In our experience, people pretty much prefer the sort of pickles they grew up with during childhood.

These bread and butter pickles are not the pickles for those people.

These are pickles for the open-minded. Tons more taste than store-bought pickles. Not a lot of effort. And you can make these as quick pickles, meaning you can simply put them in the fridge and consume them within 10 or so days, or you can process them the old-fashioned way in jars and put them up for next winter. That’s to say nothing of the intriguing taste taken from the pickling liquid being infused with Vidalias, turmeric, mustard seeds, and allspice,  among a few other surprises, including fennel seeds. (Which makes us wonder, wouldn’t some slivers of fresh fennel be lovely pickled like this?!) While we’re on the topic of pickles, 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.Renee Schettler Rossi

A glass canning jar filled with bread and butter pickles, with pickling liquid being poured over.

Bread and Butter Pickles

5 / 3 votes
This bread and butter pickles recipe calls for Kirby cucumbers, Vidalia onions, and spices including fennel seeds, turmeric, mustard seeds for quick pickles.
David Leite
Servings20 servings
Calories62 kcal
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time3 hours
Total Time3 hours 25 minutes


  • pint-size canning jars


  • 10 small pickling cucumbers, (4 to 5 inches or 10 to 12 cm in length and 1 1/2 inches or 4 cm 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


  • Rinse the cucumbers under cold water and then slice them into rounds about 1/3-inch-thick rounds. Peel the onion and slice into 1/3-inch-wide strips.
  • Mix the onion and cucumbers in a medium bowl and add half the kosher salt. Toss well and let the cucumbers rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
  • Dump the onion and cucumbers into a colander and rinse well under cold running water to remove the salt. Tear the celery leaves over the mixture and toss everything to combine. Pack the cucumbers, onion, and celery leaves into clean pint jars.
  • in a nonreactive pot, toss the remaining salt, red pepper flakes, fenugreek, fennel seeds, turmeric, mustard seeds, allspice, vinegar, sugar, sorghum, and cold water. Bring to a rolling boil and then pour it over the cucumber mixture, divvying the spiced liquid evenly among the jars. Screw on the lids, leave the jars out on the counter for 2 hours, and then place them in the fridge.
  • At this point, the pickles are pretty much done, but they'll be at their best a day or two later. The shelf life for these quick pickles—if you made them as directed here, 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.
A New Turn in the South

Adapted From

A New Turn in the South

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 62 kcalCarbohydrates: 14 gProtein: 1 gFat: 1 gSaturated Fat: 1 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 1 gSodium: 1422 mgPotassium: 171 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 12 gVitamin A: 78 IUVitamin C: 3 mgCalcium: 28 mgIron: 1 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2011 Hugh Acheson. Photo © 2011 Rinne Allen. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

These bread and butter pickles are 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—it’s nice to bring a jar of these to a picnic party.

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. Everything came out wonderfully.

I brought the pickles to a barbecue, 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 these bread and butter pickles to everyone I know, and they will definitely be in my regular recipe rotation! So happy to have tested this one.

Oh, and I should note, I didn’t add the red pepper flakes because we’re not really spicy people, but I’m sure the pickles would be fantastic with this addition.

The bread and butter pickles 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 first. I always do this to help keep the cucumbers as crunchy as possible.

These bread and butter pickles are delightful and easy to make. If you take the non-canning option, you can have picnic pickles for the weekend in the space of a single 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—it brightens the agrodolce (or sweet-and-sour) aspects of the brine. Compared to store-bought pickles, you can taste just about every ingredient in every mouthful. This recipe should become a classic.

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    With a ton of cucumbers on hand from our CSA this week, I was searching for a unique pickle recipe to try. This one fit the bill! I loved the fragrant mixture of fenugreek, turmeric, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, and allspice berries in the brine. And with the slight sweetness that the maple syrup imparts, these are definitely my new go-to pickles.

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