What is sodium nitrate used for?

Sodium nitratePreservatives Sodium nitrate is used as a food additive (E 251) to preserve meat and sausage products. The curing salt has antibacterial and antioxidant properties, preserves the red color of the meat and gives it the typical curing aroma. Nitrite, which is formed by bacteria from the nitrate, is responsible for the effects. Sodium nitrate also has oxidizing and fire-promoting effects and, like potassium nitrate, is used in the manufacture of fireworks and explosives.

Synonymous: Natrii nitras, sodium nitricum, E 251, Chile nitrate, sodium nitrate, Peruvian nitrate


Sodium nitrate is available as a pure substance in specialist shops.

Structure and properties

Sodium nitrate (NaNO3, Mr = 84.99 g / mol) is a white, crystalline and hygroscopic powder and is easily soluble in water. Sodium nitrate is the sodium salt of nitric acid.

Structure: Na+NO3-


Sodium nitrate is used together with table salt for curing meat and sausage products. The actually effective substance is nitrite, which is formed by bacteria (see also under nitrite curing salt). The nitrite develops antibacterial and antioxidant properties. It maintains the reddening of meat, which would otherwise turn gray, by reacting with myoglobin to create nitrosomyoglobin. The process is known as reddening. Curing salt also has an influence on the taste of the meat and gives it the typical curing aroma.

Sodium nitrate also has an oxidizing and fire-promoting effect and can therefore be used like potassium nitrate for the production of fireworks and explosives. It is one of the precursors for explosives.

application areas

Sodium nitrate is used as a food additive (E 251) for preserving meat and sausage products.

Further applications (selection):

  • As a fertilizer
  • For making fireworks
unwanted effects

A possible side effect of the use of nitrite is the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), which is also added to meat, inhibits the formation of nitrosamines.

see also

Potassium nitrate, sodium nitrite, nitrite curing salt

  • Hunnius
  • Food technology manuals
  • swell

Conflicts of Interest: None / Independent. The author has no relationships with the manufacturers and is not involved in the sale of the products mentioned.

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This article was last changed on 11/23/2019.
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