Why do we say 'salt to taste' and don't say 'salt according to taste' or 'salt for taste'?

  • 3
    Because people like to shorten things when they can.
    – Mynamite
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 14:42
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    @Pratyaksh: It's no more "awkward" than a work-to-rule, which is a lot less trouble than the union representative calling on the men to support a work according to [the] rule [book]. Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 14:47
  • 1
    Well...... only if you're not accustomed to it, as is clearly your case. But it sounds perfectly normal to me. See Yohann's answer - this is what people understand by the phrase.
    – Mynamite
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 14:47
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    Salt: v 1. To add, treat, season, or sprinkle with salt. [ AHDEL] // to taste [phrase] 3 According to personal liking: add salt and pepper to taste [ Oxford Dictionaries] Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 16:54
  • 2
    Why is it worded that way? ..There's no accounting for taste.
    – ipso
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 17:17

3 Answers 3


It is a shortcut for

salt [according] to [your] taste

Transversal post : http://www.thekitchn.com/food-science-salting-to-taste-49868

  • 2
    Actually, what it means is "Salt until it's too salty, then remove some of the salt."
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 15:47
  • And because "Add salt to taste" sounds like a rebus.
    – Rache
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 16:35
  • 1
    I can't find evidence that this deletion has occurred in your linked article. Please quote this. And how do we know that the original wasn't 'Add salt according to your taste'? Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 17:00
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    @HotLicks: Piet Hein's TimingToast. "There's an art of knowing when. Never try to guess. Toast until it smokes and then twenty seconds less." Commented Aug 20, 2023 at 15:12
  • What is a "shortcut" ?
    – TimR
    Commented Aug 20, 2023 at 17:33

The preposition to has long had the meaning "in accordance with". There are attestations from Old English all the way up to the current day.

It was built to spec.

taste refers to individual preference or liking (see, e.g., M-W taste noun #4). This meaning goes back to Middle English (as it enters English from medieval French).

salt has been a verb since Old English (sealtan).

So the imperative construction means "Apply salt in accordance with individual preference".


It's obviously a deleted form.

The only evidence that I can think of that the word 'Add' (salt being the noun) has not been dropped from an original is that the parallel

'Dilute to taste'

is also used. However, there is an argument for the contrary:

'Spices (to taste)'

is used, and 'Add' must have been deleted here.


What does "salt and pepper, to taste" mean?

is found at the Reluctant Gourmet, and using 'pepper' as a verb in this domain is very rare.

  • 6
    But salt, dilute and even season are verbs (or can be). Spices isn't, or at least not in this context (you could say "he spices up every meal he cooks by adding..." but then the verb is spices up.
    – Chris H
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 17:18
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    @ChrisH So Chris now i know that you're trying to say that here salt is treated as a verb similar to season or sprinkle. Right? Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 17:59
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    @PratyakshSharma, that's how I read it. It makes the instruction a sentence with a verb rather than a fragment, so I believe that's how many recipe writers see it as well (the ones that generally write in full sentences at least).
    – Chris H
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 19:51
  • -1 Sorry, Edwin. I normally find myself agreeing with most things you write, but not this time.
    – TimR
    Commented Aug 20, 2023 at 17:40

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