead skin and unclog pores when added to homemade face packs. Helps treat acne. 

- Bath: Adding it to bathing water detoxifies the skin and soothes joint and muscle pain. 

- Oral care: Massaging teeth with black salt powder whitens teeth and strengthens gums. 

Health Benefits of Kala Namak

Here are the potential health benefits of black salt:

- It has iron, which can help treat anaemia, boost red blood cell production, enhance circulation and carry oxygen to tissues

- It has laxative properties that soften stool and promote regular bowel movements, aiding digestion and relieving constipation. 

- Rock salt’s low glycemic index does not cause as much of a spike in blood sugar levels, making it suitable for the management of diabetes when consumed in moderation. 

- The salt is rich in potassium and magnesium, which help prevent muscle cramps by maintaining electrolyte balance in the body. 

- It balances oil production and prevents dandruff when used in hair products or rinses, promoting hair growth and reducing hair fall. 

- Black salt also aids weight loss by improving digestion, reducing water retention and boosting metabolism, though balanced diet and exercise are important. 

- The potassium in the salt regulates blood pressure and supports heart health by preventing cardiovascular diseases.

- It stimulates digestive enzymes and improves appetite, reducing indigestion and bloating. 

- Rock salt provides temporary relief from sinusitis symptoms by reducing nasal congestion and inflammation when used in gargling water or traditional remedies. 

Note: Individual results may vary, so consult a healthcare professional before making significant dietary changes or using black salt for specific health conditions. Black salt is not good for patients with high blood pressure. It might induce nausea or vomiting in some people. 

With benefits ranging from improving digestion to treating hair and skin, black salt has rightfully earned its place in Indian kitchens and beauty regimes. Its unique flavour profile also means it enhances both salty and sweet dishes, like fruit salads. Whether you want to add an umami pinch to cooking or soothe a sinus infection, kala namak could be your new secret weapon.