Excessive salt intake is a common feature of Western dietary patterns, and has been associated with important metabolic changes including cerebral redox state imbalance. Considering that little is known about the effect on progeny of excessive salt intake during pregnancy, the present study investigated the effect of a high-salt diet during pregnancy and lactation on mitochondrial parameters and the redox state of the brains of resulting offspring. Adult female Wistar rats were divided into two dietary groups (n 20 rats/group): control standard chow (0·675 % NaCl) or high-salt chow (7·2 % NaCl), received throughout pregnancy and for 7 d after delivery. On postnatal day 7, the pups were euthanised and their cerebellum, hypothalamus, hippocampus, prefrontal and parietal cortices were dissected. Maternal high-salt diet reduced cerebellar mitochondrial mass and membrane potential, promoted an increase in reactive oxygen species allied to superoxide dismutase activation and decreased offspring cerebellar nitric oxide levels. A significant increase in hypothalamic nitric oxide levels and mitochondrial superoxide in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex was observed in the maternal high-salt group. Antioxidant enzymes were differentially modulated by oxidant increases in each brain area studied. Taken together, our results suggest that a maternal high-salt diet during pregnancy and lactation programmes the brain metabolism of offspring, favouring impaired mitochondrial function and promoting an oxidative environment; this highlights the adverse effect of high-salt intake in the health state of the offspring.