If you want to know how to make a spectrum of beautiful citrus salts, you’re in the right place. I'm not kidding when I tell you it looks like a citrus orchard shook out its limbs in my kitchen. There are sweet limes and Meyer lemons on the counter near the sink. Makrut limes are perched in the corners of window sills. Oblong mandarinquats and petite kalamansi oranges are scattered across other flat surfaces. And then, the prize of all prizes, a massive, electric-yellow Buddha's hand puts off more fragrance than the rest combined. A day of making citrus salts is in order. They’re wonderful to have on hand, make charming housewarming and holiday gifts, and are not hard to make.
Why I love Citrus Salts
Citrus salt is pretty and utilitarian. It provides a pop of surprise flavor to any dish. Friends will love you even more when you hand them little jars to take home after a visit. I tend to use them as finishing salts. Lime salt sprinkled over coconut milk-based curries, or as a finishing touch on spring rolls is a welcome wildcard. Mandarinquat salt sprinkled over homemade sea salt caramels or to top labneh? Give me a minute, I’m adding those ideas to my to-do list. Later in the year, the clementine and Meyer lemon salts are perfect on fava beans and asparagus. And beyond that, on heirloom tomatoes.
Citrus Salt: Ingredients
- Citrus: You can make citrus salt from many kinds of citrus. Seek out unusual and offbeat varietals at farmers’ markets in fall and winter. Ideally you want to buy good, organic, citrus. Avoid waxed citrus, but If that's what is available, be sure to give it a good scrub with warm water. Dry completely before zesting.
- Salt: You'll notice I call for flaky sea salt. For citrus salt, light and flaky salt crystals you can crush between your fingertips work best. I use Maldon, but you can certainly experiment. There are many wonderful salts available.
How To Make Citrus Salts: Basic Technique
I’ll get into more details in the recipe below, but the premise for making citrus salt is quite straightforward. 1 tablespoon of zest to 1/2 cup of salt is a ratio that works well, but you might want to increase or decrease the amount of zest. Again, play around. Make blends. Take notes related to which ones you like, and how you're using them.
- Zest the citrus.
- Massage the citrus zest into salt.
- Bake at a low temperature to dry the salt mixture out.
- Crush citrus salt in food processor or mortar and pestle if you’d like to change the texture. I like to break it down a bit. It's still light and flaky, just less so. Process them powder fine if you like. A lot of what this comes down to is personal preference.
Have fun with this one! And keep an eye out for little vintage, glass salt shakers and jars to store your special citrus salts.
More Citrus Ideas
You'll only use the zest when making citrus salt, but you don't want all that amazing juice to go to waste. The solution? Start by zesting the fruit, then juice it as well. You can freeze the individual juices for later use, or, I like to make riffs on this sort of strong citrus ginger juice. And here’s a page with more citrus recipes.
Homemade Spice Blends
I used Maldon sea salt flakes here, but you can certainly experiment with other kinds of flaky salt. Another tip: try to buy good, organic, citrus. And avoid waxed citrus. If that's what you have, be sure to give it a good scrub with warm water. Dry completely before zesting. And look for vintage salt shakers and tiny jars for your citrus salt creations.
- 1/2 cup / 2.25 oz / 65 g flaky sea salt
- 1 tablespoon citrus zest
Preheat your oven to oven 225°F / 105°C.
Combine the salt and citrus in a medium bowl and mix well. Really work the zest into the salt, making sure there aren't any clumps of zest. Spread across a parchment lined baking sheet. If you're making more than one flavor of salt, repeat this as many times as necessary. For example, this time I made 6 salts, and I arranged them across two baking sheets (see photos).
Bake for 70 minutes, or until the citrus is completely dried out. Keep an eye on things. If your oven runs hot, you don’t want the citrus to burn or brown too much. You just want it to dry out. When done baking, flecks of zest should crumble when pinched between your fingers.
Remove from oven and allow to cool a bit. At this point you can pulse each salt a few times in a food processor if you like, which is what I do. Or, you can enjoy it as is.
Makes 1/2 cup of citrus salt.