How to pickle vegetables & what to do with them

How to pickle vegetables & what to do with them

Cucumbers aren’t the only things being pickled these days. Everything from fennel and Brussels sprouts to turnips and carrots are finding their way into mason jars and getting the vinegar treatment. 

Just about any vegetable — and some fruits — can be pickled, though we’ve found asparagus to be a little, well, gross. All you need is vinegar, water, sugar, salt and some dry seasonings — popular choices include bay leaf, mustard seed, turmeric or dill seed. 

There are multiple ways to pickle vegetables, but we personally prefer the overnight method. (Chow has a great, easy one here.)

Don’t be afraid to get creative! Even seemingly unusual veggie choices — like Brussels sprouts, green beans, fennel, pearl onions and okra — are surprisingly good pickled.

Pickling pointers

Before you go to town with those mason jars, learn the basics:

  • Don’t use waxed produce. That means if you’re pickling cucumbers, for example, buy the hothouse or other unwaxed variety that’s tightly wrapped in plastic. 
  • Use the freshest produce you can find.
  • Wash fruits and veggies well before pickling! The Old Farmers Almanac points out that you’ll want to remove and discard a ¼-inch slice from the blossom end of fresh cucumbers because the blossoms could contain an enzyme that causes excessive softening of pickles. 
  • Don’t use just any salt! Stick to non-iodized, additive-free canning or pickling salt.
  • Use white distilled vinegar or cider vinegar — just make sure it has 5% acidity. White vinegar is best for fruits and cauliflower since you’ll want the light color.
  • If you see bubbles, throw it out! That means air got into it or bacteria have found a new home.
  • Eating Well recommends blanching beets, Brussels sprouts, carrots, ginger, green beans, okra and peppers.

But what do you do with it?

Pickled fruits and vegetables are tasty on their own. You can enjoy them as an appetizer, a light snack or as a side to an entrée. But if you’re looking for ways to pair them with other foods, we have some recommendations:

Pickled ginger on Bloody Marys

Thank you, Talde — an Asian-American restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn — for showing us how to make brunch even better. Turns out the stuff that comes with your sushi makes for an amazing garnish on Bloody Marys. Try this pickled ginger recipe from My Darling Lemon Thyme. 

Pickled jalapenos for sandwiches, burgers and nachos

The truth is that just about any pickled vegetable tastes great on a burger, but pickled jalapenos are our favorite. We also recommend throwing them on a Southwestern-style sandwich — try roast beef, cheddar with some reduced-fat chipotle mayo. Unsurprisingly, pickled jalapenos are also a perfect match for just about any Mexican food. These easy homemade pickled jalapenos are about as basic as it gets.

Pickled daikon radishes and carrots

Known as do chua, pickled daikons and carrots are served on everyone’s favorite Vietnamese sandwich: the banh mi. But really any pork sandwich will do. We love a good pulled pork sandwich topped with do chua! Try this recipe from Serious Eats.

Pickled onions for Cobb salads

Pickled red onions

OK, it works for any salad, but trust us when we say that pickled onions will take your Cobb salad to a glorious place you didn’t know salads could go. We like this recipe from

Pickled pineapple with pork

We hesitated too, but pickled pineapple chunks with some roasted pork shoulder works wonders on the palate. Try this pickled pineapple from Boulton & Watt chef David Rotter.

Pickled turnips or pickled cabbage with falafel

You read correctly. One of our favorite winter root veggies, turnips are also wonderful in pickled form. They’re traditionally served over falafel, though we find pickled cabbage is also a delicious topper. Try this pickled turnip recipe from David Lebovitz and this pickled cabbage recipe from The Kitchn.

Italian giardiniera on pizza 

Italian giardiniera is a relish made of pickled onions, celery, zucchini, carrots and cauliflower — and it’s delectable on top of pizza. Try Jeff Mauro’s homemade hot giardiniera. 

Pickled garlic with a cheese plate

Having a wine and cheese party? Add some pickled garlic to the cheese plate. It’s also a great garnish for a Bloody Mary. Try Eating Well’s recipe.

Other ideas

The Gourmet Wino put seared scallops on top of some mixed greens and pickled vegetables. Yum!

Just about any pickled vegetable is tasty with pork, sausage, or on top of tacos, burritos, carnitas or enchiladas.