This Surprising Ingredient Is The Secret To The Crispiest Fried Pickles

Hint: It's in your liquor cabinet.

A staple on many Southern restaurants' menus, fried pickles are one of those foods that’s actually pretty easy to make, but it still manages to be super impressive each time you make them at home. That's mainly because it’s easy to miss that perfect crisp factor and turn out a sad, soggy pickle. So part of the joy in making them at home is that you’re able to serve and eat them moments after they are fried up, which means you get the ultimate crispy fried pickle experience.

The secret to making the crispiest fried pickle is all in the liquids—you’ve got to make sure you have super hot oil, and you’re going to want to have some vodka on hand. Yep, you read that correctly vodka.

crispy fried pickles in a basket with ranch dipping sauce
Photographer Victor Protasio, Food Stylist Ruth Blackburn, Prop Stylist Christine Keely

While you’re prepping your pickles and batter, you need to get the oil hot, really hot. About 375 degrees Fahrenheit is great. This is an important step, because if your oil isn’t hot enough your pickles won’t fry in a way that achieves that perfect super crispy texture.

Also, try to use a vessel that is two times as large as the amount of oil inside of it, that way you’re less likely to crowd the pot; overcrowding brings down the temperature. 

While some recipes call for spears, pickle chips tend to be easier for beginners as they dip and coat quickly and cleanly. Speaking of dipping, before you place the kosher dill pickles of your choice (whether store bought or homemade) in your batter, dry them off, dip them in cornstarch, and shake off the excess. This will help the batter bind to your pickle, which in turn will lend itself to that crispy texture.

Now for the secret you’ve really been waiting for: What’s vodka have to do with crispy fried pickles?

We’re glad you asked. When it comes to fried pickle batter, you’ll find recipes that use a variety of different liquids, most often water, milk or buttermilk, and beer. Water is perfectly fine, while regular milk added a bit of creaminess. The acidity found in buttermilk is a great tenderizer—that’s why it works so well for fried chicken. Beer is great because the carbon dioxide and foaming agents in it bubble up in the hot oil and help to create a lighter texture, which ultimately leads to a crispier pickle. 

But if you’re looking for the absolute winning combination of liquids that result in the crispiest fried pickle, it’s half water and half vodka.

Don’t worry, the alcohol cooks out so it’s still perfectly safe for those who don't need or want alcohol. Since alcohol evaporates faster than water, it doesn’t have to cook as long either, but the vodka will actually help crisp your fried pickles in a few different ways.

Here’s how deep frying works: When you drop your battered pickle into the hot oil, the liquid vaporizes, causing the batter to dehydrate and begin to brown. The alcohol in the vodka makes this happen faster, but it also has the ability to stop the production of gluten that automatically begins when flour and water are combined. That results in a lighter, thinner batter that in the end will give you the lightest and crispiest possible fried pickle—or really anything you choose to deep fry.

The perfect recipe is pretty simple: equal parts flour, cornstarch, and cornmeal and then a 1:1 ratio of water and vodka (roughly ¾ cup of each), plus whatever spices your heart desires. Garlic, onion, salt, cayenne pepper, and chili powder are all great options that add a little spice and pizazz to your pickles.

Make sure to keep an eye on your pickles, as they will cook up faster than you think. Three minutes per batch should be perfect for the crispiest fried pickles.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles