Cooking Tips

Why You Should Salt Watery Vegetables Before Cooking

Improve your vegetables' texture and flavor.

Published Dec. 8, 2021.

Vegetables with high water content tend to become mushy and bland if they aren't rid of excess moisture before cooking. To do that, you need two things: salt and time.

Salting these watery vegetables draws out extra water and flavor molecules. So don't skip this step—it  allows more flavor to soak in and helps the veggies stand up to more heat and heavier dressings. Here's how to do it.

100 Techniques

The first book entirely on technique from America's Test Kitchen features 100 innovative techniques that will transform your cooking life, paired with more than 200 innovative recipes that put the techniques into real-world, home-kitchen applications. 
Save Now

How To Salt Your Vegetables

1. Use ½ to 1 teaspoon of salt per pound of vegetables.
When it comes to salting vegetables, we prefer kosher salt. It clings to the vegetables better than table salt and is also easier to distribute during the salting process. (And take care not to oversalt your vegetables—you just want to remove the excess water, not encrust the vegetable in salt.)

2. Toss veggies in a colander set inside a bowl and let stand for 30 minutes to 4 hours.
The draining time depends on the type, size, and cut of the vegetable, but after 5 to 10 minutes, you will notice liquid pooling on the surface of your veggies’ cut surfaces. (That’s food science in action, folks!) Some recipes, like our Cherry Tomato Salad with Mango and Lime Curry Vinaigrette, reduce and season the leftover liquid into a flavorful sauce.

3. Pat dry (don’t rinse).
Sandwich the drained vegetables between two thick layers of paper towels and press to remove excess moisture. They will have shrunk a bit from moisture loss, but they will have more flavor.

Which Vegetables Should Be Salted?

This method works for any and all vegetables with high water content (even tomatoes):

  • Zucchini: Zucchini can nearly dissolve during the cooking process by steaming in its own water content (not always a good thing). Salt it first to taste the full potential of the herbs with our Sauteed Zucchini with Olives and Lemon side dish.
  • Eggplant: Spongy eggplant is an ideal candidate for salting. The texture is almost meaty once some of the cell walls and air pockets are broken down. Try Broiled Eggplant with Honey-Lemon Vinaigrette for One as a snack or Eggplant Parmesan as an entree.
  • Cabbage: No more soggy salad. Salt and drain your cabbage first so your coleslaw dressing can adhere to your mix-ins.

Sign up for the Notes from the Test Kitchen newsletter

Our favorite tips and recipes, enjoyed by 2 million+ subscribers!

These six recipes are among our all-time favorites. Start a free trial to access them, plus all of our other rigorously tested, reliable recipes and reviews.

This is a members' feature.