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I oversalted my black bean soup

  • a

What can I do? I found out the hard way that ham hocks don't need much added salt!

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  1. I've heard of adding a peeled, cut-up potato to soak up the extra salt, but I've never tried it... can you add more liquid and more beans?

    1. add a puree'd potato

      1. I've done a whole peeled potato (not cubed or shredded).
        Just submerge it in your soup, and pull it out in a 1/2 hour or so.

        1. The potato deal works. If you don't want potato in your finished soup, just put it in cut in half. But the one time I did this it took a lot longer than half an hour--but by the same token, I put a WAY LOT TOO MUCH salt in.

          1. Many people, including food scientists and authors such as Bob Wolke (*What Einstein Told His Cook*), consider the "add a potato to remove excess salt" tip a kitchen myth of the first rank. For example, see:

            5 Replies
            1. re: carswell

              It has worked each time i have tried.

              - The ivillage article is not infallible, tomato juice does not remove skunk odor that well. De-skunk is much better and some woman's sanitary stuff works even better (at Vet's advice). And they only put the potato in for 15 minutes.
              - WWrecipes strikes me as someone who writes while the baby is asleep upstairs, major yawn
              - i liked the washington post story, and think that was doen better than the others.

              BUT, it seems to work with me, so my sample size of one (statistically insignificant) proves the de-salting correct. FWIW

              1. re: jfood

                My experience is that it doesn't work, not that I think individual experiences count for much in proving or disproving this kind of question. I'd be far more inclined to give credence if you or someone else could explain the physical process, the chemistry, behind this magic attraction. What, according to believers, makes potatoes a salt magnet?

                1. re: carswell

                  I agree that different tastes will lead to different results and the conductivity test is forcing me to re-think. I would love to see a PPM analysis done versus the proxey of the electrical test.

                  Next question I have once this is solved is why my mother put milk in the water when she boiled ears of corn.

                  1. re: carswell

                    hrm... to me it sounds like a high-concentration/low-concentration thing. if there's a high concentration of salt in the water outside the potato but a low concentration inside, nature seeks an equilibrium, no? i have never tried this method, so i can't say if it works or not, but it sounds sensible to me.

                    then again, i have seen it kind of work... sometimes if imake soup that has potatoes in it and add salt at the end to adjust, by the next day the soup needs more salt again. i always assumed that it was because the potatoes absorbed the salt overnight. so maybe i have tried it =)

                    edited to add: it looks like i was half right. after searching for "potato salt osmosis" i found some pages on science class labs. nature does seek to balance the concentrations but not by having salt go into the potato but rather by having water move out of the potato! this is weird, though... why not just add water to the soup then? i guess potato water is probably tastier than plain. this site has a good explanation:


                    "As you know, the salt solution dehydrates the potato slice by osmosis --
                    water inside the potato cells diffuses out in an attempt to dilute the
                    salt solution. Osmotic flow always occurs in the direction that favors
                    dilution. Rather than the salt entering the cells, water inside flows out
                    into the salt solution."

                    1. re: arifa

                      actually it isn't so weird... the potato has a semi-permeable membrane. in the case that a membrane is permeable, the solute (the dissolved component, here the salt) can pass through the membrane, and will flow from more concentrated to less concentrated areas. in the case of the potato and its semi-permeable membrane, the salt cannot move across the barrier, so instead the water moves to even things out, and the reverse motion happens where water moves from lower concentrated areas to higher ones to "dilute" as said above :)

                      (chemistry nerd)

              2. The potato does not work. See above. It's no better than putting a kitchen sponge in your soup. It doesn't *selectively* absorb just the salt -- it absorbs liquid. Some of the potato may dissolve in the soup which may help, but that's because you are on your way to the only real way to fix the soup -- make a small batch without salt and add them together. Or just dilute with some water.

                1. I think a point is being missed in this potato/no potato discussion.

                  First, the raw, peeled potato should be cut into quarters or eighths so there is more potato surface to absorb the liquid and the flavorings that have dissolved into the liquid. Once the potato and its absorbed liquid have been removed, there will be correspondingly less liquid in the dish. The liquid that remains may indeed have the same salinity as the original, but it will be diluted by replacing with unsalted liquid the liquid that has been removed.

                  Yes, you can just add more liquid and increase other spices accordingly, but then you will have changed the consistency of the dish and it may be more soupy than what you intended. Or you could make another batch of the same recipe without any salt and add that, also diluting the salinity of the sauce. But that might not be possible or convenient.

                  In some recipes, a thin soup for instance, you may be able to replace the liquid and other flavorings with no loss in consistency. But in something like a chili, for example, it’s very difficult to remove only the liquid. Adding cut up potato is an easy way to accomplish that. The amount of potato you add and the amount of time you cook it depends on the amount of liquid you need to absorb.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: JoanN

                    "Once the potato and its absorbed liquid have been removed, there will be correspondingly less liquid in the dish. The liquid that remains may indeed have the same salinity as the original, but it will be diluted by replacing with unsalted liquid the liquid that has been removed."

                    With all due respect, you could have achieved the same result by simply dipping a measuring cup in the soup and removing some liquid and then adding back a corresponding amount of unsalted liquid.

                    There is no need for the potato sponge.

                    Unless the potato somehow magically discerns the components in the liquid and only absorbs the NaCl, it does nothing but remove liquid which, IMO, is more simply and efficiently done mechanically with a cup or by pouring some off. If the dish was thick, like chili, a strainer or colander would be faster and more effective than a potato, IMO.

                    Editing to add that I believe Harold McGee has also written on this topic, but I'm not sure.

                    1. re: C. Hamster

                      "With all due respect, you could have achieved the same result by simply dipping a measuring cup in the soup and removing some liquid and then adding back a corresponding amount of unsalted liquid."

                      Yes, you can. And that's exactly what I said. With a thin soup you can do that. With something like a fairly thick chili or stew you cannot.

                      1. re: JoanN

                        A simple strainer will work nicely on most chilis and stews, I suspect.

                  2. add some sugar to counteract with the salt,theres not much more you can do with it..especially since beans soak up the flavors around them

                    1. I never thought of this as a salt removing or neutralizing method, but I have observed with soups, stews, and chili that the longer you refrigerate them, the less salty they seem. I have no idea why this is the case, but you might want to try refrigerating the black bean soup for a couple of days and then reheating it.

                      Since the salt isn't going anywhere, I can only conclude that some sort of chemical operation occurs which degrades the salt or surrounds it with starch, making it less noticeable . . . or something. Where's a chemist when you need one?

                      2 Replies
                        1. re: bobn

                          The Potato's cells achieves this (or tries to) by releasing its water into the more concentrated salt solution. Not by absorbing the salt. This is high school levels science stuff.

                      1. Instead of wondering whether a potato will work, why not just add more black beans! Put your overly salted soup in the fridge. Cook some black beans and add to your salty soup along with whatever else is needed (maybe a bit more onion, garlic, spices). (If there are canned black beans without salt, there's your answer. I always cook beans from scratch, so I don't know.) I think it is better to have some extra soup (which you can freeze) than to screw around experimenting with potatoes!

                        1. for no more than a potato or two costs, why not chunk them up and add them and see if it works?

                          It's cheap, it's dead easy, it won't change the flavor, and if it doesn't work, you've lost 50 cents' worth of potatoes and a half hour to 45 minutes of your time.

                          If it works...hey, it worked!

                          (My grandmother taught me this when I was a little girl and it's worked every time I've tried it.)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: sunshine842

                            A few times this has happened to me and I added dry rice or pasta to the pot...it will change the end result a bit, but at least it's edible.

                          2. The potato thing and adding sugar won't yield the best results. Salt and acidity are recieved on the same part of the palate. Like how drinking wine with dinner makes your food taste less salty. So try adding an acidic element to your soup. Tomatoes, for example. Also you can also add some lemon juice to your soup, not only will it reduce the salt taste but it will open a lot of other flavors up.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: dontcallmethefword

                              You beat me too it DCMTFW. Acid is the key and is a important ingredient in my black beans if for no other reason than taste. But it can help with over salting up to a point.

                            2. the thread is an old one, and the op's soup sure isn't around anymore, though maybe the op still is! :)

                              i would do a different approach and strain the liquids out of the soup, and then puree the solids into a dip. dips can have all the same flavor profile as the original soup but get away w being a little salty and strong-flavored.

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: soupkitten

                                See, I'd take a whole 'nother approach....

                                I'd get Nancy Crater from Star Trek, aka The Salt Monster. She could attack the salty soup for a a second or so, bringing the soup to near perfection. Then I'd throw the weird salt block I received as a gift out the door. It's just collecting dust anyway.

                                I'd attach a note to the salt block with Ina's address on it, cause she probably has many and various salts. Enough anyway to appease Nancy Crater while Ina implements her own escape.

                                1. re: MplsM ary

                                  One yellow tribble and one blue tribble will soak up anything.

                                  1. re: bobn

                                    but then you have all those little green tribbles to deal with...

                                    can you saute them?

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      No. Use boiled Lutefisk with a dash paprika. Green tribbles would add too much sodium and iodine.

                                    2. re: bobn

                                      That may work for the OP but I'd be concerned about the fur factor.

                                      Since I'm a vegetarian I could never bring myself to throw cooing, cuddly fuzzballs into a burbling vat of beans.

                                      1. re: MplsM ary

                                        But the bean stock is vegetarian. Also, if you've seen the 1956 "Pod People", movie, it could be very possible the tribbles were soy-based as opposed to carbon-based.

                                  2. re: soupkitten

                                    I'm still around! It's always funny to see your old threads popping up.

                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                      This is a great idea... for the soup, I like adding big chunks of avocado (unsalted of course :P)

                                      1. re: nasv

                                        @ Nasv-- ooh the avocado addition sounds delicious!

                                        @ Aimee-- i'm glad you're still around! i agree that old threads can be fun, even though sometimes i'm like "what did i even say, 3 years ago?"

                                        @M ary-- LMAO! i love your wacky post-- i think maybe it's over my head though and i'm missing a key hilarious element. anyways tyvm for the off the wall humor, i needed that.