Cooking Tips
What Exactly Is Chicken Salt?
From popcorn sprinkles to roast chicken marinades, I've found a use for chicken salt on anything and everything.
Kevin Pang

Watching Shark Tank one night, I saw an entrepreneur pitch what he calls “a vegan version of chicken salt.” Chicken and salt were a pair of words I’ve never heard in combination, but it immediately snapped me to attention.

Could it be salt . . . that tasted like chicken?

Turns out chicken salt is an immensely popular seasoning in its native Australia, where the Mitani family introduced the product in 1979. Mitani’s chicken salt does not contain actual chicken—rather it’s a garlicky seasoning originally intended for rotisserie chickens.

"It is extremely common here, but mainly used for potato-based purposes," said Besha Rodell, the Australian Fare columnist for The New York Times. "Chicken potato chips are one of the most popular kinds here, and you can get it on hot chips—fries—as well. I don’t see it used for much else."

As I daydreamed what chicken salt might taste like over my favorite foods, I realized it’s a flavor I’m already familiar with. The Chinese—of which I am one—have a history of incorporating chicken bouillon powder in our food. 

In the recently released The Nom Wah Cookbook, a collection of dim sum recipes from New York Chinatown’s iconic restaurant, chicken powder is listed as a pantry staple and appears in dishes from pork dumpling filling and turned cakes to steamed spare ribs. 

The Australian version of chicken salt, I’m told, is less salty than chicken bouillon powder, which contains actual chicken in the form of dehydrated chicken meat and fat. Australian chicken salt is vegetarian—and the winner of our chicken-flavored broth base taste test also happens to be vegan.

Ever since the night I learned about chicken salt on Shark Tank, I’ve been inspired to sprinkle chicken powder on anything and everything. To me, it’s a powdery salt with intense flavors of fried chicken skin. A little goes a very long way. Some highlights:

Roast Chicken
  1. As a marinade for roast chicken. Yes, we’re adding chicken flavors to an actual chicken. Not surprisingly, it works exceptionally well. I combine olive oil and chicken powder into a paste and rub it over the exterior of the bird. Roast via your favorite recipe (here’s mine).
  2. As a chip dip. I mix a half teaspoon of chicken powder with a few heaping tablespoons of sour cream. If that’s too salty, just mix in more sour cream until it’s to your preference. It’s a perfect dance partner with kettle chips. 
  3. Sprinkled on popcorn. This is just a variation on the chip dip. I’ll add melted butter to a large bowl, dump in the popcorn, toss to get the kernels covered with butter, then sprinkle in the powder. Chicken-flavored popcorn!
  4. As cooking liquid for rice. I add a tablespoon worth of chicken powder into my rice cooker liquid. This is essentially cooking rice with chicken stock, and makes for a more aromatic bowl.
  5. As a hot sauce booster. I recently wrote about my affinity for Trader Joe’s hot sauces. I’ve found that a spoonful of chicken powder in the chili-onion crunch adds a savory umami boost to the condiment.

Lead photo: MSPhotographic / Getty Images

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