Can You Pickle Without Vinegar? 3 Myths Debunked

A pickling jar with cucumbers in brine surrounded by dill and cucumbers and a garlic.

Salt, water, and vinegar are known to be the key ingredients to pickling. There are other ways of pickling, like pickling without vinegar. How can you pickle without vinegar? 

You can pickle without vinegar with a process called Lacto-fermentation. It is easy to do and gives the signature sour taste that pickle lovers are after. Some people even like the taste of fermented pickles better!

Learn everything you need to know about pickling basics and how to pickle without vinegar. To top it all off, I will also debunk some pickling myths once and for all. So, let’s get started!

What is Pickling?

In essence, pickling is a process that extends the life of the food. You can pickle almost anything. One of the most common things that are pickled is cucumbers. You can also pickle:

  • meat
  • fish
  • eggs
  • fruits
  • dairy
  • vegetables

During the pickling process, the food’s color, taste, and texture will be affected. It is a very effective form of preservation.  

There are two popular methods of pickling:

  • using vinegar
  • fermentation in brine

#1: Vinegar Immersion Pickling

The basics of vinegar immersion pickling are simple. Heat up:

  • salt
  • water
  • vinegar
  • sometimes sugar

Then add vegetables and completely immerse in the solution. 

There are many variations of this process as well. One of the key distinctions of vinegar pickling is it does not include any fermentation. Also, over time the nutritional value of the food is lost as well. It is often preferred since it is the faster of the two processes

#2: Lacto-Fermentation Pickling

Another pickling process (and also the way to pickle without vinegar) is Lacto-fermentation. All you need for this method is salt and water. This process does not require canning or fancy equipment

Lacto-fermentation works well because harmful bacteria are not tolerant of salt, while good bacteria are. This process works in two stages:

  1. The first stage wipes out the bad bacteria. 
  2. In the second stage, the good bacteria take over and that is when the pickling starts.

NOTE: This process of pickling does not extend the shelf life of the food as much as the vinegar immersion process. 

Pickles in jars with brine surrounded by cucumbers and dill.
Lacto-fermentation is a way to make pickles without vinegar

How to Pickle Without Vinegar 

You will need to apply the second process of pickling I mentioned above. Lacto-fermentation is actually the traditional form of pickling. What surprises most people is that soaking pickles in vinegar is not pickling at all. 

When pickling without vinegar it allows the vegetable to be naturally fermented. This is a simple process with easy-to-follow steps. Here is what to do:

Step #1: Sanitize All Equipment

First, clean and sanitize all of the equipment. Let boiling water sit inside the fermentation jar to kill off any bacteria that might be in there. 

Step #2: Clean The Vegetables

Next, clean the vegetables and make sure they are free of dirt. Then prepare and put them inside the jar. Preparation tips:

  • use whole vegetables
  • cut or slice vegetables
  • peel root vegetables
  • leave the skin on cucumbers

Step #3: Make Salt Brine  

Salt is used in pickling for many reasons. For example, salt:

  • helps draw out water and sugar from the vegetables
  • adds to the beloved pickle taste
  • prevents bacteria from spreading

Make brine that is 5% salt. The ideal measure is 3 tablespoons of salt per quart of water. For a saltier taste, use 4 tablespoons of salt. Give the brine a good mix and pour it inside the jar to cover the vegetables.

NOTE: Read my article about the 5 best and worst salts to use for brine.

Step #4: Make The Vegetables Are Submerged

The brine should completely cover the vegetables. If needed, set a plate on top of the vegetables to keep them submerged. 

Cover the jar with a towel to keep bugs and dust out, and secure it with a rubber band.

Step #5: Leave The Jar to Ferment 

Set the jar in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight to ferment. The absolute minimum time is 1 week, but not more than 4 weeks. It is a good idea to give the pickles a taste now and then to see if you like the taste. If not, let it continue to ferment.

Lacto Fermentation Vs. Vinegar Pickling: Which Is Better?

Both are excellent methods of pickling. It all boils down to which you prefer. Let’s look at their benefits and drawbacks. 

Vinegar pickling is the easier of the two and has very consistent results. It can be kept at room temperature without going bad. The taste is simple and has fewer nutrients than fermented pickles. It is also hard to indicate spoiled pickles in the case of vinegar pickling. 

For Lacto-fermentation the taste is far more complex. It keeps the vitamins intact and supplies the gut with beneficial bacteria. It also doesn’t take as many jars as it would take to create the same number of vinegar-based pickles.

If fermented pickles go bad it’s easy to tell due to the pungent smell and bad taste. But, Lacto-fermentation is a far more complex process of pickling and has a much shorter shelf life.  

A jar of fermented pickles with a pickle sitting on top of it, top view.
Don’t believe these pickle myths!

3 Pickling Myths Busted

Here are 3 of the most common myths about pickling, and some facts.

Myth #1: The Salt Used in Pickling Increases Blood Pressure

The amount of salt used in pickling alone will have no adverse effects on your health or blood pressure. If you maintain a healthy lifestyle and follow a proper diet and exercise, your blood pressure will be at optimum levels even if you eat pickles.

Myth #2: Pickling Is Unhealthy

This cannot be further from the truth. Pickling is not unhealthy, it actually stores minerals and vitamins. You can even add two spoonfuls of pickle every day to tackle problems like bloating, and vitamin B12 or vitamin D deficiencies

Myth #3: You Cannot Pickle Without Vinegar

Well, after reading this article, there is nothing left there to say is there? You most definitely can pickle without vinegar! The Lacto-fermentation process is easy, although you will not get the long shelf life of foods compared to vinegar immersion pickling.


There you have it. A complete guide on how to pickle without vinegar. With Lacto-fermentation you can easily pickle without vinegar. While vinegar acts as a natural anti-bacterial solution, in lacto-fermentation you grow good bacteria in your food to protect it from the harmful ones.

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