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What Is Fleur de Sel And Why Is It Expensive?

Flaky and delicate fleur de sel is the French phrase for flower of the salt, referencing its fragile and almost gossamer, snowflake appearance. 

Used more often as a lightly textured finishing salt than to flavor heavy dishes, fleur de sel, or flor de sal, is considered the caviar of salts—a rather pricey sea salt garnish with a moist texture that adds a slightly sea water taste to delectable dishes made from scratch.

Fleur de sel with its high moisture content has a complex harvesting, handling, and processing, and true fleur de sel is imported from France. This helps to explain its higher price tag.

Adorning the best baked goods, candies and savory delicacies, fleur de sel can make a lovely gift for the home chef in your life. 

Its color ranges from pure white to light grey to a dark grey salt or even charcoal colored. Add a pinch to your next Caprese salad to add unique character

While fleur del sel is harvested along sea shores, it differs from salt labeled as “sea salt” in that sea salt often has a stronger briny taste, with larger grain size crystals of fleur de sel and doesn’t have a delicate, snowy texture of the hand-procured fleur de sel.

What Is Fleur de Sel

Contents

Fleur de Sel (translated as a flower of salt) is simply a type of sea salt. 

However, unlike those common salt used in the kitchen, the process of producing Fleur de Sel (pronounced as “flure-de-SELL”) is somewhat complicated. 

Resembling the appearance of snowflakes, the Fleur de Sel crystals rise to the surface of the shallow pools of seawater along the coast of Brittany, France under rare weather conditions then gently harvested by hand along the surface of the water. 

It’s considered rare so there’s no surprise that this product is incredibly expensive and estimated to cost around $30 per pound or more.

Fleur de Sel is incredibly popular among cooks throughout the globe due to its purity and delicate, flaky texture. 

Today this special salt is used as a finishing touch to any dish to bring more flavor, a texture that tends to linger on the tongue, and improve visual presentation. 

It works great on baked goods as well! Cupcakes, pretzels—you name it! Here’s a simple recipe for Watermelon and Fleur de Sel.

What does Fleur de Sel taste like?

If you’re curious about Fleur de Sel’s flavor, like any other type of salt, the taste of this gourmet salt is salty. 

However, Fleur de Sel is high in moisture so it causes the crystals to stick together. 

Once these crystals are intact, it causes the flavor to be perceived intensively on the palate. 

Apart from its pure and distinctive taste, Fleur de Sel also has a delicate marine flavor and light texture that can elevate a variety of recipes, from dairy products, meats, fishes, to baked goods. 

As a huge fan of soft caramels with salt on top, this recipe from ecolechocolat looks so good!

What is the difference between Fleur de Sel and sea salt?

Though they have the same briny taste, Fleur de Sel is quite different from the table salt you usually use in your daily cooking, especially when it comes to texture, cost, and processing. 

Under rare weather conditions, Fleur de Sel salt is formed from tiny crystals that rise to the surface of the pools of seawater along the coastal waters of France. 

These salt crystals are then hand-harvested and gently raked off the salt pans. 

Due to its complicated making and harvesting process, this gourmet salt can cost around $30 per pound or even more. 

It has a delicate and flaky textural nuance and notable oceanic flavor and aroma, perfect as a garnish for savory and sweet dishes. 

Fleur de Sel is also less bitter than regular salt. 

Meanwhile, regular sea salt is generally made by evaporating seawater from ocean water or lakes then undergoing a refining process which consists of washing, drying, and sieving.

Generally more affordable than Fleur de Sel, sea salt features a strong flavor with briny undertones, great for seasoning fish and meat.

Why is Fleur de Sel so expensive?

Fleur de Sel is an expensive product because it’s formed under rare weather conditions and has undergone a thorough hand-harvesting evaporation process. 

The salt has a delicate flavor and flaky textural nuance with a nice briny flavor and aroma. It is considered the best French sea salts are considered the caviar of salts. The quality of this salt surpasses even kosher salt with a burst of flavor.

It’s high in moisture too, making it perfect as a final touch for your recipes.

How to use Fleur de Sel

If you’re wondering what Flor de Sal is used for, this delicate salt is mainly used as a last touch before plates go to your guests, also called a finishing salt. 

You can sprinkle a few delicate crystals of Fleur de Sel into your sweet treats like pretzels and cheesecakes to elevate their taste. High quality caramels and brownies also demand a pinch.

Here are some of the other ways you can use Fleur de Sel in your daily cooking:

  1. Use it to fancy up cocktails (but not on the rim like a margarita). 
  2. Place it on top of your sauteed snap peas. 
  3. Add a special kick to your oatmeal. 
  4. Sprinkle it into your favorite salad or meat dishes. 
  5. Use it to amp up hand-crafted candies and chocolates.

How to store Fleur de Sel

When the salt is stored properly, it can last for up to 10 years. 

The best way to store the salt is in an airtight container, preferably made of glass (though a porcelain container will work too), and kept in a cool, dry, dark location. Just make sure it’s accessible. 

Here’s how to store Fleur de Sel:

  1. Transfer your purchased Fleur de Sel in a glass container. 
  2. Place the container in a cool, dry, dark location. 
  3. Use the salt as a finishing touch for up to 10 years.

Pro tip: Be sure to keep all salt away from moisture.

Tips on buying Fleur de Sel

Fleur de Sel is special (and pricey) because of how and where it’s harvested. 

Some consider it “saltier” than other forms of salt, while others report that it can have an aroma from the region where it was taken, such as a lavender nuance or aroma of violets.

The complex chemical makeup, crunchy texture, and high mineral content of fleur de sel creates the experience of “tasting the ocean” —elevating the dining experience in the same way high quality truffles, olive oil or san marzano tomatoes might. 

Specialty foods command high pricing, and your best bet is to compare reviews from your preferred shopping source.

  • Look for origins of the advertised salt. Real fleur de sel should come from France. 
  • Buy from a trusted culinary source. 
  • Read reviews from other cooks who have actually purchased the brand of fleur de sel you are interested in.
  • Salt Spring Sea Salt has an excellent checklist of things to keep in mind when considering fleur de sel. 
  • Ensure that your box of salt has not been opened or tampered with.
  • Here is a highly reviewed fleur de sel from Williams-Sonoma.

And yet, if you are not up for paying the dollars-per-ounce that true fleur de sel requires, try this hack to create a close substitution out of standard (commonly available and much cheaper) coarse sea salt.

The bottom line

Fleur de sel is the queen of salt that you may not be inclined to use every day because of its specialty status.

But if you are making dishes that you want to show off, or elevate with a final pinch of flaky, briny salt with mineral complexity that melts on the tongue with luscious moisture, fleur de sel may be the finishing touch you want for a very special experience.

Let us know if you love fleur de sel and if you have a brand you recommend.

How To Store Fleur De Sel

How To Store Fleur De Sel

Learn how to store Fleur de Sel with three basic steps in this comprehensive guide.

Ingredients

  • Glass container
  • Fleur de Sel

Instructions

  1. Transfer your purchased Fleur de Sel to a glass container. 
  2. Place the container in a cool, dry, dark location. 
  3. Use the salt as a finishing touch for up to 10 years.

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