Refrigerator Pickles

Turn scads of cucumbers into pickles for days.

Refrigerator Pickles
Photo: Photographer: Alison Miksch / Food Stylist: Melissa Gray / Prop Stylist: Christina Brockman
Active Time:
10 mins
Chill Time:
12 hrs
Total Time:
12 hrs 10 mins
Yield:
8 servings (2 or 3 pickle spears per serving)

When the cucumber harvest outpaces your ability to eat them, whether that's as cucumber sandwiches or even cucumber salsa, take another approach: Pickle them. Quick refrigerator pickles are a great way to use up pounds of cucumbers at once. They'll be ready to eat within 12 hours and last up to 2 weeks, so if you keep a pickle-making plan on your weekly agenda, you'll never be left empty handed.

Here, find out how to make refrigerator pickles—no special equipment needed—so you're never left without this pucker-inducing side.

Refrigerator Pickles Ingredients

To make refrigerator pickles, you'll need only cucumbers and spices. For best results, start with small or Kirby cucumbers. You'll also need dill sprigs, garlic cloves, white wine vinegar, kosher salt, granulated sugar, black peppercorns, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper, and cold water. These are all pickling essentials, so you can quickly use them up if you plan on making lots of refrigerator pickles.

How to Make Refrigerator Pickles

You'll need just 10 minutes of active prep time for this easy refrigerator pickles recipe, and 12 hours in all.

First, divide cucumbers, dill, and garlic cloves evenly between two jars and set the jars aside. We like Weck jars because the lid is attached and comes with a rubber ring to seal the jars shut. But any jar with a well-fitting lid will work.

packing cucumbers into jars for pickles
Photographer: Alison Miksch / Food Stylist: Melissa Gray / Prop Stylist: Christina Brockman

Cook the vinegar, salt, sugar, peppercorns, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, and crushed red pepper in a saucepan. Stir often until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove the mixture from the heat, and stir in cold water.

brine for refrigerator pickles
Photographer: Alison Miksch / Food Stylist: Melissa Gray / Prop Stylist: Christina Brockman

Now pour the brine into both jars. You may have more brine than you need. That's OK. You can out that leftover liquid—or use it as a brine for chicken or in salad dressing.

pouring brine in jars with cucumbers
Photographer: Alison Miksch / Food Stylist: Melissa Gray / Prop Stylist: Christina Brockman

Seal the lids, and chill the pickles in the fridge until the flavors meld—a minimum of 12 hours.

How Long Will Refrigerator Pickles Last?

Store these refrigerator pickles in the fridge for a minimum of 12 hours to let the flavors meld. After that, you may store them in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. (They are not shelf stable.)

Do You Have to Boil the Brine for Refrigerator Pickles?

This refrigerator pickles recipe calls for heating the vinegar, salt, sugar, peppercorns, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, and crushed red pepper together in a saucepan. Stir the mixture often until the sugar is completely dissolved, but there is no need to bring the brine to a boil before pouring it into the jars.

What Is the Difference Between Refrigerator Pickles and Canned Pickles?

Unlike canned pickles, refrigerator pickles are not processed through a water bath canner; instead, they are preserved in vinegar. That means they have a short window of time—about 2 weeks—where you can eat them after they're made. They are not meant for long-term storage.

Because canned pickles are processed with a water bath canner, they are shelf stable, and store-bought versions can be stored in the pantry at room temperature for years.

Want to make canned pickles? This pickle brine recipe will help.

refrigerator pickles
Photographer: Alison Miksch / Food Stylist: Melissa Gray / Prop Stylist: Christina Brockman

Why Are Refrigerated Pickles Better?

Refrigerator pickles, such as this simple recipe, are made without artificial preservatives. For this reason, they can only be stored in the fridge for two weeks, versus much longer out of the fridge for canned pickles.

However, the tradeoff is that canned pickles are highly processed and typically contain even more sodium. The ratio of vinegar to water is typically much higher in canned pickles, and this reduces the probiotic benefits pickles can provide for gut health.

Which Vinegar Is Best for Pickling?

This recipe calls for using white wine vinegar to make refrigerator pickles. The ratio to water is about the same: Use one 1 vinegar and 1 ¼ cup cold water.

Editorial contributions by Alesandra Dubin.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. small cucumbers or Kirby cucumbers (about 5 cucumbers), unpeeled and quartered lengthwise

  • 6 (4- to 6-in.) dill sprigs

  • 6 small garlic cloves, smashed

  • 1 cup white wine vinegar

  • ¼ cup kosher salt

  • ¼ cup granulated sugar

  • 2 tsp. black peppercorns

  • 2 tsp. mustard seeds

  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds

  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper

  • 1 ¼ cups cold water

Directions

  1. Divide cucumbers, dill, and garlic cloves evenly among 2 pint-size jars. Set aside.

  2. Cook vinegar, salt, sugar, peppercorns, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, and crushed red pepper in a small saucepan over medium, stirring often, until sugar is completely dissolved, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in cold water.

  3. Pour brine evenly into jars, discarding any leftover liquid. Seal lids. Chill until flavors meld, about 12 hours. Store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

Related Articles