The Beginner’s Guide to Pickling

Veggie forward restaurants are really having a moment right now and I’m all about it. After eating at Gjelina in Los Angeles this past fall, I became obsessed with trying to make my veggie dishes as exciting and creative as theirs. Apart from tossing raw veggies with dressing, grilling, or roasting them, I didn’t know what else to do. A few months later, a recipe in Bon Appétit enlightened me to the world of pickling and I haven’t looked back. 

Pickling is an underrated culinary tool that’s way easier than it sounds. It lets you mix up salads, serve healthy snacks, and enjoy veggies in a new way. A quick pickled veg adds crunch, brightness, and acidity to dishes and bonus it throws an extra serving of veggies your way. And it doesn’t have to be an intimidating culinary skill left to the pros – pickling is actually a pretty easy way to mix up your meals and step up your veggie game.

Britni deLeon, co-owner of FARE, recommends beginners start with quick pickling. “The best part about quick pickling is that you don’t need to follow a strict recipe,” she says. 

How to Pickle Your Own Veggies

1. Choose your method

Traditionally, you may think of cucumbers, red onions, and jalapeños as the go to veg to pickle – and they’re all excellent choices. But you don’t have to box yourself into just those veggies. You can pickle any vegetable, even those that you typically see cooked like asparagus or squash.

2. Prep your veg

Thinly slice, cut into matchsticks or coins, or you can even leave some smaller veggies whole when you pickle them. Get creative and have fun.

3. Choose your aromatics

You absolutely need salt for pickling. deLeon recommends 1 teaspoon of salt to each 16 oz. jar. From there feel free to get creative with any other aromatics. Use a mix of fresh or dried herbs, whole or ground spices, and fresh garlic and ginger.

The best rule of thumb for choosing aromatics is thinking about how you intend to use your finished product. Topping a Japanese inspired noodle bowl? Consider fresh ginger and dried chilies. Hosting a BBQ? Try whole mustard seeds and fresh dill. 

4. Make the brine

The base of the brine for any quick pickle is vinegar and water. For a more conservative flavor start out with equal parts water and vinegar, but you can play around as you practice pickling until you find the ratio that you like best.

Like aromatics, choose the vinegar that will taste best for your intended purpose. For the most neutrally flavored pickle, go ahead with regular white vinegar. Or play around with apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, etc.

5. Combine and store

Combine all ingredients in a jar and store in the fridge. Quick pickles can be done in as little as 20 minutes, but the flavor tends to intensify the longer the veg marinates in the brine. If you want a really strong pickled flavor, wait a few hours or up to a couple of days before digging in.

Want pickled red onions that look as beautiful as a restaurant’s? deLeon recommends adding a sliver of raw beet to the jar. I’ll for sure be taking her suggestion so hang tight and check out some bright pink onions coming to an Instagram post soon.


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About Kira Schreiber

Kira grew up in the Chicago suburbs and is passionate about mental health, healthy eating, and sustainability. After spending the first part of her career working for a non profit mental health agency in Southern California, she transitioned to pursue a career in her passion for cooking. Now back in Chicago, Kira spends her days developing healthy recipes for a food tech start up. When not in the kitchen or on her laptop she loves spending time outdoors, hitting up a spin class, or watching home decor DIYs on YouTube.