Bread-and-Butter Pickles

This recipe is a very simple one to do and the results are just what you would envision: tons more flavor than store-boughts, a little less sweet, and a little zestier. The better the cucumbers means the better the pickles, and local ones win most taste tests. Even better, grow your own! In a pinch, English-style cucumbers are good because of their tender skin that hasn’t been sprayed with that wax. I don’t like to cook the cucumbers in the pickling liquid, but rather to pour the liquid over the cucumbers and let the heat of the liquid do the rest. This means the vegetables don’t overcook, resulting in a crisper pickle.

These pickles are what we pair with a torchon of foie gras, because of an unease with anything too fancy.–Hugh Acheson

LC Picky About Pickles Note

In our experience, a good many people pretty like only the kind of pickles they grew up with. These are not pickles for those people. These are pickles for the open-minded. Witness the intriguing ingredient list, which calls for cukes, Vidalias, fennel seeds (wouldn’t some slivers of fennel be lovely pickled like this?!), turmeric, mustard seeds, allspice, cider vinegar, sugar, and a few other surprises. Even better, you can make these as quick pickles, simply putting them in the fridge and consuming them within 10 or so days. Or you can process them the old-fashioned way in their jars and put them up for next winter. As a complete non sequitur, we’ve no idea where the saying “in a pickle” comes from, though we have to say, we’d love to find ourselves in a jar of these slightly sweet specimens…

Special Equipment: pint-size canning jars

Bread-and-Butter Pickles Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 3 H, 25 M
  • Makes 3 to 4 pints


  • 10 small pickling cucumbers (4 to 5 inches in length and 1 1/2 inches in diameter)
  • 1 medium sweet onion, preferably Vidalia
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh celery leaves (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 8 allspice berries
  • 1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup sorghum or maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup cold water


  • 1. Wash the cucumbers under cold water and then slice them into 1/3-inch-thick rounds. Peel the onion and slice into 1/3-inch strips.
  • 2. Mix the onion and cucumbers in a medium bowl and add half of the kosher salt. Toss well and let sit for 1 hour at room temperature.
  • 3. Rinse the onion and cucumbers well using a colander and cold water to remove the salt. When thoroughly rinsed and drained, tear the celery leaves over the mixture, and toss. Pack the cucumbers, onion, and celery leaves into clean pint jars.
  • 4. Using a nonreactive pot, combine the remaining salt, red pepper flakes, fenugreek, fennel seeds, turmeric, mustard seeds, allspice, vinegar, sugar, sorghum, and cold water. Bring to a rapid boil and then pour evenly over the cucumber mixture.
  • 5. Screw on the lids, leave the jars out on the counter for 2 hours, and then place in the fridge. At this point the pickles are pretty much done but they will be at their best a day or two later. The shelf life, without the hot canning process, is about 10 days. If you’d like the jars to keep for the long haul, follow your jar manufacturer’s directions for canning.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

  1. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Mary Kate Morgan] This is a keeper. I used a Vidalia onion, the celery leaves, the pepper flakes, and maple syrup. Everyone loved them! It could only be a problem for someone who didn’t have the small amounts of fenugreek, turmeric, mustard seeds, and allspice berries on hand. Buying all of these could make these costly pickles. And beware the stains from turmeric. I spilled a little of the marinade on my counter and got a stain, which has faded. But these will definitely be repeated—nice to bring a jar to a picnic party.

  2. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Lauren M.] Wow! I’m still amazed that I made pickles. This was crazy easy (aside from finding the fenugreek, but I lucked out at a European market not too far from my house) and came out so awesome! I let my girls help me to make the recipe, and they kept telling me there was no way this was going to come out as pickles. And day by day as we looked at them, they started to look more and more like the real thing, and we were all amazed together. Not only are the pickles delicious, but I thoroughly enjoyed eating the onions as well. They came out wonderfully. I brought the pickles to a BBQ, and when I told everyone I made the pickles, they were all impressed and all gave them a huge thumbs-up. I’ve raved about them to everyone I know, and this will completely be in regular rotation in my recipe wheelhouse! So happy to have tested this one. Oh, and I should note that I didn’t put the red pepper flakes in, because we’re not really spicy people, but I’m sure it would be fantastic with it also.

  3. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Elie Nassar] The recipe makes a good and very nicely spiced pickle. I normally use a simpler recipe with only some turmeric and allspice berries for seasoning. So, the extra spices in this one were a good variation, giving the pickles an exotic fresh flavor. I did change one step a bit though. Instead of pouring the boiling-hot pickling liquid on top of the cucumbers, I allowed it to cool down a bit. I always do that to help keep the vegetables as crunchy as possible.

  4. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Marilyn Canna] These are delightful and easy to make. If you take the noncanning option, you can have picnic pickles for the weekend in the space of one evening. The only holdup to putting it all together quickly is not having some of the spices on hand. Try to include the celery leaves and red pepper flakes, and be sure to use real maple syrup—they brighten the agrodolce or sweet-and-sour aspects of the brine as it bathes the little cuke coins and onion slivers. Compared to store-bought, you can taste just about every ingredient in every mouthful. This should become a classic.

  5. Mary says:

    I have never heard about this recipe. Very interesting, thanks.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      We’re curious to hear what you think of it, Mary. It’s slightly sweet, not just sour. So many pickles, so little time….

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