About Alum: How to Use, Substitute and How to Store

About Alum: How to Use, Substitute and How to Store



Alum, also known as potassium aluminum sulfate, is a naturally occurring mineral compound used across cultures and industries in various ways. The most common type of alum found in kitchen pantries is potassium alum. Potassium alum is often sold as a fine white powder and can be found at your local supermarket next to common spices like cumin or oregano.

Alum is a versatile substance used for centuries in various ways, from food preservation to cosmetic and medicinal applications. In ancient times, the Egyptians used it in mummification as a natural deodorizer. Later, it was widely used in crafts to produce fake silver and pearls and as a method for dying fabrics. The Romans even used it in some remedies for ulcers, leprosy, lice, and parasites. Eventually, alum entered the kitchen and is now used for food preservation and pickling.

Powdered alum may be one of many ingredients you think of having in your kitchen pantry. However, it can be a game-changer in the kitchen. Learn more about alum powder, its various uses, and how it can enhance your picking and baking recipes.  


Powdered alum is highly beneficial when it comes to food preservation. Here are a few ways you can use alum:

  • Canning and pickling: Alum is an ideal agent for pickling and canning, as it can help preserve the crispness of fruits and vegetables. You can dissolve alum in water using amounts specified in a recipe to soak any produce you wish to preserve. Alum powder can improve the texture of pickled vegetables and enhance the flavors. Furthermore, it is also used in making pickling spice blends.
  • Tenderizing meat: Alum powder is also a natural meat tenderizer. It works by piercing the meat's surface and breaking down its protein structure so that the meat can easily absorb any marinades or seasoning you want to use. Adding a pinch of alum powder to marinades can also help preserve the meat's flavor.
  • Baking: Alum powder is a key component in baking. It reacts with baking soda or baking powder and creates carbon dioxide, which causes the dough to rise and become fluffy. 
  • Making crispy food: Alum powder is also used to make crispy fried foods. It reduces oil absorption in foods, giving it a crispier exterior. Adding a teaspoon of alum powder to the batter of your fried foods is a trick that can give you an added crisp.


While alum was once an essential ingredient used around the world, today, it can be challenging to find in stores. Luckily, there are a few alum substitutes that can be used, such as:

  • Pickling Spice: This is an excellent alum substitution for your next pickling recipe. Pickling spice is a blend of herbs, spices, and other seasonings that can infuse an earthy flavor into your pickled produce.
  • Cream of Tartar: McCormick cream of tartar is an all-natural ingredient that can be used as an alum substitution in your baking recipes. It adds texture, volume, and lift to beaten egg whites in cakes, pies, and other yummy desserts.
  • Ascorbic Acid Vitamin C Powder: This substance is naturally derived from various vegetables and fruits and can be used as an alum substitute for pickling and preserving food.
  • Citric Acid: If you're looking to preserve your food and don't have any alum powder in your pantry, citric acid is an excellent go-to item. Citric acid has a sour flavor similar to vinegar and has natural antibacterial components to help preserve your next recipe. 


While powdered alum has a shelf life of two years, it can quickly become stale if left on the kitchen counter. You can keep It fresh and lasting longer by following these steps:

  • Store your alum powder in an airtight container.
  • Keep it in a cool, dark cabinet. Keep alum powder away from heat and humidity and store it in a dry, dark space so that moisture can't seep in and change the consistency of the powder.
  • Label your alum powder with an expiration date. Time can fly by without you realizing your alum powder has reached its expiration date. Keep track of how long you alum powder has been sitting in your kitchen pantry with an appropriate label. 


Are you looking for more alum recipes? Save your favorite food, dessert, and drink recipes and organize your ingredients with McCormick Meal Planner. Create a Flavor Profile to save all your favorite recipes and create grocery lists for easy shopping. You will also get custom recommendations based on your saved items to make your meals!

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