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Pickling 101: How To Quick Pickle Fruit & Vegetables

Clear glass jars of quick pickled vegetables.

Looking to add some zing to your meals? Quick-pickling is the perfect solution. With just a few simple steps, you can transform ordinary produce into tangy, flavorful snacks and condiments that will elevate any culinary experience.

The information provided on this site is based on my personal experience living with alpha-gal syndrome. I consistently cite and link to expert sources, but nothing published on this site should be perceived as medical advice.

Alpha-gal sensitivities vary by person. You should understand your dietary restrictions, making any adjustments needed, and directing any questions to your physician.

Pickling is an age-old preservation method that has been used for centuries to extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables. This process not only helps keep produce fresh for longer but also imparts a tangy, sour flavor that enhances the taste of many dishes. 

Quick pickling is a simple and easy way to try your hand at pickling without having to invest in any special equipment or dedicate too much time. In as little as 30 minutes, you can have a quick-pickled ingredient ready for any use.

An assortment of pickled vegetables in glass jars on a white tile countertop.
Photo Credit: Canva

    

In This Article

Traditional Pickling vs. Quick Pickling

Traditional pickling and quick pickling are two methods of preserving food using vinegar, kosher salt, and other flavoring ingredients. The main difference between them is the time required for the pickling process.

Traditional pickling is a longer process that involves immersing food in sterilized glass jars with a brine solution of vinegar, water, salt, and spices then using the water-bath method to can the ingredients. Traditionally pickled foods have a very long shelf life — they can last for years.

Quick pickling is a faster process that involves bringing the pickling solution to a boil and then pouring it over the food. The food is then allowed to sit in the solution for a shorter period of time, from as little as 30 minutes to as long as overnight, before eating. 

Quick pickled foods tend to be fresher with a crunchier texture and more mild flavor compared to traditional pickling. 

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How To Quick Pickle Anything

Refrigerator pickles are probably the most popular food to make with the quick pickle method but almost any fruit or vegetable can be used. 

Quick pickle cucumber by jar of pickled vegetables.
Photo Credit: Canva

Preparing the Fruits and Vegetables

Quick pickling is best done with very fresh vegetables or fruit. Vegetables that are past their prime or have been sitting in the fridge for too long may not hold up well during the pickling process. Leave bruised produce for recipes where it’s not the main focus such as slow cooker meals or baked desserts.  

The fruit or vegetable can be prepared in a variety of ways:

  • Left whole: Pearl onions, berries, green beans
  • Sliced: Carrots, zucchini, onions, peppers, radishes, melon
  • Spears: Cucumber, pineapple, asparagus

The more surface area exposed to the brining solution, the quicker the fruit or vegetable will take on the desired tangy flavor. Thinly sliced pickled shallots will be ready for use much sooner than pickled asparagus stalks or green beans.

Brining Basics

There is no special equipment needed for quick pickling but you will need the following to make a basic brining solution:

  • Boiling water
  • Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Sugar (be sure to use a vegan-friendly option that is not processed with bone char if you are a highly-sensitive alpha gal)

Outside of these ingredients, other flavoring ingredients can be added such as:

  • Fresh garlic cloves
  • Whole peppercorns
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Bay leaves
  • Fresh dill 
  • Mustard seed
  • Coriander seeds
  • Celery seeds
  • Cumin seeds
  • Other fresh or dried herbs

An easy rule to remember when making a quick pickle brine is equal parts water to vinegar. Salt and sugar can be adjusted to taste. To make four cups of pickling liquid, two tablespoons of sugar, and two teaspoons of sea salt is a good starting place.

While white vinegar is the most common, almost any basic vinegar can work, including apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, red wine vinegar, and white wine vinegar. It’s best to avoid using aged types of vinegars such as balsamic. The acidity can be too weak, the viscosity too thick, and their malted flavor can impact the final outcome of the pickled fruit or vegetable.

A home cook stores quick pickle vegetables in a glass container.
Photo Credit: Canva

Assembly

Pack the prepared fruit or vegetables tightly into a glass jar along with any chosen flavoring agents. Leave a half-inch space between the rim of the jar and the top of the produce.

Place the vinegar, sugar, salt, and boiling water into a bowl or measuring cup and whisk until the salt and sugar completely dissolve. Pour the pickling brine into the jar until just covering the fruit or vegetables. 

Seal the jars and let them sit until cooled to room temperature. Transfer to the refrigerator to chill and store. A 24 to 48 hour incubation time will provide the best tangy pickled flavor but this can be adjusted based on needs and taste preferences.  

How To Use Quick Pickled Fruits and Vegetables

The possibilities are endless when it comes to using pickled vegetables and fruits.

Grilled Fish Sandwiches with Quick Pickle Onions

Sandwiches

The tangy flavor and crunchy texture of pickled vegetables can add an extra layer of taste and texture to your sandwich. Any pickled element can be the perfect burst of brightness to a savory sub. Pickled red onions are a classic addition but don’t be afraid to think outside the box too. Substitute pickled white onions for red, or add finely chopped spicy pickled pineapple to salmon burgers.

“Whenever a dish needs a pop of flavor or color, quick pickled veg save the day! The acidity in the pickle balances sweetness and richness and can transform a ho-hum dish into an amazing one!”

Tacos

When creating a taco bar, it’s important to have lots of different choices that vary in texture and flavor. Pickled elements can add spice, sweetness, and crunch. Consider pickled jalapeños, radishes, and mangoes to provide a unique twist to your next taco Tuesday.

Pickled Cucumbers and Carrots
Photo Credit: Canva

Salads

Liven up a boring salad with pickled vegetables and fruit. Vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, and red onions or fruits like berries, cherries, and lemon can provide a crunchy and tangy contrast to the leafy greens, while also adding a pop of color to the dish. In addition, the acidic brine of the pickled ingredients can serve as a natural salad dressing, reducing the need for additional oil or vinegar. 

One of my favorite ways to use quick pickled ingredients in a salad is to top an Italian-style salad with pickled banana peppers. They add just a touch of spice to the crisp vegetables and creamy dressing.

Charcuterie Boards

Charcuterie boards are filled with savory flavors from nuts, cheese, alpha-gal friendly meats, and crackers. Pickled vegetables and fruits such as grapes, cherry tomatoes, pearl onions, and beets bring a welcome sour flavor that complements the richness of the cured meats and cheeses. For a unique twist, add pickled mustard seeds. And for a festive holiday board, try adding pickled cranberries to the mix.

Related Article: Is Cheese Vegetarian? Slicing Into the Truth

Soups

Adding a pickled garnish to a soup can be a great way to enhance the flavors and add some visual interest to the dish. The crunchiness of the pickled vegetables provides a satisfying textural contrast to the smoothness of the soup while the acidity helps balance out the flavors, especially for heavier, cream-based soups. 

Pickled items work for cold soups like gazpacho too. A simple pickled salsa garnishing a cold soup is an incredibly refreshing light summer meal. 

Spicy Dishes

Whether it’s a spicy Asian noodle dish or an Indian curry, a quick pickled element provides the perfect way to temper the heat. 

“I love to use quick pickled veggies in spicy dishes. Their acidity balances the heat and gives them fresh, bright flavor. It’s an easy way to add complexity and make a dish really stand out.”

Quick Pickle Cabbage Shreds
Photo Credit: Canva

Give It a Try

Next time you feel there’s something missing from your dish, give quick pickling a try. Chances are any savory recipe can be improved with a pop of brightness from the tangy flavor of a pickled fruit or vegetable. 

Experiment with different types of produce and the length of pickling time to find your favorites. Quick pickled items will keep for a few weeks in the refrigerator so don’t be afraid to make a big batch to use on multiple dishes. 

Portions of this article originally appeared on Food Drink Life.

Thank you for sharing!

6 thoughts on “Pickling 101: How To Quick Pickle Fruit & Vegetables”

  1. This is so helpful! I’ve made quick pickled cucumbers before but I’ve never tried green beans or peppers or pineapple (!) I love pickles and can’t wait to experiment with other fruits and veggies.

  2. Traditional pickling can be a bit intimidating, but this quick method makes it so accessible. Can’t wait to elevate my dishes with these quick-pickled flavors. Thanks for sharing this pickle-perfect guide!

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