10 Curing Salt Substitutes [For Brines & More]

Lately I have been thinking about how to make my own deli style meats at home.

The cured meats you get at the grocery store can be full of additives and preservatives that I really try to avoid.

But if there is a way to make healthy, nutritious meats at home, I want to try it!

That is how I came across pink curing salt. I was looking for a way to make homemade deli meat and lots of recipes required pink curing salt. 

Pink curing salt sure sounds like a fancy ingredient. I’m not so sure I have such fancy, high end ingredients in my house.

I know for sure that I have chicken nuggets in my freezer (#momlife) but pink curing salt may not be hanging around in my pantry. 

I checked, and no, I don’t have any pink curing salt laying around. What now?! I searched my culinary school notes and found there are lots of fantastic pink curing salt substitutes. 

The best curing salt substitute is saltpeter. Saltpeter is made from potassium nitrate which will prevent bacteria and preserve your meats perfectly. A great natural, non chemical substitute for pink curing salt is celery powder. The natural nitrates work to cure your food safely. Raw sugar can be a good, sweet substitute for curing food. Kosher salt is perfect for making a brine to cure food. 

Curing Salt Substitute


Saltpeter is a type of ionic salt that is rich in nitrogen. It is mainly used as a food preservative but can be found in everything from fireworks to fertilizers. It is quite the useful ingredient! 

Saltpeter kills moisture in meat cells so that bacteria cannot grow on the meat. Your food will cure and be shelf stable for longer. 

Use saltpeter when replacing pink curing salt in cooked foods. It is fantastic for corned beef or pate. Use the same amount of saltpeter to replace pink curing salt. 

2)Prague Powder

Prague powder is actually pink curing salt that has been ground into a very fine dust. It is sold as a numbered mix so you can purchase Prague powder #1 or prague powder #2.

Number one is for curing cooked meats and powder number two is perfect for curing raw meats. 

The best place to get Prague powder is to order it online. It is a very specialized product so it may be tricky to find in stores. 

Use the exact same quantity of Prague powder to replace pink curing salt. You will have lots of success making your beautiful, home cured meats! 

3)Celery Powder

Celery powder is a fantastic substitute for pink curing salt. It is made from dehydrated celery sticks which are ground into a powder.

Celery powder is completely chemical free which many people (including me) find desirable. It is also pretty easy to find in a regular grocery store. 

Celery powder does have nitrates which is what makes it good for preserving food. The nitrates prevent bacteria growth and help meat stay fresh.

However, the nitrates in celery salt are natural and not chemically modified as they are in curing salt. For this reason, celery powder is a healthier, natural substitute for pink curing salt. 

Use the exact same quantity of celery powder to replace pink curing salt. If you can find celery powder, the same amount of celery juice will work in its place. 

Celery powder is great for naturally curing deli-style turkey or sausages. 

4)Raw Sugar

Raw Sugar is one of my favorite pink curing salt substitutes. I am always a sucker for sweet foods! Raw sugar will add a fantastic sweet taste to your cured meats. 

Sugar is a natural curing agent. It is made from extracted cane sugar which is dried to form large crystals. 

The same quantity of raw sugar can be used to replace pink curing salt. It is especially great for curing pork belly to make bacon. Sweet, perfectly cured bacon sounds incredible! 

5)Homemade Curing Salt

Ran out of curing salt? Why not make your own? Curing salt is not hard to make, you just need the right ingredients!

Check out our homemade curing salt recipe below. You may need to head to your local specialty grocery store to find some of the ingredients you need to make curing salt. However, it is well worth the effort!

Use the same quantity of homemade curing salt to replace store bought curing salt. They both work interchangeably. 

6)Turbinado Sugar

Turbinado sugar is very similar to light brown sugar. However, it has much larger crystals making it more rough and chunky than other sugars.

This is perfect for spreading across meats and fish as a simple cure.

When replacing pink curing salt with turbinado sugar, you may want to use a little more sugar.

I like to use about 1 ½ times more just to ensure the meat is fully covered in sugar. The large crystals can make it tricky to get full coverage! 

Turbinado sugar is a fantastic pink curing salt substitute for jerky. Try this recipe for homemade jerky from Once Upon a Chef. It uses sugar to perfectly cure the meat, making a sweet treat. 

7)Kosher Salt

Kosher salt is very similar to non iodized salt. It isn’t quite as powerful a curing agent as pink curing salt but it can help keep your foods fresh! 

The best way to use kosher salt is to make a brine. One gallon of water mixed with one cup of kosher salt will create a fantastic brining liquid. Brining foods is just one method of curing! 

Brining adds a lot of flavor to a food. It also makes meat more tender and reduces cooking time. 

Brining meat is also a method of preservation. A heavily brined meat will keep for weeks! Try making this brined corned beef from Simply Recipes using kosher salt. 


Vinegar is often used to tenderize and flavor meats. It is similar in this manner to pink curing salt.

Vinegar may not be used for actually curing meats, but it is used like pink curing salt in other ways! 

Vinegar has a very high acid level. It will preserve fish and meats for quite a while thanks to that great acidity. 

Use vinegar like a brine, submerging your meat and fish into a vinegar mixed with herbs and spices.

Vinegar works well to add flavor to fish. Try this cured vinegar mackerel from Recipe Tin Eats

9. Himalayan Salt

Himalayan salt is often confused for pink curing salt due to its pinkish hue. Both salts do look quite similar! 

However, pink himalayan salt is a naturally occurring salt that is not modified or chemically altered. It is full of minerals which makes it a healthy substitute for pink curing salt. 

Himalayan salt is good for extending the shelf life of foods. A salted food will stay fresh for longer.

However, if you are looking to really cure meat, you may need to use a different alternative like celery powder. 

Use the same amount of himalayan salt as you would use pink curing salt.

Rub pink himalayan salt on your favorite meats to keep the meat fresh for longer. Try using himalayan salt to give bacon or beef a cured flavor. 

10.)Non Iodized Salt

Non iodized salt can really help extend the shelf life of your foods. Non iodized salt will not alter the flavor of your food as drastically as iodized salt.

You can replace pink curing salt with the same amount of non iodized salt and keep the fresh flavor of your meats and fish. 

Non iodized salt is pure, simple salt. It has a rough and chunky texture and is great for seasoning foods. 

It is not necessarily the best curing agent but it will preserve the quality of food for longer. 

What is Curing Salt?

Curing salt is a specific type of salt used to cure and preserve foods. Curing foods extends the shelf life and prevents spoilage. 

Curing salt is typically a mixture of table salt and sodium nitrite. The nitrite is essential for reducing bacteria like botulism during the curing process.

The ingredients will vary from brand to brand with some curing salts containing sugar and sometimes seasonings. 

What is Pink Curing Salt?

Pink curing salt and regular curing salt are the exact same. Most curing salt has a pinkish hue due to the presence of nitrite.

Sometimes red food dye is added to make the salt even pinker. The main reason for making the salt pink is to distinguish it from regular table salt. That pink color tells you that it is a special curing salt! 

It also makes the cured meat or fish have a pink tint. Many people attribute the color to freshness, making the meat more appealing. 

Is Curing Salt Different Than Regular Salt?

The main difference between regular table salt and curing salt is the sodium nitrite. Table salt is pure sodium chloride. Curing salt has sodium nitrite mixed in to help cure meats better. 

Curing salt is different from pickling salt as well. Pickling salt is large grained sodium chloride that is free from caking agents or additives that are often in table salt. 

Curing salt is not safe for raw consumption. You cannot use it in place of regular table salt.

Pink curing salt has toxins which dissipate and turn into nitric oxide during the curing process.

Nitric oxide is safe for human consumption but nitrite should not be consumed straight from the bottle. 

Pink Curing Salt Uses

You may have already figured out that curing salt is most often used to preserve meats and fish.

However, it does have a few other uses as well. If you invest in a bottle of pink curing salt, you might want a few different ways to use it! 

  1. Make salt cured egg yolks using this recipe from Practical Self Reliance. Cured egg yolks have a cheesy, rich taste that is unique and addictive. 
  2. Try curing your own bacon. Bacon is the most popular cured meat. 
  3. Salt cure some fish. This pink salt cured salmon from Went Here 8 This is amazing. 
  4. A home cured ham is a fantastic holiday treat. 
  5. Make your own beef jerky. 

When curing meats and fish, be sure to follow recipe directions closely. You want to be sure to create safe, tasty dish. 

Types of Curing Salt

There are two main types of curing salt- No.1 cure and cure No.2. Any curing methods that require cooking should use cure No. 1. This includes pates, fish, bacon, or ham. 

Cure No. 2 should be used for dry cured meat products. These are foods that are only salt cured as a method of preparation, not cooked at all. Foods like pepperoni, prosciutto ham or dry sausages need cure No. 2. 

Cure #1 is made of salt and sodium nitrite only. Nitrite keeps the meat safe for a short period of time. The foods are cured, cooked and eaten within a short window. 

Cure #2 is made from salt, sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite. The sodium nitrate breaks down over time into sodium nitrite and that becomes nitric oxide. The oxidation agent keeps meats safe and is critical in dry cured meats. 

Cure No. 1 and cure No. 2 cannot be used interchangeably! Number one is for fresher cured foods, number two is for longer, dry cured foods. 

Homemade Curing Salt

Learn how to make your own pink curing salt and you will never run out again! My simple recipe only take a few minutes to put together. Whip up this recipe and then you can immediately start curing some meats! 


2 pounds Kosher salt

2 ½ cups of raw sugar

3 Tsbp celery powder


  1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. 
  2. Store in an airtight container for up to one year.
  3. Use the same quantity of homemade curing salt to replace any pink curing salt. 

I love the sweet flavor of this homemade curing salt. Using celery powder also makes it nitrite free and natural.

This is perfect for any mom looking to cut chemicals and additives from your families diet. 

Final Words

Curing your own meats and fish can be quite the labor of love. However, it is not hard at all once you have the right tools! 

Be sure to follow your cured meat recipes exactly and use the correct ingredients to make safe, delicious cured foods.

These pink curing salt substitutes will definitely help you! Let us know what you create!

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