Why Do Restaurants Put Rice in the Salt Shakers?

Plenty of diners use the "rice in salt shaker" trick. Here's why!

It’s happened to us all. You’re out to eat at a diner or local restaurant. Your food shows up to the table, and before you take a bite, you reach for the salt. But a closer look at the shaker reveals grains of something between the salt particles. Is it discolored salt that got stuck together? Pieces of plastic? Or worse, some sort of bug?!

Relax, it’s only rice—and it was put in your salt shaker on purpose.

Why Put Rice in a Salt Shaker?

If you see rice in salt shakers, it didn’t get there by accident. Restaurants use this trick with you, the customer, in mind.

Thrive Market shares that salt is hydrogenous, meaning it absorbs water vapor from the air easily. If the salt shaker is fresh from the dishwasher, or if the climate of the restaurant is humid, the salt particles will likely clump together in the shaker. That hard clump of salt will block up the shaker, which is a big letdown for those of us who add a dash of salt to everything.

Rice comes into play because it absorbs moisture even faster than salt. You’re familiar with the lifesaver of putting your water-damaged phone in a bag of uncooked rice? It’s the same concept. By adding just a few grains of rice to your salt shaker, restaurants can guarantee that your salt will pour with ease.

While it’s an everyday flavor enhancer, table salt also works wonders around the rest of your house.

Can I Do This at Home?

Absolutely. Just add rice to your salt shaker!

Try to get your hands on some long grain rice to keep it from falling out of your shaker with the salt. For standard salt shakers, Gluten-Free Homemaker suggests using about a half teaspoon of uncooked rice, with adjustments based on the size of your salt shaker. Find more genius kitchen hacks you’ll wish you knew sooner.

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Hannah Twietmeyer
Hannah is a writer and content creator based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a passion for all things food, health, community and lifestyle. She is a journalism graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a previous dining and drink contributor for Madison Magazine.