But you can fix many oversalted foods with a few techniques. The trick is to use the correct one for the type of food you’re working with. You might not want to rinse a brownie, for example, but you can run water over oversalted rice. Here’s a breakdown of the techniques.
If the overly salty ingredient can be rinsed off, that is a good place to start. If you’ve left meat in a salty brine for too long, for example, or steamed vegetables in overly salty water, then rinsing them off with cold water in a colander might help.
If your soup or stew is too salty, try adding sliced potatoes, rice or even a bit of flour. This might help to absorb some of the saltiness and bring more balance to your dish.
If your dish already has some dairy in it, or you think it would enhance your dish, mix in some plain yogurt, sour cream, or heavy cream to the dish. Or, add a dollop of sour cream or yogurt to the top of each serving.
Sometimes an aggressively salted dish can benefit from a touch of sweetness. By introducing a foil to the salty flavor, sugar or honey might counteract it. Be sure to not add too much sweetener, though!
For soups, stews, sauces or anything that can be diluted, try adding a touch of water, stock or tomato sauce. This will give the salt more volume, thus spreading it out and making the overall dish less salty.
The acidity in lemon juice may just be the trick to offsetting the overly salty flavor of a dish. Try other citrus juices as well, which lend a bit of tartness and sweetness.
You can try to mask your salty dish with a sauce. A chicken breast that has too much salt, for example, can be saved in part by a sweet or somewhat bland sauce. Try adding whipped cream or a berry sauce to a dessert that ended up with salt in it.
A version of this article was originally published in July 2012.