Does my bread need salt?

Freshly baked bread

Basic bread has yeast, flour, water and salt as its primary ingredients. Whether you add in the yeast yourself as active dry or instant yeast, or rely on naturally occurring yeast, as you might for a sourdough bread, the basic bread ingredients don’t change. I often have people questioning the addition of salt to bread and it’s not difficult to see why. When you bake bread from scratch, the recipe can call for anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon of salt, which can seem like a lot when you’re thinking about the recipe as a whole instead of thinking about how that amount is divided up into very small amounts per serving. I also get a lot of questions about reducing or omitting the salt in a bread recipe.

The short answer is that yes, your bread does need salt. It is possible to make a loaf of bread without it, but your bread is going to look and taste better with some salt added. Salt plays two important functions in bread. The first is flavoring. While breads with added milk, sugar, butter, eggs and other ingredients may not taste too bad without salt, a basic loaf is going to taste flat, bland and somewhat papery without salt. Wheat flour on its own doesn’t taste amazing, and adding salt will bring out the nuances of the flour, round out the yeast flavor and give the whole loaf a balanced taste.

The other important role that salt plays is as an inhibitor to the yeast in a bread dough. Salt slows the rising process, or fermentation, of a yeast bread dough. Slowing the rising period gives the gluten in the dough time to strengthen and develop, resulting in a better crumb and a better crust, particularly in doughs that have a long rising period to begin with.

So, the amount of salt that shows up in your bread recipes is important, and if you balk a little bit at seeing the amount of salt in one recipe, just remember that it contributes to a better looking, better tasting loaf in the end. You can always play around with the amount of salt in a favorite recipe if you really want to try to reduce it. Otherwise, just remind yourself that only a little bit of that initial salt makes it into each serving of your bread and try to enjoy that delicious, homemade loaf.

11 comments

  1. Indeed, salt is a very important ingredient when making bread… Very well written!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. It is very easy to tinker with the salt content in breads. As long as you know how many portions you’lI end up with you can lower the salt to suit your needs. I honestly find a lot of recipes call for too much, but it does indeed add to the flavor of the loaf. ;)

  3. I love salt. in bread, on bread, on anything.

  4. I know it’s theoretically divided into multiple portions but more often than not a substantial number of those portions end up as one serving :)

  5. I agree with you so much on this one. I’m always looking for ways to reduce sodium in our daily diets. I follow tips like soaking canned beans in water to leach out as much of it as I can. And I try to cook with it as little as possible so that each person can salt at the table and hopefully reduce overall intake. However, when my mom gave me her favorite recipe for the best yeast rolls I’ve every tasted and I decided to reduce the sodium dramatically, they ended up tasting awful. They were very bland. Dull. I refused to waste the calories on them. Your post did a lovely job of reaffirming that bread is one place NOT to look to when reducing sodium.

  6. I just made my first homemade loaf of basic white bread and although it came out perfect as far as texture and looks go, it did lack that extra umph that salt gives to so many recipes…next time a little more salt

  7. Mitchell Cholewinski

    I disagree with your saying you need to use salt in a loaf of bread. I agree salt does give a little better taste, but I never use salt in my whole grain wheat bread and it is delicious .To me it is a trade off, lose a bit of flavor and have a healthier loaf of bread.It”s your preference. My wife says my bread tastes like cake.We are both diabetic so no need to say sugar, there is none in there.

  8. Mitchell …would love your salt/sugar free bread recipe please
    Many thanks Anna

  9. Tasting something as being “salty” or “bland” is entirely subjective. If you cut down or remove the salt from your recipe it will, yes, taste bland. However, give it a few weeks, your salt receptors will be up-regulated and it won’t seem bland any more. Shop-bought loaves taste terribly salty to me – some have almost a gram of salt per slice -they ARE salty!

    My point? Stick with it for a few weeks, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you adapt! It’s rather like cutting the sugar out of tea – that first cup tastes awful but you soon don’t miss it!

  10. Salt in the bread is no so much a gripe to me than the salt they add to the potato chips, nuts and every snack. The food manufacturers put soooooooooo much salt in the snacks than necessary I think they want to get people thirsty to want to drink more soda which they also produce. I can’t find another reason for the horrendous amount of salt they put in otherwise. I love snacking but have practically stopped doing, not for health reasons, but rather that I can’t stand the saltiness

  11. Salt plays some very important chemical functions:
    – It affects the dough texture, makes it stronger and less sticky.
    – Reduces oxidation which helps enhance flavour and crumb colour
    – Affects shelf life – attracts moisture that keeps bread from staling too quickly

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