How much salt do I need for chilli sauce fermentations?

When fermenting, salt is hugely important. Not only does it help preserve flavour and vitamin content, but it keeps away unwanted bacteria, resulting in a healthy fermentation.

Two questions commonly arise when talking about salt in fermentations. What type of salt, and how much. 

Type of salt

Firstly lets talk about the type of salt. You would have heard me mention during my videos to use salt that has no additives, and also salt that is not iodised. While I still prefer to use salt like sea salt or Himalayan rock salt, research shows that iodised salt will not actually affect the success of your fermentation.

The use of iodized salt did not statistically significantly influence microbial populations in the fermentation. Thus, there is no basis for the popular held belief that the use of iodized salt inhibits the growth of the bacteria important for the sauerkraut fermentation.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0740002018300121

I would still steer away from salt that has additives like anti-caking agents.

Amount of salt

Secondly, the amount of salt to use. Salt in fermentations is usually expressed as a percentage. For a brine fermentation, this is a percentage of the weight of the water only. So 3% salt would be 30g salt with 1000g water (1000ml). With a mash fermentation, you measure the weight of the ingredients and use the appropriate amount of salt. So 30g salt for 1000g or 1kg of chillies.

There are two things to consider when adding salt. How salty the end product will be, you can always add salt, but you can’t take it away! And the amount of salt that allows the lactobacillus to thrive but also inhibits harmful bacteria.

My recommendation is to go with between 2 and 3% once you are comfortable with making fermentations. If you are just starting out and want to be a little more cautious, you can use up to 5 or even 6%. 

Lactobacillus can tolerate salt levels up to about 8 to 10%. However after 6% the lactobacillus activity is markedly reduced.

Four Lactobacillus species were studied for their ability to grow at high NaCl concentrations and different initial pH values. Among these strains, Lactobacillus plantarum strains 541 and A6 indicated to be the most salt tolerant. Both strains were able to ferment glucose up to 8% salt and produce lactic acid even at 10% salt

https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/36062836.pdf

5 thoughts on “How much salt do I need for chilli sauce fermentations?”

  1. Hey Shaun, I had two quick questions.

    I made a hot sauce last year following one of your videos that turned out really well. One concern I did have at first was how salty it was. Q1: Am I supposed to rinse off the pepper pieces after I strain the brine out? I didn’t use any brine in my recipe, just peppers and then I ended up adding some distilled water to thin it out and sugar to balance out the salt. After I did those, it didn’t taste salty at all. But I’m worried because this year I used 50g/L salt by mistake instead of 35g like I did last year.

    Q2: Is it ok to remove the airlock to push pepper pieces back under the fermentation weights? Idk if it would be better to leave the airlock sealed the whole time and remove a floating moldy piece at the end or undo the airlock and let oxygen get back in but have all the peppers under the brine.

    Thanks so much for any help!

    Chris

    1. Hi Chris,

      My general recommendation for a traditional fermentation is between 2% and 3% salt. A common mistake I see is when people do a brine fermentation, they weigh the ingredients as well as the water when determining the salt content. You only need to weigh the water. But it seems like you are doing that already. Try reducing the amount of salt to 2.5%. This should not be too salty at all. In face, I usually find I need to add a little extra salt when processing my sauces.

      I wouldn’t mess around too much with the fermentation, especially in the first week while the lactobacillus is becoming the dominant culture. Rather just give the jar/container a swirl each day to coat everything with the brine again.

      1. Thanks for your reply Shaun. I actually meant that I used 25g/L last year, not 35g/L.

        I have one more related follow-up question. It’s been over 10 days with this “oopsie” 50g/L batch now and I’ve seen zero signs of fermentation. I wrote “airlock” in the last post for simplification but I’m actually using platic bags with rubber bands. Last year they inflated after 3 days. This year, nothing.

        Is it possible to salvage this? What if i dump all of the peppers out, rinse the salt out with spring or distilled water, and put them back in jars with the proper 25g/L solution? Or is it too late for fermentation? If that’s the case, is it advisable to pull the peppers out and blend them up with vinegar to make a sauce that way? I don’t see any mold in the jars. The brine has changed from clear to cloudy yellow, but nothing unusual. What do I do now?

        Thanks again for your help. Really appreciate it.

  2. i have everything ready to go….i just need to know …. what temp you have your fridge at??? im assuming the point is a dark cool place? how cool? or how warm is to warm?? i donnt have a secondary fridge ..thanks in advance

    1. It’s a modified fridge that I use. Ferminator
      https://youtu.be/nMMbdDRJaUY
      You want a dark place, but you also need a consistent temperature for best results. Under 19’C and you won’t have an active fermentation…too high and you will have off flavours. Room temperature is fine…but I use my Ferminator to get the best results.

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