The Ingredient That Will Change Your Vegan Recipes Forever

If you cook a lot of vegan-friendly food, you know that you sometimes need to be heavy-handed with the seasoning. Many meat substitutes, such as tofu and seitan, are essentially a blank slate and don't add much flavor to a dish. As long as you add the right combination of sauces or spices, however, a plant-based meal can be just as satisfying as one made with animal products.

Nutritional yeast is one of the most common ways to accomplish this, but there's actually another ingredient that may give it a run for its money: kala namak. Often referred to simply as black salt, Food Network explains that the South Asian staple is an easy way to add complexity to any vegan dish. Its texture closely resembles pink Himalayan salt, while its taste is similar to that of a hard-boiled egg. When used as a seasoning, black salt creates a layer of umami that you can't get from any other type of rock salt alone. If you feel like your cooking is lacking in flavor due to the absence of meat, black salt may be exactly what it needs.

How to use black salt in vegan recipes

Given its naturally egg-like flavor, it makes sense that black salt works best in vegan versions of recipes that normally call for egg, including vegan scrambled eggs, egg salad, and carbonara. According to Fine Dining Lovers, this egginess comes from a combination of sodium chloride and traces of sulfur compounds. Black salt's sodium content is a lot lower than regular salt, which means that it doesn't work as a one-to-one substitute. The best way to use it, therefore, is as a flavor enhancer or spice rather than as a replacement for salt. It works particularly well sprinkled over fried food, and in South Asian cuisine, it is traditionally used in chutney, raita, chaat masala, pickled dishes, and salads.

If you're unsure how to use black salt in your own cooking, think of it as a vegan cured egg yolk (per Bon Appétit). Cured egg yolks are normally grated over pasta and soup in the same way parmesan is, and they give dishes a funky, salty flavor. Black salt has the same effect, but it works in vegan recipes too, so you'll definitely want to have this ingredient on hand next time you cook a plant-based meal.